The Host

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

Aprons get all the attention, but they don't protect your clothes nearly well enough, leaving large swaths of sleeves and shoulders exposed to spatters and stains. You could always put on a shirt you don't care too much about before donning an apron, but a protective work coat like this keeps your clothes safe without the need for a complete costume change.

Pretty espresso cups make a nice hostess gift and stocking stuffer on their own for coffee fiends. But when they're Le Creuset, they're even better—mostly because everything from the French heritage brand is aesthetically pleasing and built to last. Oh, and these cups might be the most affordable Le Creuset pieces on the market. So, if you want in on the trend for a moderate price, they make a good starter item.

Rarely found in the home but extremely common in restaurants, sizzle platters are one of the most useful pieces of kitchen gear around. We reach for them any time we want to cook or reheat small portions of food, like one or two pork chops, chicken breasts, or steaks. Even small roasts, like a pork tenderloin or lamb shoulder roast, will fit on one, saving you from having to use larger pieces of cookware (and clean them up) for jobs that don't require them.

This mat will solve the quandary of many a renter who loves to cook, best summed up as "I hate the way my kitchen looks, but there's not much to be done about it." Get this mat. It's stylish, colorful, and incredibly durable—and it really looks like fancy European tile installed over your questionable laminate flooring.

To store tools like spatulas and whisks, a good old crock will do the trick. We like this ceramic one, which looks extra pretty on the counter. Keep it right next to your stove so your most-used tools will be at an arm's length whenever you need them.

Order them in an array of bright colors, or stick with a set in a single hue—either way, these sturdy bowls are bound to earn their keep. Perfect for soup, cereal, ice cream, lattes, and more.

Can't install a proper dishwasher, but hate doing dishes? This baby takes up about the same amount of space as a large dish rack and hooks up to your sink when you're ready to run a load. It fits roughly six place settings at a time and does an excellent job of blasting them clean. Say good-bye to that pile of dirty dishes in the sink—this one's a game changer.

Anyone who loves soft-boiled eggs deserves the perfect cup to eat them from. These sturdy stoneware Le Creuset cups come in a range of beautiful colors. They're totally classic, which is a good thing because they'll also last for generations to come.

From stuffing to mashed potatoes to turkey, the holidays tend to feature a lot of brownish foods. And we're not complaining. But if you'd like to add some green to your table without actually eating any, these vibrant cloth napkins are a great way to do it.

How much praise can we throw at a Le Creuset Dutch oven? This is one of those things couples put on their wedding registries and desperately hope someone buys for them. This is a pot you hand down to your kids. This is a piece of cookware that you will use for everything, including serving at the table, and then you won't want to put it away because you just like 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.

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. We're pretty sure they also raise your "real adult" status by at least 10 points. Especially when they're these beautifully crafted Dubost Laguiole knives. We like the simplicity of the olivewood handles, but they do come in other colors and styles, with the same high-quality blades.

If you want your home cocktail equipment a little less out of sight and out of mind, consider highlighting your bourbon and bitters with a bar cart. The combination of curves, straight lines, and brass finish in this one makes it feel very mid-'50s. Mix drinks on the upper shelf and stash ice buckets, glasses, and other supplies down below.

The Fletchers' Mill Federal grinds consistently and quickly, excels at fine grinding, and comes in 11 finishes to match a wide range of kitchen decors.

A rad cake stand will make any layer cake look like a work of art (and make any occasion feel special).

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 we're so in love with these plates, which look like hand-painted ceramic, with the weight and heft of, well, plastic.

It's hard to find a better-curated food catalog than Zingerman's. They are righteous folks, they know seriously delicious food when they come across it, and they sell it at a fair price. Nothing in the catalog is cheap, but then again, good food rarely is.

The Staub's classic flat lid hides spikes underneath designed to evenly shower your food with moisture. We found it heats evenly, is a pleasure to cook in, and is handsome enough to serve from at the table.

Having The Cocktail Chronicles at your side is like having a friend who always knows a good drink recipe for whatever you've got on hand. It doesn't talk your ear off or suggest something with a dozen ingredients. Instead, it shares classics, recent spins on classics, and drinks you've never heard of but can easily mix up and enjoy, and the introductions are never preachy or boring.

These wine glasses feel fancy enough for an elegant dinner party—and you can throw them in the dishwasher after, which is a pretty rare attribute. Their sturdy construction means you (or your giftee) can expect to hang on to these for several years.

Functional, but with an elegant twist: The width of the forks and spoons is just slightly smaller than that of your standard set, and they feel slightly longer in the hand. This set is a good and long-lasting upgrade to those starter Ikea sets.

