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1995 | 08 | 02 | Articles | The News & Observer | Food
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Here In America s

The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
August 2, 1995
Page E1
Hot Bytes
Swap recipes with folks in London or book dinner in L.A. the Internet cooks up the connections.
By Stewart Ugelow

No matter how hard you try to convince it otherwise, your computer won’t cook for you.

But it may become one of the most important tools in your kitchen.

Long before there was cyberspace or the information superhighway, computer makers had food fans in mind.

The makers of the first personal computers thought people would use them to store recipes. Very quickly, they found out otherwise: Pencil and paper did just fine for most folks.

But with the emergence of the Internet, the global link of computer networks, people have started talking about computers and cooking again.

Food lovers are flocking to the Internet. There are sites devoted to favorite foods, newsgroups to exchange restaurant reviews and recipes, and real-life meals shared by people who met online.

"This is the same thing as a cookbook or a neighborhood discussion group, just on a worldwide scale," says Eileen Kupstas of Chapel Hill, a fan of

cooking, with recipes and tips.

While it’s impossible to tell just how many people use these resources, the number of users and the number of sites have grown exponentially in the past year.

Kate Heyhoe of Crestline, Calif., sensed the growing link between cooking and computers when she left the movie industry to start an on-line cooking magazine.

"Food and cooking have always been my true passion," she says. "We saw an opportunity on the Internet early on."

So she launched eGG: the electronic Gourmet Guide last December. The site features regular columns, interviews and recipes. Last month, it even had a live feed from the Aspen Food & Wine Festival. The site is aimed at the "dedicated amateur and the professional," she says.

Another site that has been around for a while, and is perhaps the most useful food site on the Internet, is the archives of the newsgroup. Hundreds of recipes that have been posted are listed by category. It includes everything from soup to nuts, plus a list of other food sites.

When recipes alone are not enough, there are a number of Internet sites that include information about preparing specific foods, like how to roll your own sushi.

"From the cooking groups, I certainly find a number of recipes and a number of ideas," Kupstas says. "I’m interested in food allergies, and it’s a good place to get and spread information about foods."

If you’ve wanted to learn how to cook like a French chef but can’t afford the air fare to Paris, try Restaurant Le Cordon Bleu’s site. It has a full week’s worth of menus, complete with pictures, translations and detailed cooking instructions, all from the famous cooking school.

While intended to whet your appetite for the "Le Cordon Bleu at Home" cookbook, the site has links within recipes to explain cooking techniques and provide definitions. With one click of your computer’s mouse, from the recipe for Pommes de Terre Sautees a Cru, you can read about the fine art of sauteing and then return to the recipe. It’s better than flipping through a cookbook - you’ll never lose your place.

If you get hungry while looking at those dishes but don’t feel like cooking, check out the databases for restaurants - from those that feature chiles in their dishes to those that accommodate cigar-smokers.

Dining Out on the Web and the newsgroup are good places to start.

Because the Internet can be accessed from all over the world, people sometimes request restaurant recommendations for a foreign country and get replies within a few hours.

"The Internet is a great resource if you’re traveling," says Dilip Barman of Durham, president of the Triangle Vegetarian Society.

When an Australian recently asked, "OK, from somebody on the other side of the world, can you explain what barbecue is?" he probably had no idea what he was getting himself into. After all, there’s barbecue and then there’s that stuff they serve in Texas.

If you want Triangle restaurant reviews, check out the triangle.dining newsgroup.

The Triangle Vegetarian Society page also lists reviews of vegetarian cuisine and plans to put its newsletter online. Barman also has a list of vegetarian resources that’s quite popular.

"A lot of people know me from my home page," he says.

The newsgroups and mailing lists are good places to find people who share favorite foods. Group visits to restaurants and potluck dinners are frequently arranged online.

You can also shop for all sorts of specialty food over the Internet. Many stores have their catalogs online, and some allow you to place orders electronically.

If you’re a hot food fan, you’ll want to make your way to Lotsa Hotsa, a Ramona, Calif., company that sells products with names like Hellfire and Damnation Hot Sauce. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of this site.

"The Internet needs products that are unique, that you can’t go down the street and buy," says Jack Alexander, the president of Starving Artists, a company that suggested the idea to Lotsa Hotsa and later designed the site. "We’re big hot sauce connoisseurs ourselves."

In the same vein, there’s Wing Wan II, a Boca Raton, Fla., based restaurant that promises to ship Kosher chinese food anywhere in the world.

Or try Fromagerie Belchevre, a Quebec cheese maker. The cheese looks great, but loses something in the translation. The page boasts that "Fromagerie Belchevre is the home of high quality 100 percent goat’s cheese. All our cheese is made from fresh goat’s milk."

Before you wrap up, make one last stop at the Chocolate Lover’s Page, a site that will melt in your mouth, not in your mouse. It has links to Hershey’s Chocolate Town U.S.A, Godiva Online, and every other chocolate site imaginable.

On second thought, maybe you should start there. Who said dessert always has to come at the end of the meal?

One great thing about grazing among food sites (besides it being non-fattening) is that even if you never get Restaurant Le Cordon Bleu’s Feuilletes de Saumon aux Asperges (puff pastry shells with salmon and asparagus with a lemon butter sauce) just right, you can console yourself by seeing how it should look:

Virtually good enough to eat.