4/17/2013 02:30:00 PM

The End of Time Out Chicago and Beginning of Middlewest for David Tamarkin

Something special arrived in the mail yesterday. Secured in a large envelope and sealed with string, on the front was a word: Middlewest. We had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new food publication from editor David Tamarkin and photographer Erica Gannett. The project was announced several months ago via a Kickstarter campaign. Described as a “semi-annual food and recipe magazine,” it quickly surpassed the $9,000 goal (by almost $20,000).

Open the envelope and you'll immediately realize that this is unlike any magazine found on the racks of Barnes & Noble. Inside were ten cards with an image on one side and recipe on the other (many suited for a spring that may never arrive). The publication is a design-forward way to look at food; striking photographs manipulated by the creative duo, Sonnenzimmer. The card for spaghetti with asparagus-pistachio pesto, shows an appetizingly green bowl of pasta. Look closer and notice a faint blue negative above the bowl. It is the image of spoons tossing the pasta, overlaid over the final image like a ghost.

“We wanted to give people a window rather than ‘here’s the food’,” Tamarkin said about the unconventional publication. He and Gannett avoided traditional glossy photos of perfectly plated dishes seen in every other food magazine. They wanted something that served a dual purpose - to be beautiful and useful. Images that made you stop and look at the food, alongside recipes that make you want to run to the nearest market for fresh mint and parsley to make spring chicken.

Together, the ten cards feel like a dinner party – inviting and captivating. Recipes for a cocktail, beans, soup, cakes and tarts. The recipes themselves look like the back of a cereal box and read like a conversation with a friend. “If you make the dough and filling in advance (both can hang out in the fridge for a few hours), you can leave the assembling of these pies to your guests,” instructs the recipe for lamb hand pies. The issue also comes with a literary supplement written in the form of letters to the Middlewest. Issue one is available on Middlewest’s website for $18.

The release of this latest project occurred simultaneously with Tamarkin’s departure from Time Out Chicago. The company was purchased by Time Out Group, which eliminated the print edition of the popular local publication and fired 80% of the staff. In his final piece, “Chix I Have Loved,” Tamarkin addressed his seven years writing for the company and the dish they kept him coming back for more: chicken. The simple dish, a testament to the worth of a chef, became a means of therapy - a constant - during his career. It is only fitting that one of the few entrĂ©e recipes in Middlewest is for roast chicken.

Food media is changing. Will it look more like the deconstructed publication that is Middlewest? Will it evolve into online-driven content that will now comprise all of Time Out Chicago? Only time will tell, but as Tamarkin wrote in his farewell essay, “Everything else changes; a simple and good roast chicken is always the same.”


  1. $18 for a magazine? One. Magazine. Unless you plan on eating the magazine, that is a bit steep. This looks fantastic sure, but similar publications, ( "Lucky Peach" for example) is reasonably priced at $28 for an annual subscription ($7 each.) I adore everything David Tamarkin does, but since they surpassed their initial goal by $20,000 then shouldn't they consider lowing the price to something slightly more affordable?

  2. Having done a Kickstarter project before I know that after all the costs for KS, Amazon, production, shipping are done, you are left with very little. And the time and effort you have to expend are not very well compensated. KS is definitely for passion projects and to get started and noticed. If you are left with something to convert your passion project into a real venture, I think everyone benefits.