Saturday, March 28, 2009

Alistair's 10 Best of the Best Food Blogs

Forget lists like "top 100" where you have to sort through them all - this is the list of the best of the best - plus my bonus quirk list.

Cannelle et Vanille

This visually stunning site was started by Spanish pastry chef Aran Goyoaga in January last year to satisfy her career-break cravings. Aran says "Why the name Cannelle Et Vanille? Because those are the smells and tastes of my childhood and this blog is very much filled with nostalgia." This is a blog in the 'looks good, tastes good' school of writing - something to indulge on a quiet afternoon, or after a stressful event where one needs to escape into a wonderful warm world of sweets and pastry.

The New York Times Community

The Wednesday Chef New York-based Luisa Weiss started this blog as a way of documenting her trawl through clippings of recipes from the New York and LA Times. A mix of recipes and humorous anecdotes - her boyfriend thinks he is pre-hypertensive so she reduces the salt to avoid confronting the issue of male hypochrondria - it's a charming blog packed with information (indeed, a whole 700 words about coleslaw).
8. Serious Eats Practially everything you need to know about food can be found on this multi-contributor food website, started by New York Times journalist Ed Levine. The focus is on American foods such as hot dogs, there are restaurant and gadget reviews, food videos and recipes, including an easy recipe every afternoon to inspire that evening’s dinner.

4. Delicious Days Authored by Munich-based Nicky Stich, this blog has a huge following, currently at number 127 in Technorati’s Top 100 blogs (the highest ranking food blog.) Well-conceived, with an international flavour but healthy dose of German influence and easy to navigate sections including a food news feed. DD features the author’s own recipes, as well as adaptations from other cookbooks. An invaluable article offers tips for budding food bloggers.

9. 101 Cookbooks One of the most established food blogs, five years old and counting; this is the chronicle of a blogger with an overindulged habit of buying cookbooks. This Californian blog is primarily a conduit for savoury recipes, mostly vegetarian, and using natural foods - the most popular include caramelised tofu, black bean brownies and lemon-scented quinoa salad. It's technologically literate, too, with i-Phone compatible recipes, and there is a convenient index of recipes by ingredient, and by category (ie gluten-free, cookies, drinks etc).

10. Smitten Kitchen A combination of writing/photographer skills add up to culinary excellence in this well-established blog, covering recipes cooked in author Deb Perelman’s tiny New York kitchen. A Facebook group, Flickr photo pool, and Twitter following – this is a slick operation.

11. Chubby Hubby Everything you need to know about Asian food can be found on this blog, where Singaporean-based author Aun Koh writes about street food, restaurants and recipes, with charming references to his partner in kitchen crime, his wife S.

17. Eating Asia A bog-standard visit to Chinatown will never suffice after you have started reading this collaboration between seasoned writer Robyn Eckhardt and photographer David Hagerman. This is one of the most colourful blogs and its photos of ageing street vendors and vibrant street markets from all over Asia are inspiring.

21. Simply Recipes - superb range of personal recipes

Café Fernando - Turkish delights from Istanbul

36. Lucullian Delights - appetising Italian recipes from a Tuscan-based Swede

27. Gluten Free Girl - wheat-free wonders and tips for celiacs

41. Amateur Gourmet - funny writing with a useful "how to" section

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Music to work to - World

I've just been rediscovering the importance of music when working. It keeps us upbeat, focused and happy. It's also a great way of eliminating distractions. Recently I'm sometimes sitting in a new hot-swap desk location where the people sandwiched in on either side have to make phones calls. They are courteous and as quiet as they can be, but they are right beside me. Music is the answer (and active noise cancelling headphones). I've put some of the tracks that are really effective for me here.

The first collection is that dreaded catagory "World Music". Yes, I can hear the scorn now, but let me tell you, it's nothing to the scorn my Son can express (and has already). The fact remains that some of these beats are great for normal concentration.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bruce Wagner and Ed Live from NYC

"Broadcasting Live from New York". People like me (of a certain age) remember that cry as one of the most exciting things a person can hear - the show's about to begin. This is a discussion about Bruce and Ed setting up a broadcasting channel - vlogwrap. I've got one of their first shows here:

Bruce and Ed - Live from New York!

Who are they?

Bruce Wagner's Photo of US Air

I've been following Bruce Wagner for a while on Twitter now. He is a genuine, authentic person living in New York City that I encountered entirely by accident on Twitter. The odd thing about these silly little Twitter posts is that they build up into a picture of a person, and you get a sense of camaraderie (or not). I've met several people on Twitter that are progressing from acquaintance to friend. I've just got to show you this view from his window:

The view from Bruce's window - Liner arriving at NYC.

Bruce and his partner, Ed, are now regularly live video casting from their apartment. During the set-up and planning phase we discussed some of the options. One inspirational example was the first live road trip broadcast by @stilgherrian. This just used basic gear and 3G network sponsored by a telco (Telstra) to prove that Telstra really did have remote coverage.

An interesting segment from the @stilgherrian Live Roadtrip video Stream

What Gear do you Need to do this?

What I find interesting about this is the way @stilgherrian uses more than one camera on some of his shows (stilgherrian Live). He uses the standard Ustream tools, yet this creates more than enough capability.

We discussed Leo Laporte and his Live Twit show. One of the things we like about Leo is that he shares info on how he does things and the equipment he uses. Twit is based in the Stickam service. Like Ustream, users can logon (ustream allows guests) and participate in the parallel discussion board used to provide questions (and other input) to the main actors.

Some of Leo's comments look important to add.

I'm shooting for a sound that's pretty close to having all of us in the same room. For five or fewer participants with sufficient upstream bandwidth on the host side (the Leoville Labs have a 5mbps down/768kbps up DSL line) Skype actually offers pretty darn good results - very little latency and surprisingly high vocal quality. Per Steve Gibson's suggestion I use a dedicated port for Skype (any port above 1024 will do), and open that port for UDP connections on my router. This eliminates the need for Skype Supernode support and seems to reduce latency.........

I also use the fantastic Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone
for all my podcasts and the radio show. This pro mic requires good technique, but it offers excellent sound at a very reasonable price.....

.... Our live setup for TWiT varies depending on the venue. Most of the time we use a Korg D3200 Digital Multitrack Recorder . The channels are recorded to the Korg's built-in hard drive then output to a Macintosh for mixing with Soundtrack Pro....

Now lets go back to Bruce and Ed. The first smart thing they did was start to draw out the way the system would work. The setup they have now looks like a lot of fun. It's not necessary to start this seriously, but there are some really good aspects of the setup. Note the large monitor on the bench behind them - this is picture-in-picture done physically - and why not? Nothing tricky, and it works well.

Looking at this setup, only one thing might be considered. It's obviously a nice home, but in the video the background (and participants) can look a little grey. The solution is why TV announcers don't wear pants if they can avoid it - heat from the lighting. On background light to light the wall behind them and one to light Bruce and Ed.


It's pretty easy for most people to do. Why not consider setting up a basic video broadcasting setup?