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Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows a thing or two about food. She also knows that as the most important food critic in the country, you need to be anonymous when reviewing some of the most high-profile establishments in the biggest restaurant town in the world--a charge she took very seriously, taking on the guise of a seRuth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows a thing or two about food. She also knows that as the most important food critic in the country, you need to be anonymous when reviewing some of the most high-profile establishments in the biggest restaurant town in the world--a charge she took very seriously, taking on the guise of a series of eccentric personalities. In Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl reveals the comic absurdity, artifice, and excellence to be found in the sumptuously appointed stages of the epicurean world and gives us--along with some of her favorite recipes and reviews--her remarkable reflections on how one's outer appearance can influence one's inner character, expectations, and appetites, not to mention the quality of service one receives....

Title : Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780143036616
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 334 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise Reviews

  • Denise
    2018-11-18 23:54

    Reichl served as the New York Times food critic from 1993 to 1999, and this book is about her years as "The New York Times Food Critic" -- but it's also about her struggle to evade the identity of The New York Times Food Critic (tm) and get people an honest, egalitarian review of what, exactly, they're going to get out of their meal.I vaguely remember bits and pieces of the controversy when Reichl took over the reins, but this book really blew the whole thing open. The problems she was facing were twofold: one, she wanted to cover a wider range of food than the previous "snooty French" coverage the NYT had tended to, thus necessitating not only developing a way to consistently evaluate cross-food-ethnicity, but also a way to convince Yr Av'g Noo Yawka that these cuisines were worthy of attention -- but more importantly, two, it was impossible to evaluate what kind of dining experience a "normal" person would have in the cut-throat, status-based New York City restaurant scene. Reichl's solution -- create alternate 'selves', complete with their own personalities and quirks, and take them out to a meal (she deliberately built her personae to not encode for the status that would guarantee her a world-class experience) -- is simple and elegant, and the book itself is an engaging interaction with the idea of national privilege and identity as it plays out on restuarant tables. Her examples are well-chosen, and she writes beautifully: clear, direct, and entertaining. She also prints recipes and reprints several of the colums that resulted from the anecdotes she relates in the book, which serve as excellent bonus material.But where the book shines is what it makes you think about. Because as Sarah (who read it first) came across a reference to a particular dollar amount for a meal, she turned to me, read that bit out loud, and said, "Is there something wrong with me that I don't think this is particularly exorbitant for a meal like that?" And I answered no -- because it didn't strike me as exorbitant either; food is one of the pleasures of life, dammit. (My operating assumption is that life is too short to put up with bad food, bad friends, a lousy job, or uncomfortable clothing.) And after it was my turn for the book, I put it down upon completion, and I started to think about Reichl's main thesis: that money and status are two entirely different things, and how the differing levels of privilege we all carry influence and shape us. It's something I'm going to keep thinking about for a long time, particularly the next time we sit down to eat out -- whether it be at a hole-in-the-wall family-owned joint, a Major National Chain (tm), or a Dining Experience (tm) -- because Reichl has a lot of very smart, savvy, and interesting things to say, reading between the lines (and sometimes more overt than that) about American national identity, relationship to food, and concepts of service, status, and privilege. This is a no-holds-barred look at the best and the worst of us, and Reichl has the writing chops to pull it off.

  • Jason Koivu
    2018-11-20 17:09

    A bit more sapphire than garlic. Ruth Reichl's book about her time as the New York Times food critic is mainly focused on her need to don disguises in order not to be recognized in the restaurants she was reviewing and how changing her appearance opened her eyes to how people are treated due to their physical appearance and projected personality. Therefore, foodies will find less about food in Garlic and Sapphires and more about fashion.I was hoping for more about the food. I guess I neglected to read the book's subtitle, The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise. I guess I've gone too far in my efforts not to judge a book by its cover. Reading and believing what the title says is kind of important. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy reading about Reichl's ridiculous hoop-jumping with wigs, make-up, clothing and personas in her successful efforts to fool the waitstaff of NY's finest eateries, even if her insights were nothing earth-shattering. I mean, most people know by now that bossy, demanding people get what they want while the meager among us get the scraps, if anything. But just the same, Reichl's stories and storytelling were quite entertaining, I also voyeuristically enjoyed her descriptions of fancy NY restaurants, and there was just enough meat on dining to whet my appetite (<--wow, that was cheesy).

  • Carol
    2018-12-01 22:44

    Some books languish on my TBR list forever it seems. It's really pleasing to pick up one of these and wonder why it took me so long to read. Garlic and Sapphires: The Secrete Life of A Critic In Disguise was published in 2005. It might have been a bit more relevant at that time but it's message about the love of good food, told with insight and humor is timeless. I thoroughly enjoyed this peek into the life of a food critic. I had never read any of Reichl's columns when she was editor at The New York Times but was fascinated by this memoir about her time there. I never thought about what it must take to try to eat a meal that you will rate honestly if the restaurant staff is on the lookout for you. Reichl comes up with new identities, clothing, make-up, wigs which allow her to blend as just a diner on her forays to some of the best and other times, little known restaurants in New York. I may never actually get to dine at any of the places Reichl writes about or rates. Frankly even if I could some would never make my list after reading about her treatment when she visits in costume. Reichl's expertise makes me savor the smells, the delight in the first bite, the eloquence in presentation, the impeccable service of a good meal. The layout of the book worked well for me. Narrative, Review, Recipe. I enjoyed learning a bit about Reichl's background, her family, her friends, and the women she becomes to remain anonymous. The recipes range from simple like Matzo Brei to a full fledged roast leg of lamb dinner. I love how her son, Nicky, goes with the flow, always recognizing his mom through the outrageous get-ups she comes up with. Reicihl also gains insight from these women she becomes.If I were participating in a book discussion. Chapter 7 would lead me to query others. Heading home from an elaborate meal at La cote Basque, encounters a hungry homeless man on the subway. He is begging for food, anything, even the crumbs left in the bottom of a chip bag. Reichl, as Betty, hands the man her doggie bag. She expects that he will tear into it but he goes to the end of the car, spreads his scarf on his lap like a napkin and proceeds to remove the wrapping, appreciating his windfall. "Roasted Duckling!" he croaked. "An then, very delicately, he picked the leg up in his fingers and ate it slowly, savoring every morsel." Having just watched a segment of Extreme Cheapskates where a man moves through a restaurant asking diners if he can have their leftover food and another dumpster dives for food. Both these left me bit grossed out. I wonder why the homeless man's story touches me and the cheapskate makes me a bit ill.Reichl has written other memoirs, always with a touch of food, so much of her life. Hopefully some of these will work their way up on my list.

