The host(ess).


Ready or not, the holidays are here.

Because time is the most precious gift of all this time of year, the next few posts will be devoted to helping you quickly find the right gift for the right person – no matter how persnickety.

One of the most important people in your busy social life is always your host or hostess.* If you are like me, you were taught to never show up empty-handed. However, sometimes at the last minute you find yourself with no idea what to take and no time to buy anything. (If you cannot relate, don’t tell me.)

To avoid this quandary pick one or two signature host gifts that you love and stock up. You can give the same gift(s) all season or even all year, if you like. Just be sure keep a note of the lucky recipients so you do not unknowingly repeat yourself. (Though some gifts are good enough to give and get again!)

The list below has a variety of incredible American-made goodies. Any one of these will let your host know that you appreciate the invitation. (But you still need to call or write to thank them afterwards. These gifts are fabulous, but they are no substitute for good manners!)

I hope that you find one or two that you love. If so, stock up! Not your style? Then you are sure to find something here uniquely suited to each person on your social calendar.

*For the rest of the post, I am going to use the term host to describe both male and female party-throwers and home-openers. (This is for my sanity and yours and has nothing to do with gender bias!)

Gifts of Food

Why they make good host gifts:  Because everyone has to eat (Seriously! They do.) The gifts below are unexpected indulgences for the host that he/she may savor alone (possibly as soon as the last guest leaves) or share with friends or family throughout the holidays.

Promise Me Chocolates – Made in Oneida, New York

Face it. Anyone who opens his/her home to you is a gem.

Fortunately, Stacey VanWaldick has created a line of edible chocolate gems that when given to your host/hostess really help you drive that point home.

Arrive with a box of these handmade truffles (left, 4 piece box/$8.95, 9 piece box/$19.95, 20 piece box/$29.95) and this will definitely not be your last invite!

And while these truffles may look too good to eat, the real treasure is their taste. Each Promise Me Chocolate is made of high quality chocolate and colored with FDA-approved pigments.

Sarabeth’s Kitchen – Made in New York, New York

Photo by Alexandra Kuhn

Fresh baked cookies are always the perfect host gift.

When you do not have time to bake (or if like me you are baking-challenged), let Sarabeth do the work for you.

If her name sounds familiar, it is probably because of her mouth-watering preserves which fortunately have made their way into better grocery stores and gourmet shops over the past few years. (They make great gifts, too!)

Her cookies (left, $14/jar), however are harder to come by. But in made-to-order flavors like classic shortbread, chocolate shortbread, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, they are worth seeking out.

And thanks to Sarabeth’s attractive packaging, they come ready to give. (Just don’t forget the gift card. You definitely will want to take credit for this gift.)

Even better, the jar the cookies arrive in can be reused in a variety of useful ways. (I think its best use is as a reminder to buy more cookies!)

479° Popcorn – Made in San Francisco

Make this your go-to gift for adventurous hosts.

479° Popcorn is not your average popcorn.

Sure it is as comforting and satisfying as the kernels you have been munching on for years, but Founder Jean Arnold has popped your beloved corn up a notch.

(The name comes from what Jean discovered to be the perfect popping temperature – Fahrenheit 479 for your Bradbury fans.)

Each of her made-to-order batches begins with air-popped organic corn. Using her international background and Le Cordon Bleu training, Jean blends together combinations of ingredients that become 479°’s distinct flavors.

If your intended recipient is a sweet-y (or just has a sweet tooth) you’ll want to get 479°’s Fleur de Sel Caramel or Vietnamese Cinnamon Sugar;  for recipients who are a little spicy, try her Madras Curry Coconut + Cashew or Pimenton de La Vera; and if they are that delightful blend of sweet and spicy, Chipotle Caramel + Almonds or Ginger Sesame Caramel (left, $16/tin) will be just the ticket. (Other sizes and gift sets are available.)

For the slightly less daring popcorn lover, 479° offers Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt and Black Truffle + White Cheddar Flavors.

Bottle Bags

Why they make good host gifts: They contain within them a new and exciting or tried and true spirit. But after the bottle is removed, the bag can be reused for toting beverage bottles home from the grocery/wine shop or to a concert, picnic or friend’s house and even for re-gifting. (This will likely be the only time you ever hear me encourage such high-risk behavior.)

Hero Bags – Made in San Francisco, California

As a loyal reader, you now know lots of great American-made spirits and mixers that would make amazing host gifts. (If you need a refresher see the gin, vodka, flavored vodkas, rum, mixers and whiskey posts.)

