Category Archives: Food

foodnetwork_june

Rise and Shine: Food Network Magazine Names Best Breakfasts in Every State

foodnetwork_june.jpgEven when I didn’t religiously eat a morning meal, I had a hard time passing up breakfast foods served at any hour of the day. Maybe because my mom would serve pancakes or eggs, grits and toast for dinner when my dad was out of town and unable to object.

Whether fueled by those special memories or not, my craving for breakfast foods just intensified after seeing Food Network Magazine‘s July/August 2010 issue and its “50 States, 50 Breakfasts” spread.

Let me start by saying I love best-of lists–best restaurants, best dishes, best magazines, best lists. And when my home state’s chamber of commerce put out a brochure titled “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die,” I was in heaven. My own culinary bucket list!

Quickly scanning Food Network Magazine’s best breakfast picks, I was pleasantly surprised to see a restaurant from my hometown, Mobile, Ala., and from my current city, Savannah, Ga., make the list. Though I haven’t sampled the featured morning fare (yet!) at either place, I have dined at both and haven’t been disappointed.

Mobile’s Café 615 menu approach is best described as Southern tastes with a gourmet twist, and its Food Network Magazine best breakfast, Eggs Mauvila, is no exception. This Southern take on Eggs Benedict combines cheese grit cakes, poached eggs, bacon, hollandaise sauce and lump crab meat. The result is a traditional dish seasoned with local flavor. So it’s no wonder that its moniker “Mauvila” comes from the Indian tribe for which the city is named.

The site of the Georgia entry, B. Matthew’s Eatery in Savannah, is a favorite lunch spot of mine, but I have sampled their fresh blueberry and raspberry scones still warm from the oven. Absolutely. To. Die. For.

My noontime usual is a fried green tomato sandwich, and I can’t imagine that their best breakfast of HabersHam and Eggs would be any less delicious. This thick-cut, sugar-cured ham comes with eggs, gravy and a biscuit. Like the Eggs Mauvila, the name of B. Matthew’s dish is inspired by local history. Savannah native Joseph Habersham, an active statesman, businessman and soldier, was one of the state’s delegates who helped ratify the U.S. Constitution.

Just as with these two personally familiar spots, Food Network Magazine’s spread describes the best dishes from each of the other 48 states too, along with photos, prices and where to find them. Though most are variations on the traditional, some unusual dishes–like the Oatmeal Soufflé from Red Feather Lounge in Boise, Idaho, or the Buenos Dias Fritatta (packed with spicy chorizo and drizzled with sour cream and chipotle sauce) from The Chef in Manhattan, Kansas–make their way in.

Are you lucky enough to live near any of Food Network Magazine’s picks or have you sampled them on your travels? If so, I’d love to get your feedback. If your favorite spot was left off the list, please share that too. In the meantime, I’ve got some breakfast plans to make.

taste-of-the-south

South Rises Again: Regional Magazine Capitalizes on Southern Food’s Surge

taste-of-the-south.jpgCould you name a regional magazine focusing on Southern food and Southern travel that isn’t Southern Living or Cooking With Paula Deen?

I couldn’t either until a couple of months ago when I was introduced to Taste of the South magazine, which by its title alone, I expected to be part of the Taste of Home magazine series.

Launched in 2004, Taste of the South bills itself as the simple and easy approach to Southern cooking. And while most of this bimonthly publication’s dishes are quick fixes, there is the occasional dessert or entrée that requires a few more steps and may be a little more complicated.

Of course, traditional Southern staples like potato salad, chicken salad and corn muffins are covered, but even some of these favorites are prepared in nontraditional ways. For example, the spring 2010 issue included recipes for Boiled Peanuts With Chipotle and Chile Flavors, Spicy Sweet Potato Chips With Vidalia Onion Dip, and Pulled Barbecue Bites with a white mayo-based sauce flavored with horseradish, vinegar and pepper.

