Food Magazines Think Budget-Friendly... Clinton Kelly's Fabulous Book...

In those flush times a year or so ago, food magazines like Gourmet and Bon Appétit often seemed to focus on recipes requiring the most indulgent ingredients.

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Bon Appetit November 2008 Cover

Photo By Courtesy Photo

MIX A BOX OF RICE-A-RONI WITH…: In those flush times a year or so ago, food magazines often seemed to focus on recipes that required the most indulgent ingredients (remember Gourmet’s goat tacos that started with instructions on how to kill a goat?). No more. Budget-friendly recipes, as well as restaurant and wine recommendations, are rapidly becoming a larger part of the editorial mix as editors seek to cater to their readers’ new penny-pinching ways.

Take Bon Appétit, which will theme its entire January “Best of the Year” issue around Champagne taste on a beer budget (and not a microbrewery, either). “The overriding feel is it’s possible to eat well and have value and still feel indulged and well-fed without busting your bank account,” said editor in chief Barbara Fairchild. For example, in a story on stylish dinner parties, “instead of calling for osetra caviar, which costs $400 for less than 2 oz., we start out with American spoonfish caviar at $49 for 2 oz.” The story also includes a recipe for a mussel bisque instead of a lobster bisque. A wine story will cover “10 Reds and 10 Whites for Under $20,” and the magazine’s “Fast Easy Fresh” column will include a week of dinners for a total of $100 — seven entrées and a dessert included, with a shopping list (the popular column also is being turned into a cookbook, which will be released next week). As for those who can still afford to travel, the January issue will highlight Lima, Peru, as a food destination. “Your dollar goes a lot further in South America than in Europe,” Fairchild noted.

At Food & Wine, the November issue includes a story on “upcycling,” called “A Thrifty Cook’s Guide to (Almost) Free Ingredients.” The practice reuses food scraps in recipes, helping to eliminate waste. “The fantastic thing about the best restaurants is that they use everything. They would never toss a potato peel or a carrot top,” said editor in chief Dana Cowin. She believes Food & Wine attempts to feature budget-friendly recommendations in every issue, but said she made a conscious effort to review issues leading up to the holidays as the downturn in the economy dominated news headlines. For a story on theme parties, Cowin changed one of December’s “20 Super, Easy Holiday Parties” from a gift-wrapping party for presents for family and friends to one where the gifts would be for children in need. The magazine also will include a column by Lettie Teague on why Champagne is suitable in good times and in bad (to drink your sorrows away, perhaps?), with a sidebar recommending affordable bottles. Early next year, Cowin said the magazine is altering a popular column, “Chef’s Recipes Made Easy” to “Chef’s Recipes Made Cheap.” The column already has been amended on the magazine’s Web site.

Gourmet’s Ruth Reichl said the upscale food magazine has focused more on home cooking. “Lots of people who were spending time in restaurants are spending more time in their kitchens.” To wit, Gourmet’s November issue features four different types of Thanksgiving meals, one of which claims can be done in four hours, to court those who might normally have Thanksgiving dinner out. In January, the magazine will launch a techniques column called “Cooking Class.”

— Stephanie D. Smith
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