Dear Helena,
People who come to my house tend to like my cooking. I get lots of hints for leftovers, often before we are even done eating. It’s flattering, but often my husband and I want to savor the leftovers for a few days, especially since we probably spent the previous day cooking and cleaning for our guests. How can I politely say no without seeming greedy myself?
—Tastes Better the Next Day

Dear Tastes Better the Next Day,
A host should always offer to share leftovers on Thanksgiving, since there’s usually a ton of food left and the meal is typically a group effort. On any other occasion, it’s rude for a guest to ask you to wrap up a portion of lasagne for his lunch the next day. As you suggest, the leftovers are a host’s reward for slaving in the kitchen.

Nonetheless, it does sound a bit churlish if a guest asks for a doggy bag and you flatly refuse. It’s better to acknowledge the implicit compliment and offer a truthful explanation: “I’m so flattered you enjoyed the meal, but after tonight, I’m really looking forward to not having to cook for the next three days.”

Dear Helena,
When leaving a party, is it OK to grab a beer for the road? What if you brought them?
—A Beer in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Fridge

Dear A Beer in the Hand,
At a cocktail party, there’s usually so much booze left over that a good host won’t begrudge you a few beers for the road, a.k.a. roadies. Before anyone accuses me of alcoholism or of being grossly irresponsible, let me say that only non-vehicularly-transported guests are entitled to roadies. In most states it’s illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the car, passengers included. And even if you’re walking home, exercise discretion: In many places it’s also illegal to be publicly intoxicated.

Dear Helena,
I brought a bottle of Armagnac to a dinner party so we could all have a tipple with our coffee. Was it rude for me to ask for it back afterwards?
—I’m Just Not That Nice

Dear I’m Just Not That Nice,
If you’re bringing a digestif such as Fernet-Branca that cost 20 to 30 bucks, you should be prepared to leave the bottle. But, as CHOW drink columnist Jordan Mackay points out, some bottles of after-dinner spirits, like Scotch, Cognac, or Armagnac, can cost hundreds of dollars. In theory, your host should be grateful you’re offering a taste of such a precious elixir to his guests. Nonetheless, in practice, it still looks stingy if you snatch the bottle away after people have drunk from it.

Happily there’s a simple solution: Just decant as much as you think you’ll need into another, smaller bottle (preferably a nice glass one, and not, say, a plastic water bottle) and tie a ribbon ’round it. Leave your little gift behind and savor the rest at home.

CHOW’s Table Manners column appears every Wednesday. Have a Table Manners question? Email Helena.

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