Friday, March 4, 2016

A Food Blog About, Uh, Food Blogs...Apparently

OK, food websites are a really big thing, have been for quite some time. Heck, you're basically reading one right now. Sure the Tucson Homeskillet skips about here and there but at its very essence we are a blog dedicated to all things gastro, cooking, eating, drinking and matters that make you go "Yum!"

Luckily we of the southern Arizona fold have it pretty good with food options on the internet, as far as eating and drinking local is concerned. You can always follow Andi Berlin and her food columns at the Arizona Daily Star, read Heather Hoch's reviews on the Tucson Weekly, find out all the sustainability and future of southern Arizona gastronomy with Edible Baja Arizona or subscribe to Tucson Foodie, a website I briefly wrote for before revamping the Homeskillet, which covers all things food and trending here in the Old Pueblo.

Then there's this site: Goofy, capricious, vaguely unfocused, slightly inebriated but hopefully fun with a more conversational approach to food writing. We like to talk about all things food and drink that's going around town, and sometimes it doesn't come from a locally sourced or owned organization, even though I'd say 99% of it is local. Sure we're small and a bit kooky, but those that do follow us and read the Homeskillet on a regular basis (that is when I do post which is like, what?, once a week?) seem to appreciate what we do here.

And, you know what? We appreciate you!

Thing is those sites and writers I mentioned above, including us, is a crazy insanely finite collection of websites dedicated to cooking, eating and drinking. The web is now bloated with blogs and pages focused on just cooking and eating. Heck, I love me some Damn Delicious now and then and get great ideas from Closet Cooking (because that's what the wife and I do in our cozy lil' desert bungalow) but there are some big sites with real budgets that I refer to on a daily basis for ideas and inspiration, such as what they are doing over at Thrillist with food and drink. Sure they may not cover what is happening in Tucson, although sometimes they do, but there is no denying the attention and proficiency some of these writers, chefs, travelers and eaters accomplish on a regular roster. Maybe someday the Tucson Homeskillet can get to these levels but...well, I doubt it. Unless we get some major sponsorship and Anthony Bourdain mentioning us saying: "All I know is that a rotund Metalhead out in Arizona is doing the food writing world a favor, and for that you need to seek out the Tucson Homeskillet and never go back."

That....may not happen anytime soon. Or at any time. Or... Yeah.

So recently I was asked by a co-worker what food sites I follow outside of my own and, for the fun of it, I listed just a few, the ones that get the most Metal Mark foot traffic, reposts and the most abuse from our kitchen. Hopefully you will discover a new favorite food site or at least rediscover one that you might have forgotten about from our article here. Either or, these are the ones we like to click on when we're not working or writing on our own.

You ready?

Here we go:

What we like about Oola! is how fun and clean this site is. Its one of those food pages where they invite you to play along with their concept and design, to sort of hop down this trail or that one, always finding something entertaining about what and how we eat. Ever wonder why Whole Foods charges like $200 for some mushrooms or what the grossest things McDonald's employees find in their Playplace kids area? Oola! lays it down, but in a most decent and pleasant way.

Plus their cooking tips and recipes are always interesting and fairly easy to follow and fabricate. Now it's rare to find a Tucson restaurant to admire and ponder on Oola! but, really, we have so many local publications and websites here that we don't really need a major website to tell the world where to get a Sonoran hot dog (don't get me started!) or which downtown eatery has the best brunch (again, Tucson Foodie can help you with that. Us? Well, we don't do brunch much, cuts into that late sleeping and not standing in line for flapjacks thing...).

Still, Oola! is great and very user friendly. You know's just darn friendly. Dare I say, it's kinda cute. But not so much to make you throw up a bit in your mouth. Just enough to be all "You know what? That looks pretty cool. Let's eat that. In fact, let's cook that instead."

Oola! is just encouraging like that. And for all those reasons, it's bookmarked and well used by us on a fairly routine basis.

Check it out.

Oola! makes being a food fan that much more enjoyable

Yeah, Google Oola and you get the slave chick from Jabba's palace, pretty funny actually

If you can't get to your world traveling chef shows or afford to fly to Indonesia and eat the anus of a komodo dragon on a stick cooked by a twelfth generation komodo dragon anus cooker, then you need to seriously get into the food page on National Geographic.

Outside of the exotic eats from all points on the planet, they also have a very astute and caring approach to how we as humans eat and how we get that food we eat. It's a world tour of all things we crave, be it extremely upscale, such as rare cheeses in Paris, or the completely, shall we say "curious", such as why we should be eating Lionfish or what the diet is of the bush folk of the Sumerian outback consists of.

But I wouldn't go to National Geographic Food for recipes though. There is a cooking section but really the focus here is on the global appeal of eating and drinking as a species and they get really in depth about it making it wholly fascinating as a lover of everything food and drink. OK, consider this site as more educational than entertainment, when, if you really look at it, most food sites are educational. But this is a new level though.

Like, think of the Food Network as the junior high of food sites which only makes National Geographic Food the masters program at an accredited university. In a sense.

Regardless, for all of those out there even remotely inquisitive about the feeding habits of the Appalachian inbred as compared to the dirt people of Ghana, then you need to click on the link and start exploring. It's extremely fascinating.

And sometimes a bit gross. Which is awesome.

Squid toes and cockroach faces? Sure, I saw it on the web!

Eater is great. Eater makes us feel a bit inferior. But we like Eater.

The hip and the whipsmart that run Eater know exactly what they are doing and they can make you feel a bit dumb if you don't know how to catch up. Sure, it's just a website and, yeah, it's easy to navigate but the overall know-it-all about Eater is both enticing and a little daunting.

