Dine at Home: With Eat With in Tel Aviv

Sitting in a small courtyard on my first night in Tel Aviv, I found a Kumquat on my seat; the others at the dinner table couldn’t understand my exclamation of surprise as they pointed to the branches hanging low above my head. They were used to the sultry nights, the candlelight’s flickering, the faint throb of a mosquito bite on your thigh and kumquats falling with a soft plop onto your seat. Yet for me, this was intimate, exotic and a wonderful welcome into Tel Aviv.

Dine at Home Eat With 1

We had decided to skip the restaurant scene and instead to dine at home, someone else’s home no less, a stranger’s home. Eat With is an incredible new craze that I am hoping will take the world by storm, this is the Airbnb of dining, a concept in which people can throw open their front doors and invite complete strangers in to dine together. Everyone sits at a communal table, everyone breaks bread and everyone gets to explore not only their social side, but the delights of cuisine that before now had only been caught in the shadows of the underground.

‘Not just anyone can open their door’ Andrea, one of the women behind the concept explained as I nursed my wine glass and petted the dog, Punch on his tiny head. ‘There is a strict vetting process, first you need to be able to cook really well and you need to have a nice home or environment where guests can feel comfortable’. My eyes darted to the bookshelf brimming with colors, to the kitchen where pots and pans hung precariously from the wall, to the spice rack stuffed with Hebrew handwritten labels, to the picture of Bob Marley tacked on the fence…there’s no doubt I felt comfortable. In fact, I felt more comfortable than had we been at a restaurant, tucked away into our own booth, here I felt like I was hanging with friends, friends I had known for years.

Dine at Home Eat With 2

And the food was good, incredibly good. The two chefs ‘lovers who put all their love for each other into their food’ laughed one woman as the two others stood behind her and blushed with a shy adorable smile. Last year they set up Chipolina-Culinary Art specializing in private dinners and pop up events. The fresh fish carpaccio was as light and clean as a puff of fresh air, the pumpkin ravioli blending just the right notes of sweetness and the hunk of meat beautifully bloody and served with gnocchi that stuck to the roof of the mouth in a breathtakingly buttery way. Throw into the mix fresh bread to be dunked into an array of homemade dips, the fattest olives I have ever seen, a bottle of good aromatic white wine and limoncello squeezed to death with the best citrus notes and you have a feast worth writing home about.

Dine at Home Eat With 3

Around the big table, we sat with strangers, others who had simply come here to dine and to meet people. Some were veterans, ‘We always come to eat with instead of restaurants’ they explained, ‘You get to meet people, see other people’s homes…the whole thing…it’s much more humane’. I couldn’t help but agree. Asking the girl on my left when her baby was due, dabbling with politics with the guy on my right, this wouldn’t happen in a restaurant, normally we would just be stuck with our companion, rolling over the same topics we explored every day together.

Dine at Home Eat With 4

With Eat With you could even come alone, without the fear of having to rush through a meal, eyes glued to your phone so you didn’t have to face the idea of solo dining. You could come to someone’s home, sit next to people, interact, eat, and get a glimpse into how other people live. The whole idea was fascinating. We are social beasts, and food is a fabulous way of interacting. After picking all the wild strawberries out of my meringue, I went over to the chefs who were smoking cigarettes and laughing, I sat down and played with the dog and we talked like old friends. When it was time to leave we all hugged beneath the kumquat tree, waved fond farewells and skipped out into the night. I knew I was hooked on Eat With, I love the intimacy of other people’s worlds and I love the idea of tiptoeing in even just for a night, to taste their food, to pet their dog and to experience their world.

Big thanks to the lovely people at Vibe Israel for inviting me to enjoy the bounty of their beautiful country. Vibe Israel is a non profit and non political organization, find out more at www.vibeisrael.com 

All Images’ Source: www.orkaplan.com

Jodie Oakes

Jodie Oakes

Jodie Oakes is a seasoned writer and an avid surfer with continuously itchy feet and a love of the finer things in life. After traveling through the continent with a touring band, living in Paris, Amsterdam and under the Auroras Borealis, she is now in Bulgaria where she attempts to piece together her first poetry collection.
Jodie Oakes