Pick up any travel or gastronomic guide, and you’ll find dozens and dozens of reviews for eateries in Venice. But recently I ended up at a particularbacaro – the traditional Venetian cafés where customers often stand at the counter to eat typical, regional dishes – purely by accident; I’d never read about it in any guide.
Which was surprising, because the sweet and sour flavour of their sarde in saor (a dish made from sardines and onions, pine nuts and raisins), which I enjoyed with a glass of Lison Pramaggiore Sauvignon, was simply extraordinary – too good to be ignored by fine dining lovers. At the risk of finding the bacaro crowded with patrons upon my next visit, I decided this was a place the world should know about.
So I pulled out my iPhone, pointed the camera at my dish of sweetly tart fish, took a photo, and simply entered it into the Foodspotting app. From that moment on, a million people from all over the world will know where to make their taste buds sing if they ever find themselves in Venice. My little low-budget “discovery” was now public knowledge, and I had officially become a Foodspotter.
Foodspotting, the popular application dedicated to foodies, helps passionate or curious eaters find and share the best dishes they come across. Featuring a global map and the GPS system for smartphones, users can search by location or by whatever particular dish they happen to be craving at the time.
Whether it’s a plate of steamed dumplings in Kathmandu or a falafel in Texas, a slice of cheesecake in Los Angeles or the best pizza in Berlin, Foodspotting will help direct anyone to the right place to find what they’re looking for, or help them choose the right dish in whichever restaurant they find themselves in.
Foodspotting’s secret ingredient? The app users themselves – just like with Facebook and Twitter, the more people who upload photos and vote, the more effective and comprehensive the service. But unlike other social networks, with Foodspotting, the emphasis is on the photos.
Every Foodspotter is encouraged to take a photo with their phones to capture any dish they feel is worth suggesting; the straightforward, user-friendly cooking apps - which is available for the iPhone, Android or of course, as a website (www.foodspotting.com) – does the rest of the work for you. All users need to do is give some information about the place, leave a comment if they so desire, and upload it to the Foodspotting archive. If the dish is truly noteworthy, like my sarde in saor, you can give it a “nom”, that is, an honourable mention. The best places, in fact, are the ones that boast the most noms. Rest assured that if a particular pizzeria in Naples has thirty noms, you’ve found a winner (although you might want to call to book a table first); but don’t overlook a place with only a few “noms” – if a dish has been “foodspotted” you most likely won’t be disappointed.
The basic philosophy behind Foodspotting, and the idea that distinguishes it from other food guides or sites, is that the emphasis is on the single dish instead of the restaurant as a whole. The distinction is more significant than it might appear. There are certain kinds of foodies who are willing to travel a few miles out their way just for the best plate of spaghetti and then head in another direction after dinner for the best ice cream cone in the vicinity.
Whether you’re “spotting” a meal that’s just been placed in front of you, or “seeking” a specific dish, there are tens of thousands of photos and suggested locations throughout the whole world at anyone’s disposal. Foodspotting is also playing a hand at shaking up the traditional idea of what divides a food critic from just a passionate eater, and the website also offers real culinary itineraries, location-based guides that have been created along with the site’s partners, like the James Beard Foundation orGourmet.
Interested in where Anthony Bourdain eats when in Tokyo? Or the 10 Best Burgers in San Francisco? Becoming a registered Foodspotter is free and easy. Not giving into your craving while looking at pictures of the world’s best French fries may prove to be a more difficult.