A sweet spread titled “Baby Cakes” detailed miniature desserts perfect for parties, gifts or guilt-free indulgences. From interesting flavor combinations, like pistachio-lavender lemon cheesecakes and coconut cupcakes with lemon curd frosting, to trusted standbys, like carrot cake and strawberry shortcake, Taste of the South magazine respects traditional tastes, but isn’t afraid to try something new.

Even its restaurant recommendations in its travel section mimic this culinary range. In Memphis, Tenn., the Roasted Beet Salad with spiced pecans and ginger vinaigrette at Hunt-Phelan and the Tres Leches Cake with port-wine-macerated berries and port wine sabayon at The Peabody scored high marks.

Then, just a few pages later, more classically Southern tastes like lemon meringue pie, family-style potato salad, homemade biscuits and praline cookies at Savannah, Georgia’s Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room received similar praise.

The appreciation for all things Southern is nothing new, but with multiple similar publications, how does Taste of the South magazine gain a foothold, particularly against established competitors like Southern Living?

Well, perhaps it’s not that difficult. Both traditional and contemporary Southern cooking are gaining in popularity, well beyond the Mason-Dixon Line and the Mississippi River. For that, credit the superstardom of Southern chefs like Paula Deen, the dispersion of Southerners due in some part to Hurricane Katrina, and even recognition like the James Beard Foundation’s cookbook awards, whose 2010 finalists for the top American book were all Southern.

With this ever-growing popularity of Southern culture and cooking, this aptly named magazine gives readers something else to satisfy what they evidently have an insatiable appetite for–a taste of the South.

eating-well

By the Numbers: Determining the Prices Behind Budget Meals Touted in Magazines

eating-well.jpgGiven the struggling economy in recent years, chances are you’ve been watching your wallet more closely, possibly preparing more meals at home and eating out less. Most food magazines have at least a section devoted to budget cooking, where the featured dishes include the cost per serving.

But if you’re wondering how these prices are derived, you’ll find some magazines are more forthcoming in their methods than others. I scoured Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home for any insight into their pricing, but my search came up empty.

Every Day With Rachael Ray proved a little more helpful. The convenient grocery list that’s part of the pull-out “Menu Planner” section gives an estimated total for all the ingredients to make a week’s worth of meals. But are these average prices? Actual prices? What supermarket? Where?

Another Every Day With Rachael Ray feature, “Dinners for 10 Bucks (or Less)” assigns prices to each meal’s ingredients, but again, how does the magazine arrive at them? The only methodology shared is that staples, such as salt, pepper and olive oil, are considered freebies and aren’t factored into the per-serving price.

cookinglight_july2010.jpgCooking Light and Eating Well are two magazines that most clearly state the methods behind the mathematics of their cost-conscious meals. Cooking Light bases its pricing on midsized-city supermarkets and accounts for the amounts of staples and other ingredients used–except for specialty ingredients and fresh herbs–where the total cost is factored into the per serving price. Like Every Day With Rachael Ray, items such as salt, pepper and cooking spray are written off as freebies.

Eating Well magazine‘s approach is even more thorough, and it is clearly stated in its Recipe Index in every issue. For starters, ingredients are priced through grocers safeway.com and peapod.com, and are estimates as of winter 2010. The cost of every ingredient is factored into the per-serving price–including staples–but only the required amount of each. Prices do not include garnishes or optional ingredients.

I haven’t put these published prices to the test to see how they compare at the checkout, but understanding the fundamentals behind them gives me some idea of what to expect when I do. Stay tuned for the results in a future post!

cookbookdigest_may-june2010

Cookbook Digest Magazine Offers Valuable Survey of Cookbooks and Their Recipes

cookbookdigest_may-june2010.jpgShort of buying that cookbook you think you might want, sometimes it’s hard to decide simply by flipping through its pages or skimming the table of contents while standing in the aisle of your favorite bookstore.

