Every Tuesday we’re going to talk techy with you and curate some of the top gadgets, apps, websites and products to give every area of your life a much-needed upgrade. Yup, it’s not *just* your devices that need that. Today, we’re starting with apps to make dinner way more fun, because classic takeout is so 2014. It’s time to broaden your horizons of what’s possible for your plate with crowdsourced grub. From ethnic cooking lessons to picking up food from your neighbors, we’re exploring new ways to spice up our dining lives.
1. League of Kitchens (NYC): Newsflash: Cheeseburger pizza does not count as Italian food. People from all over the world live in the US, and they’re cooking up regional recipes that are generations old. And guess what? They’re willing to pass on some of that cooking knowledge to you!
League of Kitchens offers delicious cooking classes hosted by home cooks in their own home kitchens. You and four to five other people cook and eat a delicious meal native to places like Bengali, Trinidad, India, Korea, Greece, Lebanon and more. Bonus: You get to go home with a book of the chef’s own family recipes so you can tackle more traditional dishes with your new culinary know-how. Classes range from $95-$149 per person. Fingers crossed they expand to the West Coast soon.
2. Josephine (Oakland and Berkeley): Have you ever smelled what your neighbors were cooking and casually lingered outside their door hoping they’d invite you in for dinner? No? Guess that’s just us. Josephine is a service that lets you browse what people are cooking up in your neighborhood for you to reserve portions online for pickup.
And no, we’re not talking about your neighbors’ leftover pizza (that’s next on the list). How does pork chili and cornbread sound? What about grilled tamarind chicken with a Vietnamese herb rice noodle salad? Okay, we’ll stop making your stomach growl, but you get the point. Each week, the company features different cooks and tells you the day that they’re cooking so you can RSVP for your dinner ahead of time. Each cook gets reviews so you can get a sense of how other people in the community liked their meals. Josephine portions usually range from $10-$12.
3. LeftoverSwap (varying cities): Some of you may raise some eyebrows with this one, but stick with us here. LeftoverSwap lets you give away your leftovers to anyone willing to come pick them up. As with all sharing models, there are guidelines to make sure it stays clean. Basically, don’t give away food that you wouldn’t eat yourself. We know that there’s probably a “check your Halloween candy” rule bouncing around in your head right now, but this service is all about trust.
Your wouldn’t use this app for those few bites of pad Thai you couldn’t finish, but what about that cereal you just bought and then realized that you didn’t like after one bowl? Rather than leaving it in your pantry to get dusty and stale over six months, you could give it away to someone who will eat it. Going on a trip and have some perishables you don’t want to go to waste? Cooked too much lasagna? (Is there even such a thing as too much lasagna?) Give it away to someone on LeftoverSwap. It’s an idea that may take some getting used to, but before you know it, you’ll find all kinds of opportunities to pass along perfectly good grub that would otherwise go to waste. You can download the app for iOS and get notified when it’s available on Android.
4. Kitchensurfing (multiple cities): Look out Oprah, because personal chefs are no longer just for rich folks. Although, we kind of feel like we’re rich and famous with Kitchensurfing.
Starting at $50 a plate, you can bring your fancy night out to your own dining room for a cozy date night or a full out dinner party with dishes made from professional chefs right in your own kitchen. Just pick a chef, check their availability and book your reservation. After that, all you have to worry about is the table settings. From three- to six-course affairs, you can expect some home cooked grub that’s so good (and affordable) you’ll be surprised it came from your own kitchen. Check Kitchensurfing’s full list of cities on their website.
5. Scratch House (anywhere): We’re still not quite sure why we had to learn trigonometry in school and why no one properly taught us how to poach an egg. There’s definitely a gap in our childhood cooking curriculum, so don’t feel bad if your kitchen is just an unfamiliar land where your ramen and microwave live. Get to know the place with Scratch House.
Cooking at home saves you money, it’s therapeutic and it’s generally healthier for you because you can control exactly what’s going into your food. Designer Tina Ye came up with this site as a way to walk people through cooking with ongoing guidance. From getting to know your knives to making fancy toast, the site gives you small missions in easy-to-accomplish chunks to turn you from snacker to sous chef. Scratch House is currently in Beta, but you can keep up with the evolution of the site on this blog and get on the invite list.
6. Kitchenbowl (anywhere): As much as we love finding a good #PinFail, we love good-looking food much better. Especially if it tastes good. If you want to take things a step beyond Pinterest, Kitchenbowl is a great way to share your recipes picture by picture, even if you’re not a professional chef or food blogger.
With Kitchenbowl, you can share and discover new recipes right from the person who cooked them. Before you get started, you can check out the prep time and cook time and scroll through the guided instructions online or with the app. You can even search by tags like “salads,” “vegetarian” or “appetizers.” It’s a gorgeous way to actually cook all of those things you’ve pinning about. You can download the app for free on iOS or just use the website.
Are there any community-based dining options where you live? We want to hear about them in the comments!