Hi all,

Besides combining a few of my favorite things, (Tech, Cooking & Eating)...this also illustrates, cross platform development of programs is growing!

Take care,

Jay

Grilled Fish, a Smartphone and Dinner
By BOB TEDESCHI, August 4, 2010

I had an hour to pull dinner together.

My mother dropped by last week, and I was determined to make a quick meal for five. And because it was summer, I was determined to grill.

In the past, this might have been a questionable strategy because my grilling technique was probably better described as my incinerating technique. It typically yields something resembling a carbon-dating experiment.

But because the great promise of smartphones is that they make you, well, smarter, I figured I’d try again with an Android device (a Droid), an iPhone, a BlackBerry Curve and an iPad.

It worked, but the process was not without some drama.

I found that going zero-to-dinner in 60 minutes was easier with an iPhone than anything else on the list, thanks to Weber’s On the Grill app ($5), which works on only iPhones and iPads.

I also relied on Epicurious and BigOven, two very good all-purpose cooking apps that operate on Android and Apple devices. (BlackBerry had many fewer choices for grilling fans and nothing especially good free.)

I picked up Weber’s app with some skepticism because apps sponsored by product manufacturers often bury a shred of useful information in a mountain of marketing blather.

On the Grill took the opposite approach. The app includes tutorials and 250 recipes from Jamie Purviance, a well-regarded cookbook author and grilling specialist, and it lets users store recipes and shopping lists.

The Grilling Basics section offers content commonly found online, but the lessons are readable on the phone, with good photography. The recipes were intelligently detailed and tempting, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t sort them by preparation time or cost.

Those constraints added only a slight delay to my one-hour dinner effort.

Pulling out my iPhone at 5:30, I opened the Weber app and headed for the Steak section. After surfing for a few minutes, I settled on the Flank Steak with Dried Mushroom Magic recipe, which looked quick and fairly cheap.

As with other recipes in the app, this one included a grocery list, so I headed to the store. The app doesn’t rely on a data or cell connection, so I didn’t have to worry if I couldn’t get a signal.

While shopping, I thought I’d hedge my menu choices with some fish, so I got in line at the seafood department and opened the Epicurious apps on my iPhone and on the Droid. The iPhone app offered 20 menu items on the home page, including I Can Barely Cook, Dinner Party Ideas and Grilling Entrees. The Android app had just 10 items and didn’t include grilling.

No matter. The Android app includes a voice-search feature that may be faster than browsing a menu. I spoke “grilled swordfish” into a search box and 15 items appeared.

Recipes are accompanied by user ratings and reviews, which can help you tweak the dish to suit your tastes.

I chose Classic Nantucket-Style Grilled Fish Steaks, which was clearly a lazy man’s fish: three ingredients and 30 seconds of prep.

Then I opened BigOven’s app. It was helpful, but it had fewer user ratings and reviews to help guide me on the dishes I had chosen, it was harder to scroll through recipes and the recipes seemed more risky than those on Epicurious, which draws its content from magazines like Gourmet and Bon Appétit.

I also didn’t love that BigOven forced me to register with the service before I could view a grocery list. (The company said registration helps you link your grocery lists across devices.)

I left the grocery store with 40 minutes left before my dinner deadline. A quick survey of the house revealed that swordfish was the overwhelming favorite, so I stowed the steak for another day.

I boiled water for corn, began preparing the fish and handed my daughter Rikki, 21, the phone, with orders to find something to do with the potatoes that had begun boiling. She found a recipe for Connie’s “No Big Deal” Coconut Mashed Potatoes on BigOven and quickly gathered ingredients.

Epicurious called for medium heat on the grill, but my gas grill had no setting for medium, so I grabbed my iPhone and clicked to Weber’s Grilling Basics section, which said to hold my hand five inches from the grilling grate.

If you need to pull your hand away after five to seven seconds, it’s medium heat.

I was able to count to eight, so I turned up the heat slightly and threw the fish on the grill.

Weber’s app is less helpful after that, because its grill timer has a fatal flaw: if you open another program or take a call, the timer will not sound until you return to the app. (Imagine ruining a dinner party because you were busy showing people the laughing baby on YouTube on your phone.)

You can avoid this fate with the Grill Timer app ($1, for iPhones), which works while other apps are running. Unlike the free timer app on your iPhone, you can set it to track four different dishes simultaneously, and you can label each timer so you don’t lose track of your dishes.

Ten minutes passed. The swordfish steaks looked great. While they sat, I pulled the corn from the pot, set the table and called everyone for dinner.

The fish was an instant hit, as were the potatoes.

I glanced at my phone to find it was 6:45 — close enough to my goal to consider this a win. Total food costs were about $50, app costs $6. Cost to replace incinerated food: $0.

Victory.

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