  • Erica Verrillo
    2018-12-05 17:12

    After reading Tender at the Bone, I was looking forward to more of Ruth Reichl. Garlic and Sapphires was not only a disappointment, it was as if a completely different person had written it. It is ironic that in a book about disguises, Reichl herself was unrecognizable. Far from the funny, sensitive, and sincere person she was in her first book, Reichl had transformed herself into a self-absorbed snob loaded with enough hypocrisy to sink a ship.This book covers Reichl's stint as the New York Times chief restaurant critic. Although she accepts the position, she has reservations about the elitist implications of the job, and vows to write for the masses--those million readers who can't afford to spend $100 for a meal at a four-star French restaurant. Part of her mission is to expose the poor treatment many of these restaurants heap on the "common man." But in order to accomplish this lofty goal, Reichl must eat in disguise. For if she is recognized as New York's premier restaurant critic, she'll be treated like royalty. (Although this obviously has no bearing on the quality of the food, it has a great deal of bearing on the quality of the experience. Personally, I eat for the food.)The idea is cute, and for the first few chapters it was fun. But Reichl shows her true colors right from the start when she heaps disdain on a bearded ignoramus (wearing Birkenstocks...unforgivable!) for having the audacity to dip his sushi rice-side down, thereby "ruining" the "clear transparent flavor," the "taut crispness," and the clam that was "almost baroque in its sensuality." (I have yet to meet a sensual or almost baroque clam, but I'll take Reichl's word for it.) Reichl then reminisces about her trip to Japan, in which she is first exposed to the proper way to eat Japanese food. (I'm pretty sure the guy in Birkenstocks could not afford to go to Japan for eating lessons.) In her other encounters with diners at top-notch restaurants Reichl indulges in so much blatant one-up-manship that you simply can't sympathize with her concern for the "simple folk" no matter how much she tries to dress like them. The verbal food fights with the poor guy she picks up in a bar as the vampish Chloe (what's up with THAT??), and with the self-avowed "food warrior" were downright churlish. After proclaiming that there is no right way to eat food, Reichl clearly demonstrates that it's her way or the highway. Even Reichl's portrayals of other diners, who are merely innocent bystanders, are dreadfully stereotyped, sometimes to the point of cruelty. (She assumes that a "loud, brassy blonde," who is disturbing her expensive meal, is a prostitute. Apparently, sitting next to the "masses" isn't nearly as much fun as pretending to write for them.)Even Reichl's disguises lacked credibility. Reichl's claims that she had an instant personality transformation with each new disguise are simply unbelievable. She BECOMES the 'little people,' taking on their imagined attributes, their voices, their very lives. She comes up with histories for each of the women she invents, and, with just a wig and some makeup, is so amazingly convincing that she can even fool her husband! Either Reichl is schizophrenic, or she takes method acting entirely too seriously. She certainly takes herself too seriously.If the book had been well written I could have forgiven the snobbery, but, with the exception of one chapter, "The Missionary of the Delicious," in which Reichl was somehow able to get a grip on herself, purple prose abounded. (As her editor I would have crossed out half of her adjectives.) The inclusion of reprints of her published reviews was redundant, and the recipes were mediocre. (There was no clue in these recipes that Reichl was an expert in the kitchen. But, hey, she was writing for the "huddled masses yearning to eat free." What do we know? We can't even dip sushi right.)If Reichl hadn't been so intent on wallowing in her ego, this book might have had possibilities. She loves food, and she has dined in some truly fabulous restaurants. The fact that most of us can't afford them is irrelevant. She had a duty to go to these marvelous places, enjoy herself to the max, and then take the rest of us with her.

  • Sarah
    2018-12-11 16:50

    Ruth Reichl should be required reading for anyone writing a memoir. She manages to shape plot and theme within her own life story. I think part of the trick is that she carves her life into bite-sized arcs, one journey per book. It helps that she is witty, observant, and one hell of a food writer.This one is the story of her years at the New York Times, which happen to be the years after we no longer lived in the city but kept our subscription to the Times. Reichl's reviews were great for that globally-read paper; her descriptions of restaurants and their food were evocative enough that it didn't matter if you knew you would never set foot in the place.Reichl quickly discovered that she needed disguises in order to visit the restaurants she was reviewing, since the royal treatment she got when she appeared as herself (literally -- she was once seated while the King of Spain waited at the bar) was clearly not the experience of the everyday diner. Many of the chapters are named after specific disguises, each of which took on a personality of its own. I've also read the memoir of Frank Bruni, the other recent Times master-of-disguise. That one was entertaining but not quite satisfying, and I couldn't put my finger on what it was missing. This book has everything that one didn't, maybe because Reichl threw herself into her self-made characters with such commitment. Or maybe because Reichl is savvy enough to include her own reviews at the close of each chapter, so that the reader sees the finished product as well as the behind the scenes. Or maybe because of the recipes interspersed between the chapters, which show the love of food behind everything else she does.

  • Eve
    2018-11-19 19:13

    Ruth Reichl is back, and this time she's the new restaurant critic for the New York Times. Although the Times is famous for its all-business-no-play reputation, leave it to Ruthie to take her job to the next level...and have fun doing it! Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise chronicles Reichl's ten year stint with the Times, and her effort to bring good food to the masses. In order to do that, she decides to create alter egos a la Mrs. Doubtfire, to avoid red carpet treatment that would unduly influence her reviews. I like the way Ruth thinks, and it's evident in the layout of her book. Each chapter is dedicated to a character/disguise, followed by her trips to the restaurant in question, and finally the review that was published, along with it's rating. Some chapters even include Ruth's favorite recipes that tie into her life outside of work. As Ruth soon discovers, being the NYT restaurant critic comes with a lot of perks...and power! Will she remain the down-to-earth culinary Robin Hood she started out as? Or will her position turn her into a much feared food snob? Quoting T.S. Eliot, her husband warns, "Garlic and sapphires in the mud." What a fitting title for this chapter in Reichl's life. If you love reading about the art of food, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. She is extremely gifted at describing dishes, textures, aromas, and linking them to things you can relate to, even if you've never tried them before. For example, I always thought I was somewhat knowledable about sushi. Apparently not! Authentic sushi and sashimi employs the art of umami—a perfect taste for a perfect moment, and that incorporates the four basic tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter) along with a savory taste. A skilled Itamae chooses fresh, succulent fish, and is as focused on taste and texture, as in presentation. It's also super expensive, ha ha! At any rate, this makes the second book that I've read by this author, and she is now an official favorite. After finishing her book, I cooked up the dish below for a BBQ over the weekend. Needless to say, it was a hit, just like she promised it'd be!Ruthie's Scalloped PotatoesIngredients1 clove garlic, cut in half1 Tbsp unsalted butter2 cups milk3 cups heavy creamSalt and Pepper4 pounds baking potatoes, peeledPreheat the oven to 325FRub a roasting pan with the garlic, and then coat thickly with the butter.Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan, and heat until just bout to boil Season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch thick rounds and arrange them in layers in the pan. Pour the cream mixture over the potatoes (it should come just to the top but not cover them). Bake uncovered, pressing the potatoes into the milk every 30 minutes or so, for an hour and a half.Remove the pan from the oven when the potatoes are golden and allow to sit for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.

  • Book Concierge
    2018-11-11 23:03

    Audio Book performed by Bernadette DunneSubtitle: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise Well, that’s a pretty good synopsis of this memoir of Reichl’s tenure as the restaurant critic for The New York Times in the 1990s. I loved her stories of the various restaurants, from tiny noodle shops to elegant restaurants, where even the King of Spain is kept waiting at the bar. What I really appreciated about the book, however, was the “secret life” part – her own growth as a person. As Reichl tried on various disguises she found that she was also revealing different personalities – timid or demanding, happy or dour, compassionate or selfish. She learned much about herself, what she liked and what she didn’t like. And she was fearless in revealing these various facets of herself to the reader.Her writing really shines, not surprisingly, when she is describing food. I am in awe of her palate, her ability to tease out and identify the subtle flavorings in a complex dish:(Describing the risotto) It tasted as if a chef had stood at the stove, stirring diligently as he coaxed each grain of rice into soaking up stock. As a finale he had strewn plump little morsels of lobster through the rice, giving it the taste of the ocean.(Gougeres) And then I didn’t say anything else because I had taken a bite of one of the little puffs and I was concentrating on the way they simply evaporated into hot, cheesy air when my mouth closed over them.(Quenelles de brochet) Very few restaurants still make these ethereal dumplings, a marriage of air and ocean, and even fewer do them right. … I take a bite and the softness surrounds my mouth with the taste of lobster, of fish, of butter and then it just dissolves, disappears, leaving nothing but the memory in my mouth. And I take another bite, and another, and suddenly I’m floating on the flavor, and the world has vanished.(Venison) Surrounded by chestnuts, apples, a fruity puree of squash, the meat is so delicious that I find myself eating as if it is the first course. When I look down, I realize that I have eaten everything, even the single aromatic grape that decorated the plate.A delicious memoir, and I devoured every word. I think I’ll make lamb for dinner tonight….Bernadette Dunne does a marvelous job performing the audio version of this book. She has reasonably good skill as a voice artist to give the various characters unique and believable voices, though her 4-year-old Nicky sound like an adult imitating a little boy. Her pacing is good, and she even makes the recipes sound interesting.

  • Judy
    2018-12-03 22:51

    Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise whetted my appetite to read more food memoirs. This book charmed me from the get-go. Whether Ruth Reichl donned the costume of aggressive Emily, beatnik Brenda, sexy Chloe, her mother or invisible Betty Jones, her accounting of her stint as food critic of the New York Times sizzled. Lest anyone think this is a cream puff of a book, it isn't. Reichl candidly discussed how she deceived herself about her reasons for becoming a food critic. Recipes are stuffed into nooks and crannies and flow like part of the script. This isn't one of those books that uses recipes in order to fill space; they come naturally. I listened to the audio version and enjoyed it immensely.

  • Heather
    2018-12-03 16:52

    I'd never read her Times reviews, so this was my first time experiencing any of her writing. I looked forward to my subway rides while I was reading this, and I found myself almost blushing while reading some of her more Porn-ish reviews of food. I loved every bit of the food critic/ dressing up in disguise/ new york times culture stuff, but could have done without much of the personal crap about discovering herself through her characters and what a good mom she is. I'm sure she is a good mom, it's just a very short book, and I would have liked to hear more about the other stuff.

  • Amy
    2018-11-17 21:56

    My favorite of Ruth Reichl's food memoirs. In this one she takes the job as restaurant critic for the New York Times. To avoid being recognized she creates disguises to use when she dines out. It is interesting to hear how people react to her as an old homely looking lady and then as herself when she visits the same restaurant again. I loved it and hope that she writes a new book in the future.

