Food & Wine’s Most Amazing, Wildest, and Most Wonderful Holiday Covers

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45 years of December covers were examined. We found gilded excess in the 1980s, a suspect Santa suit and an eyeless bear.

Over the past 45 years, Food & Wine has published December issue covers that range from ornate to playful, with food that spans everything from a golden ramekin of creme brulée (1985) to roast duck engulfed in fire (2018). This section will take you down the memory lane as we explore some of our favorite holiday covers from every decade.

December 1978

Food & Wine launched as an insert in the March 1978 issue of PlayboyThat swinging, swigging ethos was still prominent with a sip of some potent liquid. It is still a mystery why the bay leaves (so far we know) are on bonbons.

December 1979

According to some, the end the ’70s was for birds. Let’s just say that it was the magic of taxidermy that kept the little guy from eating the icing-covered partridge in the pine trees.

December 1980

W Peter Prestcott, Food & Wine’s longtime Entertainment Editor, was dressed as Santa Claus, feeding a stuffed deer. Per a note inside the magazine, he’s on a “cake break,” sharing a piece of his Bûche de Noël from Vienna ’79 restaurant in New York City with his fuzzy pal.

December 1982

Despite the cover line touting holiday entertaining, these wine-baked pears were part of the kickoff of a column touting calorie-reducing techniques — in this case, using a clay pot to, in theory, eliminate the need for any cooking fats. Holly jolly, you’all.

December 1983

A lamb crown with gilded frills and an awkwardly tournéed “vegetable melange” somehow feels era-perfect, but should a person opt for more opulence, a Sweetbread, Kidney, and Potato Saute with Butter-Glazed Snow Peas is the suggested alternative.

December 1984

With an over-the-top display of caviar, blini, and Champagne, this is where F&W’s love affair with elegant extravagance began.

December 1985

A golden ramekin of “sensual” creme brulée, a celebration of “voluptuous” foie gras and a feature called “Food Fantasies of the Rich and Famous” (featuring Julia Child, Jeremy Irons, and Koko the gorilla) are basically the edible manifestation of the Wall Street “Greed makes the world go round.” era.

December 1986

Is this a Duran Duran album covers or a cover for a food magazine? Who knows?

December 1988

Julia Child holidays are synonymous with desiccated lemon wedges and roeblobs.

December 1989

This “accompagnation” is also available.Hearty Holiday HamThe associated story called it “Feast of Blushing Applesauce”, Sweet Potato and Butternut Puree, Cauliflower with Cream Sauce, Chocolate Orange Mousse, and Cauliflower with Cream Sauce. But it was a feast of lies, and deprivation. The “cream sauce”, which was just milk, contained no cream. The puree did not contain any oil or butter. The applesauce was also devoid of any fresh or frozen fruit. There was no sugar added to the “cream sauce”. The 1980s were at an end.

December 1990

Perhaps as a response to the excesses of the ’80s holiday covers in the 1990s pictured simpler meals. There are many types of holiday covers. Christmas cookies All covers were exquisitely decorated.

Here, 1990, “A heavenly puff pastry angel.”

December 1992

A little girl stuffed a cookie in the mouth of a teddy bear’s eye in 1992. It was great fun.

December 1994

Taupe, tan and beige are the best colors to make holidays memorable.

December 1996

Oh huzzah! Our cookies were allowed to be made in a very limited range of sunset colors because we were on parole from an color prison.

December 2001

This makes perfect sense. Let’s eat our squash, and we are grateful.

December 2004

The 2000s were a time for big roasts as we jumped into the New Millennium. Two pork roasts, two beef roasts, and a beef tenderloin are just some of the centerpieces that graced the decade’s covers.

December 2006

That pork right there is the brainchild of a young upstart named José Andrés, back in the days when he was just saving the holidays and dinner, not the whole entire world.

December 2007

More meat. There is so much meat.

December 2009

Are you serious? Could we be interested in a green vegetable, or perhaps a carb?

December 2011

2010s featured beautiful presentations, even if they were less formal, that reflected a casual entertaining style. Holiday covers started to reflect the fact that December is a major holiday for many different cultures and religions. From a spread of cocktail snacks featuring bites like pickled spiced beets and chile-toasted almonds (2015) to Hanukkah sufganiyot (2017), this was a decade with something for everyone — including a duck on fire (2018).

December 2015

Wait, there isn’t a crown or a roast in sight! Is it even a holiday?


Andrew Zimmern, author and TV host, created the sufganiyot mentioned above after a transformative trip in Jerusalem during the Festival of Light.


There maaaayyyy have been some kerfuffle in the office debating if this flambé was too extreme for the cover. We are so happy that the hotter heads won.

December 2020

These items were not included. Brown Butter-Cardamom cookies Just so we could utter “Spitzbuben”, with complete abandon. 2020 was hard and we had to do what we could.

December 2021

In the middle of a global pandemic it seemed only right to cover our heads with a big, ol’ bundt. Cocoa Cola Bundt Cake with Amarena Cherries.

December 2022

In 2022, there’s talk around F&W HQ that this seafood tower It’s not only the best holiday covers we’ve published, it’s also one of the best we’ve published. It’s possible that twenty years from now the sentiment will be just as old as those oysters. But we choose to live in the moment and enjoy this moment.

For more retro F&W joy, read These Holiday Recipes from the Food & Wine Archives Stand the Test of Time.

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