A friend alerted me to yesterday’s rollout of Foodily, a new social recipe search engine, via a USA Today article describing the site.  Reading through it, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. “Foodies can be friends on new Foodily site,” the headline yawned. Just what I need, I thought, another social network to keep up with. I already find myself becoming overwhelmed by the demands of maintaining a dual existence in the online world and the real-life world. Count me out.

Upon visiting the site, though, I was happy to discover that its “social” aspect is nothing more than a simple Facebook connection, which lets users see which recipes their Facebook friends like and recommend their own. Since most of the people I rely on for recipe recommendations reside in the Twitter-verse, I’m not sure I’ll even bother with this aspect of Foodily, but it may prove useful for others.

The site’s biggest draw, in my opinion, is its clean and intuitive layout. This is what sets it apart from other recipe aggregators like AllRecipes.com and Cooks.com. Foodily arranges search results in a smooth horizontal scroll format, with the ingredient list for each recipe presented right there–no need to click on each one individually to determine its length or complexity. Nearly all recipes are accompanied by a sumptuous-looking photo of the finished dish.

What’s more, users can refine search results simply by clicking on a particular ingredient in a recipe’s list and requesting that their search be narrowed to only recipes that include (or exclude) that component. So if I’ve got chicken I need to use up but lack inspiration for how to prepare it, I’ll search for “chicken,” and maybe I’ll hit on a recipe whose flavors catch my eye. “Cilantro, yeah, I’ve got that in the fridge,” and I’ll request only chicken recipes that also include cilantro. Now a variety of Indian, Thai, and Mexican dishes appear. I love lime, so I’ll further narrow my search to only display those recipes that also include that.

Voila! Now I’ve got a manageable, mouth-watering list of dishes to choose from including Lime Chicken with Poblano Sour Cream, Honey Tequila Lime Chicken, and Grilled Chicken with Tomato, Lime, & Cilantro Salsa. It’s like browsing through a cookbook filled with only recipes for things I like using ingredients I have on hand. The directions pop out directly within the search results so I don’t have to navigate back and forth between pages to compare recipes. Star ratings are displayed below each dish, and I can save recipes I like or want to try later. This is web design done right.

My only complaint is the name: “Foodily” (which is supposed to be short for “Food I Love You” bears an unfortunate resemblance to “foodie,” a term that, deserved or not, has developed connotations of snobbery and pretension. I would hate for any novice cooks or so-called “average Americans” to be turned off to the site because they associate it with people who sous-vide their breakfasts and regularly consume vaporized vegetables. For the sake of our waistlines, our wallets, and our traditions, it’s high time we all got back in the kitchen. Let’s hope this site inspires more of us to get reacquainted with our stoves!

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