  • Raina
    2018-11-22 19:53

    You may or may not assume this from looking at me, but I think a lot about what Erving Goffman calls "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life." I'm not saying I don't have my lazy moments, OR that I necessarily pay a lot of attention to fashion. But, like most things about the way I live my life, the way I dress and groom myself is methodical. Thought-through. Maybe this is why I was hooked by the concept of this book. I mean, I like eating. Like eating in restaurants, in fact. But just the fact that this is a memoir by the former New York Times restaurant critic would not be enough to pull me into reading an adult title*. Yes, it must have been the disguises. Reichl introduces the book by describing how she became aware that, as the NYT restaurant critic, she would be stalked. By restaurants, wanting to court her favor for better ratings. In contrast to many other critics (at least in this telling), Reichl had a problem with that. She wanted to review restaurants as they would be experienced by EVERYONE, not just VIPs. And so, she took to wearing disguises.Watching her construct each persona was fun, especially for a former thespian. It's always interesting to hear "normals" talk about what is, essentially, acting. And-duh-there's lots of food porn.*As a Youth Services Librarian, I read mostly kids books (and a share of adult comics).

  • Laura
    2018-11-14 23:46

    A little long but otherwise delightful.Oh, how this book made me wish I could just put anything & everything into my mouth & swallow it. It makes gourmet dining sound like an adventure. Alas, that it not my lot in life. I wonder... Could I file this under Fantasy, then? Even if you're not a foodie, hearing Reichl dish about the New York Times, famous chefs, famous restaurants, dinner companions, & NYC in the 90s is a treat. And she shares recipes that just about anyone could follow.Beyond that is her spiritual journey, as she trundles through New York in multiple disguises, trying to eat as an unknown patron. With each wig she puts on, Reichl uncovers something about herself she was only vaguely aware of before. She finds her best self, her worst self, and her mother all hiding inside, waiting for a chance to be out in the world.If you're at all inclined, pick this up when you have a chance. You'll enjoy a light read with a touch of gravity. And you might get some menus out of it, too.

  • Ken-ichi
    2018-11-21 00:11

    A couple of impressive things about this book:1) It reads like a novel. I personally find it absurd when people try to make sense of their lives by fitting the totally random and haphazard things that befall us into some kind of narrative arc, but it makes for more compelling reading than an honest recounting, and not many people can do it as well as Reichl. From being ID'd on the plane to her first disguise to her inevitable subduction into her own duplicity and her epiphanic exit, it all seems movie-ready. Whether it's a miraculously cohesive history or an expert work of selective memory, it's solid craftsmanship.2) The idea that eating at a restaurant is a kind of performance. Reichl tries to make the point that her costumes are a more explicit form of what we all do at fine restaurants anyway, which is to play the part of a diner, perhaps of a connoisseur, or at least of someone who expects table service. I don't feel this way myself but... if I imagine dressing up and meeting some people to eat at a restaurant where there was only one table, I think that would be very, very weird, so perhaps I do care about the audience, or perhaps I care that spoiling oneself in this fashion is publicly sanctioned. I wish Reichl had done more to investigate the flip side, when we obviously don't fit in. How should we behave, and how should the restaurant respond when, say, we don't know how to pronounce "chablis," or when we're the only ones in a BBQ place without a southern accent?3) The simple and mellifluous prose. There's no razzle dazzle, but it kept me reading. Her reviews (some of which she includes) are equally lacking in turns of phrase that turn your head or the kinds of monumental face-slapping put-downs that have you crying OHNOYOUDI'N'T and that you secretly hope for in reviews, but they are relaxed, straightforward, and seemingly honest. That's not always an easy tone for writers to take, particularly critics.Overall, it robbed me of sleep and often left me hungry, which is about all one can ask of food writing. One major thing that was lacking was any photo documentation of Reichl's costumes! I've only found a few pics on the web, which makes me sad.

  • Sarah
    2018-11-25 22:56

    Living in Manhattan is incredibly expensive, but eating well in Manhattan isn't. That's the one thing I learned when I lived there in 1998.When Reichl came to the New York Times as restaurant critic in the nineties, however, the paper was not known for reviewing the incredibly delicious (and incredibly affordable) ethnic restaurants that are thick upon the ground. For the Times, a four star restaurant was inevitably French, inevitably required reservations, and inevitably granted you superior service if you were rich, famous, or both.This memoir of Reichl's years at the Times is partly about the restaurants of Manhattan (where the national chain is still a rarity), but mostly about the people who patronize them. Her insistence on reviewing fine sushi bar and noodle shops alongside classic French cuisine was only the one hurdle; the superior service she received when recognized as the Time's restaurant critic was more harmful than even the paper's entrenched policies. To cope, Reichl resorted to subterfuge, developing a series of costumes that would allow her an unbiased experience at the restaurant du jour.Nothing, however, is without bias. Reichl does a wonderful job blending what she learned about restaurants with what she learned about herself, alternately masking and amplifying her personality with her disguises. Well-worth reading for both Reichl and for New York, both the subject and the treatment are excellently presented.

  • Sierra
    2018-11-16 21:54

    We're all nosy gossips at heart. This snappy account of Ruth Reichl's six years as The New York Times restaurant critic won't disappoint those looking for an insider's view of reviewing. Most of the book takes place in various swanky restaurants, but Reichl selects her most creative reviews and rarely wanders into Snobdom. After Reichl was pegged as the new critic for the Times on her flight to New York by the woman sitting next to her, she decided she would be needing some disguises. She created an eclectic cast of characters with the help of some friends, comparing the service she received anonymously to that she received as a VIP. Her dining partners in these food adventures are equally unique personages - an obnoxious "food warrior," who feted his 18-year-old son after his graduation with a 3-star restaurant tour of France, a wine aficionado who files the wines he tastes by the images they evoke, and her good friend, a saucy old dame with a flair for style. Sometimes I like Ruth, sometimes all the foie gras and discerning taste gets to be a bit much for me. Fortunately, it gets to be a bit much for her in the end, as well, and she turns her own critical eye on herself. Overall, a fun, quick read for people who like food, on par with Julia and Julia: My year of cooking dangerously.

