Don't get me wrong: I hate my iPhone. I only got one after I accidentally left my Droid on a bus. So I'm not coming to you as a wide-eyed enthusiast, the sort who thinks everything that Apple makes is pure gold. I don't play Angry Birds, I don't have a set of bejeweled Hello Kitty cases, and every day I think wistfully of the BlackBerry I had a few phones ago. That said, there are some awesome apps on the iPhone, especially for gastronomes. In no particular order, here are 10 of my favorites.
There a million different sites and services that promise honest, crowd-sourced guidance to the baffling, brave new world of restaurants. Yelp is simply the best. The reviews are generally accurate and unbiased, and the app, like the site, features integrated maps and a linkable phone number you can click on to reach the place. As a food writer who travels a lot, I find it indispensable. And you will too.
This sleek, no-frills little app was created by the good people at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It tells you how sustainable different fish are, as well as what the best choice is for any given species (e.g., coho salmon vs. sockeye salmon vs. chinook salmon). This app, by the way, is only permissible to use if you don't start showing everybody that you are using it.
As with Yelp and restaurant reviews, there are a million recipe sites, but Epicurious is the best. All of its recipes have been vetted by pros, and even the not-so-good ones work. It gets bonus points for having a shopping-list applet as part of the package, demerits for too aggressive advertising. If you get fed up, try BigOven, which claims to have 170,000 recipes, with no frills and no ads.
Jamie's 20-Minute Meals
Every food personality has his or her own app, and really, I just chose Jamie Oliver's because I love the way he cooks. (Also, it works very well on the Droid sigh.) But Mario Batali, Nigella Lawson and all the rest have put a lot of money and time into their own apps, and if you like them better, by all means download them. Better still, download all of them and compare their recipes on similar dishes. You'll be surprised how much you learn.
The Perfect Egg Timer
The cool thing about smart-phone apps is that there's one for everything, and unlike dead-tree cookbooks, you can make room for as many as you want. Take the Perfect Egg Timer. It tells you how long it should take to boil an egg, to the second depending on your elevation, the size of the egg and exactly how you like it, as represented by a precise closeup graphic. Why something like this doesn't exist for steaks and chops is beyond me. Maybe I will create one. But I know it won't be this good.
Wine apps, like wine directors and sommeliers, tend to have the same problem: they know too much and insist on sharing it all with you. If you want to know how the '86 Lynch-Bages compares with the '88, get the Wine Spectator vintage guide. If you want to know how a wine you see on a menu or in a store tastes like, or just a general guide to what to buy, this is the way to go. The intuitive interface helps those among us who are intimidated by wine jargon.
There was a time when you had to depend on your "foodar" to find the best places in a small city especially those odd little ones often presumed to be of little interest to out-of-towners. Chowhound and Google changed all that, and now there is a bustling commercial traffic in local-eats apps, some of which even include GPS guidance via Google Maps. LocalEats is stripped down and simple and easy to use, which is what I like in an app.
Restaurant guides, whether curated or crowd-sourced, suffer from essentially the same problem: a narrow mission and a binary hot-or-not model. Broadcastr is a social-media site for local stories; turned into an iPhone app, it provides cultural context from people who lives with and grew up around the nearby restaurants. Which is helpful because maybe you would like to know more than just whether to go there and how to get there. A happy recent alliance with the Southern Foodways Alliance has given immeasurable richness to the experience, at least when you're traveling in the South.
It's one thing to be a locavore where you live; it's another thing entirely to know what is in season in the places where you're traveling. This handy, simple app is organized by region, and it helps you tell the difference between what you ought to be eating and what just came in on a diesel-flying fortress from Chile.
The most amazing thing about OpenTable has always been that it works. There are still a few restaurants that don't hook into the centralized-reservation software, but those that do have never lost my reservation or been confused about the number of seats in my party. The software team must work as hard as Apple because the app is even easier to use than the website, and also includes detailed restaurant information and a GPS locator. Used in conjunction with Yelp, no traveler should ever eat poorly again.
Ozersky is a James Beard Awardwinning food writer and the author of The Hamburger: A History. He is currently at work on a biography of Colonel Sanders. Taste of America, Ozersky's food column for TIME.com, appears every Wednesday.