Hostess gifts are a must when someone invites you over for the holidays. The purpose of the gift to show your appreciation for the invitation and meal, so try to find something thoughtful that the host/hostess would enjoy. It does not need to be expensive. In fact, that would defeat the purpose of the holidays/invitation.
Of course you can take the wine route-everyone loves a bottle of wine... or flowers-the only thing here is if you expect them to go on the main dining room table you have to make sure it matches the hostess's decor/theme.
I happen to love the following gifts and think most entertainers would agree with me:
1) Pottery Barn Cloisonne Bottle Stoppers (I think that anything with colorful dragonflies and butterflies is gorgeous) $19.00/set of two
2) Decorative Hand Soap for the guest bathroom: Three Wise Monkeys and Three Little Pigs (I own the piggies and love them!) Can be purchased at one of my favorite French Home Stores: Bon Maison
3) Cuisinart 3-Cup Mini-Prep Food Processor .(Love that they're in color)! $39.95/piece
4) French themed Cookie Tin (in red or blue): These are a wonderful gift because the tin can be reused. If you're ambitious, fill them with homemade cookies/brownies/blondies (or s'mores) or else go to your local bakery. ($15-$25.00) Also purchased at Bon Maison
$21.95 + ingredients
Pig image: Vintage Weave, monkeys: nothingandeverything, Trifle image: trendir, bon maison, sur la table, pottery barn