If you’re looking for a high-tech stocking stuffer for the food lovers on your list, Weekend Edition commentator Bonny Wolf has some suggestions.
Remember menu planning? You take down a bunch of cookbooks, plan the week’s meals and make a shopping list. On paper. All you need today is your smart phone.
There are hundreds of thousands of Web applications, and a lot of them deal with food. Many are free, but some cost a few bucks.
Today's menu planning probably starts with something like Mise en Place, a $3 app that centers around organizing prep tasks like brining the chicken or making stock.
One of the most popular recipe apps is Epicurious with its 28,000 recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit. So if you find Jerusalem artichokes at the market, type it in and you’ll get 30 recipes to consider. And it’s free.
There are loads of recipe sites, including several by celebrity chefs — Jamie Oliver's 20-Minute Meals, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.
There's even help for the night you open the refrigerator and find only sardines and rice from last night's carry-out. Open The Ultimate Recipe Search Tool app and see what it suggests doing with those ingredients. I did it and got something called "Sloppy Sardines."
With Ratio, you can do away with recipes altogether. This app gives ratios for food fundamentals. A batter ratio is equal parts liquid and flour and half that much egg. Then the app calculates how much of each ingredient you need, so — if you remember your phone — you can whip up a batch of biscuits around the campfire.
Locavore lets you know what’s in season and where the closest farmers market is. Then the Harvest app can help you choose what’s freshest and ripest.
Happy Cow lists vegetarian and vegan stores and restaurants, while Ask the Butcher has diagrams showing different cuts of meat and how to cook them.
There are apps that make and organize grocery lists, convert units of measurement, scale recipes up and down, and manage multiple kitchen timers.
Wine Web's e-Marketplace helps plan a trip to Napa. Pair-It matches food with wine. If you want to impress your date, pull up Hello Vino to make it look like you know whether to order a zinfandel or a malbec.
For dining out, the Yelp app has user restaurant reviews. Zagat To Go gives you 45 cities, and if you shake your phone using Urbanspoon, a slot machine image comes up with choices in price, location and type of food.
Where are the food trucks? There’s an app for that. What's the Wait gives the waiting time at your favorite restaurant.
You know all those people taking pictures of their food at restaurants? Some may be uploading those photos to Foodspotting, an app with photos and ratings of good food.
There are apps for restaurant menus, calculating tips, food substitutes and counting calories. Now, if only these phones were smart enough do the dishes.
Bonny Wolf is author of Talking with My Mouth Full and editor of NPR's Kitchen Window.