Fusilli lunghi, clams, and shishito peppers at Pammy’s in Cambridge. BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF
If ever there were a year that proved food is newsworthy, 2017 was it. Prominent chefs and restaurateurs such as Mario Batali and John Besh faced accusations of sexual harassment, beginning a conversation about the dark side of the hospitality industry (more stories are sure to come). On the flipside, reminding us of its generosity and humanity was Jose Andres. The chef spearheaded an effort with his nonprofit group, World Central Kitchen, to feed Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, providing meals to nearly 2 million people. Then he moved on to California communities affected by wildfires. When Donald Trump took on immigrants, restaurants took on Donald Trump, defending the community that makes the industry run. Amazon bought Whole Foods, Tom Brady entered the meal-kit market, Tina Fey told us to binge on sheet cake instead of engaging in protest (why not bring sheet cake to the protest, I ask you). We freaked out over phthalates in boxed mac and cheese and wood pulp in Parmesan — and then the FDA chided West Concord’s Nashoba Brook Bakery for including “love” in the ingredients list for its granola. Priorities, people?
When it all got to be too much, our local restaurants were there for us, offering sustenance and a place to gather. Fast-casual continued to be a holy grail, with places like barbecue joint Smoke Shop expanding. The Hawaiian dish poke was suddenly everywhere. Local remained sustainable, as new restaurants such as Cultivar and Field & Vine demonstrated. There were splashy openings like Les Sablons in Harvard Square, but for the most part it was a year when smaller, neighborhood-oriented restaurants quietly ruled. And, of course, there were restaurants we were sorry to see close their doors, from Belly Wine Bar and the Blue Room to Blue Ginger and (after a brief return) East Coast Grill.