Tag Archives: Phone Apps

2011 Food App Award Winners

image via National Post

Talk about understatement.
Do you cook? There are apps to plan a menu, find a recipe, convert to metric, shop ethically, analyze nutritional content, pair a wine, and donate your leftovers to a soup kitchen. Maybe you feel  like eating out. You can get cuisine- and location-based restaurant suggestions, read reviews, book a table, preview the daily specials, map your route, figure the tip, and calculate the excercycle mileage that will burn off the meal.
There are food apps for travelers, for fans of street food, and apps that will let you know when to take a cake out of the oven. They stop short of washing the dishes for you, but there is a house cleaning hypnosis app that promises dishwashing enjoyment through the power of suggestion.

The food app category has grown so large that it has its own, dedicated awards. Toque, the online magazine of food journalism, has just announced the first annual Food App Award winners. Entries came from multinational media giants, independent web designers, and everything in between. They were judged on creativity, technical excellence, and the ability to solve a problem (that we often didn’t even know we had until the app came along).

Here are this year’s winners:



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Dirty Bathroom, Dirty Kitchen: a.k.a. The Potty Post

image via MyDoorSign.com

Talk about an appetite killer.
We’ve all been there. Literally. The dirty restaurant bathroom that makes us wonder about the kitchen. If they couldn’t be bothered to keep the bathroom clean…

A recent poll by Cintas, a provider of restroom supplies to the restaurant industry, found that 79% of respondents would avoid a restaurant if they knew the bathrooms were dirty. 88% of them agreed that the state of the restrooms says something about the kitchen’s hygiene, and 94% said if they personally encountered bathroom nastiness, they wouldn’t return.

Looking beyond the yuck factor
Clearly there’s spillover in our minds, but there is actually no hard data to support a connection between a dirty bathroom and a dirty kitchen. According to Douglas Powell, professor of food safety at Kansas State University and publisher of the BarfBlog, health inspectors will take note of the general state of a restaurant restroom and include impressions and any obvious violations in the report, but they don’t pull out the swabs and test kits like they do in the kitchen. Professor Powell is a big believer in the power of hand-washing to compensate for other inadequacies, and recommends that customers speak up if there’s no soap or hot water, or if they see slipshod washing by restaurant workers.

We rate the chefs, the ambiance, our favorite dishes; why not the bathrooms?
That’s the question asked by the developers of Bestroom, a new smartphone app that helps you find and rate restrooms in restaurants, Starbucks, and other public places.

Another start-up, although I’m not holding my breath for this IPO, is CLOO’. Short for community plus loo (with an apostrophe mark to represent a GPS marker), CLOO’ is a location-based social media app that gives you a private option when the public restroom is unacceptable or unavailable. CLOO’ searches through your social networks to locate potential, nearby hosts who, for a small fee, will allow you to drop by and relieve yourself in their bathrooms. The company calls this “turning a stranger’s loo into a friend of a friend’s loo;” what would you call it?

Cintas, the company behind the poll, gives an annual award for America’s Best Bathroom. Winners receive a plaque and a permanent spot in the Cintas Hall of Fame. Previous winners have been found in hotels and restaurants, a casino, a college, and the Fort Smith, Arkansas regional airport. This year’s nominees included an eco-friendly Brooklyn Cuban restaurant that flushes its toilets with reclaimed rainwater, a Las Vegas casino men’s room with urinals set into authentic, graffiti-covered sections of the Berlin Wall, and a Presidential porta-potty made for Barack Obama’s inauguration. You can find this year’s and past years’ winners at America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame.



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The Fish of the Sea

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:28

So how’s that dominion thing working out for you?

There’s nothing like a perch at the top of the food chain.
We’ve got the handy opposable thumbs and complex forebrains, and when it comes to a fish dinner, we’ve made the most of them. We’ve developed a taste for predators—tuna, salmon, swordfish, cod—all the high-protein, high-fat fish that are enriched by their own diets of feeder fish.

The traditional food chain concept taught us that the sun makes plankton that’s eaten by the crustaceans that are eaten by small forager fish; those are eaten by small predator fish, which in turn are eaten by larger predators and mammals.