  • Summer
    2018-11-22 20:46

    I really went back and forth on the rating for this. I like Ruth Reichl, I like what she's done with Gourmet, I like her non-elitist attitude, I like her food writing, and by all accounts, she's a genuinely nice person. But while she has a golden tongue for tasting, she has a wooden ear for dialogue. While her adventures in disguise have been confirmed by outside sources, they seem impossible to believe because her characterization is so wooden and awful. Heck, I almost questioned whether she actually had a son.So, although I hold Reichl in high esteem, I cannot, in good conscience, give this book higher than three stars. I guess this is how food critics feel!

  • Andrea
    2018-11-13 21:45

    I like food. I like books. Combined, they are a match made in Heaven. Although Reichl's writing was utter food-porn, it left me ravenous (which isn't necessarily a bad thing!!) I enjoyed this quite a bit, but much preferred her work of fiction, Delicious.

  • Denise
    2018-12-03 16:59

    So interesting! Ruth was the food critic for the New York Times in the 90's. She had such mouth-watering descriptions of the food itself and such insights into the restaurant world not to mention the people, it was like a foodies tour through New York. Even though I felt like I was with her in the restaurants she was reviewing, I anxiously awaited her actual review and the stars she would bestow the restaurants. The additional background of family and friends humanized her story even more. The audio was narrated by Bernadette Dunne and she was fabulous!! I listened to 11 hours in 2 days. I didn't want it to end!

  • Carol Clouds ꧁꧂
    2018-12-08 18:10

    I write amateur reviews for an eating out site in New Zealand & the subject of professional critics came up on one of the chat forums. I mentioned that in a small country like NZ, I was sure that the reviewers were often "made" by the restaurants concerned & thus received preferential treatment - so often the critiques of us amateurs were of more value when choosing a place to dine. Another member of the site recommended this book & the efforts Reichl went to disguise herself, so she received impartial service. I remembered enjoying Reichl on one of the "Top Chef" off shoots, so borrowed this book & settled down to read what I was sure was going to be an absorbing read.& it was & it wasn't. I probably would have preferred this to be a couple of chapters in one of her other memoirs, as this feels padded out - I started skimming the reviews of the restaurants concerned as their was a lot of repetition of her descriptions of her experiences. & some of the recipes (like the Vanilla Cake) looked good, but are readers going to use them? Speaking for myself, no - I will grab a recipe off the internet or go to my kitchen shelf of cook books. I'm not going to think of checking through a memoir. While this book did remind me of some of the offhand service I received as a teenage diner in NZ in the 70's (tipping was virtually unheard of in NZ then & pensioners & young women were seen by wait staff as the most unlikely to tip of all!) a lot of it was of no interest to me.But, just as Reichl is stating to appear egotistical & obnoxious,(view spoiler)[her husband pulls her up on it! (hide spoiler)] Was glad to see this degree of self awareness gradually come through. & I loved the chapter, Missionary of the Delicious where Ed takes her on a real food journey in New York.I do believe Reichl internationally has had a massive influence on the way diners choose restaurants & now French isn't the only cuisine to be valued. But I'm only likely to read a book like this again if written by a NZ reviewer. If anyone knows of one please let me know!

  • Plum-crazy
    2018-12-04 23:48

    It's taken me a good few months to read this book as I've been dipping in & out of it for probably going on a year. While I never considered giving up on it, it didn't grip me enough to read more than a few paragraphs or a chapter at a time. To me it lacked the charm & wit that was in "Tender at the Bone", I found it quite ponderous at times & repetitive with meals appearing twice - "as it was eaten" & then a copy of the review. The food descriptions on the whole left me unmoved with Reichl using an excess of supalatives yet coming over rather passionless about the subject. Even the characterisations Reichl took on lacked quirkiness & things often felt a bit flat.Overall, not a bad read but certainly not the witty tale with mouth-watering descriptions I was expecting.

