Style » Life

EDGE Holiday Gift Guide :: Gifts for the host or hostess

by Jason Salzenstein
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jan 2, 2009

Parties are fun; trying to figure out what to bring the host or hostess (that isn't the typical bottle of random red wine), not so much. Good guests never show up empty handed (with a few exceptions; see below), but if you really want to be remembered- and perhaps invited back more often- you need to set yourself apart.

EDGE Style Editor Jason Salzenstein- along with the entire EDGE style team- has been searching stores and scouring the web to come up with our list of the best gifts for the host or hostess. Fabulous, festive, frugal, or fun, anything from the following list of ideas is sure to get you recognized- and hopefully remembered when it's time for the next big soir?e!


PRE-GIFTING :: A new take on host(ess) gifts

Flowers

Recently I started a new trend among "my people" (or at least I like to credit myself for it...), which I think is an absolutely brilliant idea for hostess gifts: pre-gifting. What the hell is pre-gifting, you might ask? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like- giving a gift before the actual party, dinner, or event.

This works fabulously with flowers; in fact, I’ve already pre-gifted flowers half a dozen times this season and every single person who’s received them has told me what a brilliant, wonderful, and fabulous idea this is (and how clever and wonderful I am)- and they’re right!

When sending flowers, please be a good gay and don’t even consider going near any of those standard companies you see advertised just before every Hallmark holiday. The best option is to get to know a small individual florist in every city where you have friends or family, which is no easy task. Instead, I trust Flora2000.com for all my floral needs. Not only are their arrangements gorgeous, they’re amazingly reasonably priced, and they’re one of the very few companies who offer same-day floral delivery to more than 150 countries worldwide. The company has more than 3,000 arrangements available- from classic to modern, country chic to urban sophistication, and even orchids, bonsais, green plants, and gourmet gift baskets and balloons. Plus, the ordering process is fast and easy.

The icing on the cake? When you order flowers from Flora2000.com, your credit card isn’t charged until after delivery has been made, they offer 24/7 customer support, and if your lucky recipient is ever dissatisfied, they’ll refund your card and replace their flowers- talk about customer service!

When sending flowers to a host or hostess, schedule delivery for two days prior to the event. That way, if they’re not home for the original delivery and the flowers can’t be left for them, they’ll still receive them in time- and have a chance to decide where to display them, etc.


No Hickory Farms here...

Another great pre-gifting idea for hosts and hostesses are gift baskets of gourmet food. Whether they decide to serve the goodies at the party or save them to savor on their own after the event (who wants to cook the evening following a big brunch, or the day after a big holiday dinner?), a basket of fabulous high-end munchies is always appreciated.

We love what’s on offer from National Geographic’s new Foods of the World collection, an online store of everything cultural and culinary. The selection includes offerings from countries and regions near and far, including an Italian Escape gift Basket, a Cheese Pairing for Egg Nog Basket, and many, many more. You can also select authentic artisanal food from around the globe by country, food type, price, or recipient, and put together a custom basket of your own! If you want to really surprise them, they offer a variety of Gourmet Food Clubs, which allow your host to sample delicious foods from all ends of the earth from 3 to 12 months; sign up for six months or more and they’ll also get a one-year subscription to National Geographic Traveler magazine.

To see their complete offerings and order go to www.NationalGeographicFood.com


Dessert :: the best meal of the day

If you really want to make a big impression, have a beautiful dessert delivered a day before the party- a beautiful and practical gift that the host or hostess is sure to appreciate. What their guests will appreciate is the delectable taste that the award-winning desserts from BakeMeAWish.com have garnished.

Cakes are made fresh, popped into special delivery containers, and arrive in an elegant gift box that includes a custom gift card with well wishes from you to the recipient. They make fabulous gift-giving so easy that it seems like there has to be a catch- and there is: choosing between the desserts proved nearly impossible for me alone, let alone when I opened the selection process to the rest of the office. With flavors like Caramel Apple Crumb, Cookies and Cream Oreo Cake, and Double Fudge Crunch, it turned into a battle royale of favorite dessert flavors and I finally had to threaten to have it delivered to my house if we didn’t agree.