We’ve since learned that the food chain concept is too simplistic. The oceans are full of picky herbivores, cross-over omnivores, and predators that double as prey. The new terminology is ‘food web,’ a more holistic approach that explains the complex interconnectedness of ocean species. Mess with one marine relationship and you’re messing with them all, plus a whole host of habitats and ecosystems. But you know us and our dominion—of course we’ve been messing.

Here’s what our taste for striped bass and red snapper has done:
The large predator fish we’re so fond of are in steep decline from overfishing. Popular species like cod, swordfish, and tuna have dropped by 90% in the past 50 years, their very existence threatened with extinction. With their natural predators disappearing, wild forage fish populations have exploded, and with too many foragers gobbling up the krill, there’s nothing to feed on the plankton. Now we’re seeing vast and unseasonable plankton ‘blooms’ turning swaths of the oceans into a plant-laden green soup that sucks out all the oxygen and wreaks havoc on ecosystems.

Hang on to those fish forks.
The best way to rebalance the oceans is to eat around the food web—fewer of the top predators and more from the burgeoning population of forager fish like sardines, herring, and anchovies.
Eat prey, not predators.

Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium has recommendations and recipes for ocean-friendly fish, available online and as a mobile app.


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How Big is Your Water Footprint?

Who knows their water footprint?
You know about your carbon footprint, that it looks at the impact of your day-to-day life on the environment by measuring the greenhouse gases produced as a result of your activities. Your water footprint takes the same kind of look at water usage.

The water footprint concept just hasn’t gotten the same kind of attention. Maybe it’s because fresh water is so commonplace and ubiquitous, at least in the developed parts of the world, that it’s easy to forget what an incredibly valuable resource it is. But we can’t afford to forget. Here in the U.S., where water is generally plentiful and well-managed, water managers in 36 states anticipate periodic water shortages over the next 3 years.

Americans are the water hogs of the planet.
That should come as no surprise, given our resource track record. It takes 1,800 gallons of water a day to keep each of us afloat, the vast majority going toward the production of the food we eat. On average, each of us uses water at twice the world-wide rate. Typical usage in China is less than 500 gallons a day per person, and even much of Europe uses less than 1000 gallons a day per person.

When you drink a 12 ounce cup of coffee in the morning, you’re actually gulping down 37 gallons of water when you account for the growing, processing, and transportation of  the coffee beans before they even got to the local roaster. A glass of wine at the end of the day? It takes 57 gallons of water to produce just 8 ounces of chardonnay.

The worst culprit of all is beef. Dairy products, poultry, pork—they’re all heavyweights—but nothing guzzles water like an industrially-raised, grain-fed cow. It takes more than 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, mostly due to the ton of grain the cow has eaten by the time it gets to market.

Of course it is not simply the amount of water that’s used, but where the water is located. It takes about 500 gallons of water to produce a single bag of peanut M&Ms, and only 50 gallons to produce a jar of spaghetti sauce. The cocoa and peanuts are grown in temperate zones with high rainfalls, while tomatoes need heavy irrigation to grown in their typically warm and dry climates. This makes the pasta sauce much more likely to contribute to water scarcity.

Know your water footprint. National Geographic has an online calculator that tallies your personal usage based on home, garden, diet, and energy practices.

At Water Footprint.org, you can explore a water footprint database of 132 countries, and a footprint gallery of food products.



Posted in food knowledge, sustainability | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Wondering About Wonder Bread

image by Diane Witman via Word It

Yes, Wonder Bread is still around.

It’s an iconic brand; a slice of genuine Americana. It exists somewhere between comfort food and ironic pop artifact in our collective nostalgia.

Bleached and puffy, spongy and glutenous, Wonder Bread has long been celebrated for its texture and elasticity. A lunch box favorite, generations of mothers have appreciated the resilience of the smooth, glassine-like surface of each slice, never tearing as peanut butter or mayonnaise is applied. Schoolchildren have always enjoyed squishing and imaginatively molding the bread, reducing each dough-conditioned, texturized slice to to just a few marble-sized bits, a full loaf to a baseball-sized wad. […]

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Eating Halal

Halal is to Muslims what kosher is to Jews.

Like the Jewish system of kashrut, halal has its roots in scripture. The Koran defines the Muslim system of dining, proscribing what and can not be eaten (most notably pork and alcohol) and the ritual slaughter of animals for consumption.