If you've ever thought that citrus presses are overhyped, absurdly specific, rarely useful, space-consuming, money-wasting gadgets, you're not alone. But it takes only one use to see just how wrong you are—not only does a citrus press guarantee that you'll get way more juice out of every lemon and lime you squeeze, but you can say good-bye to stinging papercuts and all those infuriating attempts at pinching slippery stray seeds from your salad dressings and cocktails.

There's form, and then there's function. The aprons from Tilit are great on both fronts. Made from waxed cotton, they offer breathability along with water resistance, but they're also damned handsome.

Not all food storage containers are built the same. OXO's Pop Containers stack neatly in the cabinet, make it easy to see exactly what's inside, and have a neat push-button top that forms a perfectly airtight seal, keeping your dry pantry goods fresher for longer.

Kitchen towels are always welcome in any cook's kitchen, but these can also double up as a half-apron in a pinch.

These colorful bowls make setting up your mise en place a little more fun, but they're also great for bringing extra seasonings to the table, like fennel seeds and pepper flakes for pizza.

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 stand-up job at the tasks they were made for.

We 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. If you don't have an ice crusher, check out our Lewis bag suggestion as well.

Do you know someone who's getting into tea? Like, really into tea? This is the tea set to get for that person. It comes with a traditional Chinese brewing vessel (a gaiwan), a decanter, four tasting cups, and a beautiful wood tea tray with a rack to store all the pieces. At $120, it's not cheap, but it's a bargain compared to other well-made tea sets, especially when you consider the high-quality, paper-thin porcelain. For tea lovers looking to dig into tea ceremonies, this set has everything you need.

As far as Dutch ovens go, the Le Creuset is the gold standard and, while pricy, it lives up to its reputation. The pot is easy to cook in, has comfy handles, and is backed by a solid reputation for quality enamel.

A simple geometric design to bring some warmth to your table while protecting its surface during entertaining season.

This type of strainer, called a Hawthorne strainer, consists of a flat disk affixed to a coiled spring. The spring traps large chunks or slivers of ice and other solid ingredients, such as muddled fruit or mint leaves. The spring also allows you to control the flow of liquid from the shaker, and the strainer does a generally excellent job of keeping small ice chips, citrus pulp, and particles of muddled ingredients in the shaker, where they belong.

While we don't believe that a roasting pan is generally the best tool for large roasts—a wire rack set in a sheet pan often works better—there are times when a roasting pan with a rack is ideal. Cuisinart offers one of the best values in roasting pans on the market, and it can handle any job just as well as its more expensive competitors.

If you've ever been given a homemade birthday cake, return the favor by buying your favorite baker this iconic cake stand. Its heavy base keeps cakes secure and makes all types of decorating techniques a breeze.

Coffee and tea just feel more luxurious in this pretty handmade mug from Portland, Oregon's Mazama Wares. We love the satiny glaze and find the handle particularly comfortable. These mugs also stack nicely, thanks to an unfinished tapered section at the base of each mug.

A good steak knife should cut steak well, and it should look good while doing it. French-made Laguiole knives are the gold standard in performance, with extra-sharp edges for easy cutting, a long life, and gorgeous handles. (Beware inexpensive knockoffs!)

If you're short on space, this compact soda maker fits snugly into any refrigerator door. The iSi Sodamaker Classic can carbonate 0.9 liter of water at a time using recyclable, 15-gram CO2 cartridges. This unit also maintained the carbonation level of the water over the long term better than the other models we tested.

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 party feel special.

When fall and winter roll around, we start thinking about rich, comforting casseroles, which means that these stoneware baking dishes get pulled out, filled, and popped into the oven at least once a week. They're great-looking on the table and provide gentle, even cooking all around for really nice, crisp edges on your lasagna.

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. This marble version is pretty enough (albeit heavy) to use as a serving platter.

These cork-bottomed ceramic coasters by Xenia Taler are vibrant and shiny, so it feels like they add to your decor, rather than detracting from it. If you're not into this particular color scheme, she has a range of other cute designs to choose from.

For our money, this is the best carving knife on the market, ready to dispatch a roast turkey, leg of lamb, or bone-in ham with aplomb.

We prefer to use a Boston shaker over a three-piece metal cobbler set, which has a tendency to seize up. Boston shakers open easily, they're relatively inexpensive, and even if the mixing glass breaks, you can replace it for cheap. Using a Boston does require you to have a separate strainer, but that means you can choose a strainer that'll do the job well.

This line of serveware features hand-painted ceramics with gold detailing—nothing too flashy, but special enough to dress up a meal. This bowl is the perfect size for side dishes, like roasted Brussels sprouts or mashed potatoes.

What's the point of perfectly roasting that turkey or prime rib if you don't have a pretty surface to carve it on? We love this teak cutting board because it's large enough for major projects, but lighter than thicker boards, making it easy to move from the kitchen to the dining room. It's made from scraps of larger teak products, making this cutting board a good environmental choice as well.

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