Archive for the 'Food' Category

Moss (Heart): New York Honch’s Limited Engagement

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My unofficial experiment with the Nov. 3 issue of New York involved lots of pain medication and 15 minutes earmarked for a flip through Adam Moss’ redux of this grotty Gotham bible.  The results?  Five minutes left over to cut the more direct transmissions from Planet Lortab and also plan my dream wedding to the new editor-in-chief.  Anyone who can make New York digestible in under 10 minutes is clearly worth keeping around.

 

0:00-0:15…02:15-02:50:  Barack Obama Cover and Story

New York banner is almost completely obliterated by the first portrait of Obama I’ve seen where he actually looks black.  Inside, this new “urbanization” of Obama reveals itself as “let’s just not light him.”

 

00:30-01:05:  Intelligencer Page

Where’s Kurt Andersen?  I actually read the Justin Ravitz item on Lindsay Lohan.  I’ll make up the time later.  Li.Lo’s no account father is slamming Li.Lo’s gal pal Samanthan Ronson, but at the end of the item dad retracts because he’s a “Christian.”  Shouldn’t he just stone them both and get it over with?  My favorite mention is the one about the father’s “noncelebrity son.”  Son’s name appears in bold anyway.

 

01:05-01:27:  Intelligencer Page Two

One of those cheap New York cutouts of either Sarah Palin or Tina Fey: really tired of trying to discern those two.

 

01:27-01:37:  Intelligencer Page Three (math+teachers=who cares?)

Weird, early Todd Haynes-styled art really slows me down.  I think the portrait of Mattel’s Ken and Barbie might portent one of the real reasons I read New York.  Maybe a cashed-crazed Hamptons wife offed her hubby?  Perhaps there’s some big deal art heist?  Maybe someone famous had plastic surgery?  Turns out to be about Lehman Bros.  Bummer.  If Li.Lo stays out of the rest of the issue, I’ll make up the time.

 

01:37-01:55:  Party Lines!

I’d light a cigarette if I smoked.  This page is a triumph.  Tab-collared Karl Lagerfeld looks like his head is now levitating two feet above his neck.  Patti LaBelle’s starting to look Asian.  Stay away from those red, silk kimonos, Patti and Karl, but more Party Lines!

 

02:50-03:40:  Second Feature in the Well

There are three Billy Elliots on Broadway.  This feature seems remarkably reminiscent of one that ran in Time Out London when there were three Billy Elliots on the West End the summer The Tube blew up.  Next!

 

03:40-04:10:  Third Feature in the Well (But I Think I’m Still in Thatcher’s UK)

Unwittingly stumble into New York Knicks feature, thinking, wow, one of the Billy Elliots is really hairy.

 

04:10-04:15:  British Airways ad Separating Features from Strategist.

Come on, I’m not the only reader who saw Billy Elliot in London.  Get on the stick, Adam.

 

04:15-04:30:  Best Bets

Really bad layout on hoodies.  Candy Pratts Price, where are you?

 

04:30-05:15:  Look Book

Hot boy in a McCain/Palin hat assuming the traditional Republican “do me” position.  I probably would.  Oh, this is that stupid fashion thing where they highlight what “real’ New Yorkers are wearing.  I’d settle for Corky Pollan at this point.

 

05:15-05:27:  Food

Restaurants I can’t afford unless I’m reviewing them.  Hey, I thought Gael Greene was dead?  Can’t wait to hear what Pauline Kael makes of High School Musical 3: Senior Year.

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05:49-06:22:  More Winter Travel

Shotgun shooting really close to Syracuse in Milford, Penn.  Cool.

 

06:30- 06:46:  Art

Since when did New York snatch up Jerry Saltz for their art page?  Not bad for a former truck driver.  He’s on about some art fair in London: those British Airways adverts don’t pay for themselves.

 

07:37:-08:00: Approval Matrix

Woo-whoo!  Liza on Broadway.

