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Saveur: downhill?

Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2007 10:28 AM

I was defending the post-Colman-Andrews Saveur, but the Steak issue is just lame--mediocre writers, tame subjects, lazy research, rambling and downright boring articles, even the photographs seems to have lost their flair.

If they don't turn things around we might not renew.

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  1. kare_raisu RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2007 10:32 AM

    I havent seen the steak issue - but I bought the Avocado Cover issue which contained fascinating articles on the Cuisine of the Russian Far East and South East Asian Immigrants of the Central valley.

    Any specific examples of what you claim?

    11 Replies
    1. re: kare_raisu
      Robert Lauriston RE: kare_raisu Sep 20, 2007 10:46 AM

      There's a long and tedious article about eating crap while hiking the Pacific Coast Trail.

      The article on southern Thailand was very shallow compared with previous travel features.

      The cattle-ranch photo spread looks like a Ralph Lauren ad.

      Basically I feel like it used to be the New Yorker of food, and now it's the Atlantic (not to slight Corby Cummer, who's a great food writer).

      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        kare_raisu RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2007 11:07 AM

        well, sounds like a miss issue.

        lol - "...eating crap..."

        Can you reccomend me any better food culture/history mags?

        1. re: kare_raisu
          cgfan RE: kare_raisu Sep 21, 2007 02:01 PM

          Slow, the official international publication of Slow Food International, is a beautifully produced volume, along with it's partnered U.S. publication by Slow Food U.S., with the caveat that I thought it spent a bit too much time talking about the organization itself. (I've since let my membership expire for that reason alone...)

          Very wide ranging and always provocative is Gastronomica, which explores the intersection between food, culture, and art. Excellent publication. Rather than subscribe to it, though, I instead purchase whole volumes of back issues when they become available.

          Both of these titles are not as mainstream as Saveur, but then again it's hard to call Saveur mainstream too given it's more limited distribution than some of the other foodie magazines.

          All of these publications have quite different "personalities" and therefore one never really quite substitutes for the others, but they're somewhat in the same genre of "writing-driven" foodie magazines.

        2. re: Robert Lauriston
          Frolic RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2007 11:30 AM

          That hiking story was really lame. All about a guy who felt restless, so he ditched his wife and newborn for the summers to hike and eat convenience store food.

        3. re: kare_raisu
          southernitalian RE: kare_raisu Sep 20, 2007 01:46 PM

          I renewed my subscription after I got the avocado isse because the stuffed clam recipe i got in it has been such a huge hit in my house this summer. I enjoyed it. It's a lot less expensive than the other foodie rags I get so no loss if it's not stellar.

          1. re: southernitalian
            C. Hamster RE: southernitalian Sep 20, 2007 02:24 PM

            The Avacado Issue's cover claimed to list "New England's Best Clam Shacks" and it turned out the author only visited Rhode Island!! Sure there are great ones there, but there are better ones in MA (IMO) and some great ones in Maine and NH.

            An example of Robert's "lazy research" comment.

            Also, no letters to the editor to complain about it.

            I agree that it has gone downhill. Still not nearly as bad as Gourmet where you cannot distinguish the magazine copy from the ad copy.

            1. re: C. Hamster
              Robert Lauriston RE: C. Hamster Sep 20, 2007 02:28 PM

              Misleading cover teasers are annoying but usually have nothing to do with the author--they may not even come from the editorial department. In this case, the table of contents and article made it clear the article was about Rhode Island.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                chazzerking RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2007 02:48 PM

                that's true, but it is still annoying and a common occurence these days in not just Saveur, but most of the food mags. One frequently has to search the contents/interior to figure out what article they're referring to in the cover tease. The Rhode Island/New England was one of the more obvious and annoying ones recently, but not unusual.

                1. re: chazzerking
                  Robert Lauriston RE: chazzerking Sep 20, 2007 03:18 PM

                  It's a problem with all sorts of magazines.

                  Cover teasers are often written by publishers, who sometimes care more about maximizing newsstand sales than about describing the contents accurately. More generally, publishers often care more about advertisers than about readers.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    QueenCeleste RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 28, 2008 12:42 PM

                    I've been a magazine editor for 20 years and I have never once worked anywhere where the publisher wrote coverlines. They are always written by the editors (and usually high ranking editors). Publishers deal with ads and marketing, editors deal with copy, and the cover is considered an editorial page.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston
                  C. Hamster RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2007 02:49 PM

                  An example of poor editing, then.