  • jess
    2018-11-20 17:06

    I listened to this on audiobook. The version I got from the library was read by Bernadette Dunne. Apparently there is a version out there that is read by Ruth Reichl, which I bet is superior. Bernadette was, well, mostly adequate but she mispronounced geoduck. Since I live in Olympia, I think I'm required to be offended by that. For the record, it's gooey-duck not geo-duck. Okay, thanks.This book is 1-part meditation on fame and pretentiousness, 1-part hilariously delicious food writing, 1-part love letter to NYC, and 1-part costume/identity crisis. It's a very good combination - too much of any part, and it would be off-kilter, but this works. So this is the story of Ruth Reichl, a NY native who was the food critic for the LA Times. She moves to NY to become a food critic for the NY Times at the urging of her husband and the persuasion of the Times editors and publishers, despite her hesitation and reluctance to take the position. She stays there from 1993 to 1999. The restaurant world in NY is very different from LA, and Ruth finds herself being profiled, stalked, and sought out at every worthwhile restaurant in town. They have flyers up in the kitchen with her picture on it - there are *rewards* for people who can say where she will eat next. She starts wearing costumes to go to restaurants, and compares the service - what does a poorly dressed, meek woman experience at this restaurant - and then Ruth contrasts this with the experience of the NY TIMES FOOD CRITIC at the same restaurant(when she goes as herself). The characters are hilarious, enlightening, sometimes a little sad. The theraputic aspects of costuming and becoming a character really plays out here - when she literally steps into her mother's shoes, and goes out as her mother, she understands better how it felt to move through the world as that difficult personality. Her mom is dead, but I like to think that brought a little peace to their relationship. Some of her characters are the best of herself - a redhead with a wide-mouthed smile and warm laugh - and some of them are the worst of herself - tweed, tightlipped, hypercritical - but the culmination is that they are all parts of herself. I know, it's a little overstated, but still a good reminder for those interested in performative identities. Each review she writes brings a slew of hate mail. Her readers are merciless. Her style is different from the former critic - she writes about more noodle houses, Korean BBQ's and sushi places in the first year than the previous guy did in his whole career. This does not make her especially popular, at first. People hate change. Eventually, she finds a balance between the fancy, award-winning restaurants with all-star chefs and the smaller places that represent really good dining experiences. But the way she writes about food is sexy and luscious. It's like being in the room. It's a whole story told in the description of one meal. I was struck by none of the squeamishness I usually feel when I (a vegetarian) sit through an omnivore's enthusiastic meat writing. Ruth talks about food, the people who cook it, the people who serve it, and the people who eat it with a sense of style and righteousness that thrills me to my toes. We are living in the era of the eaters manifestos, of a foodie renaissance, and Ruth's book fits pretty well into that larger conversation. When she discusses her history - in Berkley, starting out as a friend who fed her friends, a cook, and then a food writer, and then a reviewer, her voice makes a lot of sense. She is definitely seated in a particular moment in American Food History. It is also no surprise when she makes a career change at the end - Gourmet magazine seems like a natural fit for her at this point. I think she has some other memoirs about food, and I'm definitely going to look for them at the library. I really enjoyed this, and everyone who rode in my car while I was playing it seemed to tolerate it well. My thirteen year old stepchild practically had an adolescent tantrum when I told him it had to go back to the library.

  • April
    2018-11-14 22:57

    I'm kind of torn between "I love this book!" and "What the fuck did I just read?""I love this book!"* I liked the costumes/characters that Ruth used/created to disguise herself to get "real service" at some of NYC's best restaurants (because they'd have recognized her as herself - the NYT restaurant critic - and would've given her fantastic service, even if it weren't their normal M.O.).* I liked how much Ruth "got into" her characters. We're talking character-study levels of playing the persona that she puts on.* I liked how, at the end, Ruth realizes that her characters - from the sweet and quiet Brenda to the haughty and incredibly rude Emily - are really the extremes of her own personality. There's quite a bit of introspection that occurs around this, and as a therapist/social worker/people watcher and studier, I enjoyed how Ruth described this "epiphany."* I liked the inclusion of some of her columns from the NYT.* I liked the descriptions of some of the food that she ate."What the fuck did I just read?"* The fact that I haven't eaten the majority of the foods she talked about in Garlic and Sapphires kind of made a lot of the descriptions useless. (E.g. - I've never had foie gras. It featured significantly in this book. *shrug*)* Prior to reading this book, I wasn't even (consciously) aware that there are restaurants so pricey and "classy" that prices aren't even listed on the menu.* Wine. I don't know jackshit about wine, and the fact that wine is a rather significant part of the meals that Ruth ate - and her descriptions thereof - doesn't mean anything to me. Again - *shrug*.* Who spends $100 (minimum) on a meal for one (or possibly two)? Harking back to my second point, I really am not a sufficiently classy elitist foodie to appreciate meals that cost more than $30-40 for two.* The snobbery that was part of this book. I... okay, I'm not a foodie. I like food that tastes good, yes. But food, for me, is not one of the main pleasures in life - it's something I have to eat to live, and while I enjoy food at times, and while I like making good food from scratch, I can't imagine being able to tell the difference between some things like Ruth was/is able to (goose liver and duck liver, for example). I can't imagine having a palate that is so accustomed to expensive ingredients that the things I currently eat would taste like garbage.* I cannot imagine a job that revolves around eating at super expensive/high class restaurants and getting paid to write critiques of them. (Each critique = 3-4 visits to each restaurant.) It kind of makes me sick/sad/irritated to think about all of the money blown on food, just to write critiques of those restaurants. I dunno. Seems like a waste of money to me.That being said - the absolutely BEST part of this book, hands-down, 5/5 stars, A+ rating? The last half of the chapter "The Missionary of the Delicious" that was almost at the end of the book. Where Ruth is introduced to the hidden treasure troves of food, cooking, baking, and candy-making that thrives in New York City. The treasure troves that aren't considered "classy" or "world famous" but ones that are affordable yet make amazingly delicious food. I adored that chapter because that was when Ruth's writing shines. That's when I could really see, feel, and smell the food she was eating, because it's food I've heard of, it's ethnic food made by people who aren't world class chefs but whose family has been bakers, or candy-makers (I'm pretty sure the man who was a candy-maker would prefer that term over "confectioner"), or butchers, for generations.Would recommend I suppose, but this definitely isn't a book for everyone.

