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The Winner of the Big Eat Scavenger Hunt: The Exit Interview

Michael Meadows completed the Big Eat scavenger hunt on Food Spotting on February 24, barely three weeks after the February issue of 7x7 containing the 2010 Big Eat came out! We were stunned. We were curious. After congratulating him (and getting ready to send off his winning prize of dinner for two at Quince and a stay at a hotel), we got down to the nitty gritty.

What do you do when you're not eating?
I do project management for Satmetrix.

How on earth did you complete this so quickly? You cheated, didn't you.
No! This year there was a map, so I was able to divide the city into different regions. My kids go to school in the Haight and we live in the outer Misison, and we work downtown, so there's always this arch that I'm traveling through. Every Tuesday I go through the Haight and get the Blue Bell Bitter, anyway. My wife got into it as well. What we'd eat was completely random: We'd get a loaf of bread from Tartine and the chicken from Limon and the chips from Papalote and that would be dinner.

What was your biggest day?
For Valentine's Day, we kicked into high gear. We left work at 5 o'clock to get to Swan Oyster Depot before they closed, headed to Bix, got the tuna tartare and martini, then walked over to Quince, got the agnolotti, went from Alfred's [Steak House] to Wexler's to Perbacco and there was a wait for an hour-and-half to get into Tadich [Grill], so my wife said 'forget it!' and we went to Anchor & Hope (and if she drank red wine we would have gone to RN74), then we went to Michael Mina and got the lobster pot pie in the lounge. Then we went to Tosca and had a coffee and stopped Katana–ya and got the ramen. These are all places that I've known about, but a lot I hadn't been to

My god. [stunned moment of silence] So how did you get into the restaurants without reservations?
Well, we'd just go into the bar and just sit whatever. I had the printout of the Big Eat and I'd show it to the restaurant and explain that we were on the scavenger hunt.

What compelled you to finish so quickly?

Part, truly, was the Food Spotting app, because you could see the other competitors. People would leap frog. One person would have 10 and one person would come back with 20… then I'd have to go slightly above them. I followed their twitter feed to know what they were eating.

Tensest moment?
At one point, Darwin [another competitor on the Food Spotting Big Eat scavenger hunt] got to 87. We were going 1 to 1. The pork sugo at Delfina wasn't on the menu and I knew we'd both be at 98 and he had things like the burrito at El Farolito and it was going to be like the Mad Mad Mad World. So I called up Delfina and asked if they'd had it on the menu. I called every day, so I think they wanted me to stop calling, and they finally put it on the menu and that's how I won! And then my family went to Anthony's Cookies for dessert.

Are you going through a post Big Eat depression?
Since I wrapped this thing up so we haven't been out at all. I cook quite a bit.

What were your favorite dishes on the Big Eat?

I really liked the huaraches with the nopales from the Alemany farmers market. I know this is a cop-out, but the roasted chicken from Zuni and the basil gimlet from Rye. Every though I don't love Heaven's Dog, I could live off the Shanghai Buck.

What would you like to see on there next year?
I would put possibly the Monterey scramble from Primo Patio. That's really good. Or classics like the pancakes from Sears or the cotton candy from the Stow Lake boat house.