Toast the Host

Earn a repeat invite with locally sourced host gifts

Sure, any summertime host appreciates a bottle of rosé.

But to ensure a repeat invitation, deviate from predictability and arrive bearing one of these unexpected, locally sourced gifts instead. Nothing says "Thank you for dinner, now please invite me to your lake house" like a bottle of small-batch Malort and a jelly doughnut.

A cadre of Chicago coffee veterans are behind HalfWit Coffee, a young boutique roaster. Its beans are roasted at Gaslight Coffee Roasters in Logan Square, and sold at The Wormhole, Fritz Pastry and online. Bring a bag of Triforce espresso ($15.50 for a pound), an ever-changing seasonal blend, to perk up a lake-house morning.

Your contribution to dinner off the grill? A sprinkling of finishing salt. Local importer Spices of Lezzet stocks an unusual and excellent variety in its online shop, from rosy Himalayan crystals ($11 for 3 ounces) to jet-black Cyprus flakes ($17 for 3 ounces).

Glazed & Infused's seasonal bismarks ($3 each) overflow with summer berry-juniper jam from Oak Park's Rare Bird Preserves. A half-dozen of these filled beauties are sure to merit a repeat invitation. (Find them at Glazed & Infused four days per week, alternating with Rare Bird's lemon curd; call to confirm availability.)

In the able hands of Ravenswood's Letherbee Distillers, that cringe-inducing Chicago liqueur, Malort, has become a smooth, herbaceous and impressively gentle beast ($35 to $39 for 1 liter). Mix it with grapefruit juice and a splash of soda for a sophisticated and summery version of a Greyhound (available at Provenance Food and Wine and assorted Binny's).