  • Rob
    2018-12-10 00:09

    This is Ruth Reichl's memoir of the time she spent as the restaurant critic for The New York Times, from 1993 to 1999. It begins with her flying to the city after accepting the job and being recognized on the plane. These reviews could make or break a restaurant, and many chefs around the city made sure their staff knew who she was. If they could recognize her when she arrived at the restaurant, they could try to spoil her and help their review.Because of this, she began dressing in disguise when visiting restaurants. She couldn't very well give fair reviews if the staff were giving her special treatment, so she would don a wig, buy some clothing from a thrift store, and reinvent herself - a sort of foodie spy trying to integrate with the enemy. In her first review for the paper, she wanted to split the article into two distinct reviews. The difference in experience between how she was treated out of disguise on her first visit and how she was treated as an unknown, less stylish woman was so dramatic that she felt they warranted separate pieces with different star ratings. In the end, she was forced to combine the reviews and average the star rating, but I loved that she was so adamant to expose this disparity. As she says in the book, for many people the occasional visit to an upscale restaurant is as much about the theatre of it all as it is about the food, and to be ignored in favour of more obviously affluent people isn't right.At one point she wrote a one star review for a popular restaurant, one that had previously garnered four stars, and the next day she checked her voicemail to find it full of angry responses from readers. That felt like something you don't see much these days - voice feedback. Could you imagine checking your voicemail in the morning to find the equivalent of a string of angry YouTube comments? I picture every angry social media comment as coming from an unsupervised preteen with developmental issues, and I don't know if I could cope with being forced to admit that actual adults are behind those opinions. It's just too real.She didn't just wear a disguise, she assumed the personality traits that came along with each costume as well. How much her outer appearance affected her personality was really interesting. It allowed her to explore sides of herself that she would normally ignore, although the way she seemed to, almost against her will, take on complete personalities the instant a new wig hit her skull, as if being possessed, was a bit far-fetched. It felt like an excuse to be rude and manipulative at times, particularly near the end of her run, but I was impressed with how willing Reichl was to show a less pleasant sides of herself in this. Her descriptions of the food were, obviously, a pleasure to read, as you'd expect from a renown restaurant critic. I do wish there was a little more focus on the food than the disguises, but I suppose it did give the book a lot more depth, more so than I anticipated going in. She also included a number of recipes throughout the book - chocolate cake, asparagus risotto, spaghetti carbonara, that sort of thing. There's a recipe for Gougères (cheesy puffs essentially) that I'm really interesting in trying.While the disguise routine started to get a bit old for me halfway through the book, her writing kept me going. I really enjoyed it. I see she released a memoir before this, so I will have to track that down. Book Blog | Twitter | Instagram

  • Robyn
    2018-12-02 18:12

    When I picked up this book, I actually said aloud "alright, you horrible woman, this is your last chance with me. This one had damn well better be an improvement on the last two." The good news is that it is. The bad news is that it's nothing I'm the slightest bit interested in. My reviews of Reichl's first two memoirs are available for anyone who cares enough to go find them on my profile, I'll sum up here: Tender At The Bone = interesting and fun to read until Reichl goes to a Montreal boarding school, after which she becomes a self-absorbed, entitled, privileged, whining, self-congratulatory, preening bitch. Comfort Me With Apples = Reichl is still annoyed that she's not the center of the universe, starts fucking around on her husband, runs off for trips abroad to indulge herself and her affairs, strings along both her husband and the man she's cheating with, remarries, does whatever she can to increase her socio-economic standing, refuses to even take a stab at empathy, thinks she's the greatest thing since sliced bread, repels her husband enough to make him nearly leave her, gets pregnant. I think the reason Garlic and Sapphires is better is that it's only barely about Reichl, and where it is it's not really about her as a person or about her life. A few places she's introspective and they tend to be places where she realizes negative aspects of her personality, so that was nice for someone who was completely turned off by her as a human being in reading her first two books. The problem is that this is a book that is not about food but pretends to be about food. I don't care how many adjectives get squeezed into a reprinted restaurant review, descriptions of single meals are not stories about food. I love New York, but I don't live in New York of the 1990s, so it does nothing for me to read the reviews AS reviews, and once Reichl had gotten into the swing of disguising herself it became just another writing gimmick to introduce the next review. Overall, I'd say the book was like eating jello in the hospital. There's lots of colour, very bright, to draw your attention and keep you moving forward. But there's nothing beneath that. There's no substance, no flavour. It's coloured water and gelatin. Only two things happened in this book, 1) a co-worker got cancer in the background and passed away; 2) Reichl spent several years eating at restaurants before deciding it was sucking her away from her life and she needed to do something different. Everything else was "I chose this wig and this outfit for this reason, ate at this restaurant where they treated me poorly because they didn't know I was Somebody with a capital S, used the following 87 adjectives to describe each course, published the following review, was insufferable to my husband and not often present for my child."Based on my feelings about Reichl as a person from reading her first two books, I'd have given this one 2 stars. Setting that aside and reviewing as if I'd never read them, 3 stars at maximum.

  • Kid
    2018-11-11 19:54

    Perhaps in the stultifying context of NYT, food critics and privilege Reichl comes as a breath of fresh air . . .what she lacks is class. By class I mean the good grace to have actual humility - not the self-satisfied aww-shucks persona that feigns humility and self-doubt, but the real thing wherein you realize that you don't know shit and you're lucky to be celebrated in any context. Reichl takes pot shots at everyone and everything. . .people (editors, chefs, other diners, etc) emerge as caricatures; myopic to their own shortcomings and the *truth* of the world. Riechl presents herself as a great equalizer - bringing so-called "ethnic" cuisine into the dusty halls of the Old Gray Lady but is actually a crypto-snob about people who don't share her view. She creates a myriad of disguises to avoid special treatment at the dining establishments she reviews so she gets a "true" experience - but this book ends up being about the delights of disguises and ends up celebrating her own self-satisfied quasi-ingenuity. She delights in the ways she pulls the wool over various restaurateurs' (and hapless editors') eyes, their silly pretentiousness and their crass imperious ways - however it all leaves a bad taste in the mouth. She clearly has some kind of chip on her shoulder - I have ideas about why but what remains are unflattering portraits of the people who inhabit the world of "the paper of record" and high cuisine. Is that really a problem in the end? Don't these institutions deserve our contempt? Yes they deserve our contempt and yes her stance is a problem. This is a burn-all-bridges kind of memoir. It's not that she peoples this book with a bunch of slobs, it's that she sets it against the assumption that she's such a delectable, desirable and CORRECT navigator. Give me a break. . .she's a critic enamored of the smell of her own stink. . .in this case her smug implications that her's is an unprecedented approach to reviewing restaurants at which we'll never eat a bite. OK - clearly I'm mad at this book but it can be an entertaining read. . .thrift store purchase. . .nothing more. Oh and all the anecdotes taste of pure bullshit. This is a wildly inflated - tall-tale style book - something she mentions in the afterward - which is cheap. Her little son says the most charming and nauseating things! How wonderfully apropos!