 

08:00-08:41: Agenda

How is just Billy Corrigan still Smashing Pumpkins?  Sarah Silverman, take a break.

 

08:41-08:47: Movies

Don’t tease a good movie (Rosemary’s Baby) with a better movie (The Bad Seed).  Pauline?

 

08:47-08:54: Still Movies

Zidane is starred.  Now here’s a listings ed. I can live with.  I mean, if Adam’s open to that type of arrangement.

 

–Tony Phillips

 

The Cheese Factor

Some foods are inexorably married to each other.

A chilly glass of milk seems bland without warm chocolate chip cookies.

Tea is elevated from basic beverage to elaborate English ritual with the addition of crumpets.

And ice-cold beer never tastes better than when accompanied by a brimming basket of finger-licking Buffalo wings.

The Sept. 30 issue of Wine Spectator devotes itself to the most culturally loaded food and beverage union: the ancient relationship between fine wine and good cheese.

It’s a topic as grandiose as Wine Spectator itself: the magazine’s oversized pages and subsequent heft lend the magazine an air of sophistication that seems better suited to the marble-topped coffee table than the average American bathroom.

Wine Spectator positions itself as the foremost authority on fine wine in the industry.  While this issue focuses on cheese, the smelly spouse of refined wine, it does so with an eye towards elegance that suits the cultured demographic to a tee.

The majority of the magazine’s pages are devoted to the discussion of 100 of the world’s best cheeses.  The cheeses are presented in alphabetical order, with accompanying symbols indicating price, nationality, milk type, a brief description, and, often, an accompanying thumbnail photo.  It’s enough cheesy goodness to send even the mildly lactose intolerant running for the cow-studded hills.

Wine Spectator has no trouble recommending an $800 wine to its readership (a 2006 Bouchard Pere & Fils Montrachet), so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when many of these carefully molded specimens come with similarly astronomical price tags.  Though the guide does offer an assortment of semi-affordable cheeses, many of the magazine’s recommendations cost over $30 per pound.

For the truly conspicuous consumer who doesn’t hesitate to drop significant dough on the traditionally simple “peasant meal” of wine and cheese, Wine Spectator also offers a comprehensive guide to cheese accessories.  “Cheeses can be expensive, and what’s the point of spending $150 on them if they’re going to presented like cake and ice cream at a kid’s birthday party?” the magazine queries.  We are then presented with a dizzying array of cheese paraphernalia, from a “cheese plane” (read: glorified cheese-cutter) to a knife dedicated especially to spreading Gorgonzola (to think that we had been using a butter knife – what nerve!).

For the diehard fromageophile, Wine Spectator offers one parting gift.  The magazine sets out luscious spreads devoted to the best pairings for red, white, dessert, and port wines.  Here, we discover the Brangelinas of wine and cheese pairing.  Who knew, for example, that Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon and sheep’s-milk cheese represented a match that “just exploded with flavor,” or that the same wine matched with Roomano Pradera – which looks like Beemster, yet tastes like Parmiggano – would make the flavors “sail and evolve” on the palate?

In the midst of this comprehensive dairy education, you might find yourself longing for the days when the hardest cheese dilemma was the choice between Cheddar and Velveeta – then, at least, only the cheese required processing.

But for the readers of Wine Spectator, the Cheese Issue represents an invaluable guide to a gourmet delight as complex as wine itself.  Wine and cheese may be a match made in heaven, but the two certainly met over the pages of Wine Spectator.

Did that ending seem cheesy to you? GOUDA.

— Brenna Cammeron

Finger Lakes’ Photo Folly

The editorial content of the Summer 2008 Edible Finger Lakes magazine is interesting, varied, and well written. If magazines could talk there would be plenty of content to catch the ear, which would compensate for the lack of material to catch the eye.

 A quick study of the masthead shows that the magazine has a limited staff, but that it does use freelance photographers. Although EFL is clearly on a small budget, more effort in the planning and selection of photos would produce much better results with its available resources.

