Our Favorite Host Gifts: Summer 2023
We were taught never to show up to someone’s house empty handed, but that’s not to say we endorse gifting merely for the sake of gifting. In an era when so many of us have a lot of… well, stuff, finding that special something to say “thanks for having me” can feel complicated. Fear not: We asked a few of our friends who also happen to be expert entertainers about their go-to gifts to satisfy hosts of all sorts.
Three friends recommended Tart Vinegar, a cult-favorite small-batch vinegar from Brooklyn-based fermentation wiz Chris Crawford. Clémence Polès, founder of passerby magazine is big on “bringing something that outlasts the event, like kitchen staples,” and praises Tart for its ability to “elevate any dish that your host is cooking, no matter their skills.” Tim Mazurek, the food writer behind Lottie and Doof, describes it as “kind of a funny antithesis of wine” and “just the right amount of weird.” He swears by the celery vinegar, while Kalen Kaminski, the textile artist and designer behind Upstate, loves the rose vinegar for its versatility and fun design, which doubles as a decorative element for your table. Lately she’s been enjoying a splash with club soda as a nice NA spritz.
Perfect for: Hosts who are tired of getting random bottles of wine; home cooks who appreciate a little zing
Available from: Tart Vinegar
Speaking of gifts that are not quite wine, you’d be hard pressed to find an ingredient that elevates even the simplest of foods more than good olive oil. Much like wine, it’s a product of agriculture and an expression of terroir; unlike wine, it’s not something you should for a special occasion, lest it go rancid. Mia Hayete, the chef and stylist behind the matter of factly named Instagram account @sluttycooking, loves Canaan’s Jenin blend, made using olives collected from Palestinian family farms surrounding the city of the same name.
Perfect for: The host who espouses simple pleasures; your friend who sings praises of a Mediterranean diet; Ina Garten
Available from: Canaan
A true flex is bringing your host something cute that can be used long after the party has ended. These handmade tumblers are great for water or your preferred soft drink, but designer Susan Korn, known to many as Susan Alexandra, also uses them for wine. Gift a set if you’re feeling splurgy, but even just one will serve its purpose on your nightstand as a bedtime water glass or a makeshift bud vase.
Perfect for: Whimsical friends who could stand to drink more water; self-identified flower children; Drew Barrymore
Available from: Susan Alexandra
The Fredericks and Mae cutting board has become a bit of a status symbol among your food internet faves, but what you might not know is that it’s also a zero waste gift. Fabiana Faria from Coming Soon explains the beloved boards, which come in multiple sizes and colorways, are created using leftover materials from making solid color boards. It also doubles as an eye-catching serving tray, cementing its status as a kitchen to table staple.
Perfect for: Eco-conscious cooks with a penchant for good design; anyone who eats
Available from: Coming Soon
On the topic of kitchen to table staples, we’re big fans of the donabe, a versatile piece of Japanese stoneware that’s a true culinary workhorse. Naoko Takei Moore, the foremost stateside evangelist known to many as simply “Mrs. Donabe,” loves gifting a mini version to hosts. Sold as egg bakers, these personal sized, handcrafted donabes are suitable for stovetop, oven, and microwave use, and come in a variety of earthenware-inspired colors. Bring a little joy to your host’s next dinner for one, or use it as a serving piece for a side dish or dip.
Perfect for: One-pot cooking enthusiasts; ceramics queens; anyone celebrating the end of eggflation
Available from: TOIRO Kitchen
With the right combination of cocktails and company, spill protection can be tough to guarantee, but the least you can do is protect your host’s surfaces from condensation rings. Culinary artist and model Maryah Ananda recommends this set of coasters, a collaboration between New York-based house and homeware designers Sophie Lou Jacobsen and Isabelle Jussaeume. The nickel plated cast aluminum is also heat-proof, so you can also use them as trivets in a pinch.
Perfect For: The host who finally found that perfect vintage coffee table; Friends who could stand to put down their drinks
Available from: Sophie Lou Jacobsen
The internet may be thirsting for short kings, but when it comes to tablescapes we’re all about a little extra height. Creative director of Polonsky and Friends Anna Polonsky swears by Fefo Studio ceramic stands, made by her Ostudio business (and life) partner Fernando Aciar. The understated designs, with a combination of matte and glazed finishes, are excellent for displaying and dispensing nuts, dips, and snacks of all sorts.
