The deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Jonathan Gold, the continuing reverberations of the #MeToo movement throughout the restaurant world, comfort foods both savory and sweet — these were the subjects that drew the most readers to New York Times Food in 2018.


Shrimp biryani cooked in an electric pressure cooker.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Cooks in India have long used pressure cookers, so it is no surprise that they have embraced electric pressure cookers. Nearly a dozen Indian cookbooks geared toward the kitchen tool have appeared in the last year. There are more electric-pressure-cooker cookbooks for Indian food than for any other cuisine — or for keto, paleo and vegan cooking.

“I grew up in India, and the pressure cooker whistles — they remind of home, warmth, delicious food lovingly prepared and served. I would miss that sweet whistle if I didn’t hear it in my own kitchen. To this day, to me the whistle at the end of a long day means the comfort of good food.” Ani Annamalai, New Haven

Recipes: Pressure Cooker Shrimp Biryani | Pressure Cooker Punjabi Rajma | Pressure Cooker Chicken Korma

The butter tart is Canada’s gift to the dessert canon. Here, a tart at Don’s Bakery in Barrie, Ontario.CreditIan Patterson for The New York Times

There may be no more perfectly satisfying treat than a Canadian butter tart. It is small and sweet, bracingly so, with hints of butterscotch and caramel. And each bite delivers three textures: flaky crust, chewy top, gooey center.

“These are, hands down, the most divine thing I make. I am a professional baker; my repertoire is quite large, but these little tarts, made exactly as this recipe states, are one of my most requested items. Part of their charm is that they look in real life just as they look in the picture. People are definitely hesitant at first; what is this, is it pecan pie, I don’t think I’m gonna like it. But once they taste it, they devour the whole thing and reach for another. Absolute delicious.” Aviva

Recipes: Butter Tarts | Butter Tart Squares

Ranch dressing has risen to prominence by going beyond salad and allying itself with everything from pizza to chicken wings to tortilla chips. CreditLinda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Invented in the 1950s, ranch dressing has inspired fandom beyond food: Sightings include bottles of ranch-flavored soda, ranch fountains at parties, ranch tattoos and memes, even ranch-and-pizza earring sets. And then there are the ranch superfans, who pour it on uni, instant ramen, ice cream and more.

“I never thought I’d read a 2,000-word story on ranch dressing to the end, but this was fascinating. Chicken wings with a ranch powder dry rub is one of the most popular items at our local pub — served with ranch dressing, of course.” Michael Regan, New Hampshire

Recipes: Classic Ranch Dressing | Ranch Dressing With Fresh Herbs | Double Ranch Mozzarella Sticks

Mia Hopkins, a novelist, procrastibakes by making pies when writer’s block strikes.CreditOriana Koren for The New York Times

Procrastibaking — the practice of baking something completely unnecessary, with the intention of avoiding “real” work — is a surprisingly common habit that has only recently acquired a name. Almost anyone who works at home and has a cookie sheet in the cupboard can try it: medical students, romance writers and freelance web designers alike.

“This is absolutely brilliant, borders on the philosophical, who knew I had a peer group. But today I resisted the temptation to procrastibake bread. I remained at the computer and procrasti-YouTubed videos about blockchain. It’s coming all right. Tomorrow it’s back to kitchen or laundry room for some other procrasti-tangible activity.” tancredi, Italy

Recipes: Juicy Orange Cake | Kitchen Sink Cookies

The brownie hot fudge sundae with Virginia peanuts at Pig Bleecker comes with the obligatory cherry on top.CreditDavid Williams for The New York Times

“Dessert was put on this planet in order to surprise us,” our restaurant critic wrote. “When did it become so numbingly predictable? It is as if every chef in town had decided that the only appetizer left standing would be the iceberg wedge.”

“To paraphrase Samuel Johnson: When a man is tired of ice cream, he is tired of life.” ARG, NYC

For 20 years, Thanksgiving cooks have asked themselves an essential question: To brine or not to brine? Maybe it’s time to just say no.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times

In many homes the act of brining remains a sacred Thanksgiving ritual. Pulling out the cooler and mixing up the brine, with its precise, unchangeable list of aromatics, is as much a part of the holiday as a game of front-yard football. But that is changing.

“LOL. I didn’t realize people had been brining turkeys for 20 years. I was still thinking about giving it a try, but never got around to it. I guess procrastination helped me avoid a useless fad.” Laurie D., Okemos, Mich.

Recipe: Pulled Turkey With Jus

From left, three popcorns from Jessica Koslow of Sqirl in Los Angeles: a «cheesy» vegan popcorn, a coconut sugar caramel corn and a spicy pimentón popcorn.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times

The single best use of boneless, skinless chicken breasts? This Italian-American staple, with its lemony, buttery pan sauce.Published OnCreditCreditLinda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

Chicken and lemon are a classic combination that almost every meat-eater likes. And chicken francese is one of those rare restaurant dishes that is truly easy to make at home.

