Archive for the ‘Magazine: Cooking’ Category

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Every Day With Rachael Ray (www.rachaelraymag.com)

Issue reviewed: March 2011

Audience

  • median age: 42.6
  • median HHI: $71,166
  • 91% women
  • spends an average of 53 minutes reading each issue

Editorial

If you’re not hungry when you pick up Every Day With Rachael Ray, you will be by the time you finish. Fluffy eggs, drizzled gravies, plump shrimp and juicy tomatoes are pictured on nearly every page — trust me, you’ll want to eat something afterward. The editor, Liz Vaccariello, said the Rachael Ray brand is about “taste, ease and value” and that her personal tenets are being “fun, easy and real.” The reader can sense these principles: Throughout the magazine are fun photos, bite-size articles, whimsical fonts and colors, and budget-friendly price tags. This is not a stuffy cookbook for culinary students; rather, it is a pocket guide for a busy mom who fancies serving her family real meals.

Design

The design is excellent. The photos are great — but really, what kind of cooking magazine would have crappy photography? Other design elements stand on their own, such as font choices, type colors, icons and sidebar treatments. One consistent design element, though, that is unattractive is the colored bar striped across the top of many of the pages. It’s a section header, made to let the reader know what the conversation on the page is about, but the color on the Talk section (a bright green) is really kind of gross, and the bar takes up too much space (that is, it goes all the way across and detracts too much from the page).

What’s Best

  • Features: In this issue, Every Day went searching for the country’s best hot dog in Go Away: Your Ticket to a Great Escape. The whole feature was so clever: Three hot dog tasters from the blog Serious Eats traveled across America and stopped in hot dog joints of all shapes and sizes. In a basketball bracket style of competition, the doggers pitted 64 hot dog joints against each other, narrowed them down to The Sweet Sixteen, profiled The Final Four with mouth-watering photography, and then named the winner with a story about Gene & Jude’s (the best dog maker) and with a follow-up story about Chicago hot dogs in general. In all, Every Day dedicated a generous nine pages to this feature. That is the type of in-depth coverage readers appreciate about magazines, and I love that Every Day gives that to its fans.
  • Fun ideas: Every Day dedicated four pages to a how-to on Family Movie Night, including creating invitations or “press releases” for the kids, recipes for the family and movie-appropriate menus (such as pizzas for Ratatouille).
  • Photos: Did I mention the photos? All I know is, I’m super-hungry right now.

What’s Worst

  • Font craziness: On a couple of occasions (most notably in the feature “Batter Up”), the headline type is so, er …. creative, that it’s difficult to read. Vertical type is generally a no-no, but especially so when you let the letters float in a non-line and stick another word inside one of the letters. I’m all for having fun with headlines, but they should always be easy to read. Sometimes, though, the designers get it right, as they did with “You’re Gonna Need a Steak Knife,” which was carved into wood with — you guessed it — a steak knife.

Overall Opinion

Every Day With Rachael Ray is very much like the character of Rachael herself — a little all over the place, a fan of easy and fun, and always looking for a party. The magazine does a great job of capturing her tone, as well, with words like “faves” and “delish” and “cool.” It feels like Rachael put together every page, and for fans of her work, that’s amazing. That, along with some of the creative concepts and recipes, earn Every Day an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Cook’s Illustrated (www.cooksillustrated.com)

Issue reviewed: July/August 2010, Number 105

  • Published in Brookline, Mass., by Boston Common Press Limited Partnership
  • Circulation: 1.2 million; paid subscribers for website: 300,000

Audience

  • experienced cooks and chefs

Overall Editorial

In this magazine, cooking is an event. The stories are told in a step-by-step manner with imagery and drama that one wouldn’t typically associate with chicken and grills, such as this sentence in Grilling Stuffed Chicken Breasts: “Disaster started as a tiny drop of cheese that oozed out the end and grew into a lavalike eruption, dropping onto the coals and flaring up.” The creation and cooking of each dish is narrated in a manner that is gratifying to both experienced cooks and literature aficionados. My boss, in fact, recommended this magazine to me; he is an editor with thousands of magazine articles notched into his belt, and he is an avid reader of this magazine. I didn’t even know he cooked.

Overall Design

I was immediately turned off by this magazine when I first saw it. It’s so plain. It’s mostly black and white, mostly illustrations, and very copy-heavy. Once I adjusted to the look, I began to appreciate it for what it is: a magazine that is clean, is proud of its writers’ knowledge of cooking, and is made for hard-core cooks/readers. It does not accept advertising and therefore doesn’t have bold colors and flashy headlines that its editorial content must stand up to.

