Must-Have iPhone/iPad Foodie Apps for Cheap Eats

This week, I’ve been hunting for more foodie apps for my iPad. Foodspotting, Open Table and Zagat have been so helpful in terms of finding best dishes and restaurants in NYC. But, i think it is not enough in terms of discovering “cheap eats” around the city. I am pretty sure there are some delicious deals out there that I can use for my budget. Like Groupon for food, perhaps? Apparently, Scout Mob will uncover these deals for you from near by restaurants. How convenient is that? Don’t get thrilled yet. I have found a second app to accompany Scout Mob. If you are a huge fan of food truck, you’ll find this app very useful. I thought I could only find food trucks in LA, but apparently, it’s easy to discover one here in Manhattan with this app. It’s called Tweat.it. Both of these apps are originally an iPhone app, but these will also work on iPad.

1. Scout Mob:
“Mobile deals for the local serious.” – Scout Mob

Scout Mob clearly lives up to its statement above. For a foodie and local serious like me, I am excited to use Scout Mob to uncover nearby deals. After I finished with the installation, I straight away give this app a try. I gave a permission for the app to use my current location. Within seconds, many deals popped up. These deals are coming mostly from the local bars, wine bars or cafes at your nearby location. Currently, Scout Mob is serving 20 major cities in the United States, including New York, los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and Boston. If you are looking for some good cheap eats, this app will definitely be an excellent choice. Most of the deals are 50% to 100% off. Looking at the restaurants that are participating with this app, all of them seem to have tasteful ambiance and inviting atmosphere. Also, the Scout Mob team has added little handwritten captions around every picture to display their personal thoughts. It’s pretty cute. Although I am not a fan of local cafe/bar, this app has changed my perception. I want to try some!

If you are scared of missing a deal while you are at school or at work (where you have no access to your phone), you can access Scout Mob through your computer. Just go to its website, insert your email address, and you will get a reminder every time a new deal pops up around your location. Then, you can share it with your friends through Facebook and Twitter. How convenient is that? I am loving it. Just like what I said before, it’s Groupon for food.

If you are a local business and want to participate on Scout Mob, you can see reviews from other local business who already participated. These reviews are in the form of videos. It’s pretty detailed and easy to follow. Therefore, as a new participant, you will build a certain connection with these established users. You will see the benefits that they gained and hopefully you will earn the same benefits. Overall, Scout Mob has benefited both from personal and business aspects of consumers. Both foodie and local food businesses can enjoy and participate on the features of Scout Mob.

2. Tweat.it
“The coolest way to find a mobile food vendor near you in NYC.” – Tweat.it

From the name alone, Tweat.it reminds me of Twitter. But, looking through at the features that the app provided, Tweat.it clealry behave similarly like Twitter. It provides you with tweets from food trucks around Manhattan area. These tweets will contain any information regarding the food trucks’ open hours, locations and even job openings. It is pretty handy in terms of the bipolarity of New York weather at this time. I mean it’s winter, anything can happen. These food trucks might move location or close early due to the weather conditions. As a result, Tweat.it will keep us informed.

After I installed the application, I straight away put in my current location. Within seconds, five to six food trucks popped up. I was surprised that one of them is actually my favorite waffle place. Then, I clicked on its logo and the waffle truck’s info popped up. It says:

“De Carts: De Bierbeek is on Columbus Circle by Time Warner Center until 9:58” – De Carts.

Now, I know that they will stay open until roughly 10 p.m. tonight. Pretty accurate, I presumed. I would probably try going there after class and see whether or not they are still open. I am so excited!

On the other hand, if you access Tweat.it through your computer, you will see the trucks’ live tweets on the side bar following the food map in the middle. It’s pretty easy to use. In this case, you don’t need to sign up for anything. You just need to provide your current location.

This app surely will bring the unknown food trucks to be known. Especially, with the live tweets feature, you can easily follow your favorite food trucks on Twitter. Then, you can share their tweets with your followers to spread the brand awareness of these food trucks. You can also be writing about their food reviews. So, you are not only a foodie like me, but you can easily be a food critic. With lots of social media interactions through this app, I am sure that a lot more food trucks will be participating and Tweat.it will be more popular among the New Yorkers.

Conclusion

Both Scout Mob and Tweat.it have clearly impacted the small, local food businesses in Manhattan and other major cities in the United States. By participating in these apps, these businesses have created some sort of “advertisement” within the local market that may lead to an increasing diners traffic at their restaurants. Eventually, looking at their success, many will follow their foot steps. At the end, it’s proven how you don’t need to be a big player like Groupon or Living Social to provide the best deals in town. You can be the underdog and still adapting to its concept. Although Scout Mob is currently the underdog in terms of food deals, I believe that there is a huge possibility for it to grow in near future. Similarly to Tweat.it, perhaps it may expand to another major city in the United States. Based on my past experiences living in LA, the city of angels can be the next great candidate for Tweat.it. Due to the large amount of food trucks’ participants, I believe that many LA foodies and local businesses will gain as much benefits as those who reside in NYC.


