The Cook's Thesaurus
What can I sub for the Vidalia onion I don't have? What difference does it make if I have the "wrong" kind of lettuce for this salad? Are dried herbs always inferior? This is a cheat sheet for stressed-out cooks who don't feel like going into Martha Stewart mode to procure their recipe ingredients and want to find appropriate stand-ins for the missing elements. Author Lori Alden includes an extensive biblio- and Web-ography.
Mama's Dining Room
Sure, this is a big billboard for Ragu, and the "Mama's Cucina" shtick gets tedious. But the newbie-friendly "Cooking 101" section, with pages like "Chicken for People Who Are Chicken," redeems this effort. The diversity of Italian recipes helps too, though many of these dishes call for one Ragu sauce or another. But you can use somebody else's sauce -- we won't tell.
The Gumbo Pages
A first-rate specialty site on the art, not science, of Cajun and Creole cooking. It starts with clear instructions on what you'll need to stock your kitchen -- and how to mail order if necessary. Then it provides friendly instructions on such staples as red beans and rice. The simple organization, concise prose and clean, lean design should be a model for Web sites of any flavor.
HomeArts Recipe Finder
The recipes available here -- plucked from the pages of the Hearst Corp. media empire's magazines -- may be a little advanced. But the flexibility of the search tools offered makes up for that; you can pick recipes by type of dish, calories per serving, time needed to prepare (from "under 30 minutes" to "start a day in advance") or by specific ingredients.
Meta-Site: Mimi's Cyber Kitchen
The klutzy page design has got to go, but the collection of links here is staggeringly complete. If, on the other hand, you prefer a page that's easier to navigate but less comprehensive, try the wittily named KitchenLink. Its "Joy of Surfing" section charts new food sites daily.
-- Rob Pegoraro
The Weekend Gardener's Herb Seeds Starting Page
Scattering seeds in a pot, giving them ample water and sun and watching their shoots turn into 12-inch plants is a great way to encounter nature, even within the confines of an eighth-floor apartment. But requirements differ drastically for each plant. This practical page "for busy people" will tell you exactly how deep to plant, whether an herb can grow indoors, how much water and direct sunlight it needs and much more.
Culinary Herb FAQ
This truly home-grown amalgam of growing techniques, plant classification tips and recipes comes not from the time-weathered tomes of some stuffy horticultural society, but from the online postings of other faithful herb gardeners in the alt.folklore. herbs newsgroup. Think of it as the recorded observations of a community garden.
Algy's Herb Garden
Algy expertly weaves together his own sage wisdom (including a decent monthly newsletter) with that of respected agricultural schools like Penn State and Colorado State University. The result is a well-organized electronic reference on everything from what to do with flowering basil to the latest word on home-grown kombucha mushroom tea. Plus: excellent discussion areas where you can trade ideas and rare seeds.
-- Dan Pacheco
Much of the consumer-electronics industry coverage here is mainly of interest to industry insiders and the tech-obsessed, but E-Town's "Buy Guide" is worth a look. First you can read the lucid, hype-free summaries of particular product genres, then click on the "Gear Finder," which lets you specify what features you'd like and how much you're willing to shell out. You'll get a list of products that match. Finally, E-Town's own reviews, while sometimes unhelpfully curt, can help to bring your attention to the annoying small flaws that can make an otherwise decent product unusable.
If you wanted to look up what the various magazines of the world have said about a particular kind of gadget -- say, VCRs or cordless shavers or universal remotes -- you could spend a long night slogging through search engines to find reviews. Or you could hit this one site, which summarizes findings of dozens of sources behind one simple search engine, providing links to the full reviews if they're available online. PRN also catalogues other buyer's guides on the Web.
Upstate New Yorker (and sometime FFWD contributor) Stephen Jacobs is willing to abuse his toys -- for instance, strapping a portable CD player to the back of his bike and bouncing down trails to test its shock resistance. While individual reviews are in-depth, there aren't that many -- only a few dozen. If you're curious about a new, much-hyped product, though, a GB review could be a good introduction.
Hui Khim's Hi-Fi Haven
If there's a manufacturer, reviewer or fan of audio gear who doesn't have a link listed here, odds are they will soon. It's most useful for finding manufacturers -- especially boutique-type companies that have yet to invest in Internet domain names of their own.
-- Rob Pegoraro
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