Blog Archives

A New Web Site for Rating and Discovering Airport Food

This would have come in really handy for me a few years ago. There’s a new site available for providing information and reviews on airport eateries. Learn more about airport food at http://www.AirportDining.net.

It seems odd that one of the first menu results is for the top-rated restaurants, because it seems like it doesn’t matter which ones are top-rated — if they’re not on your travel list, they’re not going to be on your list. But anyway. The site’s front page also lists airports from around the world alphabetically, broken out into several sections. I took a look at the Logan airport in Boston.

The page for Logan airport listed 11 places to eat, from Dunkin’ Donuts to UFood Grill. Each listing contains information about the eatery, from the usual (cuisine type, price, which meals it’s appropriate for) to the air-port specific (whether it is pre- or post- security.)

Only a few of the listings had reviews, but the reviews account for several different factors at each eatery (taste, cleanliness, service, etc.) and because of that I can imagine these reviews being really useful as more people review sites.

It would be nice if those with special eating needs (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.) could get some additional guidance from this site, but that doesn’t seem to be part of it. I didn’t see any special dietary notations on any of the listings I looked at. But I could still see how this would come in really handy! Worth a look.

Directory of Food Pantries

Wow, not updating ResearchBuzz until 11 January is not the way I wanted to start my 2011, but better late than never. Anyway, on
with the show. I was going through my information traps and came across a mention of Ample Harvest ( http://ampleharvest.org/ ), a Web site that lists over 3000 Food pantries across the United States. (For the purpose of this Web site, “Food pantries” are defined as sites which distribute food directly to persons who need it, while “Food banks” are those sites which gather food in bulk and distribute it to food pantries and other places that in turn get it to the consumer.) The site is for gardeners to find food pantries to which they can donate overstocks of produce, but there’s enough information on the site to make it useful for people in need or those doing research on social resources.

I did a search for food pantries within 25 miles of 90210. I got about 20 results. Results are presented in a Google Map with a little bit of contact information; click the “More Information and Directions” link and you’ll get a site page, but the information varies depending on how much information the pantry provides. The Burbank Temporary Aid Center, for example, has contact information and donation times, while the Friends In Deed Food Pantry also lists what nonperishable food items are most needed and what items can’t be accepted.

In addition to the pantry information, there’s a brief but well-annotated link list about fighting hunger in the US, and links to all the State Cooperative Extension Web Sites.

Over 600,000 Restaurants in Allergy-Friendly Eats Database

I’m really lucky when it comes to food allergies; I’m not allergic to anything except pineapple on pizza. (Seriously. What are y’all thinking?) But I have lots of friends who aren’t as lucky, which makes eating out a bit of a research project, sometimes. AllergyEats, available at http://www.allergyeats.com/, is trying to build a database of restaurants which have been rated by consumers as to their “allergy-friendliness.” There are chain ratings at the moment, but individual restaurants ratings were hit-and-miss depending on where you were looking. (The site launched earlier this year.)

The interface is simple; choose among ten allergy concerns (peanuts, soy, dairy, wheat, eggs, gluten, etc) and enter your address, or just a state or zip code. You can also choose to enter part of a restaurant name if you like. I choose peanuts, dairy, and wheat, looking for restaurants within a 20-mile radius of 90210. I got 15,606 results. Allergy Eats has top-rated restaurants come to the top of the results (though searching for other places seemed to indicate that the site does not sort by chain ratings if no other ratings are available. Since sometimes there are not individual restaurant ratings available, I would like to be able to sort by chain ratings.)

90210 does have individually-rated restaurants. Top of the list here was Hugos Restaurant. Results are presented in a table that includes name of the restaurant, address, the allergy-friendliness rating (1 to 5 stars) and links to the restaurant’s official Web site, driving directions, etc. (Many of the chain restaurant results also have links to menus, ingredient lists, and documents that provide allergen information.) If you click on the “Details & Comments” button, you’ll get the restaurant’s detail page, which includes some expanded rating information and written reviews from users. (Example from Hugos: “Great!!! The menu had each item marked if it was gluten free and if it could be made gluten free. It was wonderful to be able to order with confidence that the kitchen was aware of gluten.”) Sometimes there were just ratings details and no written reviews.

In addition to the database of restaurants, the site also contains links to tips on dining out, a short linklist, and a blog. You have to be registered to post reviews and comments, but membership is free.

Whether you find individual restaurant reviews depends on your search, but I was very impressed with the infrastructure put together here, and there’s a lot of chain restaurant information. Nice work.

Yahoo Maps Menu Items

A clever idea on the part of Yahoo. In addition to searching for restaurants, you can search for specific items in restaurants when you’re doing a Yahoo search. So if you don’t want just seafood but grilled Tilapia, you have a search option. I like the idea but I got confused a couple of times.

Say I want tiramisu in New York. I would go to Yahoo’s main search engine and just search for tiramisu New York. Yahoo would figure out that I’m looking for food and the result would look like this:

Yahoo gives you a map and a list of restaurants. I picked out the Ninja restaurant right away, went to the Web site, and looked at its menu. Though its dessert listing included the intriguing “Ninja Star,” I could not in fact find a listing for tiramisu. It’s possible that Ninja had it once and no longer has it, I suppose.

