Thursday, 15 March 2007

The 50 Best Food Websites

A few weekends ago The Independent on Sunday published a pull-out under its "The Information" banner entitled "The 50 Best Food Websites". I found the feature really interesting because, as someone who's gradually getting more familiar with the websites and blogs out there, it provided me with a good source of information on sites I had not previously discovered. It's taken me quite a long time to sort out the list by type and here is my shot at it.

The sites in the 50 Best List divide into six categories (I hope I've got them all right):
  1. On-Line Farmers
  2. Riverford Organic Vegetables, Islay Fine Food Company, Northfield Farm, Damhead Organics, Jekka's Herb Farm, Nudo Italia, East Coast Organics
  3. On-Line Shops And Producers
  4. Hobbs House Bakery, Scotherbs, Shipton Mill, La Fromagerie, L'Artisan du Chocolat, Daylesford Organic, Meg Rivers, Demijohn, Wing Yip, Simple Simon's Perfect Pies, Plaisir du Chocolat, Wensleydale Foods, Donald Russell
  5. Food Wholesalers and Virtual Supermarkets
  6. Traidcraft Shop, Solstice, Merchant Gourmet, Foodfullstop, Forman And Field, Caledonian Connoisseur, Natoora, Cool Chile Co., Ocado, Abel & Cole
  7. Food Bloggers/Writers
  8. Chocolate & Zucchini, Dos Hermanos, Cupcakes Take the Cake, 101 Cookbooks, Opinionated About Dining, Chez Pim, The Amateur Gourmet, Delicious Days
  9. Cookery Schools, Pro/Celebrity Chefs & Consultants
  10. CIA ProChef, Delia Online, Dan Lepard, Michael Ruhlman, River Cottage
  11. On-Line Magazines, Resource Centres and Culinary Organisations
  12. Chow, BBC Food, Eat the Seasons, Epicurious, Slow Food, eGullet, FoodLovers Britain
Three of these groups are traders in culinary produce and three are writers and communicators. Groups 1-3 make their money through business-to-business or business-to-customer food sales, whereas Groups 4-6 make their money through advertising, sponsorship, referral fees, membership fees or, indeed, not at all. Many of us operate websites as amateurs, for the love of food.

The first group comprises farmers who have developed their businesses through e-commerce. Readers in the US will be familiar with farm box schemes, where farmers pick seasonal vegetables and fruit and offer customers a surprise selection, or a choice of boxes with an indication of the contents. Either way there's always something unexpected and that makes the whole scheme fun. It's not something we've traditionally done in the UK, but I'm predicting a huge rise in the popularity of such schemes in the next few years. I was pleased to see Northfield Farm on this list - they run a popular outlet in my local Borough Market.Northfield Farm
Hobbs House BakeryGroup 2 comprises food retailers with individual shops or outlet networks who, like the farmers, have discovered the advantages of e-commerce. Chocolate, cheese, pies, bread and wine are amongst the specialities available from the websites of these traders. Although some (such as Wing Yip with its Chinese food superstores) are based in city centres, most are in rural locations where they contribute to the regional food production that makes any country's cuisine so great. The coming of the internet has opened new markets to these producers, some of whom now export all over the world from their bases in remote villages.
Rather different are the "virtual supermarkets" - wholesalers and retailers whose operations were created (like on the back of the internet. Although they have premises for warehousing, dispatch and admin, they don't trade face-to-face but sell exclusively over the web. With leading supermarkets providing web-based home delivery services, it was only a matter of time before e-traders followed suit. These are gradually becoming more popular, at a time when the leading supermarkets are increasing their share of the in-shop
Dos Hermanos food bloggersWe're all familiar with most if not all of the selected bloggers in Group 4. The 50 Best Food Websites selection reflects a balance between the most widely read food sites and some interesting, newer bloggers. Similarly, Group 5 contains pro chef and celebrity sites that many of us link to and use regularly, plus one or two that are less familiar. CIA ProChef sounded a bit spooky to me, until I discovered that CIA is an acronym for the Culinary Institute of America. No covert operations there, hopefully, everything completely above chopping board!
The final group are in some ways the most interesting. It's hard to define this group exactly as they all differ in what they offer. Some are basically on-line versions of what would otherwise be (and in some cases actually are) printed magazines. Other sites in this group are membership organisations or resource forums such as billboards. All of these sites offer a wide diversity of services to their readers and are well worth a

So it was a good read and a useful one. Obviously you could argue about Rhiannon Batten's selection, with some great food websites not on the list. The only criticism I'll make, however, is she seems not to have noticed the existence of humorous food blogs. That's a shame, because in today's very serious world it's nice to read food writers who make us laugh. But lists like this are a source of inspiration. You never know - you might find a life-long reading companion amongst the links above.


Scott at Real Epicurean said...

I'd agree with a lot but not all of them.

For blogs - and how can I say this without offending the winners (all of who have great sites) - there's a handful that stand out.

Delicious days is of course one (as is Chez Pim), but Matt Bites and La Tartine Gourmande are surely at the top of their game, too.

Chris Varvaro said...

Great Information! Thanks For Your Help. Best Of Luck To You.

Mark said...

Indeed a great blog. I haven't come across any such site which shows the full sources of food making by a chef. A food wholesailer like me got many things to learn from it.
Thanks for sharing this information
- mark (uk foed wholesailers)

Alison said...

what a great list. do any of them send to the states?

Trig said...

I have no idea, Alison, but I'd think it unlikely. You can always check them out. But you have many fine suppliers in the US that you can use.

Chuck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ryan said...

Great article and some top sites - there's one I've been looking at lately called fine dining lovers - got some nice pics and good foodie articles.

AnilSaggam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AnilSaggam said...

Check out too.

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