Perfect for: The design-forward host who likes a visual spread; Anyone you'd (respectfully) describe as "nutty"
Available from: Fefo Studio
For photographer Sunny Shokrae, these stemmed dessert bowls represent the height of elegance - the footed design elevates even the simplest scoop of ice cream, while the stainless steel will hold up in cases where glass might not (For instance: Your guests generously but misguidedly offering to help clear the table after a few bottles of wine). Snag a deco-inspired pair from Gohar World, or build your own collection of similar items on eBay.
Perfect For: The host who always has a couple pints of ice cream in their freezer "just in case"; Friends who've succumbed to the great food Instagram vibe shift
Available from: Gohar World
For yoga and movement teacher Chloe Kernaghan, the ideal gift is “something small, useful, but also finite… and shows you’re thinking about what goes into being a good host.” Her enlightened suggestion: tapered beeswax candles. “I swear beeswax candles give out a different sort of candlelight,” claims Alex Tieghi-Walker, curator and gallerist behind the eponymous TIWA Select. “Plus they smell really incredible.” He picks his up from a monastery in the Catskills, but you can find similar tapers across etsy in a variety of colors.
Perfect for: The host who really values good light levels at dinner; your friend who's unjustly cursed by New York rental lighting; aspiring ascetics
In some cultures, gifting knives is considered bad luck, but for what it’s worth, we’d consider ourselves blessed to receive a set of Laguiole steak knives. Stylist Karolyn Pho swears by this classic French cutlery, and considers its presence a sort of litmus test: Simply put, “anytime I see this knife at a dinner party, I immediately know the food will be chic and no bullshit.” We’re partial to the ivory handles, but the knives come in an array of colors to suit practically any table setting.
Perfect for: Home cooks seeking to sharpen their meat skills (and share the wealth); hosts whose dinner conversations are never dull; Francophiles
Available from: Sur la Table
For Sue Chan, the ideal gift is “something that you would never buy yourself, but that you would be delighted to get; something that feels opulent - too opulent to buy - but not to receive.” Case in point: a salad set from Italian design house Alessi’s Mediterraneo collection. Created by jeweler Emma Silvestris, these underwater-inspired stainless steel serving pieces add a bit of modernist whimsy to your table, and are dishwasher safe to boot.
Perfect for: The host who lives la dolce vita; your friend who’s getting into mermaidcore; salad freaks
Available from: Alessi
Do you suffer from wine pairing anxiety? Leave your worries by the wayside and turn your next casual dinner invite into an impromptu tasting with the Lil’ Jumbo Rainbow Pack. Care of Chan’s own brand associate (and native Angeleno) Lauren Neman loves Jumbo Time, a fun but thoughtful Los Angeles-based natural wine company touting sustainable practices and no interventions in the cellar. Their blends are playfully experimental, made with dry farmed (and often biodynamic) California grapes, with the final lineup determined specifically by the characteristics of each year’s harvest
Perfect for: Friends who are both indecisive and indulgent; Freddie Gibbs stans
Available from: Jumbo Time Wines
Much as we love a mismatched mug collection, there’s something to be said about keeping a proper tea set for when company comes around. Grace Seo Chang recommends KwangJuYo, a Seoul-based workshop that’s been preserving traditional Korean pottery techniques for nearly sixty years. She recommends the white porcelain Heritage MokDan set, adorned with an understated Bakji (sgraffito) pattern of peonies derived from royal Chosun Dynasty wares. “Everything about this tea set is wonderful but the elongated saucer does it for me, in how it functions and looks. My mind might be playing games but tea also seems to taste better when served in this set."
Perfect for: Subtle royalists; tea totalers; the host who's got all the gossip
Available from: KwangJuYo
Per Miley, you could buy these yourself, but you could also gift them. Tried and true, a simple seasonal arrangement breathes a bit of life into any space. Writer Klancy Miller swears by Plantshed, a family-owned NYC florist offering same-day hand-delivered custom bouquets at your chosen price point. A pro-tip from Anna and Garrett Albury, the head honchos behind CoolStuff.NYC: Skip the run of the mill vessels from the flower shop and head to to your local thrift store for a clever vase, adding some character without breaking the bank. (Relatedly: Many of our favorite event florists offer smaller arrangements for that extra special host.)
Perfect for: Anyone who loves pretty things; people you like; Patrice Rushen
Available from: Plantshed