I’m looking back at the summer issue because, of EFL’s three issues since its spring 2008 launch, this was the strongest example of poorly planned photos.

The main photograph of the first feature in the issue, about free-range bees, is nothing more than stacks of colored boxes in a field. There is not a beekeeper or bee in sight. Boxes in a field certainly don’t scream, “Read me!”

An article on the history of farmer’s markets has a main photo, accompanied by two more small photos on the following pages. All three photos contain only green vegetables. By using these redundant photos, EFL missed the opportunity to show the wide variety of farmer’s market foods and colors that were described in the article.

One article features the fried green tomato creations at a Finger Lakes café, complete with recipes. The article includes photos from the café, but no shots of the menu items described. Recipe photos would give a reader the added drool factor that could lead him or her to make the dish at home or visit the café.

The last feature article, on a local ice cream shop, has quaint photos of a teenage girl working behind the counter, and a young girl eating an ice cream cone. Yet these promising photos also fall short because they lack captions telling who the girls are. Many readers who subscribe to local magazines to learn about the people in their communities and put names to faces will be disappointed by EFL’s tendency to publish photos of unnamed subjects.

This issue of Edible Finger Lakes fails to take advantage of the many mouth-watering image opportunities a food magazine can yield, which is a shame, because the stories are good enough to please any Upstate New York foodie or locavore.

— Kristin Quinn           

 

Check Out the Menu

Warning: excessive lip-smacking and mouth-watering may occur when leafing through Wegmans’ Menu Magazine.  Side effects include intense stomach rumbling.

Menu, a seasonal publication aimed at the frequent Wegmans Food Markets shopper, is essentially one giant endorsement for the store.  But it rises above the temptation to be mere advertisement by filling its pages with enticing recipes and engaging features, catering to reader sensibilities as both Wegmans customers and food-lovers.

Everything about Menu appears meticulously planned.  The cover of the fall issue features a lasagna whose basil garnish and subdued place setting effortlessly complement the green used for the magazine’s title.  Its visual appeal is immediate.  You mentally reach for a fork, the smell of cheese almost seeping off the page.

Menu is teeming with eye-popping photos such as this, evoking the look and feel of more well-known magazines like Gourmet or Bon Appetit.  Its central focus on the Wegmans brand sets it apart.  The danger such exclusive self-promotion poses is having the magazine come across manipulative, or perhaps even boring.  Yet Menu knows exactly who its readers are: Wegmans Shoppers Club members.  It seeks to enhance their in-store experience with out-of-store opportunities that conveniently tie in to the Wegmans brand (cue those 50-some pages of recipes featuring their products as ingredients).

Menu touts its ability to provide readers with “Healthy, easy, affordable meals,” through promotion of two Wegmans campaigns.  The first, “Take It or Make It,” enforces the idea that the customer can prepare any dish he sees in the magazine, and if he doesn’t have time to cook, pick up the exact same meal, fully-assembled, from his nearest store. 

The other, “eat well live well,” is stamped on the nutritional information in the recipe pages and its principles are outlined in the features section.  This campaign implies that Menu is reaching beyond its own self-interest, since you don’t have to eat or buy Wegmans products to follow their steps to healthier living — it would just be nice if you did.  This is driven home by a calorie comparison of two different ways to eat throughout the day, and the determination of which is the healthier, more rewarding choice.  Each side mentions the Wegmans brand; you’ll be justified in your drooling over that Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass on page 41 while simultaneously craving a parfait from the Market Café.

The features tie Menu together by complementing elements found on earlier pages (an in-depth article on the Italian cheeses used in many of the dishes; an interview with the men who chose the wine selections paired with each recipe).  Other stories focus on Wegmans-centric topics such as which local growers provide fresh produce to the stores, infusing the brand with a personal touch.

