How to Find the Beyond-Basic Gift for Your Host

Wine and chocolates are nice, but these thoughtful, locally sourced offerings will score you a repeat invitation.

If you’ve attended a holiday gathering, chances are you’ve felt the need to arrive with an appropriate gift. Your host is opening up their home to you; it’s the least you can do, right?

A small token of your appreciation is a nice way to say thank you. However, coming up with a creative offering can be difficult, which is probably why guests often default to the safe choices of wine or chocolates.

But not you — not after reading our guide to beyond-basic host gifts.

For Foodies

For that friend or family member with a refined palate, Danielle Franks, co-owner of House15143 in Sewickley, suggests a cookbook or gourmet spices from locally based Steel City Salts. Shawn Aversa, co-owner of lifestyle shop Von Walter & Funk and funk|BALLOON in Lawrenceville, likes a line of charming, rainbow-hued felt ball trivets he carries at his store. Handmade in Nepal by a fair trade women’s group, the items can be used under a hot dish or pan but they also look good under a planter — or as a stand-alone design piece. “Everybody needs a trivet, and this one is beautiful,” Aversa says.

Beyond Red and White

Wine is still a good gift option. But try pairing it with a sophisticated wine bag, such as the cozy Graf Lantz felt wine tote sold at Von Walter & Funk. The handled bag keeps the beverage cold and protected while in transit. Aversa also suggests gifting fun wine charms; they’re reusable for another fete and they ensure you won’t mix up your glass at the party (key during cold and flu season). Franks also suggests pairing two coupe cocktail glasses with the “Art of the Bar Cart” book — or packaging one or both with a few drink mixers. Her go-tos include Jack Rudy Tonic mix, bitters or bourbon cherries. If your host is into spirits, a small bottle of Wigle Whiskey’s Pennsylvania Bourbon is a fine choice.

Yinzer’s Choice

In the city of black and gold, locally themed goods are crowd pleasers. Franks suggests creating a Pittsburgh-themed basket; include such gems as rocks glasses with the PGH or 412 logo, a cutting board engraved with the Downtown skyline or a Mister Rogers book. For true Pittsburgh fanatics, it’s a safe bet you’ll find something they’ll love at the love, Pittsburgh stores located in Mt. Washington and Downtown. The stores carry a curated collection of gifts sourced entirely from local artists and makers, including totes, T-shirts, prints, mugs and stationery, all of which fall in the acceptable “host gift” price range of $20 to $50.

Gift Green

For those who live green and clean, Aversa recommends Friendsheep Eco Merino Wool Felt Dryer Balls, an all-natural and organic fabric softener. “They’re baseball- or tennis ball-sized and made from organic, sustainable wool … They cut drying time in half and remove static from clothes.” Una Biologicals in Lawrenceville also carries a plethora of natural beauty and wellness products your hosts can use to treat themselves, including face and body skincare (try the Lavender Fields face cream), lip balms and botanical bath soaps. Geo Coasters, by Pittsburgh-based Otto Finn, are another good option. The hip set of American-made coasters are printed with eco-friendly, water-based ink.

Be a Good Guest

Don’t bring flowers — at least not if they need to be put in a vase. As Aversa points out, it forces your hosts to drop what they’re doing (i.e., putting out food or welcoming guests) to find a vase and add water to it. “It’s a nice gesture, but you should never put undue pressure on your host,” he says.

Think about your price point. Aversa says most people spend between $20 to $50 on a host gift. The $30 to $35 range is considered the sweet spot, he says.

Know a little about your hosts. Do they love to cook? Or do they have a crazy sense of humor? Use your knowledge of your host to guide your gifts, says Franks. One of her favorite things to do is to create a gift basket she fills with small items geared towards the host’s interests.

Do not arrive early. This one is important. It gives your hosts time to finish up the last-minute details and maybe pop open a bottle of wine — for themselves. “The host needs a couple of minutes — always,” Aversa says. “That is my life.”

Categories: Community Feature, From the Magazine