DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there any way to inquire politely what sort of milk/cream alternatives are available when the hostess asks whether anyone would like coffee? If skim or soy milk is the only alternative, I would rather forgo coffee altogether. I hate to accept a cup of coffee and then not drink it.
GENTLE READER: What alternative are you seeking? Cognac?
A host or hostess should properly ask how you prefer your coffee when it is offered. Should that not happen, Miss Manners will allow the recipient to make a reasonable request, as long as it is succinct. "With a bit of cream, please, if you have it" is acceptable. Ten descriptive qualifiers with made-up Italian words are not.