My Venture Into the World of Michelin

Before the President’s Day weekend had started, I took an advantage of Zagat survey by signing up to its 7-days free trial online. I told myself, “it’s a long weekend and a perfect time to do some tasting menus.” From my previous research, I have been wanting to try Michelin starred restaurants in New York City. After narrowing down my options, I have decided to try Gramercy Tavern, Bouley and Sushi of Gari. Each one of them had received one Michelin Star as the best restaurant in its category and high ratings on Zagat survey.

Zagat survey has an excellent reputation among foodies around the world. It’s very trustable. Comparing its reviews to Yelp’s , personally it’s unbeatable. I already considered that Zagat as the expert in the restaurant world. Without having paid subscribtion (beyond your free trial), you will not be able to view and create Zagat reviews. So, it is pretty exclusive. With Yelp, no membership fee is required; anyone can write anything on the site. But, with Zagat’s requirement, it will definitely minimize any false or misleading reviews. It will also minimize the chance for people to get paid to write a review. So, diners’ experiences are more valuable in Zagat better than in Yelp. Although both of these apps are available on the smart phones and Ipad, overall, Zagat’s innovation concept is still winning. Especially, with its creation of Foodspotting, Zagat clearly focuses on being the leader within the market. As a new user both in Zagat and Foodspotting, I am already amazed of its capability. As soon as I spread the news to my friends, they straight away installed these apps on their gadgets. Often, they would asked, “Is it the same as YELP? Or, is it better?” I would say, “It’s different and you’ll get addicted to it. Trust me.” Also, for some of you who have Foursquare, it will be a good opportunity to earn your “foodie” badge through Zagat-rated restaurants. Not only that, but you can also share your location with your friends so that your friends may also be aware about the restaurant. What a good way to advertise the restaurant, right? As a result, I am confidence about my three options.

Gramercy Tavern

Gramercy Tavern is located in the heart of Flatiron district, between Broadway and Park Avenue South. With Mike Anthony as its Executive Chef, Gramercy Tavern has set a high standard for its exceptional dining experience. As you walk into the restaurant, you will get a comfortable ambiance through its decoration and staffs. You will see the bar in the front section of the restaurant and the dining room right across from it. As we get seated to our seats, the atmosphere was quiet. I looked around and everyone seemed to have a good time with their parties. The tasting menu was very tasty, especially the desserts. And of course, the staffs were very friendly and had great attention to details. Our waiter, especially, had never fled the scene. After we received each course, he always asked, “How’s everything? Do you need anything else?” Even the restaurant’s manager had spoke with us, which was pretty impressive. But, the remarkable service did not end there. After we’re done with our meal, the waiter would give us a muffin, wrapped in a beautiful plastic bag that has been prepared for our breakfast the next day. Isn’t that unique? Gramercy Tavern clearly puts its diners into an exclusive dining experience that will make the place memorable. My friends and I are absolutely satisfied. We are coming back to Gramercy Tavern for a second visit. It will not be our last.

Bouley

First of all, I am not a huge fan of French cuisine. The only place that I would considered was XIV by Michael Mina in LA. But, after reading the reviews on Zagat and Michelin, I thought that I should give it a shot. Bouley is located in Tribeca with its Executive Chef David Bouley. When I walked into the restaurant, my first impression was “this place is so cute!” You will be greeted by this massive shelves of apples at the entrance. Then, you will walk on a short hallway before entering the main dining room. The color scheme on the decoration was pretty inviting. I felt like I was eating inside a French aristocratic home. The lunch tasting menu was delicious. The little macaroons for the desserts were just too cute. I wondered how the dinner menu would be. I am pretty sure it will be more exciting. The service quality was similar as Gramercy Tavern. The waiters were all there to serve you and to make sure that you will have a great dining experience with Bouley. Will I come back again? Absolutely.

Sushi of Gari

Zagat survey has three different reviews on three different Gari restaurants. They are all owned  by the same owner. The one that I went to is located on the 78th street, Upper East Side. The place is pretty small but you will get the “authentic” ambiance of a traditional Japanese restaurant. During my visit, I ordered the Omakase tasting menu. From what I’ve heard through the reviews and word-of-mouth, the Omakase is what Sushi of Gari best known for. It features the chef’s signature sushi and sashimi based on the day’s catch. So, the seafood will be extremely fresh. For dinner, I ordered the sushi Omakase. I got three sets of sushi platters that featured four types of sushi on each platter. At first, I was thinking, how can my appetite be fully satisfied with only 12 sushi? I was wrong. These 12 sushi were tasteful. Each sushi has each own taste, texture, and experience to remember. By the end of the third platter, I was full and very satisfied. For dessert, I ordered the grean tea crepe cake from Lady M. This cake was my secondary factor  to why I wanted to try Sushi of Gari. I’ve been a huge fan of Lady M cakes; definitely, it’s one of the best dessert place in town. Overall, I would recommend Sushi of Gari for anyone who wants to explore the art of sushi dining.