                  Plus the article wasn't that great anyway.

          2. Candy RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2007 01:50 PM

            My new October issue arrived today, it is all about Chicago and has me making Shrimp de Jonghe tonight. I ended up going to Epi. for a recipe and I have not yet finished reading through it but so far no complaints.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Candy
              Candy RE: Candy Sep 20, 2007 02:48 PM

              This Chicago issue has me hungry and ready to search out some items I had no clue about. Got to make that trek north real soon.

              1. re: Candy
                HomeCookKirsten RE: Candy Sep 20, 2007 09:47 PM

                I grew up in Chicago and almost had to wipe up drool when I saw Chicago-style deep dish pizza on the cover, but maybe I am biased, but not ONE recipe for deep-dish pizza???? I was SO upset.

                Also, while the coverage was good for Chicago - I felt a bit like certain features were trying too hard.

                Overall a good issue and made up for the more lackluster issues, but I was somehow left hungry - not satisfied - after reading the issue cover to cover.

                (online ordering Lou Malnati's on dry ice out of desperation)

                1. re: HomeCookKirsten
                  Robert Lauriston RE: HomeCookKirsten Sep 21, 2007 09:48 AM

                  I started a topic on the Home Cooking board re deep-dish recipes:


                  1. re: HomeCookKirsten
                    C. Hamster RE: HomeCookKirsten Sep 22, 2007 06:50 AM

                    I have almost finished reading the Chicago issue and have mixed feelings about it.

                    My family has lived in Chicago for 30 years. I love Chicago. But I am not sure I love a magazine that devoted 95% of its copy to Chicago.

                    I also thought some of the articles were a bit overdone and some (the tomato gravy one, eg) didn't add much.

                    I was also surprised at no recipe for the pizza!

              2. s
                Seattle Rose RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2007 02:09 PM

                I am a long time subscriber to Saveur, but have been disappointed overall in the last few issues. Too many glitzy luxury car and watch ads, not enough substance. It is starting to look like Gourmet. This is not a compliment.

                1. m
                  ML8000 RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2007 07:19 PM

                  Besides the great photos, Saveur has struck me as uneven at times but nothing major, nothing more fluffy and pretentious then any other mainstream mag. They've always sort of dotted around and some of it has always some gimmicky/odd stuff but that's the nature of the beast.

                  Example: the Saveur 100 is one of the most annoying lists (and it's been around) because of the written descriptions (pretentious, faux spunkiness/hipness and a odd sense of logic) and yet on the whole Saveur does uncover some great stuff. The Hmong farmers in CA's Central Valley was great as many of their trips aboard are. The Chicago issues looks good too.

                  Nothing is perfect and what magazine cranks out 12 issues of greatness every year -- food or not? Any way, it is what it is...food porn.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ML8000
                    Robert Lauriston RE: ML8000 Sep 21, 2007 10:09 AM

                    We'll see if this is more than just regular ups and downs. I've never read an issue that had as little of interest as the steak one.

                    Any significant changes due to Colman Andrews's departure (or that sparked that departure) would appear gradually. He left at the end of July last year, at which time the editors would have finished or mostly finished with their work on the November or December issue. Lots of features would have been assigned and in the pipeline.

                    There's some continuity in the editorial department staff, but a lot of new names on the masthead.

                  2. Chocolatechipkt RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 21, 2007 10:55 AM

                    I go back and forth with Saveur. I had a subscription with them in the beginning, and after a couple of years I discontinued it, as I never actually made any of the recipes. I do find many of their articles interesting, but the recipes rarely inspire me to start cooking.

                    Having said that, earlier this year I was inspired to make two recipes from Saveur: the lemon meringue tart and the buckwheat crepes. The tart turned out fabulously--great presentation value too--while the crepes looked, and tasted, like sludge. Now that it's fall and I can cook again, I'm going to re-try the crepes (because I'm persistent that way.)


                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Chocolatechipkt
                      Robert Lauriston RE: Chocolatechipkt Sep 21, 2007 11:13 AM

                      Saveur's recipes aren't tested well enough. That's been a problem all along.

                      One of the few interesting items in the steak issue was the mussels roasted in a pile of dry pine needles.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        southernitalian RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 21, 2007 12:40 PM

                        Hmm. Not sure how I'd feel about mussels that taste like a Christmas tree.