If you’re the kind of consumer who wants to taste test a cookbook before you splurge, then the aptly named Cookbook Digest magazine is the right choice for you.

For more than 25 years, this bimonthly publication has reviewed cookbooks of all genres and reprinted recipes from each one that is featured, making it a handy shopping guide or wish list for adding to your personal collection or getting some gift ideas for a foodie friend.

Despite its newsprint pages, typically thin issues and lack of flashy photography, Cookbook Digest magazine packs a lot of flavor in a small, simple package. The May/June 2010 issue, for example, covered 14 cookbooks and provided more than 50 recipes in only 40 pages.

Arranged by course, the recipes in the May/June issue tended to be sweet, with lots of desserts, party ideas and kid-friendly snacks–all appropriate for entertaining at birthday parties and getting through the summer with the youngsters at home.

Ranging from simple to advanced, sample recipes cover everything from Olive-Rosemary Bread; Salmon Ceviche With Watermelon and Mint; Cremini Mushroom Skewers With Pistachio Curry Rice, Tamarind Chutney and Saffron Radish “Rice”; Loaded Baked Potato Casserole; Corn Fritters; Red Velvet Cake With Velvet Frosting; Chocolate Chip Cupcakes With Chocolate Chip Frosting; and Buttermilk Panna Cotta With Wild Strawberries.

The diversity of cookbooks reviewed was just as impressive, including regional flavors from New York, the Carolinas and Charleston, as well as a 300-calorie cookbook, an allergen-free handbook and a gluten-free cookbook. Details on each featured cookbook are collected in one page with author, publisher, page count and–perhaps most importantly–price.

Cookbook Digest magazine contains only a few photos of recipes featured alongside the review of each book, which could be a downside for chefs who value visuals. Still, the undeniable redeeming quality of Cookbook Digest is that it gives cooks the ability to essentially check out several cookbooks at once and taste-test a sampling of recipes so they can make educated decisions when they make a purchase.

bonappetit_july2010

Red, White and Blurred: Magazines’ Fourth of July Food Ideas Range From Gourmet to Generic

bonappetit_july2010.jpgPerhaps because the subject of grilling had been charred to a crisp in most June food and cooking magazine issues, Independence Day ideas were scarce in July editions. But those that did wax patriotic ranged from surprising to traditional to nondescript. Here’s how they stacked up.

By far, Food Network Magazine‘s Southern barbecue feature from Tyler Florence received the most in-depth holiday attention, though the ideas bordered on the expected. Red, white and blue cocktails (glasses rimmed with blue Pop Rocks candy) added a little whimsy and color to the menu of spiced up traditional tastes of Smoked Ribs with Dry Rub; Savoy, Lime and Cilantro Coleslaw; Spicy Black-Eyed-Pea Relish; Heirloom Tomato Chow-Chow; and Bourbon Peach Cobbler. A separate spread focused only on star-spangled desserts like the Fruit-Tart Flag–mini tarts filled with mascarpone cream, topped with blueberries and strawberries, and arranged to look like a flag.

Bon Appetit magazine gives you the inside scoop on one group’s annual Fourth of July party in New York–no surprise given the publication’s focus on food entertainment and enjoyment. The menu of Montauk Fizz, Mini Lobster Rolls, Heirloom Tomato and Grilled-Corn Salad With Basil Vinaigrette, Garlic-Parmesan Bread, and Mixed-Berry Shortcakes With Vanilla Whipped Cream is more dressed up than traditional.

Where Food Network Magazine and Bon Appetit’s coverage seemed to stay true to their usual tone, Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine was more surprising for its risk. Rather than the expected fare (no burgers or ribs here) the spread included Blackberry-Ginger Sour Highballs, Stacked BLT Salad, Double-Decker Stuffed Portobello Sandwiches, and Grilled Strawberry Cheesecake Towers, along with ample decorating suggestions.

tasteofhome_june-july2010.jpgTaste of the South magazine was more traditional with some surprises on its menu, like its Lemonade Mint Tea, Lemon-Lime-Basil Grilled Chicken, Bacon-and-Herb Potato Salad, and Grilled Peach Salsa With Tortilla Chips.