BakeMeAWish.com’s cakes are priced between $20-60 each, including shipping, which is a great deal for such a fabulous gift! Order online at www.BakeMeAWish.com


Libations :: Why argue with tradition?

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!

If you’re married to the idea of bringing alcohol (and really, I doubt anyone’s going to complain), rather than the run-of-the-mill bottle of middle-of-the-road red wine, how about something a bit more exciting?

Like skipping straight to the hard stuff!

A hand-crafted blend of Reposado, Anejo, and Extra-Anejo, Maestro Dobel tequila is beyond smooth, described by the company as having "the clarity, complexity, crispness and craftsmanship of a diamond- and we’d have to agree. Unlike other aged tequilas, Maestro Dobel is crystal (or diamond!) clear. Thanks to a proprietary filtering system, all impurities and color are removed, without taking away any of the aroma, flavor, or complexity.

Maestro Dobel has lighter herbal and citrus aromas than most other silver tequilas, thanks largely to the soil where the agave plants are grown. Add that to the double distillation process and you end up with a surprisingly crisp tequila that’s easy to sip on its own or with a few cubes of ice. (Please don’t waste this on Margaritas!) The bottle itself is also fabulous- a sexy tower with a thick metallic base and cut crystal design- and hand-numbered, as quantities are rare. Your lucky recipient will definitely know your good taste, and surely appreciate it. Just don’t expect them to open this one during the party!

About $75 at fine liquor stores nationwide and online at www.BevMo.com


Fit for a King

I’m not normally a big whisky drinker, but put an aged, fine sipping blend in front of me and I’m not going to turn it away. Crown Royal Cask No. 16 easily falls into this category, combining the warm, elegant taste of cognac with the lingering Crown Royal experience, creating an elegant drink that someone could easily get used to!

So what sets Cask No. 16 apart from regular Crown Royal? To start with, this is a unique blend of more than 50 distinct aged Canadian whiskies, which creates layers of flavor including butterscotch, vanilla, dried raisin, and spice. The depth of flavor is rounded off when the blend is finished in rare Cognac casks from the renowned Limousin Forest in France, which imparts an oaky fruitiness. It’s this aging process that gives No. 16 it’s complex, deep, sophisticated flavor and aroma- and immediately lets you know you’re sipping something special.

About $100 at fine liquor stores nationwide.

For an even more impressive gift, Crown Royal XR (about $180) is an extremely limited blend comprised of rare whiskey batches saved from the Waterloo Distillery, a longtime Crown Royal distillery that was destroyed by fire shortly after closing. Bottles are individually numbered and come in a burgundy suede bag protected by an embossed box with gold satin lining.


An unmatched single malt

Speaking of fabulous presentation, The Glenlivet XXV single malt comes in a crafted wooden box reinforced by limestone- exquisite packaging that reflects the quality of the product inside. Like the CR XR, each bottle of XXV is numbered, and each carries a genuine wax seal, reflecting the precious nature of the contents within.

What’s within is a super-premium 1980 vintage selection that’s been finished in first-fill sherry butts for nearly two years. This aging produces an extra depth of flavor and silky sweetness that adds to Glenlivet’s signature sweet, floral, honey, and malt tones, giving it a nutty spiciness and fruity palate.

About $350 wherever fine liquors are sold.


A display as fab as the Champers you’re drinking

A good party must have great Champagne; a great party has lots of great Champagne, displayed beautifully, preferably as a large centerpiece. For a classic yet grand presentation, the Champagne Bowl from Screwpull can’t be beat.

Made of simply-chic brushed stainless steel, the large diameter bowl holds up to six standard bottles of bubbly, and enough ice-water to keep them chilled for hours- not that it should take you that long to drink it. Whoever designed this bowl is brilliant and should be awarded a medal of, well, brilliance; the curved base catches condensed water, so feel free to heat-up the room however you’d like.

As versatile as it is beautiful (oh, if I only had a dollar for every time I’ve heard those words...), when the kids come over, you can serve punch in this baby- and a lot of it. Alternatively, invite the entire extended family for dinner and toss the biggest salad you’ve ever made!

