The best food and drink apps
Whether you’re navigating the cheese counter or scouting the choicest slab of heritage bacon, make your smartphone or tablet work for you. TONY breaks down the coolest apps to download now.
Wed Mar 21 2012
The Better Bacon Book: Make, Cook, and Eat Your Way to Cured Pork Greatness
Available for iPad, $4.99.
Good for: Meatheads
What it does: Bacon has dominated the food world’s attention for the past few years, and this gorgeous new iPad “book” is another stirring piece of propaganda for the porcine delicacy. In addition to ogling pancetta porn and searching through recipes from boldfaced chefs like Zak Pelaccio (Fatty ’Cue) and Fred Morin (Montreal’s Joe Beef), you’ll find a deep stash of expert advice. All-star butcher Tom Mylan (the Meat Hook) is featured in eye-opening how-to videos that range from building your own smoker to making homemade Canadian bacon and guanciale. Ari Weinzweig—cofounder of Ann Arbor, Michigan’s legendary speciality-food purveyor, Zingerman’s—provides tips on buying the best cured-pork products, which you can purchase instantly from his renowned mail-order service.
Test drive: With its stunning visuals and smart layout, this bacon-lover’s bible offers a glimpse into how tablets are reinventing the cookbook genre. Mylan’s videos make the prospect of constructing a trash-can smoker a lot less intimidating than you would guess, and we loved tapping around an interactive diagram to learn more about hocks, jowls and other piggy parts.
Available for iOS and Android, free.
Good for: Brewhounds
What it does: Think Foursquare for suds obsessives, and you’ve got a pretty good sense of how this social-networking app works: Users keep tabs on what they’re drinking by “checking in” to brews, then adding optional details like star ratings, tasting notes and where they found the beer. As you sample more, you can rack up shareable badges such as “I Believe in IPA!” and “Weekday Warrior.”
Test drive: While minor bugs can make searching for specific beers a tad clunky at times, the app provides valuable real-time insight into what’s hot on the brew market. To wit: When we noticed that Tröegs Nugget Nectar—a cultish, limited-release seasonal—was trending in NYC, we made a beeline for the nearest check-in for a taste of the brew in question.
Available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Kindle Fire; free. Nook Color, $4.99.
Good for: Home cooks
What it does: Condé Nast’s widely lauded recipe aggregator has been smartly repurposed for mobile users, offering on-the-go access to a vast archive of professionally tested recipes from magazines like Bon Appétit and the late Gourmet, as well as from a host of celebrity toques. With its robust search functionality and ability to instantly collate the recipes you’ve selected into a grocery list, the app takes the stress out of deciding what to make for dinner.
Test drive: Though we still have a soft spot for glossy coffee-table cookbooks, Epicurious wins when it comes to everyday usability. We found ourselves perusing the iPhone version for inspiration while navigating Whole Foods—something that would never be feasible with a fat copy of The Essential New York Times Cookbook weighing us down.
Available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone; free.
Good for: Food-truck fanatics
What it does: If you’ve ever found yourself wandering the streets of Manhattan wishing you knew where the hell the closest Korean taco truck was parked, this free app is a no-brainer download. The concept is simple: As soon as a truck updates its location on Twitter, its logo shows up on the map; from there, you can easily pull up the text of the tweet, which often contains hours, daily specials and other useful info.
Test drive: On the way home from dinner one night, we fired up Tweat.it in the hopes of finding some dessert. A quick look on the map revealed a Wafels & Dinges truck four blocks north—within minutes, we were snacking on a Belgian waffle coated in gooey spekuloos spread. Thanks, technology.
Speakeasy Cocktails: Learn from the Modern Mixologists
Available for iPad, $9.99.
Good for: Cocktail geeks
What it does: Local mixology aces Jim Meehan (PDT) and Joseph Schwartz (Little Branch) are the stars of this interactive bartending manual. The app is packed with lush photographs and videos of the two pros demonstrating techniques such as rimming a glass with salt and cutting a twist. Aspiring drink-slingers can browse 200 highly searchable recipes, including “Master Drinks” that work with any base spirit, as well as classic quaffs and new standards from other renowned bartenders.