I did find tiramisu on the menu at Landmarc, Quintessence, and Lil’ Frankie’s Pizza (I went through the results and picked three to check that looked interesting.) The lesson is doublecheck the menu before you adjust your taste buds and head out.

Be careful how specific you get, too. Halibut in New York got me 169 results, while grilled halibut got me 150, but with a lot of obvious wrong matches… broiled halibut as the menu item with the word grilled somewhere near by, problems like that. So be as specific as you can. I was pleased to see that there were plenty of results even in non-metro areas — Savannah Georgia isn’t nearly as large as New York, but I still found 82 results on a search for oysters.

New Database for Food Legislation

Thanks and a gingerbread man to Slashfood for the pointer to a new database on food legislation from the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Actually there are several resources at the Rudd Center, but let’s start with the database.

The database of US legislation related to food policy and obesity is available at http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/legislation/. Here you can search for legislation, get bill updates, get a list of bills that have been enacted into law, and get details on Congressional lobbying. The search is not a keyword search; instead, it’s a series of drop down menus that allow you to specify a particular state (or Federal legislation) and what issue. Once you’ve specified an issue, you’ll get a list of bills sorted by state. I searched for all legislation related to “Access to Healthy Food” and got around two dozen bills from Alaska to Washington.

Bills have their own pages which include status, summary, sponsor information, and links on the appropriate state’s legislation page. All the status updates I found were from February, March, and April.

If you’re interested in various food legislation issues, poke around the rest of the Rudd Center site. You’ll find a map of soft drink tax legislation (PDF format), podcasts, and policy briefs and reports.

Site Helps You Find and Learn More About Craft Beer

What is it with all the beer sites I’ve been finding lately? I don’t even drink beer. Maybe one day I’ll find a site that covers Craft Root Beer. Anyway, the Brewers Association has put together a Web site to highlight a great deal of information about Craft Beer. It’s called Craft Beer, strangely enough, and is available at http://www.craftbeer.com. There’s a lot to this site but I’m going to focus on what puts it into the category of “online information collections,” which is why it got into ResearchBuzz.

(I didn’t know what craft beer was — beer made from scrapbook materials? — so I looked it up. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbrewery it’s beer made using more traditional methods.)

Looking for a local brewery? Hit the Get Local section of this site. (This section searches breweries in the US but there’s also a place to search for non-US breweries.) You’ll be able to search for breweries by state or by keyword search. I looked for breweries in Minnesota and got a long page of results, from August Schell Brewing Co to Wellingtons Backwater Brewing Co. Listings feature both microbreweries and brewpubs (an eating establishment that also brews beer) and generally include address, phone number, and Web site address.

Perhaps since you are interested in craft beer you are a member of the American Homebrewers Association. This site also has a way to search for brewpubs and breweries that offer discounts to AHA members. I looked at Minnesota again and found over a dozen locations that offered discounts. Discounts were spelled out in the listings (generally something like 10% off food.)

If you’re interested more in events and less in locations, there’s also a calendar available. I took a look at March 2010 and found only on event; the 2nd Annual Myrtle Beach Beer Fest. This part of the site doesn’t seem as populated as the brewery listings.

As I noted at the beginning of this writeup, CraftBeer.com has a lot going on. In addition to the listings of breweries there are a number of other features, including recipes with beer, details about many different beer styles (chili beer? PUMPKIN BEER?), a history of beer, and details about homebrewing.

Bing Launches a Recipe Feature

Cooking with Bing! Bing announced last week that it is now offering a recipe feature. And beyond just listing recipes in the search results, you get images and reviews and much of the recipe itself.

This feature does not have its own URL; instead you do a search within Bing itself. I went to http://www.bing.com and kicked off with one of my personal favorites, red beans and rice. The results I got included links to recipes, but not the recipe feature itself. If you’re not getting recipes, add recipe to the end of your search result. I tried that and my search results included links to recipes in the middle of the page:

You’ll note that in this result three of the results came from the same place. Bing is pulling its data from specific recipe Web sites, not the entire Web. This is something to keep in mind — if you’re looking for more esoteric recipes, you might have to do a regular Web search. Summary results in the main result include an image if its available, and a star review. The page of recipe-only results gives a bit more data — mostly a brief sentence about the recipe — and the ability to narrow down your search results.

Now, looking at this part is where I have to say, “Aw, c’mon Bing!” You can narrow down your recipe search by star rating. You can narrow it down by cuisine. You can narrow it down a variety of other ways, including cooking method, occasion, main ingredient, or how convenient it is. But I couldn’t find a way to narrow results by special diet needs. Wouldn’t it be useful to have a way to easily find the vegetarian or vegan recipes? Or low-sodium or diabetic friendly? It might be difficult to parse, but is more difficult than figuring out which recipes are appropriate for a baby shower? I would really like a special needs option for this sort.

Individual recipe pages have a lot of detail:

You have the ingredients and the nutritional information. Looks like the only thing you don’t have are the assembly instructions, for which you have to click through to the original recipe page. You also have to click through to the original source to get details on the star reviews.

On the one hand I like that Bing put this together; the images and level of detail that you can get from the recipes make it more than just a “me-too” search feature. On the other hand, the inability to look for special needs recipes is a big hole in this feature.

Even if it’s hard to parse that level of detail from a recipe, how about adding a few more sources? There are plenty of vegetarian/low sugar/gluten-free/etc recipe repositories on the Web.

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