The Food Lover's Guide to Paris Has Gone High Tech: There's an App for That

The indispensable guidebook to Paris by French food authority Patricia Wells is The Food Lover's Guide to Paris. Wells knows exactly where to find the flakiest croissants, the essential bistros, the most knowledgeable wine merchants, the richest, darkest chocolates, the most sublime cheeses, the earthiest charcuterie, the sturdiest copper pots, the cheeriest cafes and the crusty loaf that all of Paris adores.

The guide was originally published in 1984 and is now in its fourth printing, with the latest update having been done in 1999. I imagine Paris has changed a lot since then. And with her newest update, Wells has gone high-tech. The Food Lover's Guide to Paris is now an app offered for $4.99. It became available in April.

An internationally acclaimed authority on French cuisine, award-winning cookbook writer, and restaurant critic for France's weekly International Herald Tribune, Wells knows a thing or two about food in Paris. And what she knows she shares in The Food Lover's Guide to Paris -- the book Bon Appétit calls "a must for every food lover" -- and in her new iPhone App.

Who wants to go to Paris and carry around a 430-page book when you need your hands free for carrying baguettes and stinky cheese and gesturing very French-like? Now you can just pull out your iPhone, click on the app and figure out all you need to get to a great bistro, kitchen shop, chocolatier or patisserie and then put your phone away. So much simpler than lugging the book -- save the book for pre-planning at home.

Wells samples, reviews, updates all vital statistics -- and drops those that have disappointed. She tells us what is new and wonderful, what is old and still trustworthy, what will make us shake our heads with amazement and what will comfort us with the knowledge that what we loved 20 years ago we can return to today. And it's all in a new format -- as an app for the iPhone, also compatible with the iPad and iTouch. For BlackBerry and Android users, the wait will be a bit longer. Those smartphone platforms are a future challenge that she will tackle later.

Over the past 15 months, Wells has been visiting, revisiting and testing the best of culinary Paris, and the result is a user-friendly app that includes more than 350 favorite addresses, from restaurants, cafes and wine bars to the best in cheese shops, bakeries, pastry shops, chocolate shops, markets and specialty shops. Features include color-coded pins and GPS locations to guide you to the best spots nearby as you wander the city. You can browse by category or neighborhood, and if you're just looking for a place for a quick late-night bite, you can find it quickly. You will be able to call establishments, link to their Web sites and even find directions. Color photos are included for most destinations. The app also features her popular A-Z glossary of French culinary terms. Wells hasn't just dropped into Paris to do a whirlwind trip. The former restaurant critic has been living in Paris and writing about food in the city and all of France for some three decades. She knows her stuff.

Paris is not the kind of city where you can just wander into any restaurant and get a good meal. You have to have the right addresses. And except for casual wine bars and the occasional bistro, you have to reserve ahead.

The layout of Wells's app is clean and serviceable, and maybe more photos will come with time. The great thing about apps is that they can be easily updated. I look forward to her updates and breaking in my app someday very soon.

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Patrise Shuttlesworth