December Foodie Magazine Roundup

Ever since I compiled a roundup of Thanksgiving special issues at the end of October, I've been receiving requests for a similar overview of the food mag world's annual holiday spreads. As November winds down tomorrow and makes room for the most festive time of the year, here's my take on December-centric food issues you may find at your nearest check-out counter or magazine stand. Today, I take on four magazines; tomorrow, I'll finish with another batch of three.

And as usual, comments and magazine-y tidbits are most welcome in the coments area below.

BON APPETIT

Can you judge a book by its cover?
A close-up of a white chocolate tiramisu trifle, which is appealing only if white chocolate is your thing (it's not mine).

Theme
"Dream Desserts" -- with a photo spread and recipe feature of the same name. Includes four recipes for challenging, festive sweets; points for pastry chef Dede Wilson's contributions.

Seasonal produce emphasis?
Blood oranges, with four recipes.

Gift guide
Most selections seem appropriate for a food enthusiast, but I scratched my head over the choice of the $495 gold and silver Balinese bracelet as well as the "Sienne l'Hiver," a $120 bottle of perfume that is supposed to make you feel like you're in Siena, Italy. The homemade edible gift feature (with eight recipes) as well as the cookbook gift list (although very short) is more appealing.

Holiday exclusivity, cultural diversity?
* Hanukkah menu feature, that includes an intriguing recipe for pea spaetzle
* "Tamale tradition" -- Mexican cookbook author and chef Zarela Martinez on the traditional Christmas dish in Mexico.

How much how-to?
Tamales; Dorie Greenspan's lesson on cut-out cookie dough

Bonus points
* Menu guide in the back is useful as a way to mix and match recipes from throughout the magazine for a variety of December-esque occasions, i.e. "snow day," "dinner with friends."
* Vanilla extract taste test

Holiday baker-friendly?
Although the recipe index includes 22 recipes for dessert, the issue doesn't come off as dessert-heavy, particularly with the sweet cover.

Vegetarian friendly?
The recipe index marks all vegetarian recipes with an orange "V" -- which total about nine in the main course and side dish departments, but otherwise no special meatless dispensation or recipe feature.

Grade: B

Web site: Bon Appetit at epicurious


COOKING LIGHT

Can you judge a book by its cover?
A smartly done photo of double-chocolate cupcakes dusted with confectioners' sugar to give a snowy, sugar plum effect. Nicely done.

Theme
"Sweet holidays!" which sets ready up for a dessert and/or baking focus. Promise delivered with a 20-page "Cookie course" as well as multi-faced recipe feature on chocolate.

Seasonal produce emphasis?
Nice feature on persimmons, with seven recipes.

Gift guide
Short but sweet spread of kitchen-centric gifts, plus additional wine-related treats, such as decanters, totes and champagne openers.

Holiday exclusivity, cultural diversity?
Hanukkah menu; New Mexican "Noche Buena" Christmas feast

How much how-to?
Tempering dark chocolate; the basics of cookies -- rolled, dropped, icebox, hand-shaped, twice-baked, plus bars.

Bonus points
"31 days, 31 delicious dishes," a recipe for every day for the month of December in a desk calendar-like format, with nods to a variety of holidays, including Hanukkah, Eid-al-Adha, Kwanzaa (although mentions it on the 29th, three days late) and the winter solstice.

Holiday baker-friendly?
In addition to the cookie feature, the magazine has a total of 34 dessert recipes. Sweet indeed.

Vegetarian friendly?
Festive brunch menu from cookbook author Deborah Madison.

Grade: A minus

Web site: Cooking LIght


FOOD & WINE

Can you judge a book by its cover?
A close up of a beef roast, a similar tactic employed by the folks over at Saveur (featured in tomorrow's blog space), and one that will not appeal to all revelers.

Theme
"Holiday favorites" that includes hors d'oeuvres, cookies, gifts.

Seasonal produce emphasis?
None that I can see.

Gift guide
* "40 Food Lover's Gifts" with less emphasis on kitchen practical and more on the whimsical (birdy tea pot, bacon snacks, "pick your nose" paper cups). The inclusion of the HP Photosmart printer is confusing.

* Cookbook list on page 146 is admittedly more "high brow than how-to" -- more for the coffee table than the kitchen counter.

* Collection of recipes from F&W staff for edible gifts.

Holiday exclusivity, cultural diversity?
A nod to various cultures in its potluck article, with recipes from Lebanon, Iran and Lithuania.

