By Anne DesBrisay

Last spring, I opened an email from John Gilchrist, Calgary’s pre-eminent food writer, asking if I’d be interested in contributing the Ottawa section to a cross-Canada restaurant app he was working on. It was to be a first of its kind, geared to the business traveller, a catalogue of best places to eat as chosen by the leading restaurant critics in eleven cities across Canada.

Its working title was Dining in Downtown Canada … good places to eat within a walk or cab from major hotels in our major cities.

The idea was simple: you’re in Saskatoon, weary, hungry, with no idea where to go or who to trust with your appetite or your wallet. With this app, you’ve got the answers – a list of restaurants selected and reviewed by someone who knows the eating out scene back to front.

So that’s what we did, though somewhere along the way it got rechristened.

Last night, Eat Canada was launched (now with a middle name, Dining in Downtown Canada) and I’m delighted to be a part of it. Check it out here, and consider it a delicious gift for the foodie traveller on your list.

Ten top Canadian restaurant critics have created Eat Canada: Dining in Downtown Canada. It’s the country’s first restaurant app for the business traveller.

Highlights of Eat Canada:

-    Eleven of Canada’s major cities are included – Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and St. John’s.

-    Each city features twenty, critic-chosen restaurants and beverage places, largely within the downtown business core. In total, over 200 highly recommended restaurants are included.

-    Reviews contain info on cuisine styles, noise levels, private rooms, price ranges, credit cards, hours, websites, alcoholic beverages, corkage and outdoor dining.

-    The app’s interactive elements include full mapping to get directions to a restaurant from a user’s current location, plus links to phone numbers, websites and the OpenTable reservation system.

-    Users can track which restaurants they’ve visited and keep notes on their favourites.

-    The app has been built for iPhones and iPads and will be available through the App Store for $9.99.

-    Developer for Eat Canada is Jeremy Gale of Force Grind Inc., Calgary, Alberta.

-    For more app info check out http://www.forcegrind.com/eatcanada

-    For more information and interviews regarding Eat Canada, please contact John Gilchrist at 403-255-7560 or escurial@telus.net.

The Critics:

Karl Wells (St John’s): restaurant critic for The Telegram, an accredited chef and host of the Rogers TV show, One Chef One Critic.

Bill Spurr (Halifax): features writer and restaurant critic for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.

Robert Beauchemin (Montreal): restaurant critic for La Presse and college instructor on culture and food.

Anne DesBrisay (Ottawa): restaurant critic for the Ottawa Citizen for 19 years and author of Capital Dining, the definitive guide to dining in the Ottawa area.

James Chatto (Toronto): restaurant critic for over 25 years, editor of Harry Magazine and National Culinary Advisor for Gold Medal Plates and the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Christine Hanlon (Winnipeg): has written about food and culture for Style Manitoba, Western Living and Fodor’s Canada.

CJ Katz (Saskatoon/Regina): culinary host of CTV’s Wheatland Café, restaurant writer for the Regina Leader-Post, publisher of Savour Life Magazine and author of the newly released TASTE: Seasonal Dishes from the Prairie Table.

Mary Bailey (Edmonton): publisher of The Tomato Food & Drink, certified sommelier and wine instructor Art Institute of Vancouver, and co-author of two National Best-Sellers on Alberta food.

John Gilchrist (Calgary): CBC Radio restaurant critic for 32 years, restaurant writer for The Calgary Herald, author of ten National Best-Sellers on dining in the Calgary-Banff area, and instructor of food and culture programs at the U of C.

Andrew Morrison (Vancouver): editor of Scout Magazine, restaurant critic for the Westender newspaper and instructor of food writing at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts.