We’re doing a big ol’ Bat Mitzvah this weekend, and as is common for events of this size, we have a good number of folks traveling a long distance to attend. One of the things we like to do in these situations is to welcome guests with a really nice basket or box of cheer! For me, I always think it’s fun to make this welcome gift on theme; if it’s a sporty theme we may put all the gifts in a cute gym bag, or a backpack for an outdoors/camping theme, or a picnic basket or wine bag for a summery theme. I also like to make sure that whatever we put inside the bag or basket are functional and portable. The last thing you want to do is load your guests up with stuff that will fill up their suitcases!
Foodstuffs are a great treat for arriving guests. Often the trip has been long, and they are tired and just want a shower, a rest, and a snack. It’s also a great way to introduce your guests to your hosts’ favorite tastes. I know one wedding couple who are doing fancy peanut butter and Ghiradelli chocolates because they love that combination (and it’s a step up from a Reese’s cup!).
For this particular Bat Mitzvah, we thought we’d give the guests a “taste of the Bay Area” by including things that were discovered, created, or manufactured here in the San Francisco area. It was a really interesting process, finding out what’s made in our own backyard! If you want to try this in your own neck of the woods, you might want to start at your local farmer’s market, but for me, all I had to do was go to the Ferry Building downtown! Man! They have everything! They even have this great little store that has an entire shelf of gluten-free goodies, which was perfect for this event since one of our guests has Celiac disease.
I thought I’d share some of the fabulous nibbles we presented our guests:
Hint water: This was created by a Marin County woman and her husband, who just so happen to be clients of mine! It’s a really tasty water that has the most unique sensation in the mouth. The water is “infused” with taste. I have no idea how they do it, but it’s all natural, and it’s really cool.
Pop Chips: These are a recent creation, and now, thanks to these welcome baskets, I am addicted. Made right here in good old SF, they are a hip little company with a great message of health and snacking.
Mrs. Fields Cookies: What else can one say but mmmmm... soft cookies. I am a total cookie snob and I really don’t like dry, hard, crumbly cookies. Mrs. Fields - who hails from Palo Alto - has figured out a way to keep them soft and chewy... Did I already say mmmmm...?
Clif Bars: Not only are these great because they are energy boosters and your guests can pop them in their purses and backpacks for any little adventures they might have, but they are made right over the bridge in Emeryville. How cool is that?
Pistachios or almonds: I always pass amazing groves of trees on my way up north to visit my parents in Sonora, California. It’s pretty cool how they grow and harvest nuts; well worth a trip to one of the local farms in those areas.
Chocolate: Unfortunately, I’m allergic to chocolate, so I won’t go “mmmmmm" here, but I know there are a lot of folks who do love chocolate. For us in the Bay Area, we’ve got so many local chocolatiers: Ghirardelli (of course), See’s, and Scharffen Berger (for dark chocolate), just to name a few.
Jelly Belly: Produced in Fairfield, California, about an hour north of San Francisco, these little sweeties are so much fun because of all the flavors. If your guests have time, it’s also an amazing place to go for a day. You can tour the factory and just spend the day in their Willy Wonka-esque world. You can even hug Mr. Jelly Belly - like my sister Freda!
Annie’s Bunnies: Annie’s is a Berkeley-based company that makes healthy mac & cheese, but also really tasty, organic versions of Goldfish crackers, but in bunny shapes.
Cowgirl Creamery cheese: These guys are the bomb. Based out of Point Reyes, they’ve got this wonderful shop set up in the Ferry Building. The great thing is they’ve got tons of cheeses that don’t need refrigeration, like their dried jack cheese, so they work great in a gift bag.
Kettle corn: This was a Farmer’s Market find! The fellow makes kettle corn on the spot at all the Oakland Farmer’s Markets... Let’s all take a big deep breath, smell the aroma, and say... yum!
Now, you don’t have to go over the top with a welcome basket like this, but finding a few little items that will make your guests feel at home and comfy is always nice.
The problem with these baskets is I think I’ve gained 10 pounds since we started making them. I mean, you know... you’ve got to make sure everything’s tasty for your guests, right?