Lower East Siders, meet the "Middle East Brunch."
Israeli tech start-ups are known for creating new efficiencies. Think GetTaxi, a taxi-finding service, and Waze, the Israeli navigation app which recently sold to Google for over a billion dollars. EatWith, the newest young, web-based Israeli company to come to New York, likewise uses the Internet to make connections, but its mission is more to slow things down than speed them up.
The site brings hosts, travelers and eaters together with the aim of transporting the culinary experience of a restaurant to it to the dining room of private homes. Founded in 2012, and launched in New York on Aug. 2, the company finds hosts with a passion for cooking and entertaining and matches them with locals and travelers looking for an authentic new way to eat a meal and a peek into an unfamiliar kitchen.
“There needs to be a place on the web where people can search for local, easy, delicious, fun experiences. We want this to be available to both travelers and locals,” founder Guy Michlin told the Jewish Week via Skype.
He created the company because he was tired of constantly falling into restaurant tourist traps while traveling. That all changed once he was invited into the home of a friend of a friend while traveling in Crete. In that home, Michlin partook in an exquisite local meal and met wonderful people: it was an experience he was determined to recreate for others.
He started in Israel and Spain, and last weekend opened up in New York with various offerings: a Vegan Dinner by Jack and Ashley in Brooklyn, a Challah Baking Class hosted by Rinat in the West Village, and a Middle Eastern Brunch on the Lower East Side served by Noam, the “Hummus Master.”
The Middle Eastern Brunch, hosted by Naama and her husband Ilan, took place in their Lower East Side apartment, where guests were greeted with pomegranate mimosas and an array of light appetizers such as labne and olives. The brunch officially began as each guest sat down to their own bowl of homemade hummus and m’sabaha, warm chickpeas in tahini sauce. The table was laden with goodies ranging from warmly toasted pitas to pickled baby eggplants to Israeli salad and spicy schug. Just as guests began commenting on how full they felt, Naama brought out her malabi dessert, a milk based pudding made with rose water and orchid root powder.
The assembled included people ranging from their 20s to their 60s; some from nearby New Jersey and Williamsburg and others hailing from as far away as Italy and Mexico.
The meals range in price, from a $25 “Very Good Brunch” to an $85 “Eclectic North African Feast.” After logging onto the website, a potential guests selects city and dietary preferences and then picks the meal they want. An EatWith meal is available in Tel Aviv, Barcelona, and more recent additions such as Argentina, Brazil, and France. The company vets each host.
“This isn’t like a restaurant, where the only stranger you interact with is the waiter,” Michlin said, “You come because you like food and you like people. If you bring people who like those (two) things together in a room, then good things will happen organically.”
Rachel Goldrich runs the Community Connections Fellowship at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. She enjoys writing, photography and food.