Smile Politely

Five foodie gifts for a party host

It is party and travel season. If you’ve been invited to a party or to visit for the holidays, your host might not expect a gift, but I can almost guarantee that he, she, or they would not turn down a thoughtful local gift like one of these.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Strawberry Cake Box | BakeLab

This adorable strawberry cake box ($6.25) tastes as good as it looks. The individually-sized portion of cake had two layers of super soft vanilla sponge cake and light creamy layers with strawberries. The cake had some bounce to it, and the teeny diced strawberries in the filling added a fruity sweetness. I loved the simple, delicious flavors of the cake and fresh cream; neither were overly sweet. It’s just a great strawberries-and-cream dessert.

The mini cake comes packaged and sealed in a sturdy plastic box with a heart detail, so it is ready to be gifted. While you’re at BakeLab, treat your generous self to my favorite coffee drink here: the oatmeal cookie latte with the strawberry mascarpone croissant that Jess loves.

410 N Lincoln Ave
T-Su 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Premium Olive Oil | Grovestone

This premium extra virgin olive oil ($45) is made with two great Greek olive varieties: Agouromanako and Koroneiki, and it tastes expensive. I’m a fan of the roasted onion olive oil for myself, but for a gift, the unflavored version is perfect. This extra virgin olive oil also comes in smaller bottles (at smaller prices) and also in a bread dipping set. Grovestone also sells premium balsamic vinegars, spices, seasonings, wine, and little gifts for the kitchen. I like that the store always puts purchases in pretty bags with tissue paper, so I don’t have to worry about wrapping the gift.

1707 W Kirby
M-F 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Turtle Sweets | Kaori’s Oven

My true love gave to me two turtle doves, but these two turtle sweets ($3 each) from Kaori’s Oven are better. Open just two days a week, Japanese baker Kaori Ishibashi makes a variety of baked goods in the space she shares with her husband’s restaurant ISHI. The cute animal sweets are delicious yeast rolls with a sweet filling. My favorite of the animal rolls are these turtles which are topped with sugar crystals and filled with melted chocolate. The panda has a tasty cream cheese filling, and the porcupine sweet has cranberries and white chocolate. Follow the Kaori’s Oven on Instagram for updates on what’s she’s baking or stop by to see in person.

Kaori’s Oven
305 Cedar St
W+Th 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Cheeses | Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery

If your host likes cheese, Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery has awesome cheese gifts. This sampler box ($35) offers nine different cheeses including the farm’s two award-winning cheeses. I love all nine of the goat cheeses, but my favorites are the feta and every single chevre. In the online shop, find cheese gift boxesa holiday cheese platter, and even a tea towel with cooking goats on it. If an order is placed by 9 on Saturday morning, the cheese gifts can be picked up on the farm that weekend. Shipping is available, too.

Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery
4410 N Lincoln Ave
Sa+Su 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Booze | Various Places

Lastly, I can’t leave out the most classic gift option for a host: booze. Instead of grabbing something willy nilly off the grocery shelf, pick up a local beverage. There are a handful of excellent Champaign-Urbana breweries: 25 O’Clock Brewing, Blind Pig, Triptych Brewing, and Riggs where you can buy local beer. If you know your host likes wine, stop by Art Mart and talk with Todd or Roisin who can both recommend great wine at any price point. Another spot to shop for wine is the new Ladro Enoteca bottle shop and wine bar in Downtown Champaign. Owner Thad Morrow stocks a variety of natural wines by small wineries and can recommend one to try. In Urbana, check out Analog Wine Bar which has a nice selection of wine for purchase, too. If your host prefers liquor, gift a bottle of Hamilton Walker’s vodka made from Illinois corn, which you can order online for $25 or buy at the steakhouse. 

If you need even more gift ideas, check out the Ultimate C-U Food and Drink Gift Guide from 2020.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Food + Drink Editor / / instagram

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