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Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguiseby Ruth Reichl
Synopses & Reviews
This delicious new volume of Ruth Reichl's acclaimed memoirs recounts her "adventures in deception," as she goes undercover in the world's finest restaurants. Reichl knows that "to be a good restaurant critic, you have to be anonymous," but when she signs up to be the most important restaurant critic in the country, at the New York Times, her picture is posted in every four-star, low-star, and no-star kitchen in town. Managers offer cash bonuses for advance notice of her visits. They roll out the red carpet whether she likes it or not. What's a critic in search of the truth to do?
Reichl dons a frumpy blond wig and an off-season beige Armani suit. Then on the advice of a friend, an acting coach with a Pygmalion complex, she begins assembling her new character's backstory. She takes to the assignment with astonishing ardor — and thus Molly Hollis, the retired high school teacher from Birmingham, Michigan, nouveau riche from her husband's real estate speculation, is born. And duly ignored, mishandled, and condescended to by the high-power staff at Le Cirque. The result: Reichl's famous double review, first as she ate there as Molly and then as she was coddled and pampered on her visit there as Ruth, the New York Times food critic.
When restaurateurs learn to watch for Molly, Reichl buys another wig and becomes someone else, and then someone else again, from a chic interior decorator to an eccentric redhead on whom her husband — both disconcertingly and reassuringly — develops a terrible crush. As she puts on her disguises, she finds herself changed not just superficially, but in character. She becomes Molly the schoolmarm, Chloe the seductress, and Brenda the downtown earth mother — and imagine the complexities when she dines out as Miriam, her own mother. As Reichl metes out her critical stars, she gives a remarkable account of how one's outer appearance can influence one's inner character, expectations, and appetites.
Reichl writes, "Every restaurant is a theater...even the modest restaurants offer the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while." Garlic and Sapphires examines character, artifice, and excellence on the sumptuously appointed stages of the restaurant world and offers an unprecedented backstage tour of the theater where Ruth Reichl played the role of a lifetime, as the critic of record at the New York Times.
"As the New York Times's restaurant critic for most of the 1990s, Reichl had what some might consider the best job in town; among her missions were evaluating New York City's steakhouses, deciding whether Le Cirque deserved four stars and tracking down the best place for authentic Chinese cuisine in Queens. Thankfully, the rest of us can live that life vicariously through this vivacious, fascinating memoir. The book — Reichl's third — lifts the lid on the city's storied restaurant culture from the democratic perspective of the everyday diner. Reichl creates wildly innovative getups, becoming Brenda, a red-haired aging hippie, to test the food at Daniel; Chloe, a blonde divorce, to evaluate Lespinasse; and even her deceased mother, Miriam, to dine at 21. Such elaborate disguises — which include wigs, makeup, thrift store finds and even credit cards in other names — help Reichl maintain anonymity in her work, but they also do more than that. 'Every restaurant is a theater,' she explains. Each one 'offer[s] the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while. Restaurants free us from mundane reality.' Reichl's ability to experience meals in such a dramatic way brings an infectious passion to her memoir. Reading this work — which also includes the finished reviews that appeared in the newspaper, as well as a few recipes — ensures that the next time readers sit down in a restaurant, they'll notice things they've never noticed before. Agent, Kathy Robbins. (On sale Apr. 11)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Tasty revelations....Reichl excels at making long-gone meals live vividly on the page. Spicy and sweet by turns, with crackle and bite throughout." Kirkus Reviews
This delicious new volume of Reichl's acclaimed memoirs recounts her "adventures in deception," as she goes undercover in the world's finest restaurants. The editor-in-chief of Gourmet, she is the author of the bestsellers Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples.
Ruth Reichls bestselling memoir of her time as an undercover restaurant critic for The New York Times
Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and former 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 ones outer appearance can influence ones inner character, expectations, and appetites, not to mention the quality of service one receives.
As a memento of her time at the Times she gives us this wonderful book, which is funny—at times laugh-out-loud funny—and smart and wise.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
About the Author
Ruth Reichl is the editor in chief of Gourmet and the author of the bestsellers Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples. She has been the restaurant critic at the New York Times and the food editor and restaurant critic at the Los Angeles Times. Reichl lives in New York City with her husband and son.
Table of Contents
Garlic and Sapphires The Daily Special
The King of Spain
Looking for Umami
Meat and Potatoes
Dinner with Chairman Punch
The Missionary of the Delicious
What Our Readers Are Saying
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