Sites for sore eyes

Ed Charles sorts the wheat from the chaff in the wide world of food web­sites

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

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? 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. 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.­pair­ 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.tastespot­ 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.­and­food­ 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.ur­ 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.type­ 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.­server/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. Mel­bourne-based Ed Charles blogs at­

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