Published on June 22, 2019

Photography by Saul Metnick Pin It
Photography by Saul Metnick

You have your hostess gift game down pat; fresh flowers and baked goodies never fail, right? But while you’re congratulating yourself, your friends on the receiving end are trying to figure out how they’ll be consuming the five pies they accumulated in the course of a night. It’s time you set yourself apart from the rest.

You don’t need to think too outside the box. Instead, just elevate the item you already plan on bringing with personalized add-ons or thoughtful packaging. We tapped our network of trusty pro entertainers, foodies, and creatives to get the lowdown on how they make their go-to hostess gifts stand out. Here’s what they had to say.

Cheese Ready for Cutting

“If I bring a luscious cheese to a friend as a hostess gift, I like to present it already at room temp, along with a little honeycomb and a small handmade wood cheese board,” says Sarah Copeland, author of Every Day Is Saturday and founder of Edible Living. The host can serve it alongside appetizers or save it for dessert!

Special Spices

Spice things up, literally. Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking likes to bring something a bit more functional: seasoning. “All Things Seafood for people who are grilling tons of fish, and my go-to for everyday cooking, Taco, Fajita, Senorita, for your friends who love their weekly taco night,” she suggests.

Wine Bottles With Personalized Treatment

For sommelier Heather Gordon, gifting a bottle of wine is a given. But instead of handing it over in a standard bag, Gordon customizes each with a colorful paper tag she sources from the craft store. On it, she’ll write cheeky pairings. “Instead of food, suggest a specific movie or a book you just read and loved,” she advises.

Monogrammed Candy Bars

Dylan Lauren of Dylan’s Candy Bar knows that a little something sweet can hold its own as a hostess gift. She loves bringing a personalized “tackle box” filled with her host’s favorite candies or even a chocolate bar wrapped in monogrammed paper. “I also customize candy bars with old photos of a special memory or event, or fun shots of the family pet,” she says.

A Posy of Fragrant Herbs

“I grow oodles of herbs, especially ones you can’t easily find at a store, so I’m always gathering them into a loose, fragrant bouquet to bring to a friend’s house instead of flowers,” says Copeland. She’ll pair the bunch with a dreamy peony or a blooming rose from her garden for an unexpected touch.

“They may decide to pluck a few herbs off into the salad that very night or use them with roast chicken for the family later in the week,” she adds. “It’s an unpretentious, thoughtful gesture that shows you are grateful for their effort without going overboard.”

If you’re insistent on bringing a classic fresh flower arrangement, B Floral founder Bronwen Smith advises pairing the blossoms with a versatile vessel your friend can easily reuse—think: a colorful juice pitcher or chic carafe.

DIY Cake Toppings

Too pressed for time to make a dessert from scratch? Elevate a store-bought cake with some homemade icing and fancy sprinkles, says Do’s Kristen Tomlan. Pair it with a cute cake stand if you really want to go all out.

A Stocked Cheese Grotto

If you’re feeling extra (we always are), couple your favorite cheeses with the ultimate storage vessel: a Cheese Grotto. “A trio of cheeses and two pairings—picked by your local cheesemonger with pairing notes—can easily fit in a Cheese Grotto,” says Brooklyn-based cheese expert and founder of the Cheese Grotto, Jessica Sennett.

Themed Chocolates

Chocolate guru Maggie Louise Callahan’s tried-and-true gift combo is a box of her whimsical Let’s Do Brunch chocolates with a note that she’ll be treating the hostess to a brunch date. A present that will definitely score you an invite back, if you ask us.

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