When I refer to “hostess” I use the broad definition. What I mean by that is if you are attending a party you bring a hostess gift, and if you are hosting a party you deserve to treat yourself. We’ve all joined our summer and fall CSAs and some brave souls have also signed up for winter CSAs, meat CSAs, fish CSFs, and charcuterie shares, but when it comes to drinks, we often overlook local. Here are some great choices for hostess gifts whether you are going somewhere in the neighbourhood or traveling across country and want to bring some local spirits to the party. Here are my five categories of “drink local” hostess gifts: wine, spirits, beer, coffee, and tea.
Some of the smaller wineries require a visit to the tasting room (aw shucks!) to purchase wines, but others are available online.
Richard Auffrey, The Passionate Foodie, headed to TasteCamp Hudson Valley this fall and has a few recommendations from wineries that I am not yet familiar with. Richard knows food and wine and he shares some of his knowledge and experiences with wines from Hudson-Chatham winery here. So, if you’re headed past the area, make the ride to grandma’s house that much more relaxing, and stop off at the winery to pick up some hostess gifts. The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Bedell Cellars has show stopping wines even before you ease the cork out of the bottle and pour a glass. The labels of each of their wines are designed by local artists. I love the sexy label on their Taste Rosé designed by Barbara Kruger and a nice chilled Rosé just begs to be opened to start any party. Musée is a pricey hostess gift, but the wine was one of my favourites when I visited the region and the elegant, earthy, yet somehow opulent label designed by Chuck Close is stunning. Not available yet, but perfect to keep on hand for parties in the New Year is Bedell Cellar’s First Crush. The new, limited edition wine label for First Crush vintage 2013 is designed by New York based artist Mickalene Thomas. Thomas is known for her elaborate paintings and iconic representations of the female form. In fact, her portrait of Michelle Obama was the first individual portrait of the First Lady and was exhibited in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about both these labels with a face (the one by Mickalene Thomas and the one by Barbara Kruger) that somehow just look your hostess in the eye and say “Thank You.”
Westport River Winery in Massachusetts has some nice sparkling wines. I love to serve a Kir Royal to start a party off, so why not bring a bottle of sparkling wine and a great local cassis from Clinton Vineyards in New York. If you want to try something a little different, then consider one of the fruit wines from the “non-grape” fruit wines from Nashoba Valley Winery. I don’t usually like variations on a theme when it comes to wine, but I did enjoy the taste of the blueberry wine.
Distilleries are popping up left right and center catching up to the taprooms and breweries. A few of my favourite local spirits are the Berkshire Mountain Distillers for their Gins (Greylock Gin, Ethereal Gin and their Ice Glen Vodka). In fact a few years ago, I worked with some local cocktail masters to create a few signature drinks. The Lavender Pomegranate Cocktail with Greylock Gin and the Ragged Rum Honey, Mint Cider Cocktail Recipe. When it comes to vodka though, I am a devotee of Triple 8 Vodka from Nantucket. My new favourite quick and easy cocktail with vodka is a recipe I shared over at Lavender and Lace (coming soon).
After every party there is always the morning after and the morning after most often calls for a good cup of coffee. I have two local favourite coffee roasters. I love Karma Coffee up in Sudbury. Their coffee is the best around. I also really like Barismo’s coffee. Both roasters really know how to source beans and most importantly how to get just the right roast for each batch. I almost forgot another regular batch I like to have around is Wired Puppy (from P-Town). A fourth that I have enjoyed but I am less familiar with is 4A Coffee Roasters in Brookline.
Tea drinkers tend to be perhaps even more particular about their tea than coffee drinkers. We don’t grow tea here in New England but we do have some great tea vendors. Soluna Garden Farms has delicious tea blends in addition to herbs and spices. Mem Tea Imports in Watertown is a wonderful local resource for tea as well. Last, but not least, I love to pop into L’Aroma Café in Newton for a bite to eat and to pick up some of their teas as gifts as well. I love the black cherry tea this time of year it is rich, slightly sweet, earthly and nicely caffeinated to get me through a cold dark winter afternoon.
From labels to styles to individual taste beer can be a tricky hostess gift, but if you know your host prefers beer over wine then I recommend heading over to Craft Beer Cellar where the staff will expertly guide you through the many local brews available. Some of my favourites are Happy Sol from Slumbrew, Jack D’Or from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, and Clementine Witbier from Clown Shoes.