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Food Resources on the Web

Whether you’re looking for that perfect special-occasion restaurant or interested in getting an inside view of the food industry, check out some favorite online food-related resources to whet your appetite.

Everyone is likely familiar with the omnipresent Zagat guides. At meal time, these little red books have become indispensable to lawyers, investment bankers and consultants alike. However, I desire more information than the small blurb Zagat offers when I am faced with the task of choosing a restaurant. I want a more candid discussion of the restaurant. What should I order? How do the waiters/waitresses handle unusual requests? What’s drinking well on the wine list? For these answers and more, I turn to Chowhound (www.chowhound.com) and e-Gullet (www.egullet.com).

Chowhound and e-Gullet are two of the largest on-line discussion boards about anything and everything related to food. In addition to restaurant reviews, they offer restaurant suggestions for every conceivable occasion, the best places to source hard-to-find ingredients and other general cooking tips. The discussion boards are organized by geography and/or topic, and both sites include specific sections on Boston and New England. Accessing all this information is completely free and if you are willing to provide an email address to register, you can chip in with your two cents, too. Be warned, though, these boards can be a very powerful tool for procrastination, especially when cases are demanding to be read.

After making an informed restaurant choice, the next task is to make a reservation. Instead of dealing with rude reservationists or having to confirm and then re-confirm reservations, I rely on Open Table (www.opentable.com). This free online tool has made securing reservations infinitely better. The site allows diners to search for reservations by location, date or even party size. Changes and cancellations are available via email and are instantaneous. There is also the opportunity to earn “dining points” for serial diners, which are redeemable at certain restaurants. One drawback is that Open Table does not list every restaurant. However, the list is growing and there are currently over 200 restaurants listed in the Boston and New England area, which should provide students more than enough possibilities.

Two final sites worth mentioning to interested foodies are Waiter Rant (www.waiterrant.net) and Diner’s Journal (dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com). In my opinion, these are two of the more interesting food-related blogs out there. Waiter Rant is exactly as the title suggests-an anonymous waiter’s rants and musings about life in the trenches. His posts are often humorous and provide an interesting perspective on what it is like to be on the other side of the dining experience. Diner’s Journal, written by Frank Bruni, the New York Times restaurant critic, contemplates a variety of food related topics. These include the latest trends in restaurant cooking, dealing with a rude maitre d’ or proper tip etiquette. Making for an enjoyable read, Mr. Bruni’s posts often elicit comments from his readers, to which he dutifully responds.

Until next time, happy eating (and food-related surfing)!

October 3, 2006
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