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The absolute best thing to bring is yourself, along with your A game, which sparks conversation and creates a convivial atmosphere around the table.

shironosov/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The answer depends on what kind of meal it is. If it's an informal dinner with children, it is a perfectly appropriate question, and you can certainly ask your guests to make a dish their kids will enjoy. If it's a grown-up dinner party, however, the question should never be asked. If it is, my answer is "yourselves."

When throwing a dinner party, the host usually puts a great deal of thought into how the evening will unfold. My first consideration is always the guest list because it is the interaction of people at a table over good food and drink that makes the evening stand out. Next, I plan the food, along with matching wines. Lastly, I plan a tablescape – evergreens from the garden perhaps. Keep it low so people can see one another.

So what should you bring? Here are some suggestions: Good-quality chocolates, not standard supermarket fare; flowers, but in a vase, not a bunch, so your host doesn't have to waste time looking for a container that fits; a plant – white orchids are popular; wine, although don't expect it to be consumed that night, as the wines have already been chosen. My husband hit on a good plan: He labels the wine and we drink it the next time you come for dinner. A foodie gift is always appreciated – local honey or jam, a great pickle or a special cheese you would like us to try. Cocktail napkins, especially cloth as these are coming back into style. Hand soaps. And always include a note, otherwise at the end of an evening, we spend time trying to remember who brought what.

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But the absolute best thing to bring is yourself, along with your A game, which sparks conversation and creates a convivial atmosphere around the table. You have to sing for your supper.

Need some advice about kitchen life and entertaining quandries? Send your questions to lwaverman@globeandmail.com.

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