Ultimately, Menu embodies everything you already love about Wegmans: eye-catching displays, great deals, local pride, and most importantly, amazing food. 

The stomach rumbling comes as a bonus.

— Katie Nowak

Time Traveling with the Foodies

The October Bon Appétit arrived in my mailbox before I’d made it halfway through September’s. Such is the custom in Magazineland—even the seasons are ahead of their time.

With an extra push toward fall, chunks of beef and squash simmer away in shades of brown and orange on the cover. Besides the hospital-chic presentation, I wonder if the blatant farewell to summer’s greenery is really necessary. They could’ve at least had the decency to add a sprig of rosemary.

Inside, a nostalgic aesthetic balances the magazine’s yin and yang quite nicely. The photos of a woodsy couple and their cottage dinner parties scream 1970s Sears catalogue, and beaming back-to-the-land types light up a feature on Chapel Hill’s hippie farm culture. And any self-respecting Grandma would eat up the hip back-of-book finale on DIY canning.

Even while hurrying us along into sweaters and stews, the folks at Bon Appetit have peppered their October issue with fresh cracked quaintness. Their straight up mantra, “cook with confidence—enjoy your food,” rings here like a homespun adage.

As if to insulate themselves from obscurity, the design department steps up to regulate the issue’s continual dose of yesteryear. The sans serif copy and recurring, minimalist “/” symbol lend cheekiness. This attitude persists: At the end of a black-and-white photo series of food industry high-achievers, the mug shot for Heifer International’s “humanitarian” award shows Bon Appetit‘s not too highbrow for the cow.

With photos so real looking you could eat them, and recipes better arranged than Japanese flowers, Bon Appetit reads more like a coffee table book than a service magazine. It’s tasteful yet edgy, educated yet casual: I’d be proud if such a high caliber publication as this serves as cultural artifact of my generation’s tastes. (It’s too bad that role will probably go to Every Day with Rachel Ray, or, God forbid, to McDonald’s.)

As art piece, Bon Appetit looks like the mod sibling of grown-up Gourmet. It’s the one with the frame heavy glasses and the graphics degree. As food journalism, this book isn’t afraid to step back in time and write about what good grub was long before freezer dinners and high-fructose corn syrup.

The po-mo synchronicity definitely keeps the cool factor high, but I’m just not quite ready for chili.

Jennifer Ward

Not My Cup Of Tea

            I am loud, I am proud, I am a Luddite. There, I’ve said it. I’m not a huge fan of technology. Give me a book, give me incandescent lighting, a comfy spot, and a mug of warmth, and I am in heaven.

            No frills, that’s me. Which is why I like Cook’s Illustrated. It’s my idea of perfection. Its straightforward presentation comforts me. What appears to be black Times Roman, I’m guessing size 10, against an unthreatening white page lets me know that I am in familiar territory. Understated black and white photography makes an appearance on many of the 32 pages of the December issue. It is, however, the illustrations that look as if they are pen and ink that win top marks.

            And then there’s the text. After the slightly creepy editor’s letter from Christopher Kimball comes the truly useful Quick Tips in the front of the book. The recipes are so well researched and written that you think you can smell the aromas of the holiday ham or the French pot roast you’re reading about.  The articles about how best to stock a baking pantry and how not to spend too much dough on Tom Turkey plus the Kitchen Notes and Equipment Corner that conclude the publication, well – it’s all just so good.

            And the icing on the cake? There is not a single bit of advertising in the whole damn thing. None. I’m telling you, it’s a beautiful thing.

            The Web site, www.cooksillustrated.com, is not.

            After many helpings of the rich, succulent, buttery goodness of the magazine, the Web site is the veritable turd in the punch bowl.

            You just want to walk away and leave the party.