Test drive: We love the integration of the various types of content—it’s a seamless journey from a primer about brandies to a recipe for a classic pisco sour, which also includes an instructional video about speckling the drink’s frothy head with bitters. There are also plenty of cool features to dig into when you’re not mixing: a history of the speakeasy, a buyer’s guide to home-bar essentials with links to retailers and a map of pedigreed cocktail joints to visit in North America, Europe and Australia.
Available for iOS and Android, free.
Good for: Sushi lovers
What it does: Created by California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, this sustainable seafood guide lets you know which species you can eat with a clear conscience and which should be avoided due to overfishing and other ecological concerns. As you search for intel on wild-caught Alaskan halibut (good) and Atlantic shad (bad), you’ll find plenty of well-researched—and distressing—info about the state of our oceans.
Test drive: Before ordering at a local sushi joint, we checked our order against the app’s “Sushi Guide” feature, which indexes common items on Japanese menus. While most of our choices were in the green zone, we decided to skip the unagi rolls after reading a report about the pressures that farming freshwater eels puts on already-threatened wild populations.
Bread Baking Basics
Available for iOS, Kindle Fire and Nook; $1.99.
Good for: DIY bakers
What it does: Noted cookbook author Michael Ruhlman (The Elements of Cooking) follows up his excellent Ratio app—a handy tool for balancing basic ingredients in everything from cake batters to sausages—with this easy-to-use bread-making manual. The genius of the app’s recipes lies in their adaptability: Whether you’re making a whole-wheat baguette or a rye boule, you can easily customize variables based on how many loaves you want to make, how you want to mix your dough (with a mixer or by hand) and how you like to measure ingredients (cups, ounces and so forth).
Test drive: The step-by-step, photo-driven instructions are easy to follow, and the reference section is helpful for brushing up on baking fundamentals, bread types and kitchen tools.
Available for iPhone, free.
Good for: Coffee nerds
What it does: The Chicago roaster brings its renowned nerdiness straight to your iPhone, providing an up-to-date, highly searchable rundown of the company’s cultish offerings. Read the backstories of different beans and learn about concepts such as Direct Trade and in-season coffee (single-origin varieties that are within nine months of their harvest).
Test drive: We like to sleep around when it comes to getting our caffeine fix, especially in this golden age of artisanal coffee. But even when we weren’t using Intelligentsia beans, we found the app equipped with useful tools for home brewing, including a straightforward timer and illustrated tutorials to help you hone your technique on French presses and Chemex coffeemakers.
Available for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone; free.
Good for: The gastro-paparazzi
What it does: Tech pundits have described this increasingly popular service as Pandora for foodies, though it may remind you of Instagram as well. The crowd-sourced city guide allows users to photograph and share specific plates around town—the pork buns at Momofuku, say, or the salted-caramel cupcakes at ChikaLicious. The result is a visual smorgasbord of dishes that you can sort by the type of food you’re craving, your location and even your dietary restrictions. If you don’t trust the masses, look to lists curated by pros like Anthony Bourdain and Slice founder Adam Kuban.
Test drive: Despite our misgivings about the photo-snapping frenzy that has infiltrated the dining scene, Foodspotting adds an appealing see-it, eat-it immediacy to the task of navigating NYC’s endless grub options. We also like the app’s potential to unearth under-the-radar finds (a surprisingly great burger, a killer sundae) at restaurants that we might have otherwise ignored based on reviews from Yelp and the like.
Available for iPhone, $2.99.
Good for: Cheese enthusiasts
What it does: It’s easy to distinguish your Beaufort from your Mimolette with this library at your fingertips. Search through more than 750 cheeses by region, milk type and texture; each entry includes a brief background, a photo and tips for wine pairing. If you’re looking for a way to keep track of what you’ve tried, you have the option to keep a running list with ratings and tasting notes.
Test drive: While there are other handy curd apps out there (Cheese Plate, for example, provides themed tastings, curated by food journalist Janet Fletcher), Fromage works well as a no-frills pocket guide. The content, aggregated from websites like fromages.com and igourmet.com, is straightforward and dependable, and developer Steve Welch has been steadily adding more regional varieties with each new edition of the app.