Put the icing on the cake by including a bottle- or five- of Champagne or sparkling wine. Our favorite party Champagne for traditionalists is Pommery Brut Royal. Its classic taste, fabulous freshness, and fine, tiny bubbles make any party sparkle! If you’d rather stick closer to home, the Mirabelle Brut and Brut Ros? from Schramsberg (the first house of sparkling wine in America) are fabulous domestic sparklers, able to hold their own- even among Champagne snobs like me.

The Champagne Bowl sells for about $100 at gourmet cooking stores and department stores nationwide, and online at Amazon.com"". Pommery runs about $30 a bottle at any good wine store; Mirabelle $22-$25.


Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya...

Although it’s a bit chilly these days (at least here in the Northeast), nothing brings back the feeling of being on vacation like a frozen fruity cocktail- preferably one that’s served in hollowed-out fruit with an umbrella, mermaid, palm frond, or other tchotchke sticking out of it. The problem is, you can’t make these drinks at home with a regular blender.

If you really want to get the party started, you need a Frozen Concoction Maker from Margaritaville. These bad boys quickly become the life of the party, Belle of the ball, and any number of other grandmotherly expressions that you can think of. Unlike a blender, which usually just mangles fruit and liquefies everything else, these machines were designed to make restaurant-quality cocktail concoctions quickly, easily, and with minimal mess.

There are four models of Margaritaville Concoction Makers available, for parties of all sizes. All of them have both manual and automatic settings that shave ice and automatically blend the right proportion of it with other ingredients. Large blending jar capacities allow you to blend and serve multiple people at once, so you’re never stuck in the kitchen mixing drinks.

The Frozen Concoction Makers from Margaritaville are guaranteed to turn your next little gathering into a tropical beach party. They’re available at Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Sur la Table, and online at The Margaritaville Store and Amazon.com""


Much appreciated at any party

Another great gadget gift that’s sure to be appreciated by any host or hostess is the Electric Wine Opener from Oster. Rather than having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen struggling with opening bottles of wine, this easy-to-use device automatically uncorks wine bottles in seconds, allowing the host to return to the party more quickly! The opener is small, portable, and rechargeable, so you can easily take it in the living room, on the porch, by the pool, or wherever the party may be. You can open up to 30 bottles on one charge, so even if Mariah and Whitney show up you’ll still be fine!

We like the set that includes the portable electric wine opener and a Thermal Stainless Steel Wine Chiller that not only keeps a bottle cold for hours (as if it’ll ever sit for that long!), but looks great too.

About $40 at Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, and Amazon.com"".


Office parties... and other straight affairs

Let’s face it; every year we’re forced to go to a few parties that aren’t at the top of the list, but for political (i.e. career-related) reasons we’ve got to at least make an appearance. And while we’re the last ones to discriminate or jump to conclusions, it’s safe to say that most of these parties are thrown by straight men- historically, not the best party planners.

Fortunately, while they might not always be oozing sophisticated style, straight men are usually fairly easy to please... and no, I’m not talking about that 3am incident last year following the tequila shooting contest. The fastest way to a straight man’s holiday heart? Beer.

Beer makes straight men happy, and luckily there are a few brands available that have even passed muster with the EDGE Style Team, and that’s saying a lot. Funnily enough, most of them are... fruity. Quel suprise!

We recently tried an assortment of labels and flavors from Anheuser-Busch, and actually enjoyed the Bud Light Lime (or ’BL Lime as they call it), flavored Michelob Ultra (Lime Cactus, Pomegranate Raspberry, and Tuscan Orange Grapefruit), and Bud Extra (flavored with blackberry, raspberry and cherry). Although they may seem like they’d fit-in better at a summer party, in fact the light-and-refreshing qualities were a nice break from the oft-heavy drinks normally found at holiday parties. Take a break from eggnog and red wine- and throw one back with the boys! (Who knows, you might even leave with more than you came with... again.)

Available wherever beer is sold, for less than your daily Starbucks tab.

One for the host...

