Food Mag Roundup: A New Year, A New Batch

With a hearty helping of positive feedback on the holiday magazine roundups in November and December, I've been motivated to make this a regular monthly feature. Expect a variety of least five magazines to be mentioned every month, with an invitation to chime in on your favorites and additional pubs worth mentioning. Here's what I've got on my desk at the moment...

BON APPETIT

Theme: "Best of the Year" -- trend spotting for the year ahead.

Does Theme Deliver? I guess, but it all feels a bit thin to me. There's a fun travel piece on how to eat your way through Mexico City, deemed BA's "destination of the year," but the rest of this feature leaves me wanting more. I wanted to know, for example why brown butter is its "flavor of the year" or why there's a photo of chocolate pudding pie on the cover when we've just stuffed our faces over the holidays.

How Much How-To: The only smidge I could decipher is a pictorial entitled "The New Spice Rack," which identifies six spices trend-minded cooks are playing with.

Does It Inspire Inquiring Minds? Maybe. For a few. I'm just not feeling the love.

Additional Notes: New logo design, more wine coverage than in past.

Web Site: Bon Appetit at epicurious

COOKING LIGHT

Theme: Winter Comfort

Does the Theme Deliver?
It really does. Similarly to Vegetarian Times (see below), there's a worthy collection of soup recipes with a global focus, plus a useful pictorial on international pantry staples. Entertaining feature includes a menu of cold-weather goodies, such as minestrone and a gratin of turnips.

How Much How-to: A thorough "cooking class" on braising by the cookbook writing team of Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarborough - a useful feature for this time of year, when home cooks are hankering for hot pots of stew. Well done.

A backgrounder on formerly exotic tropical fruits now making their way into American produce sections.

Thumbs Up
: The recipe feature from Italian cookbook author Guiliano Hazan, who offers five cold-weather dishes from the Veneto region. This is a goodie!

Thumbs Down: I'd rather do without the gardening how-to on planting amaryllis bulbs, the beauty tips or the workout feature. I'm coming to CL for kitchen ideas; otherwise, I'd pick up Real Simple, Body & Soul or O for a content potpourri.

Web Site: Cooking Light.

FOOD & WINE

Theme: "100 Best Recipes, Restaurants & Wines for 2008"

Does Theme Deliver?
It does, particularly for those who like to rummage through lists. I am partial to the 29 travel-related tidbits and less keen on the 30-some literal "food" items.

Entertaining is the book's secondary focus, with three recipe stories -- breakfast, New Year's in Aspen and a oddly-themed piece about making your own home bar with Mexican vittles. Weird.

Thumbs up: Its list of sustainable seafood choices. Brief backgrounder, but a useful reminder (and small enough to tear out and put in your wallet when shopping at the seafood counter).

Thumbs down: No how-to whatsoever.

Web site: Food & Wine

GOURMET

Theme: "What is Southern?"

Does Theme Deliver? In a vacuum, yes. There is some beautiful writing within, including the raison d'etre for the issue, a never before-published essay by the late Edna Lewis, Laura Shapiro's interview with Lewis's soul mate Scott Peacock, and a kicky travel-to-eat piece on Nashville by local darling and novelist Ann Patchett.

And then there's the treasure trove of recipes, culled from Miss Lewis, Peacock as well as keeper collection of cakes.

How Much How-to: Nice pictorial on making biscuits.

Additional notes: Undoubtedly great reading and recipe clipping opportunities, but I have to wonder why this theme was chosen for the first issue of the year, when people may still be tired from the holidays and paying more attention to their waistlines. I hope it doesn't go unnoticed.

Web Site: Gourmet at epicurious

VEGETARIAN TIMES

Theme: "Eat Green, Get Lean!" -- touting 31, under 300-calorie recipes.

Does the Theme Deliver?
Maybe I'm being too literal, but I'm seeing relatively little green veg in these pages. The "lean" part however, is substantial, without a preachy diet tone.

Thumbs Up: The multi-cultural soup article, featuring six different recipes, each with a unique ethnic focus. Useful background notes for each soup from a cookbook author specializing in said cuisine.

The "Put the Veg Back in Vegetarian" article, with six recipes from cookbook author Molly Katzen (who's just published a new book), is a good wakeup call for this time of year.

Thumbs Down: Like the theme, the issue is also lean, fewer than 100 pages. I want more for $4.99.

Web Site: Vegetarian Times

By Kim ODonnel |  January 3, 2008; 10:38 AM ET Food Mag Roundup
Previous: What Do You Want to Eat This Year? | Next: Curry Come Quickly

Comments

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Thanks, Kim, for making this a new feature of your blog.

One point re: Cooking Light. I understand your comment about the workout feature, etc., but those are regular "departments" within CL.

Title notwithstanding, CL has always had a broader focus on general healthy living, not JUST food.

While the departments might not appeal to you when you are reading cooking magazines, it does have merit for subscribers or regular readers who look to CL as general boost to trying for a healthier lifestyle, of which food is a significant but not sole part. I subscribed several years ago and found those sections helpful. I didn't (don't) have the time, money or inclination to read several different magazines-- one on exercise, one on lifestyle, another on food. CL was a nice overall approach, and I found the departments useful not distracting.

