Food stuff 

MEGA-BITES ONLINE

As advanced as computers have become, they still can’t cook for us. But there are still plenty of ways computers can assist in the daily task of hunting and gathering for our nutritional needs.

One company, NCR, has built a prototype model of a microwave oven with a computer in the door – it’ll keep track of your grocery list, suggest recipes and provide an inventory of your pantry as well as cooking your food (you still have to assemble the recipes, though). Any number of Web sites let you order delicacies online and have them shipped to your door.

But if you just don’t feel like preparing dinner, well, those days of Jetsons-style robot maids may be forever trapped in a fantasy future.

Which means, yes, another trip to your favorite local eatery, and another satisfying but not especially inspiring meal of the same old-same old.

Or not.

If you’re like me, you have a repertoire of a dozen or two favorite restaurants – ones you can rely on to feed you day or night, depending on your cravings, companions, cash flow and acute hunger-induced grumpiness. These places are reliably good, reasonably priced and – when the hunger grumps are at their worst – conveniently located.

But when you’ve memorized the menus, it’s time to add to your repertoire.

That’s where the computer, and a handy Internet connection, comes in.

Restaurant Metropolis, a brand-new feature of the Metro Times Web site, makes finding a new favorite restaurant as easy as pie. Or cake. Or lasagna. Or – never mind, I’m getting hungry. Here’s how you use it.

Go to restaurants.metrotimes.com. From there, you can browse lists that include thousands of metro-area restaurants, all organized by categories that cover cities, cuisine styles, price ranges and other criteria, including whether the restaurants are kid-friendly or allow smoking.

So, for example, say you’re looking for a place to eat breakfast. Click on "cuisines" and then on "breakfast." Want to narrow it down to breakfast in Livonia? You can – just continue to click, this time on "cities." The site will list enough choices to keep you fed for weeks.
Then, if you need to know more about an individual restaurant – say, whether they’re open right now – you can follow the link to the restaurant’s Web page, which will even create a map to tell you how to get there.

It works for all kinds of occasions – you can find a nearby place to fill up, or an upscale spot to celebrate a big day. And for many restaurants, you can see what MT food reviewers have said.

MT’s online editor, Adam Druckman, says the site is meant to be a fun way to find information. So think of it as a game, with the prize being a chance to discover a whole new list of favorite restaurants. And please remember – no matter how hungry you are, computers work with bytes, not bites.

–Alisa Gordaneer

TREATS

Love wine? Meet winemaker Matt Gallo, of Gallo of Sonoma, at the Merchant of Vino’s Cellar Collection (254 W. Maple, Birmingham, 248-433-3000) on Wednesday, April 28, from noon to 1:30 p.m. He’ll be talking about winemaking and autographing bottles of his company’s best. … See "Michigan’s largest talking gefilte fish" at the first Michigan Jewish Food Fair on Sunday, May 2, at Congregation Shir Tikvah (3900 Northfield Parkway, Troy). Also featured will be cooking competitions and tasting opportunities. The event runs from noon to 4 p.m., tickets are available at the door.

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