If you read as many food magazines, websites and blogs as we do, you've probably already heard about Food Network Magazine.
It doesn't hit newsstands until October 14, but the good people at Hearst were kind enough to send us an advance copy.
Like the Food Network itself, the magazine is a mix of practical advice and pure entertainment, usable information and complete fluff.
The network's stars are sprinkled throughout. Alton Brown and Guy Fieri seem to be the most referenced individuals, but all your favorites are here, from the Barefoot Contessa to Sandra Lee, and even a cameo by Rachael Ray.
There are a number of dishes that we would try. The best-sounding ones from the inaugural issue:
- Grits and Roasted Vegetables with Hazelnut Butter -- a beautiful but simple vegetarian dish
- Glazed Radishes -- we've never heard of such, but we're dying to give it a try
- The Barefoot Contessa's White Pizza with Arugula -- looks amazing, sophisticated and delicious
- Cocktails -- the magazine features six cocktail recipes, which we always enjoy seeing in our food magazines
Problems stick out in other recipes. For instance, Southern Cornbread Dressed-Up Chicken calls for the inclusion of cornbread but does not include a companion recipe for it. Does FN assume everyone wants to buy their cornbread? Ruth Reichl would flip out.
Sidebars are sprinkled throughout the recipes and offer useful information. How To's include "Break Down Butternut Squash," "Tie a Butcher's Knot," and "Carve a Roasted Chicken." These are not unique to this magazine, but they're very well executed.
"He Cooked, She Cooked" is a fun feature, pitting Guy Fieri against Ingrid Hoffman in a contest to make "the tastiest taco."
A fun pull-out insert features "50 Toast Toppers" offering as many ideas for crostini (though the word crostini is never used).
An odd feature of the magazine is the inclusion of several featured dishes with no in-mag recipes, instead sending you online to retrieve them. We assume this is to promote the website, but this is more of an annoyance.
Other features tend more toward fare that we're used to seeing on food blogs like Serious Eats, rather than in food magazines, such as a mac and cheese survey featuring various incarnations from the lowbrow (Jack in the Box's Cheesy Macaroni Bites) to high brow (covered with white truffle froth and priced at $95). Another item showcases vending machines that offer all manner of food, from pasta to hot dogs.
Other features are just odd, such as "Fueling Up," which interviews a Virgin America (product placement?) flight attendant about what she eats while working, or "Odd Job," a Q&A with a cranberry farmer.
BOTTOM LINE: Food Network Magazine certainly stakes some new claim in the food mag world. It's much more about food as opposed to cooking, which can be fun and new and interesting.
But here's the problem -- even if you love Food Network, odds are that you have your favorite programs. You like quick cooking, so you never miss Rachael Ray. Or you love Alton Brown. Or you love(d) Dave Lieberman (sniff sniff).
But reading Food Network Magazine is like watching Food Network for 48 hours straight: Maybe there's stuff you love, but there's also probably a lot you're not interested in at all.
We're eager to see future editions of the magazine, though, and we bet it'll be popular. Food Network Magazine hits newsstands October 14. Will you buy it?