Rating Saveur's 20th Anniversary Issue

Welcome to Magazine Review, a new feature in which longtime magazine editor and Food Republic editorial director Richard Martin reviews print publications focused (mainly) on food and/or drink.

  • The magazine: Saveur

  • Issue: Jan/Feb 2014 (No. 162)

  • Frequency: 9x/year

  • Page count: 100

  • Price: $5


Ah, the listicle. For the uninitiated, that's part list, part article, and it's become the stock in trade of many online publications, including this one. It's also a reliable device for print magazines to break from the usual format and get playful — as Saveur does with its annual Saveur 100.

Editor-in-chief James Oseland must drive a lot of writers crazy assembling this issue, as the 100 individual entries strive for — and achieve — an element of surprise. Even those deeply immersed in food culture will find surprises here, from an app that translates Chinese characters to allow you to better order at Szechuan restaurants to Australian cookies made with golden syrup, coconut and rolled oats.

It kicks off with a minimalist shot of a meringue pie from the great Modern Snack Bar on eastern Long Island, then bounces around to China (charcuterie), Italy (Amari), Kansas (an unlikely ode to electric stoves) and London (The Grain Store, a noteworthy restaurant).

There are the requisite mini-profiles and restaurant detours, but they're smartly paired with recipes (grouped together in the back of book), including Carbone's insanely tasty garlic bread. The recipes are all really great, serving as a sort of unintentional exclamation point on this inspired collection of 100 stories.

What I Like:

Playing off the 20th anniversary theme, some of the 10o entries feature guest writers who pay homage to past issues, including Wolfgang Puck, Nathan Myhrvold, Tom Coilicchio, Jonathan Gold and Ruth Reichl. Between these guests and the recipe jump-offs, there's a lot going on here, especially for a listicle. And yet the flow is really smooth, or, if you want to put the magazine down and come back to it, that's an even better way to digest all this information.

The most recommendable thing about the Saveur 100 is just how unexpected these mini-stories are. At a time when countless websites, some backed by multi-media conglomerates, simply rehash and repeat the same story in countless iterations, this humble magazine breaks through the noise with a reminder of just how strong content can be when a team of committed editors works on a project at length.

What I Don't Like:

The cover, I find, is really disappointing — a half-hearted collage of the stories within. Saveur is not particularly known for its artistic sensibilities, but I would have liked to have seen a vision that matched the content. Instead, the layout feels merely patched together, with few flourishes other than stray, artfully shot photographs. We also caught a few factual errors; we're pretty sure there are hundreds, not thousands of "eateries" — that word! — at the Gwangjang Market in Seoul, for example.

Recommended If You Read: Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal food section