Shopping at Talin is an adventure. There are so many items I’ve never seen before—especially produce—that I often buy fruit identified only by the label on the bin. When I get home, I look it up in The Cook’s Thesaurus: foodsubs.com.
The thesaurus is one of dozens of websites that have expanded my food universe. It’s a cooking encyclopedia that provides pictures, definitions, brief descriptions and cooking uses for thousands of foods, as well as info on kitchen tools. It’s helped me to identify beans, substitute a missing ingredient and learn why foods are compatible—or not.
One of my favorite magazines is Cook’s Illustrated, which has an excellent website at cooksillustrated.com. I like the magazine so much, I pay its nominal subscription fee to access recipes, well-researched kitchen appliance reviews and instructional videos online. The site lets me build a recipe box of favorites, which I use frequently. It’s a lot easier than sifting through the hundreds of recipes I keep in binders.
The Great British Kitchen (greatbritishkitchen.co.uk) is an eye-opener. British gastronomy in every aspect—history, regional specialties and a trove of recipes—is laid out in a very accessible format. The chutney recipes are a gold mine of flavors and variety.
One of the advantages of the web is its international reach. If I want to try something from a particular region, all I have to do is type the name of the place and “recipes” or “cuisine” or “chefs.” My friend Beena recommended Manjula’s Kitchen (manjulaskitchen.com). She finds the recipes to be authentic to India and the videos easy to follow. It’s a terrific resource for vegetarian dishes with some spice.
Epicurious.com is the 800-pound gorilla of food sites. This web presence of Bon Appétit and Gourmet (R.I.P.) magazines has it all for the serious gastronome. This site, like many other sites that offer recipes, has a recipe box for favorites. But Epicurious.com goes a step further and lets users submit their own recipes and comments. Cooks chime in to say how the recipe worked for them, plus any worthwhile variations they tried.
It’s easy to keep up with world-class chefs on the net. The French Laundry’s Thomas Keller maintains active Facebook accounts for himself and Bouchon. The chef regularly posts photos of special meals and restaurant events. It strikes an oddly familiar tone to see the daily activities of larger-than-life food personalities who, otherwise, would go about the business of creating great meals with us none the wiser.
The Alibi's own Chowtown (alibi.com/chowtown), now available for smartphone, is my go-to site for planning a meal out. A handy search gives me the restaurant name, a brief profile, location, cuisine, dietary restrictions, links to menus and maps, price range—even the nearest movie theater, if you're thinking about dinner and a movie. Readers are encouraged to add comments and reviews.
No matter what your interests in food—whether you want to find Chinese takeout or the origins of espresso—just tickle the keys and you’ll get it on the web.