As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2017 by surveying local food writers (including our own staff and contributors) on various restaurant-related topics, and we’re publishing their responses in these final days of the year. Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comment section below.
Keep an eye on the Year in Eater archive page for other stories in this series.
The final question of the 2017 series: What’s your favorite piece of writing by another local food writer this year?
MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:
“Not to play to the audience, but Eater Boston’s coverage of our scene has gotten steadily deeper, more entertaining and helpful in 2017: Kudos to the whole staff!
Also in the possibly-pandering department, I have to give a shout-out with much respect to my colleagues in the Food & Drink section at The Improper Bostonian for their feature work, notably my editor Matt Martinelli for his patience, sharp blue pencil, and previews of new restaurants. My eternal thanks as well to former editor Jacqueline Houton (who’d previously honed my dubious, over-hyphenated prose at the bygone Boston Phoenix); she departed this summer for a new career in children’s book publishing. It’s usefully humbling to work with talented pros like these.
Elsewhere, I think Jolyon Helterman is killing it in his restaurant-critic perch at Boston Magazine: His review of Chinatown’s Ruckus Noodles was particularly tantalizing and funny. (We must agree to disagree on Terra.)
The Boston Globe critics’ roundtable, including food editor/restaurant critic Devra First, chewed very thoughtfully over the issue of art vs. character in food and arts reviewing, a topic much on my mind these days, one that will become more trenchant amidst our overdue awareness of workplace sexual harassment.
Luke O’Neil made me roar and nod in recognition with his hilarious Esquire piece about why you shouldn’t ever wait in line for a bar, in response to the early frenzy over A4cade (a very fun place, love the pinball especially, but still).
I’m gratified that Dig Boston has revived its food coverage with reviews by the indispensable Marc Hurwitz as he uncovers overlooked gems around Greater Boston, something he’s been doing in his required-reading food blogs for years.
But my overall favorite was Kara Baskin’s December piece in the Globe about how certain local restaurants provide extraordinary care to customers who need it for reasons like declining mental faculties. It was deeply moving and heartening in these increasingly depressing times, a year when more than ever, Boston’s restaurants and bars provided me with a desperately necessary, soul-salving, sanity-preserving refuge. My professional food-writing colleagues continue to dazzle, edify and delight me: my heartfelt thanks.”
Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston's Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, restaurant critic for Dig Boston, and more:
“Kara Baskin's recent Globe article on how the Red Raven in Acton is helping families with special needs have a positive and stress-free dining experience. Jen Apazidis of the Red Raven is doing yeoman's work here and as for Kara, well, she writes so many great articles but this is the one that really sticks with me.”
Jenna Pelletier, food editor of Boston Magazine:
“Our Boston Magazine restaurant critic, Jolyon Helterman, constantly cranks out thoughtful, witty, exhaustively researched work. Catch up on his 2017 reviews here.”
Scott Kearnan, editor of Zagat Boston and food editor of the Boston Herald:
“I'm not sure this exactly qualifies, but what the hell! Luke O'Neil is one of my favorite local writers, period, and although it wasn't a ‘food feature,’ per se, I really loved his piece for Esquire that discussed men and eating disorders — his own experiences with exercise bulimia, in particular. From the gendered stigmas that exist around discussing eating disorders to the lack of understanding of exercise bulimia (no, it's not a ‘good!’ addiction), it covered important but under-examined ground that ought to be understood by anyone who generally spends a lot of time working with or talking about food.”
Catherine Smart, contributor to the Boston Globe and cast member of Milk Street TV:
“I loved this piece by Kara Baskin. This is what hospitality at its finest and most dignified can look like.”
Sam Hiersteiner, contributor to the Boston Globe and more:
“I'm a little crazy about fermentation, so I loved ‘Are Chefs Trying to Kill Us?’ by Devra First. Also, Catherine Smart's recent piece about chef Jeremy Sewall and researcher Michael Chambers’ work with the speckled steelhead trout.”
Dana Hatic, associate editor of Eater Boston:
“I loved Terrence Doyle's story on Baindu and Sahr Josiah of Bintimani.”
Terrence B. Doyle, reporter for Eater Boston:
“Hard to choose just one. I'll just link to Devra First's author bio because she's very good at what she does.”
Alex Wilking, contributor to Eater Boston:
“Spencer Buell’s takedown of local poutine for Boston Magazine was definitely a story I think on periodically. Also, any piece that provoked much-needed discussions about sexism and/or inequality in the beer industry (notably the good work coming from Good Beer Hunting). Y’all are doing God’s work.”
Rachel Leah Blumenthal, editor of Eater Boston:
“I love that Boston has such an active food writing scene. Although many of us technically compete with each other in various arenas, each local publication has its own niche, and I like to think of us all as one big hungry family that mostly gets along, chattering away on social media about weird restaurant experiences and amazing meals while deadlines slip away. Wait, is that just me? Anyway, the fact that so many of the talented folks above are willing to participate in this survey year after year is a testament to our close-knit scene, I think, so I want to take a second to thank everyone up there for humoring me yet again even while busy with all their own year-end round-ups.
There were lots of great local stories this year — some funny, some touching, some powerful, some ugh-why-didn’t-I-write-that-first. I’ll name a few of my favorites here:
Looks like I’m the third one here to mention Kara Baskin’s wonderful Globe piece ‘For older diners, restaurants serve up sustenance of another kind,’ so go ahead and click that link if you missed it the first couple of times.
On the restaurant review front, I find that MC Slim JB’s tastes usually match up pretty well with my own, and even when they don’t, his writing is always immensely entertaining and knowledgeable. Catch up on his Improper Bostonian reviews here.
Also in the Improper, the multi-part pasta feature by Matt Martinelli, Sarah Hagman, Julia Aparicio, and Cathryn Haight was lots of fun — and beautifully photographed by Holly Rike.
One feature that stuck out to me this year was Alex Wilking’s in-depth, well-researched look at growlers for Boston Magazine. On the surface, I wouldn’t expect to make it to the bottom of 3,000 words about a vessel that contains beer, but wow, there’s actually lots of drama in the world of growlers.
I look forward to seeing what everyone writes in the coming year — and I hope we don’t have to cover too many of these dire headline predictions.”