I'm an obsessive foodie. Cooking is my yoga. The food network is my background music and my porn when I can't sleep in the middle of the night. So when I saw a new magazine called Chow with a delectable cover shot of summer barbecued ribs on the newsstand, I grabbed it immediately with sweet anticipation of a picnic table filled with a fine summer's meal.

The new magazine, which is published out of San Francisco, sold me clever cover lines like "Why You Hate Liver," "Judging Ice Cream," and "How to Spot a Bad Italian Restaurant." I realized this was no gourmet's food magazine, but had high hopes that it might add some new twists to basic eating, cooking, and entertaining. Sadly, I fell off my picnic table in sheer boredom.

Chow's problems begin early. It doesn't know its audience and shoves random ideas together in a trying-to-be-mass-circulation style. As I flipped through the pages, I was reminded of a certain geekiness popular among the San Francisco hipster scene in the 90s, of which the epicenter was Wired magazine. At its best, Chow speaks to the food geek of that culture.

The front of the book opens with a story about high-tech self-scanners at supermarkets. There is also an interview with a psychiatric researcher about how the brain drives food choices and a story about ready-to-eat meals. There are features on artificial meat and the science of food revulsion.

The sections are cluttered and overwhelming. One called "Tactics" offers advice (don't eat in restaurants in Rome that don't have a real kitchen), tips (ice cream with feathers has too much air in it), and recipes (Indian Ice Cream and Classic Grilled Panino). "Basic Repertoire" is the best the magazine offers, featuring a cleanly designed guide to the basics: the one-pot meal, how to cook fish, how to make a good vinaigrette, and roast a chicken. Unfortunately, the photos (a scrawny dried out chicken, out of focus spaghetti, and glutinous looking beef salad) manage to make the recipes look about as appetizing as a Goodyear tire.

This collection of food tidbits for Generation Y could be pulled off, if it was published as a personal zine or a blog about the science and technology of food culture. I might be more inclined to subscribe if it could do one thing well, but this publication tries to be all things for all food lovers.

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