Lindsey Kiska, store manager of El Quetzal, with a selection of serving platter hostess gifts. (Photo by April Lisante)

by April Lisante

This week, one of my friends was headed to a cocktail party hosted by a new family that just moved to the area.

When she called to ask me what she should bring the hostess, I had a ready answer.

My go-to gift is typically always the same: a candle. I’ve always thought they offer a decorative, homey and pleasant touch to anyone’s home, regardless of the décor, and they can be used over and over.

But my friend’s request got me thinking: What are people giving nowadays as host and hostess gifts? I’m a foodie at heart. Couldn’t I be a little more imaginative with my gift giving? What does one give someone who enjoys entertaining and cooking? And where can I find it locally?

With cocktail party, open house and the dreaded “parent social” season about to kick off, I went in search of the local top selling items that are unique, thoughtful, and a little more creative than a Bath and Body Works “spiced pumpkin” three-wick candle special.

I visited some of the Hill’s most eclectic shops to curate some of the season’s coolest giveaway gifts.

My first stop was Ten Thousand Villages (8331 Germantown Ave.). I like that the nonprofit supports not only impoverished women, but the elderly and a multitude of struggling artisans worldwide.

One of its most popular items to bring as a gift in recent weeks has been a bicycle-shaped pizza cutter, hand-crafted by Indian metal workers.

Kris Parker, assistant store manager at Ten Thousand Villages, holds a bicycle pizza cutter hostess gift.

“This group of men is known for their metal work,” said assistant manager Kris Parker. “They were pot makers originally.”

For $18.99, you can gift your host a utilitarian kitchen item that can double as certified art hanging on the wall.

For the friend who likes to imbibe, there is a jute carry-all bag ($18.99) made in Bangladesh that holds six bottles of beer. Fill the bag, and simply leave it as a keepsake of your evening.

Some gifts are more specifically geared toward age groups. For example, many millennials love the ceramic “Solo Cup” ($15) which can also double as a small vase. The 50-plus crowd seems to love the handmade set of three potholders ($18.99) woven from recycled saris in Bangladesh.

“All of the women over 50 made them when they were teenagers,” said Parker. “It’s like a trip down memory lane.”

Over at El Quetzal (8427 Germantown Ave.), gorgeous serving platters and vessels by the Mud Pie company are a safe bet for someone who entertains, according to store manager Lindsey Kiska. Ranging from $30 to $60, the cream-colored platters come in a variety of sizes and have clever sayings, including “In Queso Emergency” and “Don’t Go Bacon My Heart.”

“That one is a real crowdpleaser,” Kiska said.

If your hostess is a tea lover, choose one of their ceramic mugs handmade in the United States, and pair it with a wooden box of tea ($9.95.)

And while Host Interiors (7908 Germantown Ave.) is mostly known for its upscale furnishings, owner Sarah Ries curates some conversation pieces perfect for gifting.

“One thing that is really nice is that if you know your hostess likes to entertain, bring something related to entertaining,” Ries said.

A carafe and glass set, perfect for a bedside guest room table, is made of hand-blown, seeded glass ($48) to give it the look of air bubbles floating in the glass.

“And it doubles as a vase,” she said.

If your host has a penchant for perfectly set tables, Ries suggests pairing the “Set a Table” how-to book ($14) with a set of four linen napkins ($44).

“It just gives the hostess something to use another time for entertaining, like having friends over for breakfast,” Ries said.

Looking for a unique piece that’s a little more upscale? Try a one-of-a-kind piece of table art.

Pitchers, vases and bowls in bright colors, handmade in Denmark ($75 to 90) are popular right now.

Some of the most inspiring cookbooks I’ve ever seen were at Robertson’s Flowers and Events (8501 Germantown Ave.). I found some amazingly fun tomes for hosts who love to mix it up in the kitchen. Instead of “The Joy of Cooking,” try gifting “Posh Eggs,” ($19.99,) “30 Minute Vegetarian,” ($22.99) or “Beer Bites,” ($24.95).

Another fun find at Robertson’s are the Philadelphia-themed stemless wine glasses with images of skylines and Liberty Bells, ($14.95 each.)

If you like the idea of bringing wine along with the glasses, a nice touch is the “Toast the Host” embellished canvas wine bag ($8.50).

So there you have it. Local dishware, table linens, kitchen art and more for your favorite party-hosting foodie.

Suddenly, my three-wick candles look very uninspired indeed.

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