There's a lot going on here and that's what we love about it. There are updates and new articles popping up all the time which means you need to try and keep up. Eater sure is neat but with a full time job, wife, cat, garden and the Homeskillet to update here and there, it's a challenge to reap the entire benefit of the website regularly. I mean, these kids are in the current, if not a bit ahead of the food game. Before you even hear about a new chef or food show or trending drink, the folks at Eater are already bored with it and have moved on. In the same vein of the popular kid at school; you want to look away but you just can't.

Oh why are they so good looking? How do they predict what others will be wearing this year? And the band they are listening to now will become the next hit long after they grew tired of them.

But...with food.

Eater is great. Eater is a constant in my pantheon of food and beverage on the internet. But I can never write for Eater. Because I am old. Because I like 80s thrash metal. Because I live in Tucson. Just...because.

Love me Eater. And if you can't love me, just look at me once and smile.


Let's see, I'll take....yes please!

Tasting Table is just an extension of Eater and Epicurious (which is coming up next), sort of sandwiched between the two which is why, yes, I sandwiched it between the two.

First rate recipes, not too challenging, concise guides to restaurants and chefs and brand new with their lovely #TTNow, you can get the latest food news piping hot right off the panini press in an easy to access stream. Very handy for those wanting instant access to the world wide news of culinary happenings. Did you know there is a vending machine in Paris where you can buy fresh raw meat and eggs? Did you know that? Well I sure did. Thanks to Tasting Table and the handy #TTNow I can be jealous of Parisians much quicker and from the safety of my bathroom.

Bright photos, easy to follow directions, lively articles and I just love their guest chef space where renown cooks do what they do in the Tasting Table kitchen and dazzle you with their skill and style. There's really not much more to say. We use Tasting Table a lot and for that reason alone you should give it a whirl.

Still no Tucson on their city guide though. Oh well...

Tasting table makes it look easy...because it is!

Now we're talking.

The wife is an gal. Me? I've always leaned toward Epicurious. Why? Well, it may sound a bit pretentious of me, but...the website is slightly, if not a lot more, progressive and ambitious than most. Sure it's nice to cook with canned peas and dried potatoes now and then but I kinda need more than that. Allrecipes, and I'm not calling it a crap site!, is great for simple and easy dishes you can make pronto. But when you want to diversify your cooking and what you got handy in the pantry, Epicurious has never let me down.

Outside of the obvious recipe index, Epicurious has a dandy community forum where you can get to know all of the contributors and even follow them in the manner of Pinterest (we'll get to that soon) and the ominous The Future link where they can deftly predict what will be the trends in the culinary trade in the next few years. This site is a no brainer for real cooks and real food fans. It covers all the basic bases and then some.

Best thing is Epicurious does not have a city guide so Tucson is safe here! Otherwise this is our favorite recipe tome on the web and hopefully it'll become yours as well.

Easy, breezy, beautiful...Epicurious

We've been reading Vice Magazine for quite some time now. When I lived in San Francisco, I used to pick it up for free at local record stores. The magazine was always filled with content you would expect from a title like Vice; boundary pushing, deep rooted in the underground, pervasive, salacious and the best part is that it is downright hilarious. So when I heard that they put together a site dedicated to just food and eating, I knew it would be amazing.

And it is.

Munchies is mainly a video streaming site where you can watch all sorts of chefs, musicians, idiots, hipsters and weirdos jaunt around their fair city and explore the culinary underbelly. I mean, it's always fun to watch rap beardo Action Bronson get stoned as all living heck then make guacamole. His series "Fxxk That's Delicious" is a hoot and I had no idea he used to be a professional cook before dropping rhymes and dimebags into the crowd. He's funny and strangely charismatic just like the website and if you get where Vice is going with everything that they produce, you'll immediately get the gist of what Munchies is all about.

But don't go into Munchies expecting a trove of recipes and user friendly cooking advice. This is a dope regime on a new level and they are taking the notion of a food site and flipping it on its back much like a turtle on the side of the road expecting it to learn how to get back on its feet. This is pure entertainment but for the hungry and culinary conversant. With a little luck you'll get offended at times which only means the J is for Genius heads over at Vice have done their job.

Just go to their "Watch" option on the upper left hand corner and click on the various shows and episodes they have to offer. Then lean back and be prepared to seriously get the munchies. And I don't even smoke weed. I mean, I have, but...


When you this high, I'm sure poke tastes like the sunbeams of heaven

Seriously, how can you have a blog about food blogs without mentioning the be all end all of websites dedicated to organizing your already hectic hedonistic fooder existence? Pinterest baby...Pinterest.

Look, thousands upon thousands of "Pinners" use the site to coordinate their favorite things, ranging from gardening to fashion to movies to girls with very large butts and everything in-between. I myself do not use Pinterest to show pictures or feature links of girls with very large butts but (uh...) now that you mention it...

Anyway, we love Pinterest because when we find a recipe on Tasting Table, Epicurious or any of the ba-jillion other sites we use and love, all we do it copy and paste it into our page and the recipe will be saved forever. Or until we delete it after trying it and realize that durian fois gras was a bad idea. It's just way too handy dandy for those who come across aspects of inspiration but just don't have the space to keep all of those clippings. Pinterest is the clipping and for that we would like to start clapping in your general direction. 

Most websites that have recipes or gardening hints already have a link to "Pin" your current intention to get to some day or food to try once you buy that other ingredient you pinned last week. It's organization for the unorganized and even the most scattered of manner will be able to find some symmetry here as the site does all the hard work for you. 

Oh...what's that? Is the Tucson Homeskillet on Pinterest? Well, sort of. 

You can follow Metal Mark on Pinterest HERE.

Apologies to the numerous and nameless food and cooking sites that did not make the list. I think you know who you are. Do you? Probably not.


Typing, Research and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Early March, 2016

Metal Influence:


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