And while gifts of liquor, booze, and wine are great for offering up to the host or hostess for a party, when the celebrating’s done and they’re left cleaning up the mess- not to mention the inevitable shopping, wrapping, and family responsibilities we all face this time of the year- what they could likely use is a nice cocktail! Of course they’ve got the liquor (you gave it to them), so now they just need a nice recipe- and justification for drinking!

Good Drinks for Bad Days"" not only adds extra oomph to your holiday liquor gift, it also provides the host or hostess with a slew of fab recipes for cocktails, and a wonderful excuse to enjoy one. As the author says, "When life gives you lemons, make a Whiskey Sour!" With more than 50 antidotes for everyday disasters- from being fired to getting dumped, and everything in between- you’ll never be without a reason to enjoy a drink.

During the holidays, that can be a lifesaver! Available for about $10 at Amazon.com"".


Not your everyday cup o’ Joe

While a bottle of wine is practical, it’s also something that half the other guests are likely to bring (the remaining folks will bring a candle), which just makes you one of many. Instead, set yourself apart by bringing coffee- something that can also be enjoyed during the party, but that sets you apart from the crowd.

Of course not just any coffee will do. We like the Single Origin Premium Organic beans from . No anonymous blend, this is the first exclusively single origin organic coffee from Columbia, with a full but well-balanced taste that represents an "exclusive regional flavor and purity in every cup."

True Origin Organics offers two beans- Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta’s and Tierra Dentro’s; both are available in whole bean or ground for about $13 per 10oz bag, at gourmet markets, natural grocers and supermarkets nationwide.


Home fragrance v2.0

Just as gourmet coffee is a good alternative to wine, the Fragrance Cube from Le Cherche Midi is the perfect substitute (and major upgrade) for a candle.

Le Cherche Midi’s new take on the now ubiquitous diffuser is sophisticated and stylish, while also living up to its purpose of infusing a home with incredible scent. Famous for their luxurious scented candles and home sprays, Le Cherche Midi’s newest product is just different enough to be modern and fabulous, without being bizarre. Sleek lines and a contemporary design ensure the Fragrance Cube will find a good home in any house; six different layered scents ensure that everyone will have a favorite... or two. We love scent 01, but that could be because we’re a bit too vain...

The diffuser’s flat-topped cover acts as the apparatus through which the scented oil is diffused; porous wood allows the scent to be released, while a stopper protects against spillage.

The Le Cherche Midi Fragrance Cube is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Takashimaya in NYC, as well as www.lecherchemidi.com for $45.


A gift all their own

Personalized gifts are nothing new, but we discovered one that we haven’t seen before, and we love it: personalized plates!

MyCleanPlateClub.com has come up with dozens of fabulous designs for personalized, eco-friendly, nearly unbreakable plates, that make perfect holiday hostess gifts. With dozens of styles and colors, there’s definitely a plate for everyone, and since they’re so affordable you may want to pick up a set or two for yourself. Of course we loved the monogrammed styles, but depending on who you’re giving them to you can choose something sporty, festive, simple, or fun.

Plates arrive about two weeks after you order, so plan ahead- or better yet, let them choose the exact design they want for post-holiday arrival. Most plates are $22 each, but EDGE readers can save 15% through January 15 by entering "EDGE" when paying. Check out the full line at www.MyCleanPlateClub.com


COFFEE TABLE BOOKS

A gift of classic style

Telling your friends that their home d?cor style is hideous isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. Rather than going to their house, ripping the wallpaper from the walls and clearing surfaces cluttered with chingaderas however, consider presenting them with a fabulous book on good design. After all, if cleanliness is next to godliness, then subtlety must be a step away from sainthood!

Our favorite designer coffee table book of the year, Barclay Butera: Living in Style (Assouline) is a gorgeous presentation of the renown (and fabulous) designer’s most iconic works, which he refers to as "fashion for the home." We couldn’t come up with a simpler, more fitting description, although our attempts included words like clean, classic, sophisticated, fresh, stunning, and brilliant. His contemporary style is modern but livable, sophisticated but exotic, and always exciting. Available at fine bookstores and Amazon.com"" for about $50.

