San Francisco, December 2008

Quick, pop personality quiz! Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements:

1. “Food stylist” is an actual occupation.
a. Agree
b. Disagree

2. A dessert can be capable of “quiet subversion.”
a. Agree
b. Disagree

3. Ostrich farms are fascinating.
a. Agree
b. Disagree

4. Shoe designer Manolo Blahnik deserves to be referred to as “his Holiness.”
a. Agree
b. Disagree

5. Messenger bags can be specimens of “fine art.”
a. Agree
b. Disagree

6. “Project Macway” is a clever nickname for a production of Macbeth that features cutting-edge costume designs.
a. Agree
b. Disagree

7. San Francisco is just as stylish as New York or LA.
a. Agree
b. Disagree

Results:

If you chose mostly As, you will probably love San Francisco magazine. You will likely find it quirky and smart and flamboyantly stylized and ever-so-slightly self-deprecating, in the winsome way of a Bravo reality show.

If you chose mostly Bs, you will probably loathe San Francisco magazine. You will likely find it horribly, laughably, and irrevocably pretentious. You will likely roll your eyes when, in an article about the architectural design of a Sonoma observatory (complete with—natch!—a spa), you see a path referred to, without irony, as “a long allée” of trees. You will likely roll your eyes some more when you come across a six-page spread devoted, with barely contained giddiness, to various grades of Hollywood celebrities who have been photographed while visiting San Francisco. (Actual quote: “Planeloads of actors kept celeb spotters satiated with more eye candy than they’ve seen in years.”) You will likely roll your eyes even more when you scan the reverent photos—of fig leaf-roasted halibut and sweet-corn vichyssoise and other gastronomic creations—that accompany a review of the Marin restaurant Murray Circle. You will likely find each of the oversized glossy’s 168 pages to be, in their own way, showy and haughty and, in their “Modern Luxury” motto, woefully out of step with these trying economic times. You will almost certainly conclude that San Francisco crosses the line between appreciating The Finer Things In Life and fetishizing them.

If you chose a mixture of As and Bs, you will probably admire San Francisco’s substance even as you question its style. You might find your mouth watering, Pavlov-style, while reading the cover story about “the Bay Area’s smartest desserts”—pumpkin custard with dehydrated carrot shavings! white-chocolate rosewater panna cotta with saffron-pistachio-milk chocolate ganache! “cigarettes” of rice paper and tobacco-infused cream!—even while your mind wonders, “Um, can desserts really be smart? Should they be?” You’ll almost certainly be moved by “Gone,” a deeply reported and sensitively written piece about a sad, if not new, trend: teenagers leaping to their deaths off the deck of the Golden Gate Bridge. You might find yourself nodding in appreciation at San Francisco’s “Click” section, a series of photos capturing moments of city life—election night in the Mission, the boho-biker LoveFest on Market Street—with equal nods to anthropology and artistry. You might appreciate that, representing as it does a city known for matters of marriage, San Francisco manages to unite the extravagant and the everyday—the Prada spread nestled near the H&M ad, the announcement of a new Gucci boutique followed by the profile of Oakland mayor Ron Dellums, the review of a fine dining restaurant at home with the review of a burger joint, things attainable and things aspirational—into a marriage of equals. A laudable feat, most would agree. -Megan Garber


LA Weekly, December 5-11, 2008

CJR Staff is a contributor to CJR.