Just suggesting that there is a different viewpoint for you to consider.

It's not unlike some of the side notes in your blog related to more healthful living, better environmental practices and the like.

Thanks for all the work you do with your blog and chats to create a sense of community and to share your wonderful creativity.

Posted by: Transplated from MD to Chills-ville Midwest | January 3, 2008 11:45 AM

Happy New Year! Just wanted to say thanks so much for making this a continuing feature of your blog! I subscribe to way too many magazines and this will help me reduce the pile.

Posted by: montgomery village md mom | January 3, 2008 2:11 PM

Long live Cooking Light! I love that magazine! I am looking forward to making the cardamom-lime sweet rolls recipe from it. I try to make at least two CL recipes a month. I too, found the braising article helpful and am looking forward to future articles on different cooking techniques throughout the year. In the magazine it lists which technique will be featured each month. It is a great, useful magazine.

Posted by: CL FAN | January 3, 2008 2:50 PM

I agree with Transplanted. I only subscribe to one cooking magazine and that's Cooking Light. I like the extras.

This month's feature on braising was great. I've always seen short descriptions of it that never seemed to work quite right or got the effect they claimed. I'm eager to try CL's this weekend.

For those non-CL readers, the mag plans to focus on a different cooking method each month. That should be very helpful to all those out there who are novice cooks or ones that need a refresher.

Posted by: rmh | January 3, 2008 2:50 PM

I stopped getting CL because it uses so may processed and instant ingredients, and I found that the cooking part of it was hard to find, as Kim did. Veg Times, on the other hand, is a gem. EVERY recipe I have made from it (and that is a bundle) has been praised by my non-veg friends and family, and by me, a veg. It really focuses on the food and recipes and also uses easy-to-find ingredients without resorting to processed/canned/instant too much.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 3, 2008 3:48 PM

Kim, did you ever tell us how your fruitcake turned out? I missed that blog entry.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 3, 2008 3:51 PM

I agree with the first poster. Cooking Light has articles on overall healthy living, not only cooking. Recipes and cooking instruction are the bulk of the content, however, and shouldn't be difficult for anyone to find. Also, I've subscribed for many years and would have dropped the subscription long ago if CL were full of recipes with processed and instant ingredients.

Than Jan/Feb. 2008 issue is very good. I'm in the process of re-reading it.

Posted by: Pila | January 3, 2008 8:15 PM

Cooking Light's recipes are impossible if allergies rule your kitchen. I had a year's subscription, and couldn't wait for it to end. I couldn't make a single recipe from any of the year's issues. Frustration abounds as a result...(and they sold my address on, after being specifically told not to!)

Posted by: Out of Town | January 3, 2008 10:44 PM

Sorry to hear about your allergies, Out of Town. I've been fortunate not to have ever had any food allergies. I'm sorto curious, though, are you able to find recipes that are suitable for your allergies in other mainstream food magazines? Not trying to be smart aleck, I'm just curious. Is it possible to make substitutions for allergens?

Posted by: Pila | January 4, 2008 12:03 AM

I have subscribed to F&W for well over a decade. Not sure why Kim fixates on how toos and the lack of in F&W. F&W hardly ever has them. Most of the recipes aren't that difficult. My only problem with F&W is just like the WP and local restaurants is they fail to give Va wines their do and more of a shot. Eat and drink meat,fish, poultry, veggies, cheese and wine etc produced.

Maybe F&W offends left wing socialists sensibilities.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2008 7:01 AM

to Pila, I check most mainstream magazines for recipes. I can now tell at first perusal if it will work after I've made changes. Substitutions are possible for some allergens, not all. Some recipes call for so many allergens that subsitution takes away the core of that recipe and what remains isn't the intended product. (think removing wheat and milk from a roux based sauce, or tomatoes and mushrooms and cheese from Italian sauces). Or, Italian without wheat pasta or bread....or wedding cake without wheat, milk, butter....or French without wine or wheat or cream.) I've found substitutes:
Coconut milk to substitute for milk in soup. Rice flour for wheat flour in a family recipe cake. Barley flour or oatmeal in some cookies.
Mostly, we do without.

Posted by: Out of Town | January 4, 2008 12:01 PM

Out of Town: Thanks for your response. I understand what you mean, in that it would be very hard to make many recipes that have multiple allergens and still have the recipe come out as intended or be what it is supposed to be. I am very fortunate, because I've never had to contend with food allerigies, so they are not a factor in what food magazines I buy.

Since food allergies are a concern to so many cooks, it would be nice if a food magazine did a regular feature on how to make favorite foods that are free of allergens. Or perhaps there is enough of a market to start a separate magazine on the topic.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2008 2:39 PM

Actually, there iS such a magazine for people with allergies: It's called Living Without.
Here's link to Web site: http://www.livingwithout.com/welcome.htm

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | January 4, 2008 2:44 PM

Thanks, Kim. Although I don't currently need it, it is nice to know that such a magazine exists.

Posted by: Pila | January 9, 2008 4:56 PM

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