“I first had this in New Jersey in a little hole in the wall Italian restaurant and it was so good. I tried for years to figure out what is was. Finally did and I love it. The chicken melts in your mouth. On occasion, I add capers or artichoke hearts.” jo

Recipe: Chicken Francese

The egg spoon has slowly moved into the mainstream.CreditAlex Welsh for The New York Times

In the great food culture wars of the 21st century, the egg-spoon skirmishes may one day be remembered as pivotal. Conflicts over this long-handled cooking tool have fostered a social-media meme, a front in the #MeToo movement and a handcrafted version that costs $250.

“Obviously no one has ever been camping.” Solamente Una Voz, Marco Island, Fla.

The prolific musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto at Kajitsu, a Manhattan restaurant where he created the music playlist.CreditNathan Bajar for The New York Times

The renowned musician and composer found the music at his local Japanese restaurant to be thoughtless, so he suggested to the chef that he could take over the job of choosing it, without pay, if only so he could feel more comfortable eating there.

“Like many of the readers commenting on this article, I wish that restaurants would do away with music all together. It’s not that I don’t love music — (I do) — but when dining out, I want to focus on my companions and our enjoyment of being together, which is a different activity and mind-set than listening to a concert.” Catherine Hicks, Marble Falls, Tex.

Jonathan Gold worked as The Los Angeles Times’s food critic for years, and won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2007 while with LA Weekly. He once said he wrote to try to get people less afraid of their neighbors.CreditCharley Gallay/Getty Images for Siriusxm

Jonathan Gold, the Los Angeles Times restaurant critic whose curious, far-ranging, relentless explorations of his native city helped his readers understand dozens of cuisines and the city to understand itself, died in July. The cause was pancreatic cancer. In November, the newspaper named two critics to fill his place: Bill Addison and Patricia Escárcega.

“I failed a lot of people,” April Bloomfield said. “That’s on my shoulders.”CreditAlex Welsh for The New York Times

In a New York Times article last December, more than two dozen people who had worked at her restaurants described a longstanding pattern of sexual harassment and verbal abuse by Mr. Friedman. Some said she had known about his behavior, which employees said included groping them and pressuring them for sex, and did nothing to prevent it. After months of requests from The Times, Ms. Bloomfield agreed to be interviewed because she wanted to add her voice to the narrative, and start to rebuild her reputation.

“I’m glad April is now at the point where’s able to process her past and attempt amends. Sadly, hers is not a story of redemption. It’s a cautionary tale — when naïvete and a desire to escape the trappings of a common life collide with greed, power, and unchecked influence.” Wendy

The celebrity chef Mario Batali speaking at a charity benefit at his restaurant La Sirena in November 2017. In news reports the next month, several women described a decades-long pattern of abusive behavior in his empire.CreditKrista Schlueter for The New York Times

In April, before Mario Batali faced additional allegations of sexual misconduct in New York and Boston, the celebrity chef considered his business options. He is one of many prominent men brought down by the #MeToo movement.

“Instead of talking about the damage he has done to women, he is talking about the damage done to his career and reputation. Need I say more?” J House, New York

Anthony Bourdain, the famed chef, author and television correspondent, killed himself in a French hotel room in June.CreditChris Pizzello/Invision, via Associated Press

When Anthony Bourdain died in June at a hotel in Comar, France. investigators ruled the death a suicide by hanging. From an investigative standpoint, the only question left was whether Mr. Bourdain, who had a history of drug use, had any such substances in his body.

“As I continue to read the article holding back my tears, I remember how remarkable human being he was. I did watch so many of his shows, although I never bought any of his books. I will go and buy some of his books, to continue through my reading admiring this amazingly accomplished person.” RBR, Santa Cruz, Calif.

Mr. Bourdain preparing a meal in the kitchen of his New York apartment in 1997.CreditJack Manning/The New York Times

“He identified with the grunts, portraying himself as a slinger of cheap steaks and French fries. The grunts, in turn, identified with him, not because of his contributions as a chef — who can name an Anthony Bourdain dish? — but because he told the world what the work was really like. And once he left kitchens behind for a career in travel television, he didn’t lead his camera crews on a tour of the world’s most luxurious resorts. He went to Detroit and the Bronx, Libya and Beirut.”

“Maybe Bourdain’s lasting legacy will be that more people will talk more openly about mental health.» Flower

Roasting pork chops and brussels sprouts together (but on separate sheet pans) under high heat ensures evenly golden results.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times

The former chef turned writer and TV host exposed the underbelly of restaurant culture and took viewers on far-flung culinary adventures with biting wit and a worldly outlook.Published OnCreditCreditAlex Welsh for The New York Times

Anthony Bourdain, whose darkly funny memoir about life in New York City restaurant kitchens made him a celebrity chef and touched off his second career as a journalist, food expert and social activist, was found dead in a hotel room.

“It’s desperately sad to realize that there are people in this world that outwardly seem to have it all, their life together, doing what they love, and yet inside they may be in turmoil with their mental health a fragile shell.” Mossbird

More of the year’s best
10 Great New York Dishes of 2018

New York’s Top 10 New Restaurants of 2018

Our Most Popular Recipes of 2018

From 2018, Indelible Messages From the Past