                        1. re: southernitalian
                          Chocolatechipkt RE: southernitalian Sep 21, 2007 07:13 PM

                          Piney mussels? Hmm, I don't know about that.

                          And yeah, I just read the latest issue of Saveur while in line at WF (long lines, as everyone seemed to be shopping at 9pm), and I agree it's not so fabulous.

                          1. re: Chocolatechipkt
                            flourgirl RE: Chocolatechipkt Sep 22, 2007 07:44 AM

                            Whew. For a minute there, I thought I was the only one who mentally went "Blech" at the thought of pine-scented and flavored mussels.

                            1. re: flourgirl
                              condiment RE: flourgirl Feb 29, 2008 12:38 AM

                              Eclade de moules, mussels roasted in smoldering pine needles, is a specialty of the Charente-Maritime, and is incredibly delicious.

                    2. ChefJune RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 22, 2007 08:04 PM

                      Different strokes for different folks! I found the steak issue entertaining, if not particularly educational. but that's okay....

                      What are you expecting that you're not finding?

                      And I REALLY love the new issue, all on my home town, Chicago! 8>D

                      1. flourgirl RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 23, 2007 08:00 AM

                        I have only been reading Saveur regularly for a short time (got a ridiculously cheap subscription offer, so I bit). I've apparently missed Saveur's high point in time but I still enjoy receiving each new issue in the mail. I admit that I don't read every issue cover to cover because some of the articles just don't interest me, but all in all, I enjoy it, and I'm glad I have the subscription.

                        That said, if I don't get a renewal offer as good as the initial subscription I purchased, I don't know that I'd renew. I don't cook out of it very often and I can always read it at the library.

                        1. Up With Olives RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 25, 2007 11:40 AM

                          When was the steak issue? I must have mised that. I looked online but I can't find a "back issues" section.

                          What I have noticed most in my short time as a subscriber is that the headlines and cover quips are awful and amateurish and have little to do with the quality of the writing within.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Up With Olives
                            Robert Lauriston RE: Up With Olives Sep 25, 2007 11:49 AM

                            Steak issue was June/July.

                          2. h
                            HungryLetsEat RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 25, 2007 11:51 AM

                            I've had my subscription for a year now and do not intend to renew. It just doesn't have enough recipes that I care to try to make at home and I haven't found the articles all that interesting. I am, however, excited about this last issue. I was born and raised in Chicago and have lived elsewhere for 5 years now. I'm always hungry for any news (especially foodie news) about my hometown!!

                            1. m
                              Moka RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 28, 2007 02:18 PM

                              I don't subscribe, but was paging through the current Chicago issue (that pizza cover got me!) The single most interesting thing I saw inside was an Apple-Lavender Tart Tatin, which spoke to me. I bought the issue solely for that recipe and hope to try it soon. I also liked the page about San Francisco food shops. I don't know if I'd subscribe, but Saveur's photography is still much better than Gourmet's very unappetizing photos -- now there's a downhill story.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Moka
                                Robert Lauriston RE: Moka Sep 29, 2007 08:40 AM

                                I'd never buy a Saveur for a recipe, they don't test them very well (if at all) so often they fail.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  Moka RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 29, 2007 12:38 PM

                                  I'll think very good thoughts as I flip the pan ;-) though tarte tatin can be a bit temperamental anyway...we'll see. I expect a food magazine's recipes to work. Otherwise, the articles and photography would have to be seriously good to offset that.

                                  A friend who subscribes to the French magazine, Cote Sud, shared the summer issue with me. I was blown away by the gorgeous photography throughout, but especially the food section with it's creative food pairings and presentations. Even those who don't read French well can take away some great ideas, though the mag is pricey.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    daveena RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 30, 2007 12:25 PM

                                    Some of the recipes are brilliant, though:

                                    I'm actually starting to think that overtesting recipes robs them of soul (see Cooks Illustrated).

                                    1. re: daveena
                                      ML8000 RE: daveena Sep 30, 2007 12:41 PM

                                      You have a point about over testing and it discourages variation. Some older cookbooks, before the 40s, didn't list ingredients in quantity and detail and only briefly touched on process, which leaves room for variation.

                                      Any way, there's some nice features and find in Saveur...I recall bacon tempura, small 3 paragraph article...great stuff.

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