To set your bottle apart, you need to a great bag. (None of that awful mylar wrap for you!) But it can be very difficult to find a bag for specifically made for a libation other than wine or beer.

That is why the Hooch Bag (left, $14.95) by Hero Bags is a real hero. (Cape and mask optional.)

Designed to carry a 750 ml bottle, this bag has you (and your bottle) covered no matter what flavor or formula you choose to give.

The bag also comes with an attached gift card that reads “Lucky You.” Simply fill in the card, drop in the bottle and head out the door.

(Bags are also available in Champagne and wine designs.)

Hero Bags are the brainchild of Susanne Pierce Maddux (an Apple design veteran) and are all grown, sewn, designed and printed in the US.

Saucy Sacks – Made in Los Angeles, California

More designers may make bags to tote wine, but good ones still stand out from the crowd.

(And really, who doesn’t want to stand out?)

Made of sturdy kraft paper, Saucy Sacks are not your average wine gift bags. In bold, black letters these bags feature clever wine-centric sayings like “I Like My Tannins Firm,” “Rated 100 Points By Me,” “Bouquet-in-a-Bag,” and “Your CAB is here.” (Left, set of 4/$10)

So whether you are a wine-snob yourself or your host is an oenophile, these bags are sure to garner a few smiles and perhaps even inspire some good-natured mocking.

Want a special bag for the season? Look no further than Saucy Sacks’ “Santa’s little helper” bag.

Vinni Bag – Made in Ventura, California

Know a host who is always on the go?

Then Vinni Bag (left, $28) is the obvious way for you to present your liquid offering.

Designed to hold anything from wine and spirits bottles to olive oil, toiletries and delicate trinkets, the Vinni Bottle is a must have. (It is even large enough to hold a corked wine bottle. This will prevent the bottle from leaking and when placed in the trunk will keep you out of trouble with most open-container laws.)

To use, simply place the object(s) that you do not want to get broken inside. Next inflate the bag. Then roll and secure at the desired length.

Once inflated, the air chambers conform to the shape of the object(s) and create a cushion of air that cradles the bag’s contents. The Vinni Bag has been specially engineered to withstand significant altitude and temperature fluctuations.

When not in use, the flattened bag can be rolled for easy storage. (So why would you ever travel without at least one?)

Jet-setters may seem the most obvious beneficiaries of the Vinni Bag, but campers, hikers, skiers or anyone who goes anywhere with anything that might break will love it also!

Tea Towels

Why they make good host gifts: Most people have kitchens and while they may not serve or even drink tea, they do (at least on occasion) dry their hands and/or dishes. Tea Towels are available in a wide variety of designs so you can find one you love to give over and over or you can choose them individually to match your host’s interests, personal style or kitchen color. Do not be afraid to buy multiples as tea towels are both shelf-stable and easy to store. So find some space to keep these always appropriate and always appreciated gifts on hand.

Studiopatro – Made in San Francisco, California

Got a diverse group of friends and family?

Then you need to stockpile Studiopatro’s tea towels (above, $24/each).

With their eye-catching designs and exceedingly sophisticated color palette, these towels would be as at home in Betty Draper’s kitchen as they would in yours. They artfully capture an aesthetic and air that are both then and now. (Like gray flannel and door-opening.) If a tea towel can be classy, these are.

Thanks to their citrine, olive, copper, gray and brown inks on 100% sustainable linen, Studiopatro’s tea towels (18″ x 26″) are as appropriate a gift for a man, as they are a woman. And both will love the fact that the linen softens with each use.

Buy some ribbon in a color that you love, fold the towel (if it does not arrive that way), cut and wrap a piece of ribbon around the folded towel, tie a bow and you are ready to party.

Madder Root – Made in Old Towne, Maine

Does your host own a Viking range or simply cook like a Viking?

Madder Root’s whimsical designs are sure to delight either kitchen inhabitant.

(By the way Viking ranges are made in the US, if you are looking for justification for buying one.)

Their tea towels (above, $18) are made of 100% organic linen and are printed with solvent-free water based ink. Madder Root is committed to being as environmentally responsible as possible and their designs reflect their passion for the world around them. Choose from flowers, plants, sea life, life at the sea, etc.

Napkins and produce bags are also available.


Thanks for reading.

Over the next couple of posts, I will share with you more great US-made gifts.

Need help shopping for someone in particular? Do not hesitate to ask. (Odds are you are not alone!)

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