Sites for sore eyes
Ed Charles sorts the wheat from the chaff in the wide world of food websites
Harold McGee: Not everybody wants to know how to cook an octopus. But many of us want to know the difference between cheap frying pans and expensive ones, how and what to cook in a microwave and why cool-climate Victorian shiraz smells of pepper. McGee, author of the brilliant On FoodandCooking:The ScienceandLoreoftheKitchen , is the doyen of food science writers and gives us all these answers and more in this archive of his articles written for TheNewYork Times . Want to know why you need vodka to batter a fish? www.curiouscook.com. Michael Ruhlman: This co-author of the TheFrench LaundryCookbook and the opinionated TheElements ofCooking sorts through the dross to bring us the best of online food commentary. It was Ruhlman who introduced me to the term gastrosexual’’, the kind of person who buys a Porsche kitchen and an $1800 Thermomixer. It is Ruhlman who tells us which cookbooks are worth reading and using. It is he who points us to good advice about simple ingredients; water, for instance: Please know that your food, 90 per cent of the time, will taste better if you use tap water instead of that good quality’’ canned broth. Water is a miracle.’’ He also serves up a decent list of US-based chef blogs. http://blog.ruhlman.com. Food pairing: If you’ve ever been served strawberries with peas, it is quite possible this Belgian site is to blame. It plots neat charts of the common flavour components of 250 ingredients. According to this site, basil tastes of basil because it contains a combination of linalool and estragol. A basil-like flavour can be approximated using other ingredients containing these chemicals. For example, coriander contains linalool and tarragon estragol. It is fun, as long as the family doesn’t have to eat the resulting matches, banana and mussels being a case in point. www.foodpairing.be. Tastespotting: Launched in January 2007, the idea behind Tastespotting is that we eat first with our eyes’’. What it serves up is pure food porn with usersubmitted images that link to food blogs and sites covering pretty much anything to do with food. It is run and moderated by Los Angeles-based food blogger Sarah J. Gim and is a great way to find new sites. It led me to the page for the dubious-looking baconnaise, a bacon-flavoured mayonnaise that, unlike Tastespotting, is probably best avoided. www.tastespotting.com. Wine and Food Tube: This Melbourne-based site aggregates the best of food and wine video from YouTube. It lists the most popular and most recently posted and has a simple navigation through 10 broad categories, including the inevitable celebrity chefs. Watch out for local talent posting on here. www.wineandfoodtube.com. The Old Foodie: Self-confessed food history junkie Janet Clarkson has been writing 400 words a day since October 2005 on some of the most eccentric and interesting food topics. Some of the Brisbane-based blogger’s posts are simply instructive or entertaining; others give old recipes or useful advice, such as this gem from Pierre Taittinger, founder of the French Champagne house, on determining when a camembert is ripe for eating: You put your left index finger on your eye and your right index finger on the cheese. If they sort of feel the same, the cheese is ready.’’ www.theoldfoodie.blogspot. com. Urbanspoon iPhone application: A recent arrival to Sydney and Melbourne, Urbanspoon is a usergenerated restaurant review site that aggregates other people’s reviews. On the iPhone it is the coolest and most intuitive way to find a restaurant near you. First, the application geolocates you. Shake the phone and three pokie-like wheels spin and choose a restaurant at random by location, cuisine and cost. The application will also list restaurants near the user by distance. No wonder 50 times more people use the iPhone for web browsing than any other mobile device. Free from the iPhone application store or online. www.urbanspoon.com. Stickyrice: You can almost smell the lemongrass on Stickyrice, the three-year-old blog of Melbourne expat Mark Lowerson. He eats pho for breakfast and bun cha for lunch across Vietnam’s Hanoi. Check out the Hanoi Pho swoop category for his top 20: I’ve sucked them up all over town. Up alleys, down lanes, in gutters, next to churches, with exhaust fumes puffing in my face, with a granddad coughing his last bark in a bed right next to me. Pho knows no boundaries in Hanoi. There was talk of some mythical scrap of paper known to some as the Hanoi Pho Map. It hasn’t materialised. I’ve abandoned that search. Its urban-legend status remains unchanged.’’ He’s currently writing Stickyrice The Book: Essential Eats in Hanoi. Warning: this blog may contain images of decapitated animals. www.stickyrice.typepad.com. Observer Food Monthly: On this British newspaper’s Word of Mouth blog, the politics of food is never far off the agenda. It is only here that you’ll discover why it’s probably worth avoiding Vietnamese-farmed, and often chemically enhanced, prawns. You’ll find Nigel Slater’s excellent recipes and an unhealthy obsession with celebrity chefs, including Gordon Ramsay, Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal et al. Worth checking out for the video of its biting food critic Jay Rayner’s recent trip to El Bulli. www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/foodmonthly. Cake wrecks: This is where cake decorating goes awry and only the spelling mistakes and typographical errors are worse than the lurid and often misapplied icing. As it describes itself: When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong.’’ Surely nothing more needs to be said. www.cakewrecks.blogspot.com. Melbourne-based Ed Charles blogs at www.tomatom.com.