            It is the antithesis of the magazine.  I thought it would be like the magazine, calm, smooth, intellectual, but it’s jarring, confusing, and hard to read. My Luddite eye reads left to right, but the Web site pulls my ocular attention in twenty different directions. A light gray sans serif font against a painful white background doesn’t do the site any favors. And while the Web site shares the magazine’s characteristic of having many words on a page, it feels oversaturated and I am overwhelmed. Where the magazine is an oasis the Web site is a state fair midway.

            I spent far too much time on the Web site to find far too little. The expenditure of energy on my part was not worth such a meager purchase. Speaking of, I would need to drop $24.95 (20 percent off if I already held a subscription to the magazine $19.95) to become a member of the Web site.

            Cook’s Illustrated is classy. Of that there is no doubt. The publisher gives us just what we want without the nuisance of advertisements – terrific!

Unfortunately, that isn’t possible with its Web site. Until I bought a membership I was allowed to follow all the seductive sounding recipe links – potato garlic soup, best drop biscuits – but only so far. Reduced recipes or half recipes taunt with the obnoxious lure to buy a membership and read the rest.

           Don’t get me wrong the Web has a lot going for it, I guess, but it’s not the right venue for this cooking mag. I threw up my hands in disgust, cursed the screen, and dispensed with going any further. Why would I go to the trouble when I can pay a respectable $5.95 and get 32, ad-free, well written, knowledgeable, interesting pages full of fare from food loving folks?

-Carrie Chantler 

Celebrating Hip Hops

R.I.P. Michael Jackson. No, not that Michael Jackson. The infamous King of Pop is alive and well. Instead, the lesser known of the two Jackos and king of hops, Michael Jackson (a.k.a. The Beer Hunter) has passed away.

For the past 23 years, Jackson has been a contributing writer for All About Beer, a magazine dedicated to “Celebrating the World of Beer Culture” that claims to be “the definitive source for beer information.”

The magazine has been circulating for over a quarter of a century and has a well-defined niche market. Under the direction of husband and wife team Daniel Bradford (publisher) and Julie Bradford (editor), it has gained successful readership through beer importers, liquor stores, breweries, home brewers, beer enthusiasts, and “just drinkers.”

The large font in the nameplate reading “Beer” and its golden pilsner coloring lured me to the cover immediately. At first glance, I thought this magazine would have no worthwhile material. I mean, what else could there possibly be to know about beer that matters besides that it is delicious? Apparently, a lot.

With tantalizing and informative articles such as “Beer in the New South,” the main cover story of the November issue (along with Jackson’s passing), and the helpful “Buyer’s Guide for Beer Lovers,” the magazine effectively provides entertaining news in a clever writing style without losing its focus or straying away from the subject of beer.

It also includes beer reviews, buzzworthy news in the beer industry, travel information, and book reviews as well as three regular columns with each issue (one of which was called “Jackson’s Journal”). Witty tidbits about keg theft or a beer released to celebrate the premiere of a play about Margaret Thatcher called “Maggie’s End” (appropriately a bitter ale) adds humor and punch to the magazine.

“Pull Up A Stool!” is a section in which the writer profiles an interesting person in the industry and has a drink with him. The notes from the publisher and editor also include photographs of them raising pints of beer. Readers are left to wonder, “Do these people ever stop drinking?”

At $4.99 a pop, an issue nearly costs the same as a cold draft micro-brew. A one-year subscription includes six issues and comes with a free “The American Brew” DVD.

The layout and design are lacking (even though recently updated) and look homemade, but this is expected of a small, independently owned magazine out of Durham, NC. Design and production are outsourced to another company.

It will be interesting to see if the magazine loses readership after the passing of Jackson, as some consider him the ultimate word on beer. The staff at All About Beer says Jackson taught them everything they know, so perhaps they will be able to carry the longneck and continue his legacy by still providing the latest information on beer culture.

The Beer Hunter often wore only one glove as a nod to the celebrity he shares a name with. To quote the other MJ: “Don’t stop ’til you get enough” … beer, that is.

– Amy D. Jacques