Usually I bring spiced nuts from the bar. I make them at my house, too. People request them. I'll ask, "What can I bring?" and they'll say, "Bring your nuts." Sometimes they say, "Bring your children," so my children can occupy their children.
We usually use peanuts, cashews, pecans and almonds. We roast them and while they're still warm, put on a little salt, chile, paprika and sugar. I'll bring them in a nice ceramic crock or glass jar, or in one of my own ceramic bowls. They're still warm, and they're kind of addicting when they're fresh like that.
Usually a few bowls is nice because then, after the guest has picked out all the cashews in one bowl, he can move onto the next. Everybody fights over who is going to take the extra home. But there are never any cashews left.
Usually I'm the one having friends over. But when I do go to a close friend's home, I bring a dish that I make, or maybe a bottle of red wine. I try to make some kind of finger food that everyone can easily enjoy. My specialty is sushi rolls, particularly tuna rolls. I'm a self-taught sushi chef.
When I was filming "The Last Samurai" in New Zealand, there was a party at the home of one of the wardrobe crew. It happened that that day my [driver] gave me a [whole] tuna her husband had caught. I prepared negi-toro, chopped tuna and scallion roll, which I brought to the party. I also brought zuke--marinated tuna in soy sauce--sushi rice and a good knife and prepared sushi right there. All of the American and Kiwi crew were very happy and enjoyed the sushi very much.
I like to bring plants. One of my favorites is the gardenia. The smell of this flower is so harmonic. The moment you smell it, it puts you in a good mood. And it's always nice to have a good mood when you're with friends. My really close friends know I'm a good cook, and sometimes when I'm invited to go to them, they have the courage to ask, "Can you bring something?" If I have time, I'll make pesto sauce. It's a classic.
Everyone who loves flowers can appreciate a gardenia. But I have a lot of friends that can appreciate pesto sauce, too. Men usually prefer pesto sauce.
My wife [designer Magda Berliner] and I like to bring things that are out of the ordinary. We've been known to bring quite varied items to Conrad and Gianna Smart, a couple whose home we visit frequently: a replica of a bull's head--Conrad has a collection of toreador paraphernalia--and a Virgin Mary night light that they have in their kitchen. With other people, if we've been traveling, we've brought a tube of toothpaste from Thailand or sake cups from Japan.
We also like to bring books, photography books. Even more traditional people enjoy receiving something that isn't expected: scented candles [or] a framed picture of themselves that usually I have plenty of.