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 selecting 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 a 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, a tin of 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 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 a holiday like Rosh Hashanah, which is 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 Host Gifts
1. Mike's Hot Honey Infused with Chilis, $26 for three, 12-ounce bottles
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.
2. Raw Maine Wild Raspberry Honey, $13 for 10.5 ounces at 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 wild raspberry honey is light and floral with a raspberry finish and a faint aroma of cocoa butter.
3. Apple and Honey Halva, $7.50 for 1/4 pound at Seed + Mill
Made just for Rosh Hashanah, this limited-edition halva (from one of Kitchn's favorite little shops) has a mix of apple, honey, and cinnamon on top.
4. HoneyMaker Dry Mead, $19 for 750 milliliters from Maine Mead Works
Maine Mead Works' 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.
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.
6. Artisanal Spices, from $15 for two ounces at 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). I especially recommend the Mishmish (a blend of crystallized honey, saffron, and lemon) and the Ana (a blend of sumac, rose blossom, and sesame seeds).
7. 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. Unfortunately, Gefilteria is currently sold out for this year's High Holidays. The stuff is just so good, though, that it had to be mentioned. Maybe bookmark this now and remind yourself to check next year (late in the summer)?
8. Tishbi Cherry Shiraz Preserves, $10 for 8.4 ounces at The Savory Pantry
Tishbi, an 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. When it doubt, go with the Cherry Shiraz option.
Do you have a favorite host gift to bring to Rosh Hashanah celebrations?