Dining out doesn’t always mean dining in a fabulous restaurant. Dining out may mean dining a few doors over with fabulous friends in their home. Being invited into someone’s home for dinner is always special. The fact of the matter is, everyone is busy and cooking for themselves can be an effort, let alone hosting another family or even a couple. The menu planning, grocery shopping, table setting and the clean up . . .oh, the clean up. Slice and dice it however you want, throwing a dinner party whether for 4 of 14 is a lot of work!
As a guest you have a few jobs, too. Show up on time (not early, or late), make conversation with everyone (even the weird lady who is inhaling all of the cheese) and offer to help fill a glass, clear a plate or toss the salad. And remember what your mother told you, don’t show up empty-handed.
When bringing a hostess gift, it’s best to not bring a dessert or other food items unless you were specifically asked to. Hosts usually plan their menu and may be aware of food allergies or have already spent time preparing something delicious and will now feel obligated to serve your sweet ending. Growing in popularity is bringing something small, like a bottle of wine, but following it up the next day with a small gift dropped off to show your full appreciation. These gifts are often thoughtful and have an “insider joke” take on them – a spin on something that was said at the dinner party.
Bottles of wine, bubbles and liquor are usually safe options if you know your hosts drink alcohol and their preferences. Flowers are always a lovely touch but consider bringing them already in a vase so that the host doesn’t have to fuss with finding the perfect vessel, clipping the stems and arranging the blooms while tending to guests and the stove.
Tired of the ho-hum? Consider these gift options the next time you’re invited to dine out at a friend’s home, and be thankful you’re not the one left with the mess.
Instead of flowers consider a new kind of bouquet. Offering courage, protection, and wisdom, this crystal bouquet by Little Box of Rocks represents the hope of new beginnings, making it a truly thoughtful and unique gift to mark the start of a new year or to celebrate any new journey. Send the Wildflower to the adventurer in your life, and plant yourself in their heart forever. Each bouquet arrives beautifully hand-wrapped in a wooden gift box, tied with a black satin ribbon and a black envelope with personalized letter including both sender and recipient’s names printed on fine linen paper. A keepsake message is printed on luxurious card stock and a secret message is delivered on a mini-scroll. Bouquets range from $45-$154. The Wildflower bouquet featured here is $45 and is available from Little Box Of Rocks.
Hopson Grace is perhaps the best little neighbourhood shop to find elegant items that will enrich your home. Owners, Andrea and Martha, have done all of the editing for us. They have thoughtfully and carefully selected each item in their store to only bring to their costumers what they believe to be items that will spark joy and inspiration. If you don’t live in the area, you’re in luck – their online store is just as beautiful! When asked to share with Plenty readers their top choice for a host gift, Hopson Grace suggested the Berard Olivewood Salt Keeper ($55) that is handcrafted in the mountains of Royans near the northern edge of Provence coupled with a bag of Sal de Ibiza Fleur de Sel ($18).
Another favourite is the Ichendorf Rings Olive Oil Bottle ($34) paired with a bottle of olive oil to suit the taste of your host. This unique bottle draws together the craftsmanship and design traditions of both German and Italy, to produce distinctive hand-blown glass tableware.
Yoga studios are (thankfully) more common and each neighbourhood seems to have their fair share of places where you can get your downward dog on. My advice is to find somewhere that offers Restorative Yoga. Even if your host has never unrolled a yoga mat, Restorative is an entirely different beast. Think deep relaxation. Better than a massage. No “working” involved. A gift certificate for a class is the perfect thank you for all of the hard work they did in preparing a special evening for you.
Similar to yoga studios, finding a nail salon is about as easy to find as a corner store that sells milk and eggs. A gift certificate for a manicure is a nice gesture – if you know your host’s personality it’s easy to personalize the experience with add-ons like nail art, a paraffin wax treatment, or even a pedicure. If you know your host has a favourite place, go there. When in doubt look for a salon close to their home, work or gym. If it’s not convenient, it won’t be used. Just be sure to vet the place first – check online reviews or go to a reputable spa chain or a hotel spa. You don’t want to pass on a fungal infection as a thank you.
I do love the idea of following up with a gift box. Present Day Gifts is my go-to for curated gift boxes featuring artisanal products made in the Toronto area. I love the local element, the beautiful presentation of the boxes and the usefulness of each and every item that is carefully selected. Present Day Gifts offers a selection of ready-to-go boxes at a variety of price points and also offer the option to customize a gift box. The Lake House box is ideal for the overnight guest – invited up to the cottage? The ski chalet? – and features a scented soy wax Woodsmoke and Olive candle, a hand-crafted porcelain dish from Akai Ceramics Studio, a set of 4 natural leather coasters from Oak & Honey Leather Goods, a luxurious bar of all natural soap from Charlotte and Castel, an artisanal chocolate bar by Laura Slack and a small dried bouquet of flowers all exquisitely packaged in an elegant black box and grosgrain ribbon. At $107.50 this is a thoughtful way to show your appreciation. For dinner parties consider the Culinary (pictured) or the Coffee Lover. Visit Present Day Gifts to view their entire collection.
Who doesn’t love a gift that just keeps on giving? Beloved Canadian chef shares recipes and tips for entertaining in his eponymous magazine RICARDO. Full of stunning photographs, easy-to-follow recipes, inspiration and information, this 6-issue one-year print subscription is available for the cost of a bottle of wine. $29.95/1-year subscription, $49.95/2-year subscription. Digital subscriptions also available. To view subscriber options visit ricardocuisine.com.
Candles are something that I enjoy but for some reason I never seem to indulge in buying for myself, so when I receive them for a gift, I’m tickled pink. Currently on my radar is the Citchen Candle Co., crafters of all-natural, soy candles in small batches, available in a variety of subtle scents. The basil-pear combo is piquing my interest, but the maple or the coffee scented candles may be the perfect accompaniment to a cottage invitation. Available online or at speciality stores, $12 – $15.
Gorgeous note cards are handy to have around for any occasion. These Letterpress Typewriter Cards by carolyndraws are printed by hand on an antique letterpress in her Toronto studio on 100% tree-free cotton card stock. Each set of 5 cards with envelopes retails for $15. Various designs available here.
Pampering your host is a good thing, especially after they have most likely scrubbed some pans. Cocoon Apothecary, an ethically-sourced, vegan, certified organic, Canadian company dedicated to formulating quality skin care products developed Touchy Feely Body Lotion, an olive oil based moisturizer with the skin soothing essential oils of lavender and rosemary. Combine that with Lavender Soap, a sudsy long-lasting natural soap bar made with natural butters, oils, and the pure essential oil of lavender and you’ve found yourself the perfect gift for the hands of a weary host. Lotion, $25 for 250 mL bottle and soap $8.50, 7 oz. Available online at Cocoon Apothecary and other retailers.
Sometimes homemade is the way to go. Plenty of suggestions to follow . . .
Artisanal body care curated just for the tastes of your host.
Delicious coconut curry lentil soup in a jar for the next day when the mere thought of cooking another thing is unbearable.
Perhaps some chocolate bark for a sweet indulgence for later in the week that doesn’t have to be shared with anyone else.
This DIY has been the most searched project on Plenty time and again. Here it is to spare you having to look, and for you to pass along the goodness. Because who doesn’t want some dryer balls?
Plenty More: Nothing is more meaningful than sincere words of thanks. For tips on how to write the perfect thank you note, click here.