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Nice app

These new smartphone apps-arriving just in time for the new Android rollout-are making food and drink nerds even geekier.
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki
By Heather Shouse |
Launched by, this app puts Cellar Tracker’s massive wine database (670,000 and counting) in the palm of your hand. Basic features include browsing for wines by region or varietal (helpful if you’re standing in the South American section of a wine aisle and don’t know what’s what), as well as staff favorites and a “Daily Sip” column. A Wikipedia-powered wine-terms glossary is helpful for beginners, while a “My Cellar” function lets you store your own tasting notes, hopefully preventing you from returning to that swill you bought on sale. ($3.99; iPhone 3GS)

Local writer (and occasional TOC contributor) Ari Bendersky rolls out an iPhone app this week that offers its members exclusive Chicago dining opportunities. Around 30 participating restaurants (including the Bristol, Spiaggia and Green Zebra) will use the app to send out word of special offers like bargain prix fixes, which #foodie members can jump on by paying 99 cents to reserve a spot. The app download waives the charge for your first three, and the first 250 people to join get a free year of reservations. ($1.99 (includes three free reservations); iPhone 3GS; Android and BlackBerry Storm early 2010)

Word of warning: After playing around with this and other new “augmented reality” (or AR) apps, your previous apps will seem boring by comparison. Using your smartphone’s camera viewfinder and internal compass, NRU pulls up info on restaurants within your range. The interface has a futuristic look to it, but the source of the information (including reviews) is from that old stalwart, Zagat. So use this app for the addresses, but be dubious of the everyman reviews. (Free; Android)

Beer Hero
The promise of this app is to lead beer geeks to (fermented) water by using your current location to find locally brewed beer and nearby brewpubs. This could be pretty useful when traveling, but be warned: We found local search results less than complete (where’s Piece or Metropolitan?). More practical is the “Beer & Meal Optimizer,” which suggests specific beers and more general styles for various foods—helpful when you’re at a restaurant where the server is beer deficient. ($1.99; iPhone 3GS)

Seafood Watch
You’d have to be living under a sunken sub to not know Chilean sea bass is endangered, but what should you order in its place? Seafood Watch, an app from the Monterey Bay Aquarium (a.k.a. the gold standard in sustainable sea advice), breaks down what seafood is the best choice, what’s a good alternative and what to avoid, with detailed explanations of how it arrived at the status. So even if the chef isn’t buying completely responsibly, you can. (Free. iPhone 3GS; Android and BlackBerry Storm early 2010)

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