After comparing reviews from both Zagat and Michelin, these restaurants are clearly stand on the standards of these results. None of my experiences have gone below their percentage scores on Zagat. These restaurants are exceptional! The public and the experts have already reached an agreement on how to rate these restaurants. Clearly, they are on the same page. If I can put these reviews on tags, they will definitely become a mixture of trustworthy taxonomies and folksonomies.


Discover: Machiavelli on the Upper West

After living in NYC for a month, I have expanded my “foodie” list on my blackberry through word-of-mouth and different online medias such as Foodspotting, Zagat Rated and Open Table. I have tried most of them already, but there is still something missing on my list. I haven’t found enough “delicious” and “worth trying” Italian restaurants in the heart of Manhattan. So far, I’ve only tried Basta Pasta and Babbo. Their signature dishes are pretty good; especially, Basta Pasta’s sea urchin pasta is a MUST try dish. Aside from that, I am still in search for more undiscovered delicious Italian food house. Perhaps, newly opened Machiavelli can be my next destination.

Basta Pasta Sea Urchin Pasta by Deviani Wulandari

Machiavelli is located at 519 Columbus Avenue, around the corner of 85th street, in the heart of the Upper West community. After reading its review on the New York Times, I am intrigue with the description of its majestic interior based on the critic’s experience, Julia Moskin.  As she clearly mentioned on her opening statement:

“Eating at the grandiose Machiavelli is like visiting a museum of Italian food — complete with long-winded exhibition catalogs. Reams of paper arrive with the menu, bearing tales of the muralist who decorated the walls, the ceramist who designed the plates, the coloratura soprano who even now is singing into your ear.”

By looking at this statement, I can only imagine how beautiful the restaurant atmosphere will be. I am pretty sure that a visit can be a very enjoyable experience. You will be able to enjoy delicious Italian food while witnessing grandiose Renaissance arts inspired murals on the wall. The restaurant owner, Nathalie de La Fontaine clearly found a new place for all of her art collections. Another positive aspect that she has added to this experience is by providing different music performances each day of the week, both for lunch and dinner. This unique diners’ experience will definitely distinguish Machiavelli aside from its competitors and soon will become a hot topic among New York foodies.

Moving on to the menu, Machiavelli offers enough varities of Italian dishes. Among all, Moskin has differentiate the menu by price and dish type which in my opinion is very helpful. I would say that the prices are pretty standard and affordable for Italian fine dining restaurant. I am very excited to try the lamb chop ($37), Bologna tortellini ($20) and signature pastas ($17-22) during my first visit. Hopefully, it will be very soon.

Overall, Moskin has done an excellent job in providing us with the reviews on the New York Times. She laid out all the important elements that I need to know about Machiavelli. Especially, as a new restaurant, there is not much reviews out there that I can rely on. By being the headline on the New York Times Dining and Wine on Valentine’s day, my eyes were drawn upon this article. The New York times’ review has set the stage for Machiavelli among the other Italian restaurateurs. I am pretty sure, lots of New York Times food lovers have already read this article and ready to have some tastes on Machiavelli’s signature dishes. As a result, these readers may be the next reviewers or critics that may lift up the restaurant’s reputation. Whether it is good or bad, the modern social medias will definitely keep us up to date.

Currently, Machiavelli maybe be ahead of its competitors for the new upcoming Italian restaurant. But, as its popularity rises within the heart of New Yorkers, the restaurant will need to always have a high standard. Especially, with more reviews and critiques rise to the surface, Machiavelli will need to handle any challenges quickly and professionally. These reviews will definitely expand the restaurant’s clientele but Machiavelli will have to maintain its good reputation along the way. With such accomplishment, surely, Machiavelli will be a successful and well known Italian restaurant in the Upper West. Machiavelli will absolutely reunite Italian art lovers and food admirers altogether under the same roof.

For more information on Machiavelli, click here.


The World of French Toast via Foodspotting and Open Table

As a fresh New Yorker,  I have adapted easily to the city’s hectic lifestyle. Walking for miles everyday and taking the subway rides have become my new daily routine. Although I had the pleasure in LA to drive my car everywhere, honestly, I have not missed it since I moved to New York. I guess, it is a good thing. Instead, I am so excited to continue my journey in expanding my “foodie” list on my Blackberry. If I say that I don’t miss anyone from back home, that would be a lie. But, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger (BBM), I can stay in touch with my loved ones in LA and back home in Indonesia. At least, they can be jealous of the delicious food I have tasted since moving to New York.

