When we lived in Los Angeles during our graduate school years, Meredith’s reviews in the New Times were the very reason we switched from the LA Weekly as free paper of choice.
Her reviews were more than mere critiques of restaurants and food. They were also autobiography, journal, memoir, and chronicle. They were eagerly anticipated, instantly devoured, and rapidly forwarded weekly letters from an ideal friend, a chatty, witty, casual, Miracle Mile Madame de Sévigné with a penchant for fried eggs, Joss Whedon, and Louise Brooks. In their tales of the twinned search for a good used bookstore and a good steak, her reviews gave us a portrait of life as a smart, literate, gregarious, omnivorous, cinephilic Angeleno/a.
Those reviews were also aspirational. The world they portrayed was the world we wanted to join when we grew up. And whenever she mentioned a movie or a book we loved, it reassured us that we might have a good chance to join that world, which required as passport good taste and sensibility.
We particularly remember the thrill, the frisson, of the day we took a break from reading the Nancy Mitford-Evelyn Waugh correspondence and went to get the paper, only to see that her review mentioned she was reading the Nancy Mitford-Evelyn Waugh correspondence. Or the silly grin of pleasure we had when we read that she took her godchildren to see one of our absolute all-time favorite movies in the world, the Audrey Hepburn-Albert Finney Two for the Road.
When we moved to Paris after grad school, her reviews were a sort of anchor. Even in Paris, they made us homesick for LA and Mexican food. And when we returned to California, her writing about France made us homesick for Paris and cassoulet. She’s good at that, convincing us that la vie est ailleurs.
And then the New Times LA folded, and she disappeared. We were disconsolate. We had always meant to write a fan letter, but desisted, fearing we would seem too stalkerish. And now she was gone (and to make it worse, we would never have the chance to taste the desserts at the now-defunct Chadwick, which she had so vividly described).
Well, she reemerged, albeit in San Francisco and writing for the SF Weekly, and all is right with the world again. And now she on occasion waxes nostalgic for Los Angeles and the delights of its delis, and we get to say, See? That’s what you get for leaving. But we would rather have her in San Francisco than not writing at all.
So why the long preamble? It’s more than our usual long-windedness. It’s that she’s done it again, given us that old frisson, by writing this week about Top Chef. Having watched the show, she went to Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft in San Francisco to try Harold’s winning sandwich from last season, and trekked to Union City (!) to sample Betty’s renamed Tuscan Portobello Melt at TGIFriday’s. Much to our delight, though not to our surprise, she found Spice Rack’s dish, at least as executed by the Beer Bongs of the world toiling at TGIFriday’s:
“[a] sloppily made, soggy grilled cheese, aka Tuscan Portobello Melt, dripping moisture from its roasted onions and tomatoes, alongside an odd-handled cup of sludgy lukewarm sweet soup[,]…the worst meal I’ve (partially) eaten in some time. And not cheap, either: The sandwich is $7.99, making the (between $5 and $9.75) prices at ‘wichcraft, with demonstrably superior ingredients — resulting in something you actually want to eat — seem reasonable indeed.”
Please, please, Raggaydy Andy Cohen & Bravo, please get her as a guest judge. We'll even promise to stop calling you Raggaydy Andy.