Back in the day, when sightseeing or visiting a new city for work, I'd head out in the morning carrying a guidebook, a list of things I wanted to see and do, assorted scraps of paper scribbled with who knows what, restaurant names and addresses and, if it was an eating trip or I was interviewing chefs, the Zagat Guide. Plus, of course, a notebook, a camera and a map. Hardly what you want to schlep around with you on a full day of touring. Add to that all the little things one picks up along the way on a day out...and that makes for a heavy tote bag indeed. Then came digital and everything changed. Now when traveling, I hit the street with little more than my iPhone. And I'm always looking for ways to streamline the process further still, talking to other travelers and travel writers about what gadgets, apps, sites, programs and services they find most useful. Since many of these tools are free or cheap, it's tempting to grab them all...and some people do. But for me the key is to find the best option, master it and move on. (Still, I have three GPS apps on my phone and no real idea how to use any of them.) Whether I'm on my tablet or my iPhone--or at home on the desktop researching--I'm always hunting for a quicker, better way get the info I need on the road, without getting bogged down, digitally, by everything that I don't.
That was a very long winded way of saying: check out Patricia Wells' new Food Lover’s Guide to Paris app, which came out this week. I haven't played around with it yet but knowing Patricia, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t great. She and her team spent well over a year visiting and revisiting, tasting and retesting, writing and fact-checking, while her tech experts were busy developing and designing an impressive compilation of 350 of the city’s ultimate culinary destinations. You’ll find old favorites and scores of new discoveries, from sushi spots and creperies to mom-and-pop bistros to extravagant Michelin three-star restaurants. Also included are Patricia’s favorite wine bars, bakeries, pastry shops, chocolatiers, fromagiers, markets and specialty shops. Bookmark your favorites for a personalized list.
The $4.99 app is in English and compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch, running at least iOS 5. It will also work on iPad running iOS 5, but in a smaller iPhone format.
When Patricia first published The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris in 1984, it was called “the book that cracks the code.” It has sold 300,000 copies, been updated four times and was published in five languages. (A new version is in the works but won’t be out for about two years.)
“Much has changed on the Paris food scene since the latest edition of the book was published in 1999,’’ Patricia tells me. “There’s a whole new group of energetic young cooks, expanding the culinary ‘musts’ into upcoming neighborhoods. A fresh generation of bakers, pastry chefs and chocolate makers is bringing us all new looks, flavors and excitement.’’
Wherever you are in Paris, the app’s map will show you (with color-coded pins and GPS coordinates) the closest recommended restaurants, shops and markets. Each selection includes commentary, address, phone, opening hours, web site and email addresses where applicable; photos are included for many of them. You can call numbers directly, click through to web sites and get directions too. Contents are browsable by category or neighborhood, or by restaurant specifics such as price, cuisine, specialties of the house and details such as vegetarian- friendly or Michelin-star rating. The app also contains Patricia’s dining dictionary, an A-Z glossary of French culinary terms to help you translate menus on the spot.
For those who don’t know Patricia’s background, she was global food critic for the International Herald Tribune for more than 25 years. She’s a former New York Times food writer and the author of 15 books, including her upcoming Cooking With Patricia, out next year. With her husband, Walter Wells, Patricia has lived in France since 1980 and runs the popular cooking school At Home with Patricia Wells, with locations in Paris and Provence.
For more info on the new app, click here. For Patricia’s website and blog, click here. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. And for some of Patricia’s Provence restaurant recommendations, click here…but please note the story is two years old so some info may have changed.