  • ☮Karen
    2018-11-26 20:50

    When I started listening to the audio book, I didn’t pay attention to who was the narrator; just that I liked her and that she was exactly what I would imagine Ruth Reichl to sound like. I was almost half way through when I saw that it was, in fact, Ruth Reichl. That was special. She truly knows her food and a million and one adjectives to describe food and her emotion-packed experiences were pros, and cons. She’s one of my favorite authors, but maybe I’m feeling Reichl overload after reading two of her books in a row. She is a master wordsmith, which is enviable. Her very verbose explanations of how a restaurant presents a dish, every taste, color, and nuance on the plate did wear thin after a while. As did her formula of first telling us about each new disguise she dreamed up – and transformed herself into -- to get into restaurants without being recognized as the NY Times food critic, then detailing the courses served at the restaurant, then including her review of said courses served at the restaurant (at times it was déjà vu all over again), and finally proffering up a few selected recipes. Yes, every new place and every new recipe sounded marvelous, but I guess I grew tired of it, or very jealous.This woman loves her food! Why is she not obese?!?! She feels the sensations of the fragrances, textures, and flavors throughout her entire body, from her expert tongue down to the tips of her tippy toes. She is nearly orgasmic about lemon grass and pineapple juice and squid ink. Oh, and truffles and caviar and Chilean Sea Bass, which is really called Patagonian Toothfish in nature! So you see I did learn a thing or two. It was a learning experience for her as well, how she realized (well actually it took her husband and a friend to point out) that she was becoming the characters she pretended to be, and becoming not such a nice person.Garlic and Sapphires, 3 stars.

  • Mo
    2018-11-25 18:10

    I really wish I had not read ‘Tender at the Bone’ prior to returning to ‘Garlic & Sapphires’. It ruined it for me. All I could hear in my head was the author’s same whiney voice. I just finished reading 'Tender at the Bone' by Ruth Reichl last week, and I didn’t care for it. Let me correct myself… I should say I didn’t care for HER. I disliked the author as portrayed in her book. (see review Tender at the Bone) When 'Garlic and Sapphires' once again became available, I dutifully checked it out of the library and continued reading from where I had left off. Unfortunately, I still so intensely disliked the author that it colored everything about 'Garlic and Sapphires' for me.Ruth Reichl was still the same pain in the ass, only now she was insufferable when it came to food. She was determined to MAKE people like food that they had no desire to eat. I felt so sorry for her poor friend Claudia, who got dragged to random hole-in-the-wall restaurants against her will, was forced to eat things like sushi until she admitted that it tasted good, and was embarrassed by Ruth’s extremely rude & demanding behavior in restaurants (which Ruth justified because she was “mirroring” her mother, and that’s how her mother would have acted. But that’s a whole other story!)And the anecdotes were pretty lame. Ruth just HAPPENED to randomly follow this well dressed lady around New York, who just HAPPENED to go into a restaurant where they just HAPPENED to have the best sushi in the world, where the chef just HAPPENED to take a liking to Ruth and just HAPPENED to give her all of the wonderful things he normally reserved for his special Japanese friends…I made it to page 93 and called it quits.

  • Lara Mckee
    2018-11-10 18:07

    This book was a new topic for me- I have never read a book about the life of a restaurant critic. I learned something new about The New York Times, restaurant critiquing, and upscale food (like foie gras). I tried but could not relate to the author or her lifestyle. Call me cheap but it was distressing for me to read about these high-priced meals she was repeatedly consuming. I did not enjoy the way she described food either. She was too passionate and her descriptions seemed ridiculous to me. I was interested in reading the actual review that appeared in the Times but found it redundant since it contained much of the info she had just stated in the chapter preceding the review.I am so hard on the Deseret News restaurant critic Stacy Kratz. I can not stand reading her reviews of Sam's Club's hot dogs and every kids meal item in the valley. She seems so unprofessional to me. Now I have read reviews from the other end of the spectrum. I must be searching for some middle ground.One final note- I wish she would have included pictures of her in her disguises. It would have added to the book for me.

  • Ann
    2018-11-10 18:50

    This is the book that introduced me to food writing, and I've been in love with it (both the book and the genre) ever since. It also started my minor obsession with living in NYC, so really, thanks for nothing, Ruth Reichl. I'm just kidding, I can't stay mad at you. I love Reichl's ability to make food into something more, to turn it into memories and feelings and potential. This idea is nothing new, but she does it so well. I also love her crusade to bring food to everyone though her double reviews of the "best" restaurants in New York (one review as herself, one about the treatment she received while in disguise and without the benefits of her position as the New York Times food critic). I've listened to the audio book twice, and recently bought a copy in print, and I plan to revisit this many many times.

  • Margaret
    2018-11-25 21:13

    Reichl, a noted food critic, has written several books; this one is about her tenure as the New York Times food critic and the lengths to which she went to avoid being recognized at restaurants (so that the restaurants wouldn't cater specially to her and she could write a more fair review). Reichl pairs an account of each restaurant experience with the review she wrote for the Times, which was interesting as a comparison. The food descriptions are marvelous and evocative; I loved how Reichl talked about not only taste, but smell and texture. It isn't just the food that makes this a great book, though; Reichl's disguises bring out unusual sides of her own personality as well as sometimes shockingly different treatment at the restaurants she visits, which makes for some interesting thoughts on restaurant culture and society.