Five Exceptional Food Sites

For too long this blog has been mostly about me. So for a change, I'm going to talk about five other food sites that I consider especially noteworthy and worth recommending. Each one of these sites has inspired me, given me ideas, or helped me improve the work I'm trying to do here at Casual Kitchen.

There is an enormous universe of food-related blogs out there. So many, that it’s humbling and exciting at the same time. Think of all the content, photos and vicarious cooking experiences out there just waiting for you to sample—all for free. (I love the long tail!)

1) 101 Cookbooks
This is a long-running blog from Heidi Swanson based on her resolution to stop buying cookbooks and actually start cooking the recipes in the cookbooks she has. A great idea for a blog. And since she’s been at it since early 2003, there are a zillion recipes here to choose from, replete with inspiring photographs.

A quick warning: the recipes here are not what I'd call "casual"--this blog elevates cooking to high art, but with the trade-off that the recipes tend to be more complex, more time-consuming, and involve tougher-to-find ingredients. If you’re looking only for recipes that pass the five easy questions test, this is not the blog for you. But if you’re looking for artistic food ideas and a wide range of ethnic recipes, then spend some time here and learn.

Two of my personal favorite posts here are How to Make Gnocchi like an Italian Grandmother and Dukkah.

2) Chez Pim
What initially drew me into this blog was Pad Thai for Beginners, which I stumbled onto about five months ago. The recipe is involved, even a bit intimidating, but somehow you can tell it is truly authentic. I haven’t made it yet (I’m still working up the courage!), but it’s on my life list of things to do before I die.

Pim’s blog is a wide-ranging mix of subjects: food, recipes, how-to’s, travel, tourism, even restaurant critiques. And this blogger is the real deal, with a solid CV of articles in major magazines. Also, if you want a good starting point to find an extremely high-quality list of other food blogs, take a look at her blogroll here.

3) Homesick Texan
I really like Homesick Texan because she’s the rare mix of a talented writer and a talented photographer. And of course who wouldn’t root for somebody on a quest to find good Tex-Mex in New York City? It's a tougher quest than you'd think.

Take a look at her post on mole sauce—emotional, complex and appetizing all at once. Other favorites of mine include recipes for green salsa, sopapillas, and of course flour tortillas, which contains a one sentence description of a psychological experience we should all be so lucky to have once in a while when cooking: “I found myself just staring at them with a silly grin plastered on my face, amazed at what I had made.”

In the rare instance when I find myself in that joyous cooking state, I usually shout out “this is my finest hour!!”

4) Stickyrice
This is an unusual blog about Hanoi, focusing not on recipes, but on local restaurants and food. It’s so compelling and exotic that it makes me want to live there! This site is also accompanied by stunning photos, as well as many more beautiful photos on a linked flickr page.

Laura and I have limited experience with Vietnamese food, but the one restaurant we do know, we go to whenever we can: the creatively named Vietnam Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. We’ve been going there since the early 1990’s, whenever we visit our old college town. But don’t worry about my inexperience with this cuisine -- I found about this site from a friend who is a genuine Vietnamese person, so it has to be good.

5) Cooking by Numbers
Most of us cook by first looking at recipes in a cookbook, then going to the store to buy the ingredients we need. But what if there was a site that lets you plug in the ingredients and items you already have, and then it gives you a list of recipes you can make with those items?

There's a slightly different version of this problem, that I call The Bachelor's Dilemma: You'd like to cook tonight (at least in theory), but you open your fridge and cupboards and see at most five or six random items in there. What the heck can you make with them?

In both cases, Cooking by Numbers has an answer for you. Click each of the items you have in your fridge and cupboard, and the site will call up recipes in order of relevance to the ingredients you have. Either something pops up that can be made entirely from your ingredients, or you'll be stuck only buying a couple of extra things at the grocery store. Either way, it’s a great starting point for coming up with recipe ideas based on what already you have on hand.


Hopefully you’ll enjoy these blogs and sites as much as I have. I’ll be returning to this theme as I find more exceptional food sites to pass along.

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