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Review: Food & Wine Magazine App for iPad

Food & Wine Magazine has released an app for iPad. They previewed the app at the 2010 American Wine Awards ceremony last Tuesday night and released it on Thursday. The app is essentially a digital version of their magazine with an attractive interactive interface and some extra features made possible by its digital nature. The app and the inaugural issue — “the wine issue” — are free for now. There will be a fee for subsequent issues. Whether or not you buy future issues, I think there’s more than enough value in the current one to justify your time in downloading it.


Speaking of downloading time, as with most iPad magazines, getting the app itself is very quick but the magazine files are large and takes a few minutes even on WiFi. You only have to go through that process once for each magazine though, so it’s not a big deal. The attractive design and stunningly good photos alone make it worthwhile. (The photos in the print version are very good, but on the iPad the food shots practically leap out of the screen — absolutely gorgeous.)

The iPad issue also gives you more than just a shiny copy of the printed publication. There is extra content. In the current issue, there are videos of chefs Michael Chiarello and Mario Batali demonstrating cooking techniques and recipes. (The videos are well done, but the app crashes every time I close the video window.) There are also 100 new wine pairings that were put together expressly for this iPad issue.

Here’s a list of the primary articles included in this issue of Food & Wine for iPad:

  • Batali’s Eataly - Covering Mario Batali’s new 50,000 square foot “artisanal-food-and-and-wine market and restaurant complex.” Recipes are included.
  • Trendspotting - The focus is on Italian-American food.
  • Chef Recipes Made Easy - Seattle chef Jason Franey’s recipes are tweaked for home chefs.
  • Well-Being - Seamus Mullen, a finalist on last year’s “The Next Iron Chef” series from Food Network, offers healthy tapas recipes.
  • The Gastronaut Files - Domenica Marchetti shows how to make ravioli.
  • Fast - Grace Parisi of Food & Wine offers 9 recipes for good food you can make quickly.
  • Travel - A guide to the “best wine & food” in Canada.
  • Sonoma Vineyard Lunch - An article, recipes and videos focused on the wines of Jamey Whetstone’s Whetstone Wine Cellars and wine country lunch prepared by Michael Chiarello.
  • Wine Lessons - Sommeliers give their advice on 12 different topics, from “essential gear” to good values in sparkling wine and their favorite web sites.
  • Wine and Food Pairing - Recipes for 8 tasty-looking dishes and pairing suggestions.
  • Trends - Wine country art and art related to wine.
  • 100 Bottles to Drink Right Now - A list of wines that executive wine editor Ray Isle thinks you need to try. [Can anyone drink 100 wines "right away?"]
  • 2010 American Wine Awards - Find out which wines really got F&W tasters excited.
  • Italy's Lazio - “Eat & drink like a Roman”
  • Where to Go Next - 5 new favorite hang-outs for sommeliers.
  • Buying and Pairing Guide - Wines from Food & Wine’s 100 Bottles list are arranged into lists by color and price point, then paired with a recipe.

As good as this iPad-azine is, there are things I’d like to see enhanced, or added, in future issues:

  • Shopping lists - Give me a button after each recipe that sends a shopping list to Mail or Notes.
  • Links - There are a couple of links that take readers to the Food & Wine webpage that itself has links to certain cookbooks on Amazon. That’s not enough. Shouldn’t every chef's name link to a bio? Personally, I think every wine name should also link to the winery, though I imagine that F&W feel they should get paid for that. Restaurants and shops have their addresses, phone numbers and urls listed, but the urls aren’t clickable. This is 2010 folks, if you’re going to include a url in a digital publication, make it functional!

                                    Clickable icons and scrolling for recipes, but non-functional urls

  • Interface tweaks - The app is very interactive. There is a lot of scrolling and tapping. Changing the orientation of the iPad can change the layout and make more content visible. There’s also a fairly helpful introduction to the interface that pops up when you first open the issue (and is accessible thereafter via the table of contents). And the “recipe index” is marvelous. But I get the impression that the graphic designers won a few too many battles against the human factors/user-experience people. 
For some recipes, there is a fixed header (with the title and a photo) that takes up so much room in landscape mode that the scrolling window for the recipe below is too small to be practical.
 Photo links are easy to spot — marked with a camera icon — but text based links blend in too much with the body text. 
The video buttons (““tap for video” WATCH MARIO cook!”) are cool, but please tell me WHAT he’s going to cook. Don’t make me watch the video to figure it out
  • Finally, I think digizines like this should interact with my digital life more. It would give me a richer experience and be better for the publishers and their advertisers. Why aren’t there opportunities to Tweet things like “check out the the great list of wines in the Food & Wine iPad app?” Why can’t I “like” the app or a recipe on Facebook? Why can’t I tap the address of a listed restaurant to add it to my Contacts? Why can’t I tap the date in the ad for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen to add the event to my calendar? Publishers need to accentuate the “digi” and move beyond the “zine.”

These mild-mannered suggestions aside, the Food & Wine app for iPad looks great and, if you drink every listed bottle and make every recipe, will keep you busy and gaining weight for at least four months. Check it out!

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This article is original to Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All art in this article is from screenshots of the Food & Wine Magazine app for iPad and belongs to them. All rights reserved.