Forbes, by Laurie Werner
Anyone who travels a lot knows that eating in restaurants every night can get tiresome. At the same time, a trend in travel the last few years has been to not just skim the surface of a destination, to really immerse oneself in it and interact with locals. Those two strands converge in websites such as www.eatwith.com and the recently launched Feastly that give travelers to a city the opportunity to book a meal in someone’s home.
Feastly came into being as a result of a desire for a local meal while on vacation. Founder Noah Karesh, who has been cooking since the age of 7 and is responsible for the pop up the Blind Dog Café in Washington DC , was traveling in Guatemala and frustrated because he couldn’t find real Guatemalan food. Asking an 11 year old avocado seller where to go to eat resulted in an invitation to his mother’s kitchen and a sensational meal. Returning to D.C., he started the process of putting a group of hosts together which he vets with application forms and home tastings. Some cooks do it to supplement income, others just like to feed people and entertain.
“We’re not looking for the most elite chefs, for the Cordon Bleu graduates,” he says. “There may be a woman who makes great meatballs…or it’s a sous chef at a good restaurant who knows what he or she is doing. In many cases, it’s a cook who has his or her network already. And the reviews are on the site. If someone less than great slips by, the community will catch it.”
Most listings are in U.S. cities such as Washington D.C., New York, Chicago and San Francisco; international cities are a little hit and miss: there is a host cook listed in Amsterdam but none in London or Paris where apparently the community hasn’t launched yet. (For Paris, try VoulezvousDiner.com ) Specific dates are listed in the write-ups, along with a specific menu and description of the chef. In New York, there are numerous choices: Indian brunches, St. Croix home cooking, Hungarian menus, Basque, etc. One of the most interesting is an artist in the Financial District who cooks Persian favorites from family recipes including a tomato and cucumber Shirazi salad, beef and tomato stew and rosewater or cardamom ice cream ( $42 for a seat at the table.) Even locals curious to learn about that cuisine would have a reason to sign up for that.