A few years back I met Ruth Reichl. This was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life — standing in line for her to autograph my books, I felt a lot like a little girl waiting to get a hug from Cinderella at Disneyland. She was in town for a reading of her most recent book, Not Becoming My Mother, and it was held in a theater that served up pizza and burgers and popcorn. It was an idyllic moment for me, eating food and listening to a food writer talk about food.
Since she was promoting a book about mothers and cooking, she announced that she would be eating at one of our city’s more prominent restaurants that featured a female owner/chef, and I could hear the whispers around the audience: “Mother’s Bistro.” “Oh, she must be going to Mother’s.” To my dismay, she did not. Instead she chose someplace else (which I will not mention here because this isn’t a post against that other restaurant, by any means). It simply didn’t make any sense to me. If I were promoting a book about food and my mother, I would unquestionably go to Mother’s Bistro, after hours, to eat delicious things made for me by Lisa Schroeder.
Mother’s is my go to restaurant. I would live there if I could. Even now, living in another state nearly 1,000 miles away, I still want to defer to it because there just isn’t another that will take its place. My mother and I would eat dinner there when we went into the city for Broadway shows or other theater performances. I would wear one of my nicest dresses and act like a grown up. This was before I became a food addict, but even then I could distinguish genius from the mundane. And suddenly I wanted to eat at Mother’s every day. My last meal before the next morning’s wisdom teeth extraction was there, which turned out to be a really smart move because I wasn’t able to eat solid foods for a good three weeks. I’m fairly certain that the memory of that moist, flavorful meatloaf carried me through those weeks of chicken broth and mashed up scrambled egg. My high school graduation brunch was there. My engagement party dinner was there (and Lisa had a slice of chocolate cake sent to our table, by means of congratulations.) If I had an important event to celebrate, I was going to eat Lisa’s food, and when we move back (and we will, I just know it) I will continue the tradition I began, years ago. I have eaten a number of wonderful things in that dining room, from perfect mashed potatoes to juicy pan-roasted chicken to a mile-high, rich chocolate freezer cake covered in ganache with candied hazelnuts and homemade whipped cream that remains to be the best dessert I’ve ever had. I always hold a little hope that the next time I go to Mother’s, it will be a featured dessert again.
Mother’s is a revelation that proves comfort food has just as much right to belong in the fine dining scene as upscale French. The dining room is warm and inviting and sometimes Lisa comes around each table to chat, as though you were actually old friends. If food could hug you (stay with me here, even through the weird analogies), Lisa’s would envelop you like, well, your mother.