When to “Doggie Bag?” Your Thoughts?

peking duck, steamed buns, wolfgang puck duck, wp24

Leftovers of Peking Duck with Steamed Buns
Accompaniments: Scallion, Pickled Daikon, Cucumber, Sugar, Hoisin

The concept of a “doggie bag” or taking home leftovers from a restaurant meal is not an American invention. It’s been around since the sixth century B.C. when Romans would wrap up goodies from a banquet meal and take home the leftovers in a cloth. It showed respect and honored the host, implying the food was good and was worthy of taking home. Food preparation way back then could not have been easy, so, seriously, whose ancestors wouldn’t take the bountiful offerings from the big buffet back to their humble abode?

doggie bag, to-go container
Duck & Steamed Buns in a Modern "Doggie Bag"

Nowadays, one may want to consider the following when it comes to doggie bag etiquette:

  • On a first date – driving home with a box of half-eaten food on your lap is not very romantic after all. It may, in fact, make one look cheap. But on the other hand, it may convey eco-friendliness, sensibleness, or appreciation for the meal.
  • At a business meeting – business should be the point of the meeting, not the food. Unless of course the business is recycling or the sale of to-go containers!
  • Trying to make a good impression? Some people do think taking food home is tacky. While others see letting good food go to waste, as well…wasteful.
  • Some people might be concerned that the Chef may be insulted should the gastronomic creation end up in the trash. Is this true Chefs?
  • And some actually do take the goodies home for the doggie. But as much as I’m sure he would enjoy them, Wilson’s digestive track is calmer when sticking to his regular diet of kibble, chicken and low-fat cottage cheese. How about your pooch?

    boston terrier
    No Doggie Bag for Wilson

When do I ask for a doggie bag? I’m pretty sure I haven’t called it a “doggie bag” since the 80’s. But I certainly would ask to take the food home if it were utterly delicious and traveled well. There needs to be a reasonable amount left over. Of course, a large portion – in and of itself – would not be motivation to take it home. Leftovers must be worthy of the taking.

As was Wolfgang Puck’s Peking Duck.

wp24 peking duck
Carving Puck's Duck @ WP24

We recently enjoyed another over-the-top meal at WP24, Wolfgang Puck’s Chinese restaurant on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton in Downtown LA. We let the waiter order for us, had an incredible experience, and not-surprisingly, left with several doggie bags filled with Duck, Lobster, and Lamb.

Puck's "Angry" Lobster
Puck's Lamb Chops with Gochujang

Serving Leftovers.

 peking duck accompaniments
Accompaniments for the Leftover Duck

I easily recreated Puck’s accompaniments at home: Sugar, scallion, pickled daikon, (store-bought) hoisin, cucumber. They were then served in tall shot glasses adding drama and to show off the colors.

peking duck
Brush with Hoisin and Reheat

The duck was brushed with more hoisin sauce and reheated in a 400° oven until heated all the way through. The skin crisped-up nicely. The leftover steamed buns turned out surprisingly well when microwaved, wrapped in a paper towel for several seconds until hot.

wp24 duck
Making Leftovers Elegant

Served on a silver platter. Attempting to make leftovers as elegant as possible…Spread a bit of hoisin onto the steamed bun, add a sprinkling of sugar. Layer with a slice of duck, batons of daikon & cucumber, and strips of scallion.

peking duck and steamed buns

What do you think? When do you take the leftovers home?

23 thoughts on “When to “Doggie Bag?” Your Thoughts?”

  1. I volunteer with Share our Strength’s Cooking Matters program in an effort to end childhood hunger in America, so the thought of throwing out and wasting food when we have hungry people in our country is a crime to me. I don’t think a restaurant has ever been upset when I’ve asked to take something home. Gorgeous presentation of those leftovers, btw!

  2. Aside from you having turned them into a beautiful thing.
    I always take home the leftovers if they are good, and there’s enough left, and I’m going to be going home right away. I wouldn’t want them to be sitting out for too long.

