And so closes the second year of the pandemic, 12 months more of worry, of working from home, of trying to make each meal feel like something new. The articles that readers of the Food section and New York Times Cooking craved this year acknowledged this new reality. Many of our most-read stories offered tips for making weeknight meals faster and more delicious. Some fed readers’ curiosity about a return to dining out, and others delved into disturbing territory: a Southern farmer’s discovery that her ancestors had enslaved people, and revelations about sexual harassment and other abuses at a destination restaurant in Washington State.
Here are the articles, in ascending order:
In June, the world-renowned restaurant Eleven Madison Park revamped its elaborate tasting menu to be strictly vegan. When Pete Wells reviewed the new incarnation in September, he found vegetables whose “delicate flavors are hijacked by some harsh, unseen ingredient.” And he noted one feature that belied the restaurant’s plant-based messaging: Those willing to pay for a private room had the option of adding a beef tenderloin to the vegan menu.
When Stacie Marshall, a farmer in Dirt Town Valley, Ga., learned that her forebears had kept seven enslaved people, she wanted to know how she could make it right. “I don’t have a lot of money, but I have property,” she told Kim Severson, who spent several months reporting on Ms. Marshall’s efforts to unearth that history, share it and find a way to heal her community. “How am I going to use that for the greater good, and not in like a paying-penance sort of way but in an it’s-just-the-right-thing-to-do kind of way?”
“Bagels are personal, and everyone holds to her own vision of the ideal,” our critic Tejal Rao wrote in this ode to the West Coast bagel. Despite New Yorkers’ claims that theirs are unrivaled, Tejal declared that a new contingent of bakers in California is making some of the nation’s best.
The best bagels are in Montreal. And I’m from Toronto so that compliment doesn’t come easily. David Malone London UK
In July, Genevieve Ko spread the gospel of sauce, calling it “the quickest way to dishes that thrill with big flavor.” The 20 recipes that accompanied the feature — organized in six categories: green, salty-sweet, chile, tangy, creamy and sweet — helped win converts to the saucy side.
Thank you! Sauces make me happy. JRussell, Colorado
Homemade cookies brought the sparkle this holiday season, and this virtual calendar showered readers in Italian rainbow cookies, savory Cheddar coins, minty lime bars and figgy cookie pies. One intrepid reader made them all.
Under the leadership of the chef Blaine Wetzel, the Willows Inn, a seasonal restaurant on Lummi Island, 100 miles north of Seattle, became a global destination. But in a monthslong investigation, 35 former staff members told Julia Moskin that the restaurant routinely faked “island” ingredients it advertised to guests; that female employees were sexually harassed by male kitchen staff members; and that Mr. Wetzel was physically intimidating and verbally abusive, using racist, sexist and homophobic slurs. Mr. Wetzel denied the substance of most allegations.
I’ve worked in upscale, boutique restaurants my entire adult life. This story sounds more or less like every restaurant I’ve ever worked at. They are pretty much all like this to a greater or lesser degree. There is talk about hospitality changing and having its “Me Too” moment, but the reality is, how long are you prepared to wait for those changes to really take root and make a difference in your life? Beth M. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Before the Omicron variant pumped the brakes on dining out, our reporters and editors traveled the country to find the 50 restaurants they were most excited about at the moment. Their list sums up the many reasons restaurants will always have our hearts.
This list is a breath of fresh air from all the other Top Restaurant lists coming out these days. Jason, NYC
Like all great creators, our science-minded columnist J. Kenji López-Alt pulled from several sources — namely Mandy Lee from Lady & Pups and the chef Daniel Boulud — to create his method for a better scrambled egg. It involves adding butter to the eggs along with cornstarch, which keeps them creamy and tender as they cook.
I have a fail-proof method of scrambling eggs. Whilst I’m stirring the eggs I call up my ex-husband and before you know it the eggs are whipped to a frenzy. Marjorie Summons, Greenpoint
Recipe: Extra-Creamy Scrambled Eggs
And in Case You Missed Them …
Eric Kim spent nine months of the pandemic at home with his mom. Here, he writes about the lessons he learned watching her make kimchi, jjigaes and the other foods of his childhood in Atlanta.
In July, Christina Morales traveled to Surfside, Fla., to meet with restaurateurs who were feeding rescuers, survivors and the families of the missing after the deadly collapse of a condominium complex.
Priya Krishna described how a store-bought food container can contain multitudes.
Victoria Petersen told the effervescent tale of how dozens of soda-shop chains and independent soda shacks have opened from Idaho to Utah to Arizona, an area of the Mountain West sometimes called the Mormon Corridor.
Eric Asimov detailed how some winemakers pivoted at the beginning of the pandemic to focus on direct-to-consumer sales.
In Maine, Melissa Clark profiled several sea scallop farmers. While looking for ways to diversify beyond lobster, they stumbled on one of the most environmentally beneficial types of aquaculture.
Yewande Komolafe told how Thanksgiving allows her to embrace the treasured recipes of her friends and chosen family.
Brett Anderson traveled to Butte, Mont., to see how one of the nation’s oldest Chinese restaurants, Pekin Noodle Parlor, was coping after the loss of its longtime owner, Danny Wong.