Nearly a year ago, we highlighted the revamped Bon Appétit magazine and the changes that had happened since GQ vet Adam Rapoport had taken over as editor in chief. We expressed a few concerns -- chiefly, a move toward blander, "nicer" photography and a new, cooler-than-thou tone of writing that sometimes came off as grating and a little condescending. But by and large, we were complimentary of those early issues.
A dozen issues have passed since then, so we thought it might be worthwhile to check in on Bon Appétit, and to share some thoughts about what we've observed over the last year.
But really, we just want to write about Bon App because we're absolutely loving it right now. Month after month, we've each finished reading it and said, "Wow, what a great issue!"
Here's what we're loving.
The covers. We frequently showcase magazine covers here on the blog, and ask you to choose your favorite. For the past five months in a row, we've absolutely loved BA's covers, starting with the meringues in December and then leading to January's vegetable tart, February's fried chicken, this month's pizza, and next month's sticky buns. The covers are simple and clean, and the food "pops" off the cover. We want to dig into that food. (Seriously, that fried chicken in particular is a work of art.)
Thanksgiving. It was the November 2011 issue that really brought us around to the new Bon App. We'd been enjoying the issues last year, but the Thanksgiving BA just blew us away. As we said in our Thanksgiving roundup:
[T]here was one magazine that blew us away this year. You guys know we tend not to single out particular magazines or issues as favorites, but this must be said: Bon Appétit BROUGHT IT this Thanksgiving. Buh-ROUGHT. IT. From its "Feast from the East" feature, which showcased marvelous ideas for an Asian-inspired Thanksgiving, to the "Down South" feature on a Louisiana Cajun Thanksgiving feast, we were enthralled. Four turkeys, a host of awesome side dishes, and drool-worthy desserts (we need that Grape-and-Apple Pie) -- the November 2011 Bon Appétit is a pleasure. Even if you're set on your Thanksgiving menu, consider picking up a copy just for fun.
Other magazines had settled on smaller Thanksgiving features, but Bon Appétit went whole hog (whole turkey?) on the holiday, filling the entire issue with Thanksgiving ideas. Anita Lo's Asian-inspired Thanksgiving was our favorite of any of the holiday spreads.
The chefs. Bon App has lately been featuring chefs we really love, like Yotam Ottolenghi ("The New Vegetarian" feature in January). The Canal House team has been featured twice in the past four months. (If you're not reading the Canal House Cooks Lunch blog, you should be. We want to go there for lunch every day.)
The photos. Yes, a year ago, we bemoaned the loss of the former signature Bon Appétit photo style, which had evolved into this very in-your-face, almost garish approach. Here's one good example, and here's another. It was stark and gritty and brash (and, frankly, not always appetizing). But in a world of pretty, perfectly styled food shots, it stood out. It was almost food anti-porn.
Well, that's all gone. And now that we've gotten over our knee-jerk nostalgia for the old style, we have to say we don't miss it. Sure, we appreciated it for being unique and identifiable. But over the past year, BA has developed a new photo style that is simply gorgeous. It's still simple and bold, but now it's beautiful and mouthwatering. We love it.
The attitude. Let's talk about that attitude. A year ago, we called it a "smirking" tone of "grating, calculated casualness" that seemed more at home in a men's fashion magazine than a food magazine.
Well, either we've totally gotten over it, or the magazine has cooled its initial "you're doing it wrong" 'tude (or, most likely, some combination of the two). We find the writing fun and fresh. If at times it's a little cheekier than other food mags, well, we don't think that's a bad thing.
The features. More than anything else, we've just been enamored with some of the features over the past few months. Here's a sampling of some of our favorites:
January 2012: Citrus Supreme; a visit to a Canadian sugar shack; and a truly awesome Thai cooking primer
February: A whole issue devoted to the South, with its stunning Hatch Show Print designs and beautiful food; a great Nashville feature; and a Party at Pete's Diner in North Carolina
March: Baked goods from coffee bars; the new comfort food
April: Eggs (you have to see this feature); a lust-worthy Canal House Easter
The bottom line. Bon App has really taken things to the next level over the past year. The last five months, in particular, have set a new bar. Dare we saw that Bon Appétit is our favorite food magazine so far this year?
We can't wait to see the next issue.