By far, Taste of Home magazine‘s menu of Southern Fried Chicken Strips, Horseradish Coleslaw and Tangy Potato Salad was the most traditional. Though by comparison, there are few similarities in any of the menus.

Martha Stewart Living and its sister publication Everyday Food magazine stuck strictly to the sweet stuff. Martha Stewart Living magazine went traditional with several pie recipes, but the execution of the pie crusts got all Martha with the use of cookie cutters to create stars and stripes and festive firework patterns.

Most food and cooking magazines–perhaps to extend the longevity of the recipes–took the Everyday Food approach by including more nondescript suggestions, like its firecracker ice pops. They’re fitting for the party without limiting them to Fourth of July celebrations.

But perhaps this is the ultimate independence celebration, at least for your holiday menu plans, as there are plenty of red, white and blue suggestions–and plenty of others that could be adapted to your own tastes, whether they are as American as apple pie or not.

betterhomes_jun

Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking With Paula Deen Each Tackle the Challenging Art of Chocolate Meringue

betterhomes_jun.jpgEven with all its tips and step-by-step illustrations, making a dessert as temperamental as a meringue is challenging. How well the delicate mixture peaks relies on the right tools, their cleanliness, the temperature, the weather, the ingredients and a litany of other do’s and don’ts.

But Better Homes and Gardens and Cooking With Paula Deen magazines faced off in their most recent issues to tackle the finicky–and sometimes elusive–perfect chocolate meringue pie.

May’s “American Classics” installment in Better Homes and Gardens magazine focused solely on the chocolate meringue, while Cooking With Paula Deen magazine‘s May/June issue covered lemon, pineapple, vanilla, peanut butter and butterscotch, along with chocolate.

In terms of ingredients, Better Homes and Gardens and Cooking With Paula Deen’s chocolate pie fillings are quite similar, though Paula Deen’s is not surprisingly heavier on the eggs and sugar. Still, the difference is very slight.

Better Homes and Garden’s version calls for more milk, chocolate (both cocoa powder and chopped), butter and vanilla. The differences in milk and butter are relatively minimal, but based on the amounts of chocolate and vanilla, this version will be richer in taste–and calories.

Speaking of calories, only Better Homes and Gardens includes nutritional information with its recipe. Its 9-inch pie yields eight servings, and each contains 539 calories, 26 fat grams, 140 milligrams of cholesterol, 444 milligrams of sodium, 68 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of protein. No comparable information is given for Cooking With Paula Deen’s version.

pauladeen_may-june.jpgAfter putting both Better Homes and Gardens and Cooking With Paula Deen’s meringues side by side, it’s obvious that Paula Deen’s recipe should be heavier, with nearly double the sugar, plus five egg whites–an ingredient absent in Better Homes and Garden’s version.

Neither magazine gives an estimated prep time, but the one obvious shortcut for both would be using a prepared pie crust. Better Homes and Gardens points readers to its website for a pie pastry recipe.

Both magazines are strong when it comes to depicting the difficult task of perfecting a meringue: Better Homes and Gardens followed the entire pie-making process from the beginning, and Cooking With Paula Deen illustrated how to make only the meringue in nine step-by-step photos.

Cooking With Paula Deen magazine’s coverage garners high praise for its informative meringue do’s and don’ts, in-depth illustration and variety of recipes, but is disappointing in its lack of nutritional information.

Better Homes and Gardens’ chocolate meringue pie feature shines because it is forthcoming in calorie count, and it, too, earns marks for illustration.

Ultimately, Cooking With Paula Deen offers a richer, deeper understanding of the meringue-making process than Better Homes and Gardens. But of the two versions of a very decadent chocolate meringue pie, Better Homes and Gardens would be the ever so slightly lighter choice.