Written on January 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm , by Abbie Kozolchyk
As a child of the decade that birthed the term “stranger danger”—and a thousand related after-school specials—I just did something that flies in the face of my upbringing: I went to the apartment of people I’d never met, in a place I’d never been, to eat with 10 perfect strangers.
I’d started to hear things—very, very good things—about a certain EatWith. A “global community that invites you to dine in homes,” it launched last February in Israel and Spain, and has since expanded into 31 countries and 15 US cities, with many more outposts to come. So in the not-too-distant future, you may well visit—and/or inhabit—an EatWith-colonized territory where you can go online, find a good-looking homemade meal, fill out a profile (mammal-avoidant Urdu speaker? mayo-phobic spice lover? get as detailed as you want), pay the suggested donation ($17-$150) and show up hungry at the appointed time and place.
And here’s the key: An EatWith rep has likely been there already to assess the cleanliness, yumminess and—yes, ma—the safety factor. (If so, you’ll find an “EatWith Verified” icon in the profile, and even if not, other guests may have been there and written reviews.) Hosts, for their part, are granted a million-dollar insurance policy—in case, I suppose, Charlie Sheen, Courtney Love and every last member of the Wolf Pack sign up for the same dinner, whether Flautas in Flagstaff, Brazilian in Barcelona, or anything in between.
For me, couscous in Crown Heights was the big draw. And shortly after I signed up, my inbox informed me that “Ron + Leetal want to EatWith you too!” I was surprisingly relieved, and not a little curious about what would have happened had my prospective hosts turned me down. So I went to the FAQ on that very topic:
What happens if my booking request is declined or expires?
…You can contact the host to find out what happened [all contact happens through the site, by the way; not through your personal email]. The host might not have been available to check your request within 24 hours. He or she may also not have been able to cater to your needs (as stated in your profile, e.g., you may be a vegan and the host only does BBQ events). But don’t get discouraged. Look for other offerings in that location. We promise you will find something special just for you! You can also contact us for assistance in booking or to get recommendations at email@example.com.
Now extra grateful to have a place at the table, I used the directions in the confirmation email to find an out-of-the-way, old-school Brooklyn apartment building where—though comforted to see someone by the front door who looked as tentative as I felt (clearly, the guy was another EatWith guest)—I was shamed by what he had in hand: a bottle of wine.
What was I, raised in a barn?
I felt slightly less mortified when I figured out that almost everyone else in attendance had showed up empty-handed—in fairness, after paying $86 to be there in the first place—but my note to self that night was to err on the side of generosity next time.
Apparently, I got over my shame just fine: 15 minutes in, I was already Power-Vac-ing my way through course after course of what was unequivocally one of the best meals of my life. Granted—like a surprising number of EatWith hosts—mine were professional foodies. Known for small-batch, hugely addictive harissa and other Middle Eastern goodness, the duo behind NY Shuk—28-year-old Leetal and 32-year-old Ron Arazi—grew up in Israel on a mix of Turkish, Iraqi, Moroccan and Lebanese food, thanks to their family backgrounds. “We feel that this type of food just feels and tastes better at home, where you feel relaxed,” says Leetal. “We enjoy having guests in our home so why not share with them what we enjoy most of all?”
And the night of our dinner, “what we enjoy most of all” translated to the following: a cured lemon and arak cocktail; freshly baked challah with slada de chizo (braised carrots, cilantro, parsley, lemon and l’ekama, a spice-and-oil mix that was also given to us as a parting gift, and that didn’t last 24 hours in my possession); sautéed carrots rubbed with l’ekama; baked beetroot with herbs and walnuts; matbucha (tomato and garlic salad); chirchi (roasted squash, raisins and spices); oranges and black olives with harissa; charred red pepper salad; garlic-sautéed cauliflower with “Ronesco” (Ron’s twist on romesco) and a Lebanese green onion salad; Jerusalem artichoke and fresh turmeric; pickled fennel and carrots; and stuffed puff pastry.
Then came the star of the show: hand-rolled couscous, served in my case with Tunisian-style black spinach (I’m EDWRR’s resident vegetarian) and in the case of everyone else, ka’aboorot (a seemingly fabulous chicken dish), plus chickpea stew and baked pumpkin with caramelized onion and tanzeya (slow-cooked dried fruit and spices).
Evidently, someone then slipped us a collective mickey and pumped our stomachs, because there’s no other possible explanation for how anyone managed dessert: Turkish coffee-flavored chocolate pudding with whipped cream and pistachios, plus milk chocolate and honey truffles, sage butter cookies and homemade marzipan.
Of course, however spectacular the food, the company made the meal. From the baker to the businesswoman, everyone in this international crowd of 20-somethings to 40-somethings was interesting and friendly—and had all kinds of crazy commonalities. At first, I thought the craziest was that there were two Anglo-Israeli documentarian/video producer guys sitting directly across the table from each other. But here’s what was even crazier: When I wanted to set one of them up with a friend, I learned she’d already been fixed up with him. By someone else at the table. At which point I realized: Ron and Leetal should have hung the same framed Yeats quote that so many Irish pubs do:
“There are no strangers here, only friends that have not yet met.”
Written on August 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm , by Every Day with Rachael Ray Staff
We followed up with our beauty and travel editor, Abbie Kozolchyk, to see how things went at the second annual Beauty Editors Day at New York’s Saks Fifth Avenue. As the name would suggest, the day brings beauty editors—bunches of them, in fact—to the selling floor, where each is partnered with a particular counter. Abbie was stationed at Penhaligon’s, where she met with several women—and a few men!—whose $30 entrance fee went entirely to Look Good Feel Better, an organization that helps cancer patients cope with the outward side effects of treatment.