Cover Design and Blurbs

The cover each issue is an illustration of food, and in this particular edition, the illustration is of tomatoes. The cover blurbs are plain, mostly a list of the recipes inside. A couple of them stand out: “Extreme Banana Bread: Six Bananas in One Loaf” and “Diced Tomato Tasting: Two Winners, 14 Losers.”

Editor’s Note

The Editorial is just what an editor’s note should be: something relatable for the reader, rather than a pointer to different stories in the magazine. This particular one, “Buck Bites Back,” is an “as-told-to-me” story about a man’s capture of a deer gone awry. It’s amusing, colorful and conversational.

Departments and Columns

The departments in this magazine offer a variety of information. In Notes From Readers, readers ask questions such as “What is the gray area on salmon?” and “What is black garlic?” and the editors give lengthy, detailed answers. Two departments, Quick Tips and Kitchen Notes, teach the reader helpful bits, such as how to poach an egg via microwave and how to chill wine when you’re out of time.

Features

People who want to cook something without flaw will treasure these features. These stories are about perfecting already-good recipes. And some, like Chiles 101, is about learning everything there is to know about a food. (This could actually be a department, but the table of contents doesn’t spell it out. So I’m going to go with feature.) One especially interesting feature was Inside Canned Diced Tomatoes. The staff members blind tasted 16 brands of the fruit that most of us think of as a veggie. (What a job!) Testers also searched for the perfect spatula on the next spread, rating the simple tools on performance, design and strength. These writers/editors are serious, and so are this magazine’s readers.

Use of Photography

The photography is sparse and all in black and white. I wasn’t wild about this at first. But after spending some time with the magazine, I think the publisher’s point is to not overpower the content of the magazine with dramatic and colorful photography. No people appear in the photos (a few hands, but no full people!), which seems uncommon. But the content doesn’t allow for the magazine to be without a point of view, so the lack of human appearance isn’t too bothersome. When photos are used, they show the perfectly prepared meal or the product being reviewed.

Use of Illustrations

It seems like it would be illegal for a magazine with “illustrated” in the title to not be full of excellent illustrations (which makes me wonder about Sports Illustrated?), but that is not the case with Cook’s Illustrated. The illustrations in this magazine are detailed, almost to the point of looking like photos, and show the reader exactly what he or she is supposed to be doing in the kitchen with the respective recipe. From cutting meat to adding wood to a fire to using a cake pan for make a quiche or pie.

Relevance to Intended Audience

I couldn’t find any information on who exactly the Cook’s audience is, but if the readers are avid cooks who like experimenting or learning from experimenters, they will be well-pleased.

Integration with Website

The Cook’s website is excellent and full of recipes, videos, equipment reviews and taste tests. The editors promote this content throughout the magazine, almost like the web is a hand-in-hand companion to the magazine. It’s a great way to keep the reader engaged in both media. The website charges for some content, but a good bit of it is free.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

This magazine has a definite arc: It starts small with letters and tips, crescendoes to larger, more robust stories, and ends with short tips and equipment reviews. It is readable from front to back. Even on foods I’m not that interested in (bananas, for instance), I found myself stopping to read the sidebars and then getting sucked into the story.

Paper Quality

This magazine is always 32 pages, and it is saddle-stitch with almost-matte paper. My copy wrinkled and buckled around the middle staple, and it looked well-worn before I’d even gotten much use out of it.

Overall Opinion

Although initially turned off by the look of Cook’s Illustrated, I give it a grade of A for changing my mind about it. It is well-written, well-organized and informative. It makes molecular gastronomy seem exciting and even approachable. It packs a lot of data and items of interest into only a few pages.

Did you agree or disagree with anything I said? Please comment. I’d love to hear from you!

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Everyday Food (www.marthastewart.com/everyday)

Issue reviewed: September 2010, Issue 75

Audience

  • 75% women
  • HHI: $56K
  • average age: 44
  • 80% are principal shoppers in household

Overall Editorial

Editorial is minimal in this magazine. Everyday Food is all about recipes and trying new foods, and it doesn’t tell any stories. In fact, the only piece that offers any perspective is the Editor’s Letter, and that’s only the first paragraph. The rest just directs the reader to recipes in the issue. Each recipe, however, is clear and direct and short, perfect for the audience, which is dominated by women who want to cook quickly and easily. The other editorial is at the beginning of sections, such as In Season, which teaches the reader the basics of the food that’s the topic, how to buy and store it, and how to use and cook it.