After years of ignoring the halal sector, there is a surge of interest from mainstream food producers and chefs.

The world’s Muslim population numbers 1.6 billion, and they are a younger and (in some places) wealthier group than ever before. The market for halal food is estimated to be more than $600 billion annually. This buying power has transformed a formerly small-scale local and regional network into one that has captured the attention of non-Muslim multinationals. The food manufacturer Nestlé, international supermarket chain Tesco, and fast food giant McDonald’s are now the biggest players in the halal economy. […]

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Does This Smell Funny to You?


Keep it or toss it?

Expiration date
Best if used by
Sell by

It must be a government agency in action. Probably the FDA or maybe the USDA or the Agriculture Department. But there’s some authority providing oversight and guaranteeing our food’s safety, right?

Guess again. […]

Posted in food business, food safety | Tagged , | 1 Comment

U.S. Government Gets 2 Million Fortune Cookies


No, it wasn’t one hell of a takeout order.

The cookies are part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s effort to reach various ethnic populations. The Bureau ordered two million custom cookies from a fortune cookie factory in Seattle’s Chinatown. Crack one open and the fortune reads Put down your chopsticks and get involved in Census 2010, or one of the other four messages exhorting us to fill out and return our census forms. The cookies will be available this spring in Chinese restaurants throughout the Northwest. […]

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Cyber Cheese



Milk’s leap toward immortality.

We do like our cheese. Not as much as they do over in Europe, but here in the U.S. we are eating more cheese than ever. We are also eating better cheese, turning away from highly processed products and toward natural and artisan-made varieties. We are showing a growing interest in style and variety, seeking out regional farmstead cheeses as well as cheese produced organically and from different milk blends.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than online, where age-old traditions meet new technology. […]

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Spending a Bundle? See how you stack up.


Are you a dine-now-pay-later Life-a-holic? A first-on-the-scene Thrill Jockey angling for the hottest table in town? Or more of a Proud Provider, cooking dinners at home so you can feather the nest?

Bundle is a new social-media website for personal money management that puts you in touch with your inner spender. It’s a joint venture of Microsoft MSN, Citigroup, and the investment research folks at Morningstar that in their minds offers information and tools to help people spend more wisely, but to the rest of us it’s a chance to see how the other half really lives. And eats. […]

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Gourmet Magazine: the aftermath


Where are they now?

When Conde Nast pulled the plug on Gourmet Magazine, none were more shocked than the magazine’s 180 employees who were cleaning out their desks as we were reading news of the closure in the morning paper. They were cut loose along with the employees of more than 450 other magazines and countless newspapers that folded in 2009. But a stint at Gourmet is something special on a resume, and many former staffers have resurfaced in new and notable capacities. […]

Posted in Entertainment, food business, phone applications | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Tweet ‘n Eat

image courtesy of City Food Magazine

image courtesy of City Food Magazine

Are you a Twitter skeptic?

Have you been slow to warm to the charms of microblogging?
We all know the pitfalls: the time-sucking potential; the relentless stream of random messages; the trivial, navel-gazing quality of too many tweets.

It’s time to stop blaming the messenger! […]

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A Bone of Contention

Infographic courtesy of Good Magazine

Just try to sort out the information on fish.

It’s undeniably healthy: low in saturated fats, high in essential fatty acids, and an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, and trace minerals. But what kind of fish can you eat without worrying about mercury, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, dioxins, furans, PBDEs, and other nasty contaminants? And what about dwindling fish stocks and damaged habitats from unsustainable fishing practices

There are some basic guidelines that you can follow to help pick seafood that is healthy and sustainable: […]

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Augmented reality takes Yelp’s new phone app to the next level

photo courtesy of Metro Macs Kansas City

photo courtesy of Metro Macs Kansas City

Think of reality as a spectrum. On one end, we have the real world. At the other end is the computer-generated environment of virtual reality. Augmented reality falls somewhere in the middle, with real-time, computer-generated audio, video, and other sense enhancements superimposed on the physical world. […]

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The New Word of Mouth: Food Apps


It took nearly 4 decades for radio to reach 50 millions users and 13 years for television to reach that mark. Contrast that with today when Apple can sell 50 million iPods every 6 months, Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months, and 1 billion iPhone applications were downloaded from Apple’s iTunes’ App Store in its first 9 months. […]

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