  3. Yes, duck, lobster and lamb are worth the potential sneer of those who think take-home is ‘tacky’. For sure!

    I agree with your points about when to ask it be wrapped up to go…quality, sufficient quantity and a real intention to use it.

    Love your presentation (as usual)!

  4. Your leftovers look better than many of the restaurant plates I’ve been served. I agree that taking home leftovers should only be done if they are worth the taking. I don’t do it at business meals but I will if I’m out with a good friend or with Mr. Hungry Couple. Our doggie would be thrilled if the doggie bag was for her but like your Wilson, her system is far better off on her regular diet. Interestingly, there’s a beautiful restaurant on the water near our summer home that serves HUGE portions. They are literally double sized. No one should eat that much food and no small woman is even able to. I have no idea why they want to give away so much food but everyone leaves with a doggie bag.

  5. I would have paid for your leftovers. Your meal looks marvelous. I always take home leftovers regardless of how little is left, although normally I plan on only half the meal. I hate wasting food.

  6. Those are pretty nice leftovers! And leave it to you serve it up in great style. When I make steamed buns I find they freeze and reheat very well.
    We always take leftovers home. Food and going out to expensive and being secure in ourselves we don’t care what anyone else may think. Now at the nicer places , usually there isn’t enough left to take home.

  7. I usually abstain in finer restaurants—which also tend to have smaller portions and fewer leftovers anyway. But in Chinese restaurants we almost always have leftovers. And they always ask if we want to take the food home. The few times we said no, they seemed to take it as an insult! I love having at least one weeknight dinner made in advance. :=)

  8. I have never seen leftovers look so good 🙂 As far as taking things back, I always take into account how good it was, if I am going to have time to eat it in the next few days and if I think it will reheat well. The caliber of restaurant doesn’t matter to me-fancy not fancy, getting leftovers is the same anywhere to me. It is a shame to waste food, but if you don’t have intentions of eating it, there really is no point taking it home.

  9. Alas, here in France it is extremely frowned upon to request to take left-overs home…The portions here are usually MUCH smaller…which I applaud..and the idea is that the cuisine is to be pleasing enough to finish in the restaurant. There truly are appropriate portion sizes given most of the time..It has arrived that there simply is too much for my appetite…but if one asks politely to “savor” the remainder while taking it home, I’ve found that the restaurant will be happy to comply…Thought-provoking post!

  10. First… What a beautiful display. And for it to look that beautiful and delicious the next day is an accomplishment! I could never do this with leftovers.

    On the leftover issue. I have a BIG problem leaving leftovers behind. I just don’t do it. There are too many hungry people in this world and if I can help with a doggie bag, well lucky the person I find. I ALWAYS take the doggie bag and ask my husband to drive a little for me. I live in NYC so the search isn’t to discouraging. Never has anyone turned food down. Once I felt sick and I couldn’t eat a mignon so I bagged it and gave it to a man sleeping on a bench. He asked “What’s in the bag? I said filet mignon” He snatched that bag out of my hand so quick and shoved the meat in his mouth before I could blink! It felt pretty good. My husband on the other hand wasn’t so happy that I gave a total stranger a $80 meal. hehe.

    Now! If I had WP Pecking duck I would have taken it home and found a way to shove that baby down my throat! We don’t have a WP here in NY. I have to settle for Tao’s Pecking duck which is nothing like WP.

    Thanks for the great read!

  11. I ask for doggie bags all the time!

    I love to eat out but cannot finish the portions.
    Also like the leftovers.

    I pay for it so think I should be able to finish it, whether there or at home.

    When we lived in Germany, my first meal out was so much there was no way I could eat even a quarter of it.
    The Frau was so upset because she thought I didn’t like it.
    My friend explained about my tiny tummy, and said I would love to take it home to finish it because it was so excellent.
    That precious lady got so excited she actually had to hug and kiss me!

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