The Host

Table-worthy cooking tools plus beautiful service pieces and drinkware to make the most of entertaining.

I have a problem with wooden spoons. I collect them like nobody's business. But there are a few I always turn back to, and this one, from Le Creuset, is one of them. It's gorgeous to look at; it has a flat front, which makes it great for scraping up fond or stirring vegetables; and it's got a smooth, ergonomic grip that makes using it a joy.  — Kenji

With their smooth surface and cool temperature, marble pastry slabs are a baker's best friend. They're great for rolling out pie crusts, laminating doughs, and tempering chocolate—plus, this one's pretty enough (albeit heavy) to use as a serving platter.  — Niki

I don't know if there's a book about cooking that I've thought about more than this one by Tamar Adler, a former Chez Panisse cook who was once an editor at Harper's Magazine. It's about cooking simply, and enjoying the simple meals that naturally follow from one another if you begin to think of your ingredients in cycles. We forget, sometimes, that the leftover stems from blanched broccoli are wonderful cooked with olive oil and piled on toast, that their cooking liquid could be the base of a soup, that the stems of greens like Swiss chard and kale make a lovely pesto. She reminds us that stale bread can make something delicious and that yesterday's bean broth could be the start of a pasta dish today. I read this book over and over again to help myself remember that dinner doesn't always need to be a big deal.  — Maggie

This hand-blown and -etched mixing glass from Japan looks stunning on a bar cart and even better in action, whether you're stirring a Negroni, a Martini, or a Manhattan. Mixing glasses made from two parts joined together sometimes split at the seam, but this version, made in one piece with a beaker-like spout, can stand up to heavy use.  — Maggie

Salad servers should be functional, but it doesn't hurt to have a set that actually looks good on your table. This olivewood duo is sturdy and durable, with a warm, lustrous finish and natural woodgrain pattern that's complemented by smooth, polka-dotted bone handles.  — Niki

Spending $50 on cheese knives feels a little silly, especially when a regular knife does the trick just fine. But that's why they're the perfect gift—arguably unnecessary, but nonetheless useful, they feel like a real luxury. I'm pretty sure they also raise your "real adult" status by at least 10 points. Especially when they're these beautifully crafted Dubost Laguiole knives. I like the simplicity of the olivewood handles, but they do come in other colors and styles, with the same high-quality blades.  — Niki

Manhattan chef Jody Williams's Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, is as charming and inviting as the restaurant that inspired it. This is a book to get greasy and damp as you cook through its pages, and it's a nightstand read, dreamy and warm, to flip through as you wind down. Channeling a traditional French bistro, with a bit of Italy and a touch of New York thrown in, the recipes are classics, both inspirational and totally doable. Some are so simple that they hardly count as recipes at all—they're more like suggestions for how to better your day with a plate of food, from breakfast through dessert after a lingering, late-night supper. Perfect for your impossibly, effortlessly stylish mother.  — Serious Eats Staff

Indian food has a reputation for being difficult and time-consuming, with hard-to-find ingredients and new techniques. I get it. It's intimidating. But in this book, Serious Eater Denise D'silva Sankhé breaks Indian cooking down into simple techniques that any home cook can master to produce amazingly flavorful dishes with minimal effort. Over the course of more than 100 recipes, Denise introduces us to simple cooking from every region of India, focusing on home-style dishes that move well beyond the world of curries. I'm also super stoked that she's included notes with every recipe on whether it's vegan, vegetarian, and/or allergy-friendly.  — Kenji

These wine glasses feel fancy enough for Mom's most elegant dinner party—and she can just throw them in the dishwasher after, which is a pretty rare attribute. I've had a few sets for five years now, and have found them remarkably sturdy.  — Maggie

How much praise can I throw at a Le Creuset Dutch oven? This is a piece of cookware that Mom will use for everything, including serving at the table, and then she won't want to put it away because she just likes looking at it. This is a workhorse of the kitchen. Yes, it costs a lot. But things that are built to last a lifetime despite daily use usually do.  — Daniel

Lightweight and virtually unbreakable, melamine can be super convenient for outdoor entertaining or big parties. Unfortunately, it's not always super attractive. That's why I'm so in love with these plates, which look like hand-painted ceramic, with the weight and heft of, well, plastic. Plus, I get complimented for them all the time.  — Niki

Sack-like contemporary aprons may do the job, but they’re far from flattering. This ‘50s-style cut, on the other hand, is the kind of apron I wish I could wear out on the town—it’s colorful, lightweight, and fitted for equal parts comfort, function, and fashion.  — Niki

Heavy-duty kitchen towels have a tendency to accrue big, ugly stains. That's why it's nice to keep a separate set of more attractive towels for gentle drying, transporting too-hot-to-handle serving dishes, and lining bread baskets. These colorful, summery tea towels instantly brighten any kitchen or tabletop while still doing a standup job at the tasks they were made for.  — Niki

I don't often recommend single-function items, but for the cocktail enthusiast, a couple of julep cups really are fun to have. There's nothing like holding that metal cup frosted with ice on a blisteringly hot summer day—glass just doesn't pull the effect off in the same way. If your Mom doesn't have an ice crusher, check out my Lewis bag suggestion as well.  — Daniel

It may sound nuts to mail-order cornmeal and grits, given that they're found on any supermarket shelf. But I'd argue that you haven't experienced the best cornbread, grits, or other classic Southern dishes until you've had them made with the kind of high-quality stuff Anson Mills is selling. It'll change how you understand those foods and what they can be.  — Daniel

Published on what would have been the late British author’s 100th birthday, Elizabeth David’s On Vegetables will teach you how a bag of grocery store onions can be transformed into an unforgettable roasted side dish, and how some fresh shelled peas can yield the most vibrant soup you’ve ever tasted. Filled with recipes that are simple, straightforward, yet often revelatory, this book also features a few of David’s best essays, as well as gorgeous photography.  — Keith

If you're following my advice to buy your Mom some julep cups, you might as well go all the way and grab a canvas Lewis bag as well: It's used to smash ice into a fine powder with a mallet. Unless, of course, she already owns an ice crusher.  — Daniel

On more than one occasion, I've been tempted to try out the cool new pepper mill on the block, but none of the ones I've used have held up over time. That's why I've settled on a good old classic, a wooden Peugeot pepper mill. The steel burrs last and deliver whatever grind I want, from fine-as-silt to chunky and coarse.  — Daniel

Your mom might already be the ultimate entertainer, but this gift will make her parties even more fun. Sure, you can serve crushed-ice cocktails in a regular old glass, but these shiny pineapple-shaped tumblers really up the ante and make a tiki-themed evening feel special.  — Maggie

I've never been to Zahav, the Philadelphia restaurant where Michael Solomov serves his Israeli cuisine, but its namesake book has nevertheless changed the way I cook. If Mom still cooks the occasional meal for you, you might point her toward the hummus tahini, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon that alone is worth the price of admission. I've loved the Yemenite beef soup (and the accompanying hot sauce), his wide focus on vegetarian-friendly dishes, and a host of homemade condiments that will elevate almost any meal, even if you don't follow full recipes from the book.  — Kenji

These stoneware casserole dishes get pulled out, filled, and popped into the oven at least once a week at my house. They're great-looking on the table and provide gentle, even cooking all around for really nice, crisp edges on your lasagna.  — Kenji

They may not come in the most festive or glamorous packaging, but you can't go wrong with Effie's Oatcakes. Buttery, crumbly, nutty, and salty-sweet, they're insanely addictive. Case in point: I've eaten three in the last 10 minutes. My advice? Purchase them in bulk so you can give a few packages to Mom and hoard the rest for yourself.  — Niki