French Toast - YUM by Katy Kash

For years, I have been a huge fan of French toast. Therefore, I have been using Yelp to discover many great places in LA that could satisfy my craving. Through all the reviews, I have found the ultimate holy grail in Hollywood called Griddle Cafe and Square One Dining. If I had to choose between them, I would say that each French toast is individually unique. With its solid texture and delicious taste, both have successfully created one of the best french toasts in LA. However, I have not found any luck with Yelp here in NYC. But then, one of my professors recommended I to try Foodspotting. Since I am not a fanatic to any of food-related social medias (other than Yelp and Open Table), Foodspotting is a definite must-have app on your smartphones. Unfortunately, Blackberry users will “still” have to wait to get their hands on this app. Yet, its website will still let you access all of the Foodspotting’s features that include: 
  1. Sign in with your Facebook account (if you don’t want to create a new Foodspotting’s account)
  2. Upload photos
  3. Browse other users’ profiles and photos
  4. Review and comment on other users’ photos
  5. Nom it, Want it, Great Find! and Great Shot! interactions
Although it was a Superbowl weekend on Sunday, I managed to try two different restaurants that I found on Foodspotting and Open Table: Alice’s Tea Cup and Norma’s.Foodspotting Alice’s Tea Cup:
1. How was my first experience with foodspotting?
After I created a new account, I immediately merged it with my Facebook and Twitter accounts so that I become visible among my friends who are also Foodspotting users. It’s very convenient and user friendly. Then, you can decide whether or not you want to follow your friends’ updates (in terms of photos’ uploads) by being their followers. Sounds familiar, right? Yep, it’s exactly like Instagram, but for food! After you upload a photo, you can say “nom it,” “want it,” “great shot!” or “great find!.” You can also do all of these to any photos within Foodspotting that you think deserve any of these titles. As a result, you can really get personal with this app. Especially, for a foodie like me, it is really important to have a connection with the dish before I even want to have a taste of it. Also, with those four clicks, I can share my thoughts and feelings on the dishes through the simplest way possible. Overall, I fell in love with Foodspotting immediately, and cannot wait for its Blackberry application to be launched!
2. How did I find Alice’s Tea Cup?
Of course, the first thing I researched on Foodspotting was French toast. Several results came out, but Alice’s Tea Cup’s bread pudding French toast came out on top. The picture was taken by Amy Caofrom a perfect angle to show its texture, size and the “delicious” aspect of the food. I immediately clicked “nom it” and “want it.”
3. How was the French toast?
The French toast tasted as delicious as it looks. The texture is a definite mix of bread pudding and french toast. And, the fresh fruit (on top) adds a certain freshness to it. Overall, it’s a MUST TRY French toast in NYC. I am pretty sure I will go back to Alice’s Tea Cup for a second round the next time I crave for French toast.

Norma's Foie Gras mousse by Deviani Wulandari

Open Table Norma’s
1. How was my experience with OpenTable?
For several years, I’ve been a loyal user of OpenTable. I’ve been using it mostly to make online reservations. A lot of reputable restaurants have been participating with OpenTable and the reviews are usually accurate. Currently, OpenTable is easily accessible through the Web and smartphones. Therefore, you can make a reservation with only one click from anywhere. You just need:

  1. Your city or restaurant name
  2. Date
  3. The number of people in your group
  4. Time
In the case of Norma’s, I made a last minute reservation for Sunday during the Superbowl weekend (right after Alice’s Tea Cup). Thankfully, there was a space for brunch that could accommodate two people. I know perhaps some of you might think how I could be overload with french toasts, but, since I am a huge fan, I definitely had no problem with it. Immediately after I made the reservation, I got a confirmation email stating everything that I just did on OpenTable. Pretty simple and straightforward.
2. How did I hear about Norma’s?
Word-of-mouth, Gossip Girl and then I checked it out on Open Table.
3. How was the French toast?
  • Foie Gras French toast: The foie gras was cooked perfectly! I had enough on my plate and finished it all. Definitely, the reviewers are spot on about Norma’s signature dish. I have nothing else to say, except, you have to try it!
  • Crispy French toast: It tastes like any other French toast, but the use of rice crispy adds a unique element to this French toast. Just add some maple syrup and it is complete.

Conclusion:
First, let me recap my reviews on Foodspotting and OpenTable:

So, both really have equal positive and negative aspects depending on your purpose. I am used to using OpenTable for years now. But, I am already familiar with most of the restaurants that they offer on the website. Therefore, I am currently more attracted to Foodspotting for discovering the unknown or unpublished delicious dishes or restaurants out there. Especially in a big city like NYC, Foodspotting can surely slowly expand and fulfill my foodie list on my Blackberry.