When you’re travelling, sometimes the best way to experience the destination is to eat with locals in the comfort of their own home.
But if you don’t know anyone personally, there are apps that can connect you with people who will host such gatherings.
I decided to be a tourist within my own city and try out one of these apps. I signed myself up for Feastly, and booked a $US42 dinner of unique handmade pizzas prepared by a woman named Michelle, who lives in Union Square, in the center of Manhattan. The three other guests I shared the meal with were all tourists visiting New York City from other countries.
I chose to attend Michelle's pizza party, but Feastly offers cuisines from all over the world. Prices range from free to around $70 in New York City. The site currently operates in four US cities (New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, DC), but is planning to expand.
Michelle enjoys cooking, and the recipes she tries often don't come from a cookbook. This meal was the fourth she's prepared for guests through Feastly. In the past, she's made dishes like Beef Wellington. She generally prefers to keep groups small: the largest number of guests she's served is eight.
The meal I booked with Michelle started at 7:00 pm, so around 6:45 pm I made my way over to Michelle's Union Square apartment.
I arrived at Michelle's building a few minutes before 7:00 pm. In the lobby, I ran into another guest heading up to Michelle's apartment. I learned his name was Karlos and that he was from Croatia.
Karlos and I arrived at Michelle's door and she welcomed us into her charming apartment. The pizzas were already in the oven and the table had been set.
Michelle also introduced us to Pepper, her three-year-old yorkie poo who quietly hung around the table in hopes that he would get to experience some of the pizza, too.
We were still waiting on two guests, but Michelle brought out the first pizza -- a combination of cheddar and goat cheese, blueberries, red pepper flakes, and honey drizzled on top -- so it could cool off.
Karlos had brought a bottle of white wine from Croatia as a hostess gift, which Michelle opened in addition to the red wine she had put out for dinner.
Soon, the other two guests arrived, Esteban and Anita, a couple from Argentina. Although Esteban and Anita spoke only a little English, we managed to all get along and enjoy some good conversation.
Karlos and I thought the blueberry honey pizza was delicious. It was a little too spicy for Esteban and Anita, though. Michelle decided to let guests put their own red pepper flakes on the next time she prepared it.
After the kielbasa pizza, we all agreed that we needed a break before dessert. That's when Michelle brought the Jenga out.
Karlos and I had never played, so the rest of the group gave us a quick explanation before Anita started.
Michelle brought out an impressive brownie and berry pizza. The brownie on bottom was perfectly fudgy, and the cream cheese frosting paired well with the fruit topping.
Michelle also brought out a surprise that wasn't listed on her Feastly menu: pecan shortbread cookies with frosting and chocolate sauce. She said it was the first time she had made them, and in my opinion they turned out great.
I managed to finish my slice of brownie and berry pizza, but I couldn't finish my cookies so Michelle bagged those up for me, along with two slices of the blueberry honey pizza. I left the apartment around 9:00 pm, completely satisfied with my meal sharing experience.
I would definitely use a meal sharing app like Feastly the next time I travel. I met interesting people, ate some great food, and connected with a local.
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