How much how-to?
None that I can see.

Bonus points
* Menu ideas by December-esque occasions with a bevy of creative ideas, such as "late-night dessert party" "vegetarian dinner" and "luxe feast."
* "Holiday wine survival guide," probably the strongest feature in the issue, with lots of practical advice for would-be hosts.

Holiday baker friendly?
Dessert feature by Jacques Pepin, with four of his recipes, including one for fruit jellies that I may have to try. Cookie feature is one page, using one recipe to make four different variations. A bit thin.

Vegetarian friendly?
Other than the blue dotted designation in the recipe index, no special meatless dispensation.

Grade: C

Web site: Food & Wine


GOURMET

Can you judge a book by its cover?
Inviting and dreamy head shot of cookies and candies. Just what the holiday doctor ordered.

Theme
"Cookie and Candy Extravaganza" -- promises in its delivery with a "Home Sweet Homemade" feature on holiday confections, with 11 recipes. I'm intrigued by the pistachio torrone and the peppermint patties. (Stay tuned for those reports in an upcoming blog post!)

Seasonal produce emphasis?
None that I can see.

Gift guide
Not much of one to speak of; an edible gift feature by "Top Chef" kitten Padma Lakshmi, who dishes up some of her favorite Indian chutneys from home.

Holiday exclusivity, cultural diversity?
Mexican village "feliz navidad" menu; article on a Yemeni immigrant community in Israel, with five Hanukkah-worthy rcipes; an interesting take on a Hanukkah menu with small plates and kids in mind.

How much how-to?
Cupcake and cookie decoration.

Bonus points
As usual, the photography is stellar and mouth-watering.

Holiday baker friendly?
If you like to make candy, yes; if you don't, not really. The consolation prize, though, is the aforementioned primer on decorating cookies and cupcakes.

Vegetarian friendly?
"Vegetarian tonight" featuring pad Thai, but nothing specifically tied to the festive season.

Grade: B

Web site: Gourmet at epicurious

By Kim ODonnel |  November 29, 2007; 11:42 AM ET Cook's Library , Food Media , Winter Holidays
Previous: Some Pepper With My Cookie, Please | Next: December Food Mags, Part Two

Comments

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Go Cooking Light! I'm a huge fan of the magazine, even more so since my girlfriends and I started a CL Supper Club. It's my favorite night of the month.

Posted by: CL Fan | November 29, 2007 12:23 PM

Cooking Light has been very disappointing for 4-5 months now, so I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the December issue. I fell in LOVE with the Bon Appetit November issue and am glad that they followed up with another great one. I tore out dozens of recipes from both! Thanks for doing the round-up!

Posted by: cm | November 29, 2007 1:17 PM

Cannot wait for the blog on the peppermint paddies and pistachio torrone! When I saw those in the mag, I immediately wanted to make them, but nixed the peppermint patties after looking throught the list of ingredients; I abhor veg. shortening (no crisco in my house!). Can you give some alternatives in your upcoming blog about it? Thanks!!!

Posted by: Kat from Baltimore | November 29, 2007 1:33 PM

Thank you, Kim for this great round-up. I recently let my subscription to Cooking Light lapse, because the recipes just didn't have the verve I was looking for. Think I'll check out this month's issue.

(And I, too, am very interested in your take on the peppermint patties).

Posted by: rt in dc | November 29, 2007 3:14 PM

If you cant follow the recipes in Food and Wine you should be banned from the kitchen,
My 8yo niece can follow most recipes from F&W and turn out great meals.
Please this isnt that difficult. And I am sorry if the roast upsets vegans and vegetarians. The are some spare cells in Gitmo for you and then we have the infamous prime rib torture we we stuff you with twice baked potatoes, popovers, prime rib etc. If you dont convert its Barney and Karl Rove 24/7.

Now I have to go feed the sheep and my neighbors steer with our special food that causes them to fart more thus contributing more methane to the earth's atmos[here and making this planet warmer!
You can thank me later.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 2, 2007 4:42 PM

Hi Kim-

I wanted to let you know I made the peppermint patties from Gourmet this month and had an interesting experience. I feel I have a good amount of cooking/baking ability and I thought this recipe was a bit tricky. I feel the average person baking at home would get incredibly frustrated with the chocolate parts of the recipe.

Let me know if you would like more details - I would love to share.

www.TheDistrictDomestic.com

Posted by: The District Domestic | December 3, 2007 12:18 PM

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