Check Out Food Blogs for New Culinary Ideas…and More

—by Kathryn Tempas

Some people today eschew cookbooks in favor of recipes found on the internet. Many are familiar with www.epicurious.com, www.allrecipes.com, and others. Lately I've been looking at another source of inspiration—food blogs. There are literally thousands out there, and luckily, someone has done a bit of sifting for me so I (and you) don't have to sit for countless hours poring over the less-than-stellar examples.

But first, a bit of history. The term "blog" was coined back in 1994 and gradually caught on as people enjoyed sharing their experiences with others online. By 2005, according to a study by the New Yorker Magazine, 32 million Americans read blogs. And yes, that comes with lots of blog ads. Food blogs, in particular, have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in highlighting and shaping food trends. Let me take some examples. Massaged kale salad? Salted caramel? No doubt some food bloggers had them on their radar screens and posted recipes.

Many of you are familiar with the movie Julie and Julia, where Julie Powell did a cook-through of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The tagline "365 days, 524 recipes" summed up Julie's 2002–03 expedition to write and share her cooking experiences with others. Made into a movie in 2009 starring Meryl Streep, it captured the imagination of foodies all over America.

Now, since there are thousands of food blogs, you might wonder—where do I start?

Saveur magazine does a yearly survey and publishes a "Best Food Blog Awards." Blogs are nominated by readers, then the folks at Saveur narrow the field and let readers vote on the winners. They divide the entrees into 16 categories, from the obvious "Best Cooking Blog," through "Best Culinary Travel" and "Best Celebrity Food Blog," even including "Best Food Humor." You can select your area of interest and see the winner and five finalists that will keep you glued to your computer/tablet/phone for hours. As with many web sites, that could be the issue—minutes, nay, hours can go by as you view great photography and your taste buds are tantalized by recipe ideas. You can find this year's results at http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/2012-Best-Food-Blog-Awards-The-Win....

Another site that helps sort the good from bad food blogs is Blogrank, at http://food.invesp.com. This web site ranks the top 50 by monthly visits, links to page ratio, Google page rank, and more.

A third option on which blogs to peruse is asking a friend. I heard about Orangette (http://www.orangette.blogspot.com) and Chocolate & Zucchini (http://www.chocolateandzucchini.com) from a friend, and periodically check in on those sites. Others rate food blogs too. There are Canadian Blog Awards, London Times blog awards, weblog awards and much more. That's right, you could spend hours.

Blogs vary in how often they are updated—some weekly, some twice per month, others just sporadically. They include excellent food photography (often step by step for the recipe) and fun stories. I enjoyed Joy the Baker's November 6, 2012 post that laments about wanting an award just for being an adult, and doing the daily things we do—like dusting, paying the bills on time, etc. (http://www.joythebaker.com).

She Simmers (http://www.shesimmers.com), which focuses on Thai cuisine, got a copy of the menu served when President Obama visited Thailand this fall, and posted it online. How cool is that! Leela, the author, comments on the chef's selections and offers a recipe similar to one on the menu.

Blog writers will sometimes include local suggestions, recommend nearby establishments, offer gift guides, and more. For Twin Cities residents, http://www.freshtart.net is an interesting blog to view.

For a lucky few, blogs can turn into book deals. It has happened (or is in process) with She Simmers and Joy the Baker, and many food blog authors are featured in food magazines.

I'm not going to give my top three or five or whatever, because food blogs are so varied that I suggest you find your own category of interest and look at award winners in that area. Love baking? Look at Saveur's best baking and desserts blogs. Celebrity food blogs pique your interest? Look at that category for places to begin. Just don't sit too long with your computer. The idea is to get you cooking and having fun.

[Kathryn Tempas spent too many hours sitting in front of her computer for this article, but added a few sites to her Favorites list. She is always looking for new inspiration in the kitchen.]