My husband and I love inviting family and friends over for holiday dinners. But for the last several years we have spent Rosh Hashanah away from home. So instead of fussing over a menu, ingredient lists, and a cooking game plan, I turn my pre-holiday focus to picking out great gifts for our hosts. Over time, I have discovered a few simple guidelines to select meaningful and affordable gifts that let our hosts know we appreciate them.
What Makes a Great Host Gift?
First, the best gifts should feel truly special. Flowers or bottle of wine are always appropriate, but why not bring something unexpected? A good rule of thumb is to bring something that you personally want, but would typically not buy for yourself — a bottle of good quality olive oil, truffle salt, or a jar of dulce de leche are good examples.
Pro tip: in the case of Rosh Hashanah or other Jewish holiday meals, find out if your host or hostess keeps kosher. If they do, make sure the gift is certified kosher. The same rule, of course, applies for any food allergies.
Second, aside from wine or beer, do not give anything that your host will feel obligated to serve at the meal. They spent time crafting their menu, so there is a chance that your homemade oat rolls and key lime pie, as delicious as they are, will clash with their plans. More importantly, they should get to choose whether to enjoy your gift with guests or on their own.
Finally, whenever possible give a gift that is thematically linked to the occasion. This is particularly fun on holidays like Rosh Hashanah, which are filled with food symbolism. The host gift ideas below play up Rosh Hashanah’s most familiar thematic foods: apples and honey, and also offer a few surprising twists on traditional Jewish cuisine.
8 Great Rosh Hashanah Gifts
- Chili-Infused Honey from Mike’s Hot Honey - Made in Brooklyn, New York, this chili and vinegar-spiked honey is obsession-worthy, and the perfect gift for any host with a penchant for spicy foods.
- Cranberry Honey from Bee Raw - Bee Raw has made a name for itself by producing a range of single varietal honeys that contain the essence of their source flower. Their cranberry honey is pungent, floral, and a tiny bit tart, just like the delicate cranberry flowers it hails comes from.
Beyond Apples & Honey
- Halva Spread from Brooklyn Sesame - Israeli native Shahar Shamir’s soft, spreadable take on the traditional Middle Eastern confection combines creamy tahini and sweet honey, then folds in roasted sesame seeds or pistachios, raw almonds, or toasted coconut. Several of the varieties can be ordered online at Mouth.
- Mead from Maine Mead Works - Maine Mead Work’s crisp, surprisingly dry Honeymaker mead breaks every renaissance faire stereotype that typically accompanies the ancient fermented honey wine. It is delicious chilled — out of a wine glass or, if you insist, a gilded chalice.
- Hard Apple Cider from Crispin - Crispin’s hand crafted ciders are naturally fermented from apples grown along the West Coast. Some are straight up apple focused, while others are flavored with organic honey or pure maple syrup, or fermented with unusual yeasts like sake yeast and Belgian Trappist yeast.
- Artisanal Spices from La Boîte á Epice - Lior Lev Sercarz, an Israeli-born, French trained spice master serves as spice monger to the stars (or star chefs, anyway). Home cooks can find his extraordinary spice blends – like the Mishmish blend of crystallized honey, saffron and lemon, and the Ana blend of sumac, rose blossom, and sesame seeds online at The Ingredient Finder.
Traditional Foods with a Twist
- Artisanal Gefilte Fish from Gefilteria - Based in New York, this artisanal Jewish food company turns out delicately flavored loaves of baked gefilte fish that will convert any skeptic. Delight your host by bringing a jar of Gefilteria’s sweet beet or carrot citrus horseradish alongside a 12-ounce demi-loaf of gefilte. Gefilteria’s products are available online via Grow and Behold.
- Wine Jelly from Tishbi Fine Food - This Israel-based winery has transformed their wines into delicious, spreadable preserves that are sweet with a generous hint of tangy wine flavor. They pair perfectly with cheese and would be delicious slathered on Rosh Hashanah apple slices. Several of Tishbi’s wine jellies are available online through Zabar’s.
Do you have a favorite host gift to bring to Rosh Hashanah celebrations?
(Images: Gefilteria; Brooklyn Sesame)