General Dinner Party Etiquette Most people will bring a bottle of wine, which may or may not be consumed over dinner. This will depend on the host, unless the guest makes a point of wanting it to be opened and shared. On rare occasions, the hosts will tell their guests "do not bring wine" as they wish to share a special wine they already have in their cellar, or they have a themed evening and matching wines pre-planned. This is when the Host(ess) Gift can get tricky.
Flowers, especially, create a lovely environment, but more often than not one host might be busy greeting guests while the other is adding last minute touches to the canapes, or to the dish that should have been in the oven or BBQ an hour ago!
Who's got time to arrange flowers? They often end up in a bucket in the laundry tub or popped into a vase to be properly arranged much later. Guests, who most likely have either never met or haven't seen each other in a while, are often busy sharing scintillating conversation, and the flowers are long forgotten. So, any arrangement that may have happened becomes a distant thought.
I am delighted when guests bring something that is different from my usual purchases.
Consumables are a good idea.
Here are a few suggestions:
Unusual Oils and Vinegars wrapped in cellophane and tied with a ribbon are always welcome
** A lovely marmalade or rustic organic honey that you picked up at the local produce market.
North Sydney Farmers Market
** Lemon, Chilli, or Basil infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
** A Rub for seasoning meats. There are so many on the market these days. They include Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Spanish.
** An unusual salt like Fler de Sel, Himalayan Pink Salt, or Truffle infused Salt. Some delis sell these in gorgeous perspex see-through grinders which would look good in anyone's kitchen.
** Sauces and relishes -- the choices are endless.
** Verjuice, caramelised balsamic vinegar, pomegranate or fig balsamic. Even a nice champagne or white wine vinegar.
** Extra Virgin Olive Oil from one of the many award-winning Australian makers.
** Nut oils like Walnut, Hazelnut or Macadamia nut - these all make wonderful salad dressings.
** Specialty Coffees, especially if you know your host has a coffee machine.
** Curry mixes and bases, from Simon Johnson, Saucy Spice Company,Herbies or The Essential Ingredient.
** Hand wash in brown apothecary-style bottles from places like Appelles Apothecary, Aesops, Occitane or even Crabtree & Evelyn.
** Unusual tea is always a hit with me. In fact, any tea is welcome in my kitchen. T2 is trendy & popular and has stores across the country. A Touch of Tea in Bowral ships Australia-wide, but if you can get in there, taste their samples and inhale the aromas before buying, you will discover there's a whole new world when it comes to tea. T-Bar can be found in the Adelaide Central Market and will ship to you.
Many of these can be ordered online and promptly delivered to your home or workplace.
If your are lucky enough to have a herb garden, take a bunch of fresh herbs
Don't forget the good old fall-back of scented candles. These are always a hit and I can never have enough in my house.
If you have time and are creative, make your own gifts. These always go down well! Donna Hay has easy-to-follow recipes in her books for things like shortbread, chocolate or Anzac cookies, and she suggests creative and attractive ways to package them.
A Donna Hay Cookie Idea
If your host is a guy and drinks beer, why not make up a mixed box of boutique beers, or some miniature bubbles or fancy Cider. In other words, something a little left-field.
The options are endless. All you have to do is 'think outside the box' and take something unusual, or just something nice. Whatever you take, if it's a large gathering, put a little gift tag on your gift to identify you as the giver.