December Food Mags, Part Two

We pick up where we left off yesterday, a look at what the food magazine world has to offer this holiday season. Yesterday, I assessed the state of four special issues; today, I follow up on the three remaining in my pile. As always, comments and discoveries are highly encouraged in the comments area below.

MARTHA STEWART LIVING

Can you judge a book by its cover?

It's all about Martha, with a holiday twinkle in her eye, standing next to a cake decorated with elaborately stenciled, Old World-looking (natch) gingerbread village houses. Caption reads: "Martha with a cake that evokes a town square in Prague, surrounded by bead ornaments."

Theme
"The Most Magical Holidays Ever," offering a mix of crafts, decorating, entertaining and baking. It's beginning to feel like a lot like Christmas, but not really in the kitchen.

Seasonal produce emphasis?
None that I can see.

Gift guide
Edible gifts, with a focus on pralines. Book ideas cover the gamut of Martha's purview, which includes gardening, design and crafts in addition to foodie titles.

Holiday exclusivity, cultural diversity?
Short blurb on Hanukkah potato chips; a crafts project for kids who celebrate Hanukkah, plus a recipe for sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts). Otherwise, it's all about Christmas, with recipes for crown roast, roast goose, a feature on buying a Christmas tree, making wreaths, decorating stockings. You get the idea.

How much how-to?
Pralines; decorating Hanukkah dreidels and menorahs. Gingerbread stenciling (with cut-out templates provided), decorating and constructing.

Bonus points
*Entertaining snacks -- I like the idea of Taleggio flatbread, and there are details for making your own tuna tartare, if you dare.
*Wine pairing ideas for six types of holiday dishes by the brothers Lee, who take the extra step of the "why" behind picking a particular wine. I like the "consider" aspect rather than "drink this" bossy approach.

Holiday baker friendly?
Three-layer fruitcake with a cream cheese glaze; Christmas tree cupcakes, also with cream cheese. Gingerbread feature includes 11 recipes, from caramels to waffles. A plentiful spread.

Vegetarian friendly?
Vegetarian who?

Grade: As a Yuletide primer, MSL gets an A minus. But as an inclusive holiday guide with a look beyond the Connecticut countryside, it fares poorly: D.

Web site: Martha Stewart Living


SAVEUR

Can you judge a book by its cover?
An up close and personal shot of prime rib, which may not appeal to all kinds of revelers.

Theme
"The Art of Roasting," which is also its lead feature.

Seasonal produce emphasis?
No.

Gift guide
Not one to speak of.

Holiday exclusivity, cultural diversity?
Latke feature by Joan Nathan, with recipe. Essay on Guatemalan tamales, with recipe. Kwanzaa gets a shout-out in its calendar, as does Simbang Gabi, a pre-Christmas holiday in the Philippines.
Christmas in Berlin feature. The Bahia, Brazil travel story is engaging and colorful, with lots of recipes, but it seems awkwardly timed.

How much how-to?
A nice primer on cooking sugar; Useful photo essays on carving prime rib, a whole fish, a whole chicken and a pork roast.

Bonus points
* Recipe for classic soupe a l'Oignon, which I'm tempted to try during the holidays.
* Champagne primer, including how to choose the right glass
* The list of "6 Food-Focused Charities," a good reminder that there's always someone less fortunate and in need of a meal.

Holiday baker friendly?
Emphasis on making candy rather than cookies, with four recipes (including one for peppermint patties, so that makes two mags this season).

Vegetarian friendly?
Not this time. Of the 21 recipes, only the latkes qualify --- and the candy, if that's considered a food group.

Grade: B minus.

Web site: Saveur magazine

COOK'S ILLUSTRATED: HOLIDAY BAKING

This stand-alone imprint of Cook's Illustrated is a different beast than the average holiday food magazine, with a singular focus on baking. Some of the criteria used for the other magazines does not apply and is omitted when appropriate.

How-to
There's some kind of how-to illustration on nearly every page, plus extensive primers on working with chocolate and pie dough. If you screw up, you can't blame them for lack of trying to lend a hand.

Bonus Points
The "quick tips" section, all baking related -- and yes, illustrated. A recipe for profiteroles, one of my all-time faves, and one for sticky buns, that they insist are not too sweet. I'm pencilling this one in for a December afternoon.

Friendly to bakers?
A little something for everyone who wants to play with flour, both in the sweet and savory departments, from baked Alaska to vanilla icebox cookies, from dinner rolls to quiche. Lots of choices, for a variety of skill levels, too.

Grade: A minus; this is worth the higher price tag of $7.95

Web site: Cook's Illustrated

By Kim ODonnel |  November 30, 2007; 9:16 AM ET Food Media , Winter Holidays
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Comments

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I laughed when I read the part about the cover of Martha with "a twinkle in her eye." When my magazine came in the mail, my husband remarked that she had been airbrushed so much she looked like Jessica Simpson.

Posted by: Falls Church | November 30, 2007 12:20 PM

Actually, simbang gabi is part of the Christmas celebration in the Philippines, and not a separate holiday. It literally translates into "night Mass" and it's a dawn mass for the nine days preceding Christmas. There are traditional foods served after the mass which is what I assume the Saveur article focuses on. I'll have to pick up a copy!

Posted by: Filipino Transplant | November 30, 2007 12:48 PM

Thanks for the reviews Kim! I may head on over to the local bookstore and take a looksie at the Cook's Illustrated magazine. Yesterday's blog couldn't have come at a better time; my December Cooking Light magazine came in the mail! I think I may try the Chai Spice cookie recipe that was in the cookie section. Thank you for taking time to review these magazines, I don't have time to look through all of them so it was nice getting a "Readers Digest" version.

Posted by: Southern Gal | November 30, 2007 12:51 PM

Love these reviews! I'm surprised so few picked up on the whole seasonal-produce angle, but maybe in a few years yet ...

Posted by: nicole | November 30, 2007 3:17 PM

Since you mentioned the "food magazine world" I wanted to offer that the UK has a great holiday food layout in their "Olive" and "Good Food" magazines.

Posted by: Ophira | November 30, 2007 4:03 PM

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