What was the topic people asked about most?
AK: After fragrance (because we were at a fragrance counter, after all), brows were the biggest beauty topic of the day. Conveniently, we have this on our site: 3 Ways to Groom Your Eyebrows.
What was the most memorable aspect of the day?
AK: For me, it was a tossup between the very first guest —a remarkably lovely and upbeat woman whose daughter has been a Look Good Feel Better participant—and a surprise afternoon appearance by the illustrator we used for our July/August travel feature. I never would have recognized Danielle Kroll (pictured below), who was part of a four-woman posse that visited me at the Penhaligon’s counter, but her identity was revealed by a rightfully proud friend about halfway through our session. I was star-struck.
Did you fall in love with any new fragrances yourself?
AK: I was getting a little out of hand with Penhaligon’s newest scent, Vaara, and wouldn’t be surprised if my whole apartment smells like saffron, magnolia and sandalwood for the next month. Or year. I also love the back story—the fragrance was commissioned by the Maharaja of Jodhpur to commemorate the birth of his granddaughter—but of course, now I’m going to have to think twice about gifting onesies or Is Your Mama A Llama.
Did anyone want to talk travel?
AK: India came up pretty regularly, thanks to the aforementioned royal grandpa. And I’m always happy to talk about that country, as it’s one of my favorite places on the planet—though I outgrow even my most generous waistbands after, like, two days there.
Written on July 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm , by Every Day with Rachael Ray Staff
Come out this Thursday, August 1, for the second annual Look Good Feel Better Beauty Editor’s Day at Saks Fifth Avenue! There are still a few spots open, so you can join our very own beauty and travel editor, Abbie Kozolchyk, at the Penhaligon’s counter, where she’ll be doling out beauty (and if you want, travel) advice during one-on-one sessions. Sign up now to be part of this great cause. All proceeds go to the Look Good Feel Better foundation for cancer patients.
To help you get to know Abbie a bit before the big day, we sat down and asked her “5 Questions.”
1. How did you get into being a beauty editor?
AK: Happy accident: As a college student, I interned at the now defunct Mirabella and fell really hard for the magazine. I gladly would have gone back for any gig there; the one that just happened to be open when I graduated was in the beauty department.
2. If you had to name one product that is your favorite, what would it be?
AK: Impossible to say, given that beauty editors are essentially human guinea pigs, and always trying new products. But I will say that one of the first fragrances to become a favorite was Penhaligon’s neroli-spiked Castile—I’m kind of an orange blossom junkie—so I’m especially happy to be camping out at the Penhaligon’s counter this Thursday.
3. What’s the best beauty advice anyone has ever given to you?
AK: One word: Sunscreen. Okay, two more: high SPF.
4. Your title is beauty and travel editor. Odd to combine the two?
AK: Oddly, no! I’ve been a travel writer (and travel addict) for almost as long as I’ve been a beauty editor, so I’m perfectly used to, say, filing an article on Reese Witherspoon’s bangs from a Tibetan yak-herding village. (True story.) Needless to say, I love that we cover both topics at Every Day with Rachael Ray.
5. So what products are you always sure to pack?
AK: See number 3.
Written on July 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm , by Every Day with Rachael Ray Staff
Benefitting a great cause, Look Good Feel Better, editors will be taking over the Saks Fifth Avenue beauty department from 12pm to 7pm on Thursday, August 1st. Abbie will be hanging with the ladies at Penhaligon’s, perfumers to no less than the royal baby’s family (stay tuned to find out whether the newborn, who’s third in line to the throne, will get his own scent)! Whether you’re interested in general beauty advice, tips on finding your perfect fragrance, or hearing about life as a beauty and travel editor at Every Day with Rachael Ray sign on up!
- Visit www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org/register now to book your 20-minute appointment at the second annual Beauty Editor’s Day on August 1 from 12 to 7 at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship in New York City
- A $30 donation will get you a 20-minute editor consultation and free gift
- Proceeds go to Look Good Feel Better, a program that helps cancer patients to cope with the outward side effects of treatment. For more information, visit www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org
Written on May 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm , by Every Day with Rachael Ray Staff
Long a foodie favorite (in fact, there’s one in Rach’s product line), Himalayan pink salt is now being sprinkled across the beauty aisle, too. Turns out, the mineral-packed crystals are as glow-giving as palate-pleasing. –Abbie Kozolchyk, Travel and Beauty Editor
1. Kismibella Pink Himalayan Salt with Goat Milk Bath Bomb ($5 each, kismibella.etsy .com) packs Epsom salt and avocado oil for an intensely soothing soak.
2. Made with 60 percent Himalayan pink salt, Bliss fatgirlscrub ($38, blissworld.com) is the definition of true grit, plus a circulation booster and skin polisher of the highest order.
3. Garnished with rose petals and spiked with sandalwood. KhushiOrganics Rose of the Himalaya Organic Soaking Spa Salts ($16, khushiorganics.etsy.com) offer the best kind of sensory overload.
4. Loaded with stimulants, CricketCoveSoapCo Eucalyptus and Peppermint Organic Coconut Milk & Pink Himalayan Salt Soap ($6, cricketcovesoapco.etsy.com) lathers into a full-body wake-up call.
5. Dial Skin Therapy Replenishing Body Wash with Himalayan Pink Salt ($5, at drugstores) deposits skin-healthy minerals but leaves no schmutz behind.