Hostess gift for a lunch tomorrow?
February 19, 2013 9:23 PM   Subscribe

A coworker who I don't know all that well has invited me to lunch at her house. There are only going to be the two of us. She is not a drinker to the best of my knowledge so I think my standby bottle of wine is out (is it?) She is in her early - mid 60s and fairly formal and reserved. Failing wine, what else should I bring? Flowers? A plant? Would cookies be okay? She has been having a rough time lately healthwise and is I think rather lonely and down. I asked her what I could bring and she said "Oh nothing! Just yourself!" but let's ignore that.
posted by mygothlaundry to Human Relations (22 answers total)
I think flowers (in a vase) or a nice plant (a single planted flower) would be great. Don't bring wine to someone who you think doesn't drink, and don't bring food unless you're sure of her preferences and of what she's planning to serve you (don't make her feel obligated to change her plans because of something you brought).
posted by brainmouse at 9:25 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Flowers would be nice.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:26 PM on February 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

When I'm in this sort of situation I sometimes bring a book to lend to the other person. If you actually know a little about their taste or can think of something relevant to a conversation you had, then it's a nice "oh hey I was thinking about you" that doesn't involve booze or money. But I hang out with nerds; YMMV.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:28 PM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am not really a flowers person at all, but this seems a perfect time to bring flowers. Sounds like she needs cheering up!
posted by Joh at 9:29 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yep, flowers. If she's lonely, I assume (?) she doesn't have a partner who would be giving her flowers regularly.

Getting flowers always feels like a special indulgence that I wouldn't get for myself. Go with a variety that isn't too heavily scented, to be on the safe side.
posted by Salamander at 9:29 PM on February 19, 2013

Flowers or a nice collection of chocolates... either way get a good mix, so you can cover all her taste preferences.
After lunch, be sure to send her a nice note of thanks on a cute postcard or stationary that she can have as a sort of sidegift.
(I picked up a book of Charley Harper postcards at an airport a couple years ago, and it's been fantastic to have nice thank you cards that can be little gifts unto themselves)
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:38 PM on February 19, 2013

I think flowers are a good idea.

I also like Now there are two's book lending idea (in addition to flowers). The nice thing about it is that it gives her an excuse to see you again--to give back the book and maybe talk about it with you.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:39 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Came in to say flowers!!

I'm a huge book person, but if you don't know her taste, flowers.

My NEW standby these days is an ORCHID.

Once the plant drops its blossoms, they live forever with minimal care (low draft, a bit of water, no feeding needed) and when they unexpectedly blossom again - JOY.

They live happily by a kitchen or bathroom window.

Flower, book, or an orchid plant in flower.

posted by jbenben at 9:42 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think a fair amount of the appeal of wine as a gift is the packaging and the price.
A nice equivalent for someone who doesn't drink might be a fancy bottle of olive oil, with a ribbon tied around it.
posted by emoemu at 9:52 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Food is always lovely too -- a nice pot of jam or honey would be great. Something a little fancier than cookies like a small cake or some snazzy pastries might be a fine idea.
posted by bearwife at 10:16 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you'd had a bit more time I would have suggested chevre from the Sandburg goats--maybe a local gourmet grocer has it?
posted by brujita at 10:36 PM on February 19, 2013

I'm gonna vote for a simple-to-care-for plant. This may be a personal quirk, but when I'm already down, watching the decline of cut flowers can be even more depressing.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:44 PM on February 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I can remember times when something I had to take care of would have been the last thing I'd want (and tastes can vary wildly), so my vote is for some kind of nice confectionery.
posted by thylacinthine at 11:07 PM on February 19, 2013

A succulent garden is a great hostess gift--only needs to be watered every couple of weeks. (These are just examples--you can get a pretty nice one for around $10.)
posted by tully_monster at 11:30 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

A nice non-alcholic beverage (a sparkling lemonade, maybe?) dressed up in fancy wrappings might go well with lunch. I like to get those ridiculously expensive European bottles that my friends would never otherwise buy for themselves.

It would be sweet to bring her breakfast-y items so she has a treat to look forward to in the morning ... I like the idea of nice jams or honey, maybe with a basket of fresh croissants and some fruit?
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 11:32 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

miss_kitty_fantastico: A nice non-alcholic beverage (a sparkling lemonade, maybe?) dressed up in fancy wrappings might go well with lunch. I like to get those ridiculously expensive European bottles that my friends would never otherwise buy for themselves.

Elderflower pressé is nice--it's a good thing to bring when you know (or aren't sure if) people don't drink alcohol. It's fancy but easy to like, even if you've never had it before. I don't know how easy it is to get where you live (it's usually imported from Britain, I think) but I live in the Canadian boondocks and our local grocery stores and pharmacies carry it, so if you live in a reasonably-sized urban centre you will probably be able to locate some.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:32 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

My standby in such situations is wine (or a fancy brand of non-alcoholic sparkling juice or lemonade in a nice bottle) and chocolates.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:46 AM on February 20, 2013

I have taken pretty cocktail/dessert napkins to hostesses who were pleased with them.
posted by Dolley at 5:49 AM on February 20, 2013

Loose leaf tea in a pretty tin, maybe with a tea infuser spoon or ball if she doesn't have one. The act of drinking tea is comfortable and reassuring, with a bit of luxury and old world formality and tea lasts a long time with no upkeep.
posted by Liesl at 6:28 AM on February 20, 2013

Fresh berries are a nice healthy little gift. Especially in February there's something decadent about a little box of blueberries or strawberries or blackberries, and unlike chocolate there's nothing to feel guilty about.
posted by steinwald at 7:38 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think flowers are the go-to option, here. Chocolates might be a nice back-up option. I've also done a simple loaf of very good bread from a very good bakery.

Bringing a plant -the kind that lives in a pot that you have to take care of- is a nice thought, but I always felt that the hostess gift should be something consumable, if not now, then in the near future. The cursory bottle of wine is a nice, drinkable counterpart to the delicious food she is preparing for her guests. So, if not wine, then something else edible, or useful, with an otherwise limited lifespan (or will be gone once consumed). A gift that actually lasts, and will stick around, doesn't seem quite right in this situation, breaks the inherent symmetry of the usual hostess gift, and feels a bit overformal, or like an imposition...

which is kind of a downer, because a succulent garden sounds like The Awesome and I now want one for my desk.
posted by vivid postcard at 10:25 AM on February 20, 2013

vivid_postcard, they really are The Awesome! Not only are they adorable, but they can go for weeks and weeks without watering. I've gone on a month-long vacation, returned to find mine a bit parched, soaked it, and watched it perk right back up. I brought one on a visit to my aunt, who has mobility issues, and she was so delighted with it she told everyone in the family about it--it was a living thing she could enjoy with absolutely minimal care.
posted by tully_monster at 2:44 PM on February 21, 2013

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