Garlic And Sapphires: The Secret Life Of A Critic In Disguise

Paperback | March 28, 2006

byRuth Reichl

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Ruth Reichl’s 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 one’s outer appearance can influence one’s 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

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From the Publisher

Ruth Reichl’s bestselling memoir of her time as an undercover restaurant critic for The New York TimesRuth 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...

Ruth Reichl is a writer and editor who was the Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine for ten years until its closing in 2009. Before that she was the restaurant critic of the New York Times, (1993-1999), and both the restaurant critic and food editor of the Los Angeles Times (1984-1993). She has authored the critically acclaimed, bestsel...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.35 × 5.41 × 0.75 inPublished:March 28, 2006Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143036610

ISBN - 13:9780143036616

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Well-written and Entertaining A well-written and entertaining account of a writer’s cloak-and-dagger escapades as a food critic for the New York Times. In addition to her professional experiences, Reichl lets the reader into her personal life and shares some of her own recipes.
Date published: 2011-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining, informative and makes you hungry In the mid-1990s, Ruth Reichl was the restaurant reviewer for the New York Times. As she explains, the Times has unusually enormous influence on public opinion about local restaurants. After her appointment to the restaurant reviewer position was announced, she learned by accident that restaurant staff in many New York restaurants were being given descriptions or even photographs of her so that they would be alert to her dining at their establishments. She realized that making a reservation under someone else's name was not going to be sufficient to remain anonymous. Thus, this book describes how she started donning disguises when dining at the restaurant about to be reviewed. Many of the chapters are organized around a particular disguise she adopted or a restaurant she is going to review. Some chapters also contain relevant recipes; some contain the eventual review published in the Times. As she tries on different disguises, Reichl also finds she is adopting different personalities. When she is dressed like her mother, nothing is good enough. When dressed like an ex-flower child, she is so friendly and open that perfect strangers come up to her and start talking. The chapters are as revealing about people as they are about food. Reichl also realizes she is learning something about herself as well. This book is enormously entertaining and with all the food talk, very appetite arousing.
Date published: 2006-10-20

Extra Content

Read from the Book

“I’m a restaurant critic,” I told the woman in the wig shop, “and I need a disguise that will keep me from being recognized.”“That’s a new one on me,” she said. “Do you have a special restaurant you’re working on at the moment?”“Yes,” I said, remembering the fragrant aroma of the soup I had eaten on my last visit to Lespinasse. When I dipped my spoon into the broth shimeji mushrooms went sliding sensuously across my tongue with the lush texture of custard. I tasted lemongrass, kaffir lime, mushroom and something else, something that hovered at the edge of my mind, familiar but elusive. I took another taste and it was there again, that sweetness, hiding just behind the citrus. It came whirling into my consciousness and then slid maddeningly away before I could identify it.“The food was wonderful,” I told her, “but I think they made me. Everything’s been just a little too perfect. So I want a foolproof disguise.”“Try this,” she said, opening a drawer and pulling out a cascade of hair the color of Dom Perignon. As the wig caught the light the color changed from pearl to buttercup.The hair fell across my face as gently as silk. I squeezed my eyes tight, not wanting to look until it was seated right. I could feel it settle into place, feel the soft strands graze my shoulders just below my ears.“Wait!” she cried as my eyes started to open, and she leaned forward and tugged at the wig, adjusting it. “Okay,” she said at last, “you can open your eyes now.”The champagne blonde in the mirror did not seem to be wearing a wig. The hair looked real, as if it were growing out of the scalp. Even the dark eyebrows looked right, as if this woman had so much confidence she didn’t care who knew that she dyed her hair. My mouth dropped open. “Oh!” I said stupidly, “oh my.”I don’t think I would have recognized myself if we had met walking down the street, and I had yet to put on any makeup. Somehow this cut, this color, made my cheeks pink, my eyes almost violet, my lips seem redder than they had ever been. I felt new, glamorous, bursting with curiosity. What would life be like for the woman in the mirror?“You were meant to be blonde!” cried the saleswoman, packing the wig into an old-fashioned hatbox. She looked wistfully at the hair and said, “You’ll come back and tell me what happens, won’t you?”“You mean whether I’m recognized at Lespinasse?”“Well,” she said, “that too. But what I mostly want to know is—do blondes really have more fun?”

Table of Contents

Garlic and SapphiresThe Daily Special
Backstory
Molly
The King of Spain
Looking for Umami
Miriam
Meat and Potatoes
Chloe
Brenda
Dinner with Chairman Punch
Betty
Food Warrior
The Missionary of the Delicious
Emily
Ghosts
Recipe Index
Acknowledgments

Editorial Reviews

"This wonderful book is funny—at times laugh-out-loud funny—and smart and wise." —The Washington Post

"Reichl is so gifted . . . the reader remains hungry for more." —USA Today

"Expansive and funny." —Entertainment Weekly