Last night I attended a super cool event hosted by Sunset magazine. They gathered a group of local journalists, put us on a shuttle, took us down to their Menlo Park office, and gave us a tour and party. Sounds fun, right? The surprising thing was how little I knew about the magazine’s history. Growing up in Petaluma, my parents had a subscription to Sunset, so I’ve read the magazine my whole life, but last night I realized I didn’t really know much about the back story of Sunset (which is a little weird considering that I know everything about my other monthly magazine reads such as Food & Wine and Harper’s Bazaar). Here’s 10 things I learned at the event:
1. Sunset was originally published in 1898 as a publicity pamphlet for the West Coast. It was a promotional magazine for the Southern Pacific Transportation Company and was found on their high end trains.
2. The cover of the first issue (pictured, right) featured an image of the bay before the Golden Gate Bridge existed!
3. The Sunset headquarters in Menlo Park were built in 1951 by Cliff May. The giant ranch-style building has large windows, high ceilings, and western inspired decor. It reminded me of Susan’s California house in my favorite movie The Parent Trap with Hayley Mills.
4. Much like a recipe is tested, the gardening advice that Sunset features is tested in a special test garden before it’s printed. The test garden is expansive with various borders, lots of kale, and even chickens. I got to take home a just-laid farm fresh egg!
5. When the recipes are being developed, they are not tested by cooks or editors. Instead, recipes are tested by several women with no professional culinary background. These testers have to follow the recipe exactly to see what works and what doesn’t work.
6. While the magazine’s content pertains to the West, the wine coverage features wine from everywhere. This is because West Coasters don’t limit their wine drinking to local varietals. The headquarters have a beautiful downstairs wine cellar with a regulated temperature, no cell service, and a great collection of local and international wine.
8. A massive outdoor kitchen, complete with an extra-large pizza oven, allows the staff to try out the latest in barbecue equipment. When we walked through it, they had two new Cowboy Cauldrons on display.
9. The March 2013 issue is the first all-food edition of Sunset. Throughout the year, they plan on releasing more dedicated issues that highlight the major lifestyle areas of the magazine (gardening, travel, and home design).