Yesterday morning, I paid a visit to the set of Great Day Houston to talk with host Debra Duncan about the best iPhone apps for foodies. (Yes, Duncan is as nice and pretty in person as you'd expect -- maybe even more.)
In the video above, we demonstrated five of my current favorite applications -- including apps to track your craft beer consumption and find local farmers' markets. In today's post, we look at those apps as well as five more.
Of the few "local produce" apps that are out there, Locavore is the strongest (although it still needs a lot of tweaking and some Houston-specific updating). Not only does it allow you to find farmers' markets in your area, it also functions as a guide to what fruits and vegetables you can expect to be in season. It even links to Wikipedia articles and Epicurious recipes for produce with which you may be unfamiliar.
If you've ever been at the grocery store and decided to make something on a whim, this app's for you. With more than 25,000 tested recipes in its database, Epicurious acts as both a cookbook and a shopping guide in one. Just tell it what you want to make and it'll give you a quick and easy shopping list. Also handy for last-minute dinner or party ideas, and I especially like the recipe categories such as "I Can Barely Cook."
That fish you're eating may likely be endangered. Many of the most popular species are. This highly specific albeit useful app from the Monterey Bay Aquarium allows you to find out ahead of time with a simple system that groups fish into three categories: Best Choice, Good Alternative and Avoid. For those fish in the "Avoid" category, Seafood Watch even gives you alternate options and explanations of why those particular fish are in peril.
Excellent for business travelers or anyone who dines out on the run, OpenTable is a quick and effective means of making reservations without even having to pick up the phone. It's as easy as a few swipes on your screen.
If you're a craft beer fan, this app is a must-have. I often try a great beer and forget to write it down for later recollection. With Untappd, you can not only log the beers you try, but rank them and share tasting notes with your friends. I particularly love the feature that allows you to see which brews are trending locally (Saint Arnold, Karbach, etc.) as well as the accumulated ratings for each beer, which are quickly becoming as reliable as those on Beer Advocate.
If you find that taking 10 percent of the total and doubling it -- ta-da! instant 20 percent tip -- to be too difficult for some reason, download one of the many free tip calculator apps out there. There is absolutely no reason to pay for one, however, as you could technically do this for free on your iPhone's calculator. Simple Tip Calculator is the best of the free apps, which also includes a helpful "split check" feature.
Dining out but still counting calories? Keeping a food diary? Simply want to know which menu items at Chili's are healthier than others? Restaurant Nutrition has nearly every chain restaurant you can imagine, along with all of their menu items' nutrition information, updated on a very consistent basis. Handy in particular for business travelers who often get stuck in small towns with few other dining options.
Speaking of counting calories, My Fitness Pal has proven -- so far -- to be my favorite app for doing so. Although it doesn't have all of the restaurant meals listed that Restaurant Nutrition does, its food database is enormous. Even better, it allows you to use your iPhone's camera to scan in barcodes that input the foods directly into the app. My Fitness Pal also allows you to track your exercise, water intake, weight loss and nutritional goals over time and has a notification area that will ping you when it's been too long between updates. It also has a social component that lets you diet with friends or family, even if they're across the country.
Urbanspoon has an elegant solution to the dilemma of dining in unfamiliar territory. It's not just its kitschy, slot machine method of choosing restaurants (by selecting categories and shaking your iPhone) that I like. It's the drag-and-drop interface with Google Maps that has permanently endeared it to me. Simply drag the blue pushpin to where you are, and a host of great restaurants will pop up around you. Hit "list" to see their names, star ratings, menus, contact info and more. Bonus: Urbanspoon links directly to critics' reviews of a restaurant, from Robb Walsh's to Alison Cook's, even to mine.
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