OK, here's another one: You're invited to a friend's house for dinner. You have minimal time to shop, and you want to bring a gift. Wine and flowers don't count. What do you bring?
A really nice bottle of olive oil can not be beat!
Olive oil is a wonderful idea...because almost everyone uses it. also, if you know your host/ess cooks a lot (likely they do if they are hosting a dinner party), i have found that high-caliber spices are a unique way of saying "thank you". good quality vanilla beans are always are always a good choice, especially if it gives them a chance to cook a recipe they hadn't before. hope this helps!
An Emily Henry pie dish is something my kitchen can not be without. Often I wish I had more. They are great for roasting vegetables, baking cobblers, bread puddings... The high quality pottery has amazing heat conduction! Would pair nice with a pie cookbook.
Any homemade item from your own kitchen (preserves, homemade spiced nuts, special salts, etc.), a big bunch of assorted fresh herbs, bought small batch items like olive oils, jams; and anything culinary or for the table from your gift stash. I comb sales at kitchen stores and I check out low end antique shops for items for gifts. Maybe a cool butter dish from Depression glass, or a cute little salt and pepper set, or a particularly interesting plate for hanging or service. I have a friend who loves ironstone, so if I see a platter or plate at a good price, I will nab it, but wait for an occasion to give it to her.
I always have loads of home made jams and chutneys on hand so those are often it. I also like to bring pate (not necessarily for the event) in a pretty dish, then the dish becomes the gift. But that one does take a bit of planning.
This year I started making jams and I find that I always grab a jar when I don't know what to bring.
I have a sunny south-facing window and grow potted herbs in it year-round. I can always tie a ribbon around one, and off I go.
These are all great gifts I think anything homemade speaks from the heart and I love that idea. I have never canned anything but I would make a jar of jam or preserves or boozy fruit in a beautiful jar. I love boulangere's idea of potted herbs in an attractive pot its a lovely gift. If I were the hostess any of these suggestions would make me very happy! I love to make flavored syrups and would possibly make a few different flavors and bring,
I put a hand-written recipe of a dish I know the host/hostess enjoys in an interesting picture frame ....
We are always expected to bring wine; so we don't disappoint. We also make olive oil and I bring that sometimes. I make a few licquors, like nocino , French 44 and lemoncello that I sometimes take in a pretty bottles. I also have a stash of canned jams and chutneys that I take for a gift.
I like to bring jams and chutneys from my kitchen and as it gets closer to the holidays, I make a huge batch of candied orange peels I throw into pretty little jars and take. And by the way, any of you are welcome at my house anytime!!!! I love so many of these ideas!
Homemade granola. It's so quick and easy to make, but so much yummier than store-bought that it just blows people away. Now they'll have breakfast for tomorrow morning!
I find that people can be soo picky so I stick to wine. Boring but everyone likes a nice bottle of wine.
Such great ideas! I like taking a small box of muffins or another baked good that can be enjoyed the next day. I find it's nice to make it clear that it's a treat from them to enjoy later -- so they don't feel compelled to serve what you bring. Homemade is ideal, of course, but in a pinch, you can pick up cupcakes, cookies, etc. from your favorite local establishment.
I agree about bringing something that's clearly not intended to be served at the party. Since the question is about doing something last minute - not when there's time to make something - I think the key is to personalize it. If the host is a big coffee drinker, I might bring a pound of exotic beans they may not have tried; for a tea lover, a special tea - preferably in a pretty tin; maybe a jar of really good imported anchovies or a small, good looking jar of saffron threads for a friend that cooks. It need not be 'fancy' - just something that specifically relates to them, but is a bit more splurge-y than they'd typically buy themselves.
Something that keeps, I always worry about being overwhelmed with food and having the gift (homemade bread, say) go bad. Jam, wine, dried mushroom assortment from Violet Hill, agree with above about coffee and tea, agree with above about saffron or other exotic spice you know the person will use or try (so sad when you give to a non cook or non adventurous cook, say, a jar of fennel pollen). Chocolate is always welcome but now it has come out that Hershey's and other popular brands rely on the slave trade and I am trying to buy only small quantities of Fair Trade chocolate. Mast Brothers chocolate is really good and beautifully packaged. If you love the person very very much buy something from June Taylor.
Last night, I gave toasted cumin pepitos from all the pumpkins I been carving & cooking with. I presented it in simple clear cellaphane party bag (always have on hand year-round) and tied with twine. It looked cute and even better they tasted amazing. Full disclosure - I made a huge batch and had so much, I thought it was fun and seasonal.
I love to take something home-made, but don't always have something on hand. A few weeks back I was in the store 'Nancy Boy' in Hayes Valley in San Francisco, and found some wonderful fall scented pot-pourri with dried oranges and cinnamon sticks - I took that along with some lovely caramels from Bi-Rite Creamery. Something that is clearly not intended to be served is always nice. I'd like to make some flavored salts and sugars - does anyone have any good recipes? In the October issue of Food & Wine magazine I found a few flavored salt recipes, also a recipe for preserved garlic (with some recipes for its use) and some home-made bitters recipes (with recipes for their use) - was thinking of trying some of these as holiday gifts.
Aussie Foodie there are home made salts and sugars both on this site! Thank you for the reminder, need to buy pretty jars and get started!!!!
I recommend giving a Waring cordless electric wine bottle opener as a hostess gift. They are $19 at Costco and a nice gift they will actually use and think of you every time they use it.
Handmade Garam Masala (toasted and freshly ground) in a small jar - save the ones from miniature jams. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food...
Celery and lemon salt http://www.101cookbooks...
Perhaps with a card including a few simple recipes or serving directions.
Usually a jar of bitter chocolate sauce with the recipe attached, but often for this time of year the Le Jacquard Francais calendar tea towel, $13 and beautiful and useful.