Overall Design

The design is beautiful and simple. It has a feature that is unique: Each page is a photo, and the editorial or the recipe is made to fit inside the photo. The designers take a set-up shot of the food they’ll be talking about and they plan for the space they need for the copy. It looks very natural and is probably more difficult to execute than it looks. This design is helped by the small format of the book, which only measures about 5×7. The fonts and headlines look very much like the Martha Stewart brand; they are likely the same typeface that MSLO uses in Martha Stewart Living, on all the Martha-branded products, and on most of the website.

Cover Design and Blurbs

The cover design is simple. It’s always a beauty shot of one of the cooked items in the magazine, with a few simple typeface cover blurbs above it. To the target audience, the blurbs should be quite appealing: Muffin-Tin Pizzas should satisfy the reader looking for new ideas; Dinner Under $10 should make budget-minded readers happy; and New Kids’ Lunches is perfect for moms.

Editor’s Note

The Editor’s Letter, written by editor-in-chief Anna Last, is more of a marketing plug to entice the reader to keep turning pages than it is a true editor’s note, which offers insight about the subject and helps a reader connect on a personal level with the magazine. Called “Back Into The Groove,” it simply welcomes fall and the food that comes with it. Even though it’s a small format magazine and a recipe-heavy medium, this would be an excellent opportunity for Everyday Food to tell us who Anna Last is and draw me in to the people who work at the magazine. Because this magazine publishes all its recipes online — free — its editors should consider working on an element that may keep subscribers buying rather than just hopping onto the website.

Departments and Columns

It’s hard to tell the difference between a column vs. a section vs. a department vs. a feature in Everyday Food. Thankfully, I have the contents page to explain it to me. What’s brilliant about the sections, though, is something the reader can’t get online, which is an introduction to a food. In Season introduces tomatoes and then gives six recipes for it. Eat Smart focuses on mushrooms and their health benefits, then gives a recipe for it. Have You Tried? discusses tortillas and provides three recipes.

Features

Similar to the format of the sections, the features take an idea or a food type or a new-to-you vegetable and give the reader multiple recipes for it. In this issue, one of the features is called Saving Summer, and it’s about freezing summer fruits and veggies and includes nine pages of tips and recipes using the then-frozen goods. The same format follows for Bake Sale (cookie recipes), On The Side (accompaniments), and Muffin To It! The other feature, Grocery Bag, is a neat idea because it provides a grocery list and five nights’ worth of meals, but the grocery list idea seems like a better theory than practice. It would be interesting to know how many people actually use that part of the magazine (a pull-out list).

Use of Photography

The photography in Everyday Food is top-notch. Everything looks delicious and like something one should eat or at least try cooking. The editors are kind enough to include a photo of every food (who doesn’t like to see the food before they make it?) and a variety of set-up shots. Sometimes the food is plated, sometimes partially made or just at the ingredients stage, often cut into, and many times still in the pan. One feature in this issue shows a baker step-by-step making gnocchi; clean, simple and informative.

Use of Illustrations

Everyday Food relies on photos of real food. No illustrations needed.

Relevance to Intended Audience

I can actually speak to this one as a member of Everyday Food’s targeted audience. I have subscribed to this magazine since it first came out, and I always look forward to getting it. The recipes are uncomplicated, use foods that are easy to get, and inspire me to try foods I haven’t before. The good photography is a bonus; if it makes my mouth water, I have to try the recipe.

Integration with Website

Everyday Food’s website is really a module on the Martha Stewart website. It has all the recipes that are in the current issue and an archive of all the previous recipes. They are searchable. And the website (of course, because of its heavy-hitter ownership) is a multimedia adventure. Recipes, blogs, videos, downloadable apps, audio, daily e-mails — the reader can have whatever type of experience she would like on this website. As part of the Martha Stewart website, the reader can create collections of recipes, articles, craft ideas, videos, etc., all obtainable from any part of the website.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

The flow of Everyday Food is good, but because, as a reader, I have never been able to tell the difference between sections and features and departments, I just go from one page to the next. I never anticipate — I just turn. The back page is perfect, though, because it’s always a dessert, giving each issue a sweet finish just like a meal.

Paper Quality

Lastly, the paper quality was good. The paper is strong with a matte finish. The magazine is perfect-bound, which makes it fairly easy to hold open while cooking from it. This magazine has too many blow-in cards and inserts, though, so it’s difficult to flip through.

Overall Opinion

I give Everyday Food an A for photography, design and audience relevance. It is a personal favorite of mine, and I have always loved the creativity and simplicity of the recipes.

Did you agree or disagree with anything I said? Please comment. I’d love to hear from you!

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review