By Jessica Ghilani

With the winter holiday season upon us, many people can expect an influx of party invitations. The process of planning and executing a party is no small feat. Grateful guests can give thanks to their host or hostess with a thoughtful present. First, here is a brief primer on giving gifts of alcohol.

Many people like to bring nice bottles of wine or liquor to a party. Gifts of alcohol are crowd pleasers but gift givers should refrain from opening what they brought with them if it is truly meant to be a gift. Etiquette manuals say that when you give a gift of wine or spirits, it need not be opened and offered immediately or even later that evening. If such tokens are meant to be treats for party throwers then it is polite to let them decide when and where they pour.

(Photo credit: Thinkstock Image)

Toad Flax Inc.

5500 Walnut Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
(412) 621-2500
Hours: Mon to Sat 10am-5pm, with later hours on Wednesdays
Reviews, Directions & More Info

The experts also say to avoid bringing cut flowers as they initiate work for the host or hostess. The process of unwrapping them and transporting them into a water vessel takes them away from the party itself. Despite the advice of experts, it is difficult to imagine someone seeing a beautiful floral arrangement and responding with annoyance or dread. Personally, I welcome anything that can make the party even more beautiful and festive. If you are reluctant to bring cut flowers, consider a potted flower or plant decorated with a pretty bow. Toad Flax sells plants and cut flowers as well as small gift goods. They are located in Shadyside on Walnut Street.

(Photo credit: Carlee Freeman)

In the Kitchen

1725 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 461-5513
Hours: Mon to Thurs 9:30-5pm; Fri 9am-5pm; Sat 8am-5pm; Sun 10am-4pm
Reviews, Directions & More Info

Although gifts of all stripes will be appreciated, for many creative guests, flowers and booze lack personality. You can express your gratitude to the hosts by selecting a thoughtful and local gift, supporting small businesses in the process.

In the Kitchen is a gourmet kitchen store located in the Strip District. They carry many gift options, serving a range of budgets. This is a great place to shop for foodies, creative cooks, and lovers of Pittsburgh. Carlee Freeman of In the Kitchen says that one of their most popular gifts is a set of Pittsburgh themed plates or dishtowels that feature images of Phipps Conservatory, Andy Warhol Museum, Heinz Hall, The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, Cathedral of Learning, North Shore, Fort Pitt Bridge, and the Duquesne Incline. They sell many kinds of kitchen tools, festive bar ware, cookware, knives, gift sets, gourmet foods, and more. Gift Certificates are available at $10 and up. They offer Knife Sharpening, Gift Registries and the potential to browse before you buy on their website. A visit to the store is much more fun.

(Photo credit: Jessica Ghilani)

Merante Gifts

4723 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
(412) 682-3370
Reviews, Directions & More Info

A great place to find specialty presents for party throwers of Italian descent is Merante Gifts, in Bloomfield. This gift shop offers cooking classes, custom baskets, home goods, platters, and more with a rustic, authentic Italian theme. Check out their website for seasonal recipes class schedules, and store information.

(Photo credit: Jessica Ghilani)

Wild Card

4209 Butler Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 224-2651
Hours: Tues to Sat 11am-7pm, with late hours on Thursdays; Sun 12pm-6pm
Reviews, Directions & More Info

Another great way to say thanks hosts that are also lovers of the arts is to give the gift of local, affordable art. Chantal deFelice’s “Pretty as a Pittsburgh” illustrations and prints feature scenes from the city that are sure to please. The great thing about giving a gift of artwork is your host or hostess can admire it for years to come. deFelice’s work is sold online or at Wild Card in Lawrenceville.

Although host/hostess gifts are not required when you attend holiday parties (your hosts are happy enough with the present of your company), a thoughtful or creative token will convey your appreciation for their generosity and efforts. With these suggestions, they are sure to enjoy their gift this holiday season and beyond.
For CBS Local’s guide to yarn and craft stores, be sure to read here:

Jessica Ghilani blogs about (mostly her own) shopping and dressing in Pittsburgh and beyond at Consume or Consumed.