It’s official. Food geeks and tech geeks have joined forces in bringing eating and drinking to an unprecedented pinnacle of convenience and enjoyment. Need a recipe? There’s an app for that (actually, there’s a Google for that now). Can’t remember that exquisite wine you had last week? There’s an app for that too. Not sure where to go to dinner tonight? Not only is there an app for that, there are multiple apps for, “Not sure where to go to dinner tonight for the best fried chicken not more than 2.5 miles away from me, and here’s a picture to prove it.”
The number of food-related apps and sites out there created to make sure you never have a disappointing meal again is both exciting and overwhelming. On the dish-recommendation front there is Foodspotting (a visual food guide), Spork, Deep Dishing (a companion site to Tablehopper), TopDish (in beta), and Flavorize (in beta), just to name a few.
The ability to bring an iPad into the kitchen to assist in recipe search and instruction has opened up a whole new realm of possibility. The Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List app is wonderfully convenient, with access to Epicurious’ vast stable of recipes from trusted sources.
Appetites, a video cooking app for iPad, recently launched by Clear-Media, takes advantage of the iPad’s functionality and presents recipes in an interactive video format. (Full disclosure: I was one of the six contracted food bloggers selected by Clear-Media to participate in creating the recipe demos for Appetites…so forgive me for this shameless plug, but I’m really proud of it!)
Matt Armendariz (MattBites), Gabi Moskowitz (BrokeAss Gourmet), Nick & Blake (The Paupered Chef), Adrianna & Caroline (A Cozy Kitchen), Gaby Dalkin (What’s Gaby Cooking?), and I each chose a handful of our most popular recipes and translated them into video tutorials. Each recipe is broken down step-by-step, from your point of view in the kitchen. What’s cool is that the video segment showing each step will keep looping until you’ve completed it. No stopping to check the recipe, starting, and stopping again because you’ve forgotten what’s next. Once you’re done with that step, just swipe to the next step. For more info, peep the promo video and post I wrote on this last month.
Some of the most interesting apps I’ve found solve very topic-specific problems.
Problem Scenario, Wine: You are out enjoying a night out on the town and happen upon a great tasting wine. What was the name of that wine again? What was the vintage? Where can you find it?
App solution: Snooth – An image-based wine search, Snooth recognizes wines using a photograph. That’s right. Sip something tasty? Simply snap a photo using your phone and Snooth will identify it, tell you where you can buy it using its location-aware store search, and even allow you to store your reviews/tasting notes locally, offline, so that they are accessible on your phone anytime.
Problem Scenario, Cheese: So many cheeses, so little time.
App solution: Cheese Plate – Compiled by food writer and cheese connoisseur, Janet Fletcher, Cheese Plate provides a wealth of information on 150+ cheeses, allowing you to find them by name, milk type, style, country, or characteristic. The app shows you how to compose a well-balanced and beautiful cheese plate, showcasing 25 themed cheese plates (with three cheeses per plate), and even includes suggested wine pairings.
Problem Scenario, Recipe Tweak: I want to brine a few pieces of chicken but every brining recipe I find makes 2 gallons. How do I figure out my quantity adjustments without burning out my calculator? Or, I only have 3 tablespoons of butter, how can I turn that into a bit of caramel sauce?
App Solution: Ratio – A cooking tool that calculates the amounts of ingredients you need based on what you have or how much you want. Ratio is based on Michael Ruhlman‘s best-selling cookbook, Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.
Problem Scenario, Grocery List: You’ve just returned home from the grocery store, you’re in the middle of baking a cake, and you’ve just realized you’re out of sugar. Dilemma, dilemma. You could knock on your neighbor’s door…is that still acceptable these days? Do you even know your neighbors? Escaping the potential for social awkwardness, you run out again to the store. Grrrrrrr.
App Solution: Tap Grocer – A simple solution to getting your grocery list in order. Use this intuitive app to keep track of items in your pantry or refrigerator – items that run out are automatically added to your grocery list. Group your items by grocery section, and efficiently cross off items while in the store.
The way we consume media now is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. As developers continue to push the envelope, we are going to be seeing some pretty radical things in our lifetime. As traditional print outlets work towards not becoming obsolete, some creative innovations are bound to take form. Case in point, Momofuku’s David Chang and McSweeney’s highly anticipated Lucky Peach project – a quarterly full-color print journal to be accompanied by an iPad app. Each quarterly issue/app will examine a dish or ingredient through many facets. The iPad content will include cooking demonstrations, documentary-style videos, and what will surely be an awesome and badass interface. Lucky Peach is expected to be released in May.
This post was published on KQED’s Bay Area Bites on March 10, 2011.