Tuesday, 19 May 2009

iphone apps for the foodie

I checked out six different iphone applications, using mostly free apps. There are more and more applications geared towards the foodie. Some are based on well-known websites such as Urbanspoon, others are independent. One has to be careful when using one's iphone while cooking, this piece of hardware being temperamental and apt to stick or even stop working unless handled with kid gloves. 

1) Find a restaurant:
Urbanspoon is fun and free.
It will find your 'current location' or you can choose another.
A fruit machine style interface will come up.
On the left you scroll down a wheel to the area, say, Kilburn.
In the middle the type of cuisine, say, Indian.
On the right, how much it costs represented by little pound signs £ for cheap, ££ medium, £££ expensive.
Then you shake it. No, not physically shake the phone as I did first of all, doh!
You press the red 'shake' button, it makes a noise and spins around. 
I chose Kilburn, Indian, medium priced.
It span and gave me Kilburn, Indian, expensive.
It selected the restaurant 'Ruchi', giving  the address and phone number. 
I can then press 'Read Reviews'.
There are two potted reviews: one from Square Meal and the other from the Evening Standard.
I can vote on it myself with the 'I like it' button or even 'write a review'. I also have options to 'add a photo' (of my meal?) or 'tweet it'.
As I've never heard of Ruchi, I was pleased to be directed towards a local restaurant with good reviews.
Also on the home page I can tap 'near me' and get a whole list of restaurants in Kilburn and the surrounding area with percentages for popular places.
Under 'browse' you can search different categories such as nationality of food. Sadly this wouldn't have helped people in the recent 'Eating Eurovision' foodblogathon. It didn't have Israeli restaurants, Lithuanian restaurants or many others.
Still this application is well designed, easy to use, useful and fun.

2) Recipes
Big Oven. Free.
In 'search' I put 'Marmite'. Nothing for 'Marmite'
I try again. 'Edible flowers'.  Five little recipe cards come up. I press on one. 'Johnny Jump Up flowers'. I have no idea what they are. There is no picture. Hmm. I go back. There is an edible flower glossary which describes 'Johnny Jump Up flowers'. Cool.
It's a bit American, the language, the places they got the recipes from, but the app is not bad and could be a boon if you are away from your recipe books or can't remember a recipe.

3) Find a vegetarian restaurant. 
Veg Out. About a quid.
Layout is simple, utilitarian. In settings there are options: Where do you want to find a restaurant? Distance? Filter by diet: Vegan, Vegetarian, Veg-friendly.
It shows a veg-friendly place 'Bake-a-boo' about a mile from where I live. There is a review, a photo of the shop front, a description of what they sell. 
A useful application for vegetarians/vegans as it is so specialised.

4) Drinks.
Drink and Cocktail recipes. Free.
Along the bottom is 'Favourites', 'All Drinks','Categories','Ingredients','Random Drinks'.
I look at 'Ingredients' A wheel pops up with a list of things. Scrolling down I see drink ingredients such as 7-up, Absinthe, Erin cream. Huh?
I want to know more about Erin Cream. But I don't know what to tap. It's not obvious. I press on a few things but that just leads me to 'featured apps'. I try three more times. No good.
Categories has Beer, cocktail, cocoa, Coffee/Tea, Milk/Float/Shakes etc. Pressing on Coffee/Tea gives me a selection of cocktails that contain these ingredients. Pressing again on one of the cocktails gives me the recipe. 
I do a search for 'Marmite' on the All Drinks bit. Nothing. Although I have recently discovered that there is a Marmite cocktail. 'Edible flowers' turns up nothing either. I guess this is a bit rare.

5) Recipes and shopping lists.
Epicurious. Free.
Home page: Weeknight Dinners, Decadent Desserts, Cool Cocktails, Healthy Lunches, Party Snacks, Party cocktails. They like their alliteration.
And below 'Find a recipe'.
I decide to check out Decadent Desserts. But first of all an ad comes up for Visa. 
I 'flick' through. Mostly there are photos. I pick 'Strawberries Romanoff with Creme fraiche Ice cream' cos I'm a bit obsessed with making my own ice cream at the moment. 
Recipe comes up, it's very clear and easy. Except I don't know where to get buttermilk. Again this is targeted towards an American audience.

6) Another recipe application, this time from an independent, smaller company.
Tinykitchen. Free. But there is TinykitchenPro which is almost $4.
Cookbook/home page has categories for different meals and foods. I checked out 'Search' which should have 70,000 recipes. I searched for 'sourdough'. I got a whole list of stuff. It's quite simple, black and white text, no fancy graphics or photos, but does the job.

I have an idea for an iphone foodie application and am starting to compile the data. 


  1. Please tell me, what exactly is a marmite? Being a german boy I have no idea…

  2. Marmite is a dark sticky brown substance that tastes very salty. British people have it on their sandwiches, bread and toast.
    Most Europeans hate it.
    In fact I think anybody wishing to become a citizen, resident or hell, why not, even visit Britain on holiday, should be required to taste and enjoy Marmite at Dover. That'll sort the men from the boys.

  3. Hellepicurious is an American site, but buttermilk is not uniquely American - it's available in every Sainsbury's and Waitrose in the land!

  4. hehe.
    Buttermilk everywhere? I'll have a look.

  5. If I come to London I would like to try it. Never heard of it before I met u on twitter…

  6. you can shake the phone instead of pushing the button!

  7. you can make buttermilk by taking full cream milk and adding either vinegar or lemon juice to it and leaving it for ten mins or so, its brill, especially when in a buttermilk crisis!

  8. May I also suggest our fonefood app to book restaurant deals on your iphone? http://labs.lastminute.com/fonefood/

    We have many deals in London and it's free!

  9. You might also be interested in my Food App, which acts as a Restaurant and Meal Organiser and well as allowing you to search for Restaurants.

    DinnerDate allows you rate your meals and help you plan meals out.



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