Last month we took a look at some unfamiliar food magazines across the pond. But what about those lesser-known culinary periodicals here in the United States?
Sure, you may read Martha and Rachael and Bon Appétit and Food & Wine (and, if you're like us, Saveur and Cook's Illustrated and Milk Street and Garden & Gun and Good Housekeeping and Southern Living and Real Simple and Cooking Light and … well, you get the idea) — but there are tons of other amazing food magazines that might not be on your radar.
The ones we're talking about tend to be less commercial and more esoteric with a look and feel that's more like a literary magazine. They focus on niche topics and win James Beard Awards for their writing. They publish less frequently than the bigger titles, often only twice a year. In general, they're less about recipes and kitchen products and how-tos, and more about the culture and love of food.
Call them indie food mags. Here are five that are worth your attention.
This twice-yearly magazine focuses on the intersection of food and queer culture. After debuting in 2015, Jarry is printed twice a year and regularly publishes new pieces online. The latest issue features a profile of fashion designer and tastemaker Zac Posen, a story about queer supper clubs, a weekend guide to eating in Milan, and a photo spread of "six notable young queer people in New York's food scene right now."
With more than a dozen biannual issues to date, Gather is a well-established food magazine that looks more like an uber-hip art journal. Each issue features recipes inspired by a single central theme, like Sin or Heroines or the 1970s (sexy banana centerfold, anyone?).
Gather is filled with truly artful photos and stunningly beautiful cover images, and the editors create Spotify playlists to go along with each issue. The Summer 2018 edition, "The Getaway Issue," is all about food journeys, and it includes chef travelogues covering everywhere from a Canadian forest to the streets of Jerusalem to a village in Burkina Faso.
Plus, as the magazine itself describes the newest issue, "we created menus that travel to a fantasy world of daydream desserts; delved into the idea of food as indulgence and self-care, each its own retreat; and used one of the most iconic fictional destinations (Oz) as muse." Who's ready for an Emerald City salad?
Just as every issue of Gather has a unifying theme, each volume of Ambrosia (there have been five so far) eats its way through one specific locale such as Mexico City or Denmark or Brooklyn.
The newest volume is all about the San Francisco region. It focuses on local signature foods like sourdough bread and oysters and fortune cookies, as well as exciting newer contributions from the city's growing cadre of immigrant-owned restaurants. There are also recipes and stories from several Bay Area chefs, including Joshua Skenes, Pim Techamuanvivit, and Brandon Jew. (Side note: We had the best dinner at Brandon Jew's restaurant, Mister Jiu's, a few months ago. It's got a sort of neo-Chinatown vibe, with delicious and innovative takes on Chinese-American classics. Go there.)
Ambrosia's stark and striking covers could hang in an art gallery — or at least your kitchen.
Speaking of art, Compound Butter describes itself as "a publication about food, art, and all the things in between." It looks more like the catalog from a gallery show, with vividly composed photographs and illustrations. Many of the covers don't even feature food, or only tangentially, as in the cover for Issue Four, which shows a psychedelic skull wearing a crown of strawberries.
Similar to Gather and Ambrosia, Compound Butter's issues are all loosely themed around an idea, like "Love" or "After Dark" or "Rotten." (That last one included fermented drinks, moldy cheeses, kimchi, and stinky tofu, as well as body sacrification practices, tattooing, and "fringe and counter culture practices." We dare you to find that in Martha Stewart Living.) Most of Compound Butter's features look at intersections between food and art, like a chef who runs a faux celebrity chef Instagram account or two artists who together create surrealist food imagery.
We're surprised it has taken us this long to come across a publication with the simple, straightforward mission of Toothache: a food magazine by chefs, for chefs. (Maybe the now-defunct Lucky Peach came close?)
Toothache, launched last year by San Francisco pastry chef Nick Muncy, literally gives chefs a blank page to fill with whatever images, recipes, or writing they want. The magazine describes itself as a "collaborative project" among chefs. "This magazine's goal," as its mission statement reads, "is to give ourselves a little bit of the media power back; to produce a magazine that a chef or cook would actually want to read."
It's not a mishmash, though: Toothache looks refined and cohesive. (It's also got a very strong Instagram game.) Its third issue is out now, which includes some 70 recipes by 11 chefs such as Erik Anderson of Coi in San Francisco and famed Barcelona chef Albert Adrià. And attention, bakers: The magazine aims for a 50/50 split between savory dishes and pastries.
Have you read any of these indie mags? What others have we missed here? Let us know in the comments!