Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Need New Dining Companions? Apps and Services to Make New Foodie Friends

I have no problem dining in restaurants alone, with a few exceptions.  Brunch, to me, is a social affair and requires a partner or a group.  The other exception is elevated fine dining. What I mean by that is someplace where it's an experience and that you are probably investing a serious wad of cash.  An example is The French Laundry.  I wouldn't want to go alone!  You want to share that experience with another foodie friend that can really appreciate it.

So, yes, you can sometimes find me eating solo at Ella, Mother, Broderick, or elsewhere. I'll be reading between courses or playing with social media. It may be that I'm using a half-off coupon.  I'm the type the restaurants hate. I'll use a coupon just for myself. I want bang for my buck. In that regard I can be a bit selfish.

But then again, eating alone is, well, lonely. I suffer from a lack of foodie friends that are single who I can count upon to join me. Some of my foodie friends have families, or are partnered, or live too far away. I guess I need (more) new friends. 

There are several new ways to accomplish this. And so I thought I would share them with you.

MEETUP.COM

Meetup has been around for over a decade now and it is a great site, especially if you are new to an area.  There are groups for every diverse interest you can think of. There's everything from Chihuahua Lovers to Knitting groups. There are definitely dining groups as well.  In fact, for a few years I was an Organizer for the Dining Galore group. Then life changed and I stopped. But I'm actually occasionally putting an event on there again.  I also belong to Forkscrew, which is a group that does theme potlucks about once a month. What's nice about this group is that everyone is on their A-game for bringing homemade dishes versus grabbing a veggie platter from Raley's.  

I do have a great appreciation for Meetup.  Some of my current friends or acquaintances are from those groups, and, in fact, my new job at Dinnerwire.com even came indirectly through Meetup. Thank you!


EATWITHUS.COM 
VOULEZVOUSDINER.COM
EATFEASTLY.COM
COZYMEAL.COM



These four are all similar.  You can sign up to be a host or a guest.  Hosts are willing to cook up some sort of themed feast, maybe Italian or Sushi. They open their home and charge the guests to cover their costs.  So you could think of it as a pop-up or underground restaurant without a "known" chef. The guests pay the designated fee and show up and eat!

So far, though, there's not been many in the Sacramento area. There's quite a few dinners in the Los Angeles  and San Francisco areas and a sprinkling of others elsewhere in the state. In the case of Eatwithus.com, they have a lot internationally.  This appeals to me as I would rather experience a fine Spanish dinner in a Spaniards home than a restaurant.  

But then again, you don't know what you are in for.  How clean is their home and cooking practices?  Should you be trusting them to feed you safely?

Today the Sharing Economy is getting bigger and bigger each day.  I happen to love Airbnb.com, the international lodging site. The key is your willingness to trust strangers.  Same with Lyft.com and Uber.com.  Can you trust getting into a stranger's car? Here's an excellent Wired article on that topic.

For these dinners-in-homes sites I'll have to just be a guest. While I am perfectly capable of hosting a great dinner, I really just don't have great space in my little bungalow.  So I'm hoping others sign up to host soon. 

DINESOCIAL.COM

This app is so new that there isn't much info on it yet and it's only on I-Phones so far. But I look forward to trying it when they get a Droid app. "DineSocial is a social networking app that brings people together in real time over breakfast, lunch or dinner. Subscribers can select an area restaurant and then quickly send out invitations to friends or people that meet their selected criteria. Subscribers can also create wish lists and share their favorite restaurants with others. DineSocial is perfect for making new friends, expanding your business network, or for singles or group dating."

LEFTOVERSWAP.COM

Ok. This one isn't for dining with new people, but I thought it was worth a mention for the uniqueness of it.  Maybe you are like me, single, so that when you make a meal, say a casserole, you have a load of leftovers.  Yes, you can freeze it for later, but I've lived that life before and ended up with a freezer full of leftovers and finding myself never getting to them.  So there's an app for that!  Let others take your leftovers!  Or maybe even restaurant leftovers, although I'd be more inclined to eat those.

I have no experience with this app at all and I see no mention of fees.  My lamb stew a few weeks ago cost me over $20 ingredients.  I ate 2 days of leftovers and still had more that I ended up wasting.  Could I have charged $5 for it?  There's no FAQs here, so I don't know.

These sites only go to show that there's a lot of offerings in the world of tech/social apps. I'm sure there will be plenty more to come.


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