Can the word “authentic” be linked to luxury travel? Of course it can. People who travel often find luxury in getting to know the ‘real’ culture of a place without covering it with the glitz and glamour. The idea of social dining or others call it “eating with strangers” can be intimidating for some but to others who have tried, they just can’t get enough. Social dining means you would have to meet with a stranger who is a local in the destination you are visiting. They host you for a lunch or dinner at the location of their choice whether it is on a rooftop, their backyard, or an art museum. You would also dine with other people you don’t know. Immersing yourself with locals when travelling believe it or not has become a trendy thing to add to the itinerary if you are looking for a memorable experience. What better way to get to know a destination’s culture than by linking yourself and learning from the locals.
From going to secret tours, dining on a boat or rooftop or even learning how to cook and finding out the secrets of a cuisine, there are so many experiences out there to discover beyond what a resort or restaurant can offer. In fact, hundreds and thousands of hosts worldwide are waiting to welcome travellers to provide an experience they will never forget. Check out some of the top cultural experiences offered through a social dining app like EatWith. Voted the top 3 app in 2016 by Apple, EatWith allows anyone around the globe to access thousands of hosts everywhere. All you have to do is bring your drink and an open mind. Some hosts also offer alcoholic beverages as part of the package.
1.) Fish Market Tour and Sushi Making in Tokyo
Yes The Tsukiji Market has moved but this tour is still on. Guests meet at a hotel lobby in central Tokyo and walk around the biggest fish market where you can find sumo-wrestler size men slicing fresh tuna, live shrimps, octopus and more. You will also visit a Japanese knife store and other cool stores along the way. After shopping, you go to the host home and learn the traditional way of making sushi. You will learn techniques and secrets of slicing fish you’ve never heard before so you can create your very own authentic sushi just like Japanese sushi chefs do.
2.) Exclusive Secret Tour in Barcelona
A local from Barcelona will take you to a small family café for a homemade Spanish breakfast to start your experience. Go for churros and hot chocolate for a snack while touring. Taste and see the diversity of gastronomy in a local Market Hall and try Spanish and Catalan cheeses and of course, you will get to sample the ever premium Jamón Iberico. You will also understand the influence of other cultures in Spanish dishes in one of the most emblematic shops of the city, and master roasters since 1851. You can also learn the real origins of tapas and get to visit a small family restaurant and enjoy a fresh Sangria with your paella. End your experience by heading over to the Mediterranean sea and toast with a hand-picked Cava wine. That’s not all, the tour also offers a secret dish to make it even more memorable.
3.) Luxury Houseboat Dining in the Amsterdam Canals
Spectacular views of the Amsterdam canal sets the ambience of this authentic dining experience aboard a luxury houseboat. Robert, the gracious local host, welcomes his guests in his home to enjoy a homemade and locally inspired 3-course dinner which includes carefully selected beverage options. Dinner and the best views await the lucky guests while Robert shows you the top things to know about Amsterdam.
When you think of Paris, you think macarons. You can learn from a Masterchef winner, Jean-Yves and learn the tricks of how to make the best macarons like a true Parisian. If you love desserts, this experience is the one to add to the list. Enjoy champagne while tasting your masterpiece creation and Jean-Yves will show his guests how to celebrate the experience the French way.
5.) Cocktail Architect Dinner in Brooklyn New York
This Mauritius inspired social dinner experience will take you to the beautiful country without having to travel 20 hours to the Indian Ocean. Even being in the big city, the host promises a sophisticated experience. Host Nandini, also offers vegan options, meat and fish dishes to all her guests and incorporates Ayurvedic spices of cumin and cardamom to enhance her food offerings. New York is a very diverse city, and experiences like this help you “get out of town” for a moment and remain in the big city.
You start your experience at the Borough Market, a foodie destination in London to start your day with an English fudge or cake and sampling award-winning Lincolnshire sausages followed by the best fish and chips in town. During the tour, you can make stops at stores to shop while the local tells you stories about the history of the surrounding areas such as the Sir Walter Raleigh’s Golden Hind, The Shard and Southwark Cathedral. Then you head over to a historic pub and sample some British cheeses, served with fig cakes and chutney while enjoying with London beers, ales or ciders. This British tour will also take you to the London Bridge and Tower Bridge on the River Thames as well as the Battleship Belfast. You cannot get any more British than that.
7.) Mexican Ancestral and Ritual Dinner Experience in Mexico City
Host Rosalba Gonzalez does not take hosting dinners in her home lightly. She comes from a line of traditional cooks from Oaxaca, and her culinary knowledge goes back many generations. Sticking to her culture when it comes to cooking is of utmost priority and keeps her Mexican rituals alive. Rosalba even has an altar which showcases her collection of the most exquisite ingredients she uses for her dishes. During the dinner, she will tell stories of Mexican traditions she takes part in and will also share the variety of dishes she prepares and explains why. You will find this experience very amusing, authentic and different from your typical Mexican restaurant experience.
Upon arrival, you go straight to the terrace and settle with a nice glass of prosecco or wine of your choice. Everything from this experience is Roman. The dinner starts with an aperitivo and goes right into antipasto which can include caponata, caprese, prosciutto di Parma and more. Handmade pasta options include orecchiette, farfalle, tortellini to name a few as primi. Mains include a choice of scampi, fish, Osso Bucco or sautéed veal. Contornis are also available as well as vegetarian dishes and ending the night with a traditional Tiramisu or Italian gelato for dessert. From the ravishing views, the food and of course the stories from your Roman host, you will be dining like a real Italian.
9.) Farm to Table Feast on a Mountain Winery in Telaviv
Asaf, the host, has gotten fantastic reviews on his dinner experiences. Guests rave about his tales of the food, and history of his hometown. Assaf is a self-proclaimed foodie and a professional pastry chef for 12 years. During this time, he’s travelled the world and has always educated himself on wellness, health and spirituality. As a food therapist, he ties what he has learned to his carefully curated menu and explains to his guests why we eat such things and other connections not many people can teach. He likes to share his table and meet new people so he can share his passion for food and wellness with his social dinning expereince. One guest review calls the experience “magical”, and the harmonious balance of the food took her to heaven here on earth.
10.) Art and Culinary Food Tour in Toronto
Kensington Market is Toronto’s hipster community where you will discover a lot of unique and trendy art, food, indie shops and more. It is one of the hottest tourist spots known for its authenticity and street art populated by Victorian homes and tree-lined streets. Guests will do a tour of the area and sample a variety of cuisine from many cultures to showcase Toronto’s diversity in the multicultural enclave of Kensington market which also includes a stop in Chinatown. Guests are encouraged to come hungry, and the experience promises to be a culinary adventure with surprises and the host also teases guests to expect a possible “twist” in the end. That’s the joy of social dinning.
Cristina Carpio is a television personality, brand and restaurant strategist as well as a passionate food and beverage expert. Travel and living life to the fullest is in her DNA. In addition to hosting Going Global, Cristina is a country ambassador for a global immersive dining platform and has a column for a noted North American food and beverage industry magazine. She has also been recognized for her work and involvement in charitable and community projects and has hosted several prestigious festivals, fashion and cultural events.