Four thoughtful host gifts (that aren't wine)
Yes, bring something! No, not booze. Here are four alternative host gifts that are sure to surprise and delight without any awkwardness
This issue is sponsored by Spring & Mulberry, who make the most beautiful bars of chocolate I have ever seen. These bars are perfect for nibbling, serving guests, surprising your Valentine’s Day date, or bringing to your next gathering. Save 15% with the code MELISSA.
The “sober curious” movement continues to be on the rise, and now more than ever, people are examining their relationship with alcohol. Is it worth it? Do I want it? What might my life be like without it?
Given the current social conversations around alcohol, I’d not feel right showing up to a friend, family member, or acquaintance’s gathering with a bottle of booze unsolicited. Even if you know the hosts have been regular drinkers in the past, I’d still not. Case in point, a few years ago I was visiting my sister in San Diego. I offered to go pick up some groceries and wine when she said, “Oh, we’re not drinking at home anymore. It was just getting to be too much, so now it’s only when we go out.”
But all our moms taught us it was rude to show up empty handed—so what should you bring? Especially if you ask, and they say, “Nothing, we’ve got it covered?” I’ve got a strategy here—one I’ve been employing successfully since my own Not Drinking Right Now experiment began in 2017. Here are four non-traditional but very cool host gifts you can feel confident bringing to any gathering.
A beautiful bar of elevated chocolate
This is my go-to, because who doesn’t love chocolate? (As a bonus, you’ll also be giving your host something gorgeous to serve with dessert or coffee, which is sure to earn you the Best Guest Award.)
You should not go to your local grocer or even health food store for this chocolate. You want this chocolate to be an event. You want it to be so special, so stunning that the host and all the guests will be oooh-ing and aaah-ing over it. This is why I always have at least three bars of Spring & Mulberry in my pantry (hidden, so my husband and son do not eat them).
This chocolate is art. It’s infused with organic ingredients like jammy dates; fruity, floral pollens; rich fair-trade cacaos; and tangy spices. Flip a bar over and its delicious, inspired ingredients are right there on the surface, not chopped up in tiny pieces and hidden inside. As a plus, Spring & Mulberry are dairy-free and sweetened only with dates, so they’re perfect even if your hosts are limiting added sugar.
Their flavors include Lavender Rose (the prettiest bar I have ever seen), Mixed Berry (the close runner-up), Mango Chili (my favorite flavor), Pecan Date, and Mulberry Fennel (!!!), and they have a pristine Pure Dark bar (72% cacao) with just three ingredients.
Even the packaging is gorgeous, with elegant, bold branding and that little peek-through window on the back. Bring one bar (or one of their collections) wrapped in twine, and your “thank you for hosting” gift will be the hit of the party.
Save 15% on Spring & Mulberry
Take 15% off Spring & Mulberry’s gorgeous chocolate bars with the code MELISSA, and enjoy $5 flat rate shipping (or free shipping on orders of $60 or more). Order now (or no later than February 9th) for Valentine’s Day!
A gorgeous bottle of olive oil
Olive oil is the new wine—there, I’ve said it. Extra-virgin olive oil is beloved by all, whether you’re omnivorous or vegan. It’s great for cooking, dressings and sauces, and drizzling, especially when it’s a premium olive oil with a fresh, grassy smell and flavors of fruit, grass, or almond.
You won’t find this at your local grocer or Whole Foods, either. Look for a specialty brand that features a country of origin, harvest date, and expiry date. High-end olive oils from Italy are a given, but don’t overlook Greece, Spain, Croatia, or Turkey! These countries also produce gorgeous, aromatic, sometimes peppery extra-virgin oils. As a plus, the bottles are often works of art themselves, which makes your host more likely to leave it on the table during the meal.
Brands I love include Whole30 Approved OLEAMEA (made in Turkey), Kyoord (from Greece), and Olio del Cardinale (from the Umbria region of Italy), but your local specialty food store would also have recommendations.
A set of crisp tea towels
This may seem strange, but I’m telling you, everyone I’ve ever gifted a set of cute, festive, or elegant tea towels has been delighted to receive them. First, a tea towel is traditionally a linen or 100% cotton towel used for more elevated kitchen tasks than drying dishes or mopping up a spill (although you certainly can). They can be used to line trays, wrap warm dinner rolls, serve a hot dish, or dry your hands after rinsing.
They’re far more elegant than heavy terry-cloth dish towels, and many kitchens (mine included) display a tea towel or two on the oven door or cabinet handle. And there are so many beautiful options these days! They can be designed with fun prints, festive patterns, elegant trimmings, or bold quotes. You can even buy one to wrap the bread, bottle of olive oil, or casserole you’ve brought.
Perigold has beautiful options, as does Geometry, and if you have time for shipping, check out Tammie Norries on Etsy for her gorgeous animal prints. (Also, Evie Made Gifts on Etsy has a tea towel with Prince that says, “I would dry for you,” and that’s already in my cart.)
An orchid or succulent
Flowers can be a hit as a host gift. The caveat is that sometimes, your host or other guests may have allergies. I’m aware of this because lilies and a few other flowers send my step-dad straight into an asthma attack, so my mom has to be careful in selecting flowers for the home.
If you were considering the flowers route, might I suggest a slight deviation into an orchid (very hypoallergenic) or a succulent? Last year, Brandon’s friends were visiting from South Africa, and they brought me an orchid. It was delightful! I never buy them for myself, but it came in a gorgeous pot, and it adorned my dining room credenza for months. Plus, they’re so easy to care for—while in bloom, drop one ice cube in the pot every week. That’s it!
Succulents are another unexpected but truly lovely gift. Small succulents adorn just about every room of my house, adding a pop of green in a truly low-maintenance way. Visit your local garden store or specialty flower shop, and spring for an upgraded colorful pot (instead of gifting it in the plastic pot it came with).
Best Guest award
Don’t show up empty-handed! Instead, choose one of these thoughtful and unexpected gifts, and present your host with something they’ll be proud to share, display, or serve. (Just make sure you order an extra bar of Spring & Mulberry for yourself—trust.)