Last night, at 4Food, whose goal is to introduce healthier fast food to us burger-lovers, food media folks engaged their inner tech geeks and got together for Eats+Apps as part of Social Media Week NYC. The event was sold out, which just highlights that connection between new technology ideas and those of us who love food and cooking and that many of us are looking for ways to communicate that to a broader audience. While the internet is fantastic and has, for many people, like myself, been a way to explore recipes and menu ideas, the navigation of all of that information can sometimes be daunting and frustrating.
This event was an opportunity for food community networking as well as for those of us who write about food topics to preview some interesting new apps (iPad, iPhone, and Android) that might be valuable additions to anyone's media library. As someone who test-drove the iPad for about a week and who is in the market for an iPhone now that Verizon is a carrier, I am just the kind of candidate for several of these products. It was great to have an opportunity to talk to their creators in person last night. Some of these are definitely on my must-have list.
I'd met co-founder Mike LaValle at the Feast.up picnic in September of last year, so it was great to see his concept in action last night. A collaboration between technology, food information, and D'Agostino's grocery stores, this site, with the aid of your rewards card number and a logon, will help you to track your spending and create a budget, assist you with nutritional details about your purchases, and even give you recipe suggestions and food tips based upon the items that you do buy. This is an amazing integration of the kind of information that most of us try to cobble together every week. The only downside for me, however, is that there's no D'Ag in my neighborhood, so I'm hoping that this is picked up by other stores sometime in the near future so more folks can have access to this terrific resource.
Bread Baking Basics (Apple Store)
This is already available as an iPad app. Baking bread is one of those things that I wish I could do better. I have taken a cooking course on it and have a great book on the subject. Still, I feel as though I can never quite get it right. Perhaps this is just what I need to download, as the cost of it is cheaper than buying an artisanal loaf from my local bakery. What is appealing is not only are there detailed instructions and photos of every step of the process but that there are also hints about the theory part as to how to make great-tasting bread in your home kitchen.
Ratio (Apple Store)
The cookbook by renowned food-writer Michael Ruhlman is now an app. The concept behind this is that by understanding some of the fundamental ratios of basic cooking inputs (like butter to flour in baking cookies), those of us who want to move behind our recipe files can gain the tools to create and develop our own culinary ideas. Having this on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch is a great way to figure out how to work with the ingredients you have or, more likely, what to do if you've run short on something and need to adjust a recipe on the fly. This app is also available for the Android.
Food Network - In The Kitchen (FN website)
This app is designed to give you a personal helping hand from some of your favorite television chefs. Having access at your fingertips to shows and recipes is a huge help for someone like me, who cooks from things I've seen on some of the programs I've watched on this network. It would save me hours of time not to have to run back and forth to the computer (or to draw upon my fading memory) to be able to bring up a show for that, "Now, how did he/she do that again?" moment that usually happens when I'm trying to recreate a recipe. Another very useful aspect of this app is that you can also build your shopping list from it, and there is a feature to share your list in case other folks are chipping in with the shopping and prep work. It's like having a virtual supper club, except that you really get to eat the results. This is available for the iPad, iPhone, and Android.
For those who enjoy eating out, here is an app that can help you make your food choices. You can share dishes that you've eaten at various restaurants, get tips on what other folks have enjoyed at their favorite haunts, and see what might be some options for dining wherever you might be. This is a great way to get some suggestions for cities and neighborhoods where you might not be as familiar with the dining options. They also pull together recommendations from some of the top food guides, including Tasting Table, Anthony Bourdain, and Zagat, so you can get opinions from a variety of resources to help you decide what you will do for your next meal away from home. This is available on iPhone and Android
Another resource for tracking your restaurant reviews and resource lists to create mini dining guides is this site. You can type in a wide range of criteria (I like the one about number of subway lines you want to take.) to come up with a list of choices that match and then see what other folks have had to say about dining at them. Additional lists that have been created by magazines and other guides are also available for viewing.
This is a great wine app for the iPhone, so I'm glad that I'm soon going to be getting one of these devices. Have you ever been at a wine tasting or restaurant and wanted to remember what was that fabulous vintage that you sampled? In those settings, it's probably a bit gauche to tear off the label for your files. After a few glasses, those photos you took with your camera phone are also a bit blurry. If you're like me, the other way you handle this is to write down the information on some piece of paper, never to remember where it is or what you did with it. This will take care of all of that for you. This will help you browse for selections, find a store where you can buy it, and help you manage your own personal wine library.
Gourmet Live (http://live.gourmet.com/)
Along with many other members of the food-lovers community, I was sad when Gourmet magazine folded its print edition in 2009. I have so many fond memories and great recipes from this publication. I'd heard a while back that all was not lost for this iconic brand, however, as it was going to be re-born in an on-line version. As the representative at last night's event put it, this is the digital re-imagining of the magazine. I actually think that she was being modest, as to me this is the one app that would have made me keep the iPad that I ended up returning (too expensive, didn't really do what I needed it to do). I love this app. It is flexible, timely, and combines great stories with useful tips and menu ideas, as well as the ability to get more information at your fingertips. Content is updated weekly with new stories and recipes as well as old favorites pulled from the print magazine's archive.
Overall, this was a fantastic event. I got to see some people with whom I hadn't caught up in a while, get to know some newer contacts, and to meet some new food media folks. I love seeing what new technology can bring to the world of recipes and ingredient resources, so this was a perfect fit for my areas of interest. Thanks so much to 4Food for hosting it (I need to get over there for lunch someday.) and to Danielle Gould, Emily Cavalier, and Brian Quinn and Jonny Cigar (great idea to come to us with the wine last night, as we were all chatting away downstairs!) for pulling this all together. I look forward to the next one and to see what is going on in the Food + Tech movement.