It's always fun to shop for people who enjoy entertaining, since, if you're good enough friends to exchange gifts in the first place, you'll inevitably end up reaping some of the rewards. When you eat a dish made from a cookbook that you gave last Christmas, or sip a cocktail from a glass you picked out, it feels like you're affirming both their good taste and yours. Of course, going this route, you also run the risk of gifting something that isn't particularly useful, or buying a gift that your friend or family member will bring out only when they invite you to dinner. But, luckily for you, we've got a whole (ahem) host of ideas for attractive and versatile items that your party-loving loved ones will put to work over and over again.
First up, a very pretty carving board. For the cook who likes to make big holiday roasts, this board's large size will allow ample room for a turkey or a prime rib, but it's also relatively light, making it easy to carry to and from the kitchen. Bonus: It's made from leftover scraps of plantation teak, which means no old-growth forests were affected by its production. That makes it a beautiful piece of equipment that also just happens to be an environmentally responsible choice.
Speaking of carving meat, if you're looking for a really special gift, pick up this stunning set of Laguiole steak knives. There's a reason Laguiole knives are favored at highbrow restaurants: They look great, they work well, and they last a long, long time.
Along similar lines, if your intended recipient could use an upgraded set of flatware, I suggest checking out this one from Snowe. Made from Italian stainless steel, these utensils are a little bit longer than your average silverware, and the forks and spoons are slightly narrower, a combination that seems to feel more elegant in your hands. I've also found the larger spoons to be quite useful in the kitchen, for basting and the like.
An avid host can always use a good-looking apron, the rare gift that's both attractive and functional. Made from waxed cotton, Tilit's original apron is comfortably lightweight. It also repels water and most foodstuffs, so it's easy to clean, which will help even the messiest cooks stay presentable.
For gifts that lend a little color and flair to the table, consider a set of these vibrant handcrafted porcelain coasters, made by Xenia Taler and her partner, Steven Koblinsky. (If that geometric design doesn't grab you, there's a range of other options.) Similarly, a pair of lovely olivewood salad servers is equally suitable for a cookout in warmer months or a more formal dinner.
Finally, if the person you're buying for loves to bake for their guests—and/or for their friends' birthdays and other milestone celebrations—a cast iron revolving cake stand is a great idea, the kind of gift that they might never buy for themselves but will adore receiving. The stand makes decorating cakes a snap; it can do double duty as a lazy Susan; and it's built to last decades, if not a lifetime.
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