As an added bonus (and extra fabulous points), include a scented candle from Butera’s new line of home goods. Each of the five scents was inspired by the designer’s lifestyle themes (Beach, City, Mountain, Desert, and Town & Country), and come elegantly packaged in rich navy parchment boxes with silver-foil accents and a small label indicating the theme. They’re so beautiful you won’t even need to wrap it! The candles themselves are classic white and come in a frosted glass, subtly screen-printed with Butera’s logo. Available for $44 at Barclay Butera Home, and Barclay Butera retail and to-the-trade showrooms.


A gift from the Orient

If your friends like Asian-inspired d?cor (or could just use some major help in the Feng Shui area), they’ll love Your Home - Your Sanctuary (Rizzoli), from architectural interior designer Clodagh. In her second book, she explores ways to cleanse and clarify your home incorporating easy-to-follow rules of Feng Shui. By following her advice and suggestions your recipient may become more productive, improve their love life and finances, sleep better, or simply find more peace and happiness.

Even if your friends are too special to understand the beauty and value of Feng Shui, the book provides completely non-new-agey advice on home design and decorating. One of the most valuable aspects right now is her "no buy design solution," offering ways to redesign your home without spending money. Available at bookstores and Amazon.com"" for about $30.


How Does the Show Go On?

One book in this year’s stack was picked up by nearly every staffer in our office while it was waiting on the shelf for review: How Does the Show Go On (about $17 at Amazon""). This newly revised and interactive book is a brilliantly creative and entertaining peek behind-the-scenes of major Broadway shows- in this case, Disney’s award winning Lion King, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid.

Written by Thomas Schumacher, producer of The Lion King, the book takes you from the ticket booth through the theater, and backstage, vividly describing, illustrating, and providing hands-on examples (through ticket stubs, scripts, and other tidbits of touchy-feely things) of how a big show goes from idea to fruition. It’s great for kids and teens, but even better for adults (especially theatre queens!), who’ve often wondered how they manage to pull off such incredible shows night after night.


Another sneak peek

An incredible volume with more than 250 engaging (and largely unpublished) black and white photos, Mary Ellen Mark: Seen Behind the Scene offers a backstage pass to more than 100 of the most famous movie sets in film history. The book offers an unmatched glimpse into the "magic" world that exists behind the camera, with hundreds of rarely seen portraits of famous actors in unguarded moments.

The book also features writings by some of the celebrities Mark has photographed over the years-from Francis Ford Coppola to Jessica Lange to Robert Downey, Jr.- offering yet another unique perspective on the film industry- and the glitz and glamour that goes with it.

About $40 at bookstores and Amazon.com"".


1037 buildings + 653 architects + 89 countries = One amazing book of world architecture

If you know someone with an interest in design and architecture, giving them this book will guarantee you a permanent place in their heart- and perhaps give you a foot in the door to heaven as well.

The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture is the most comprehensive collection of world architecture built since 2000. Divided into six regions, it gives an excellent overview of trends both global and local, while also exploring the geographical contexts of the buildings as well as how they fit into the worldwide stage of design.

The book is fascinating to both curious laypeople and seasoned professionals alike, and the well-planned format makes the subject accessible to everyone. Each region is introduced by an in-depth look at their unique urban and architectural issues, and more than 1000 key buildings provide examples of the information presented. The buildings are fully illustrated with drawings and photographs, and described by a short essay.

Whether you know an architect, designer, or simply someone with an appreciation for the fields, this makes a stunning and inspirational book. About $120 at fine bookstores and Amazon.com"".


There you have it- by now you should be prepared for any and all holiday parties that come your way. Now you just need to sit back and wait for the invitations!

If you like what you’ve seen here, check out the rest of the EDGE Holiday Gift Guides, and then head over to the EDGE Giveaway Center and enter to win some of these things for yourself!

Twitter :: JasonSalz

Jason Salzenstein is a writer and editor; design, image, and marketing consultant; and professional shopper. His work has appeared in numerous national and international publications and he has clients around the world. For more information :: www.JasonSalzenstein.com

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