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by Ruth Reichl

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Authors:Ruth Reichl
Info:Penguin Books (2005), Hardcover
Collections:Read but unowned

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Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl (2005)

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Marvelous, wonderful recounting of Ruth's time as a restaurant critic for the NYTimes. A fantastic read, it's not just about food and disguises, but what she learned about herself along the way, and the people she met... really really fun read. I'd stay up till 2am to finish a chapter, it was so good! ( )
  camelama | Dec 30, 2016 |
Really enjoyable read about how the author came to the job of a New York Times restaurant food critic. To be able to give the best reviews she chose to go in disguise to find out not only how well she would be treated but just how good or bad the food really could be when eating at the establishment she was reviewing. Thoroughly enjoyed her stories and how much fun she had creating new disguises for her job. Picked this one up from the library wanted to read after having read her earlier book Tender at the Bone. ( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
This memoir, of the author's time as the chief restaurant critic at The New York Times (the 1990's), made me hungry. She described food in such detail that I actually found myself getting angry that I couldn't experience them myself. Her passion for the craft and art of food is evident throughout, which is really the highlight of this book. In fact, I'd say the meals she enjoys are collectively the primary character. The fact that she creates personas (complete with wigs and costumes) in which she can dine anonymously is secondary. If you enjoy food writing, fine dining, and New York City in the 1990's, then this book is for you. ( )
  BooksForYears | Apr 1, 2016 |
I loved this book! It was exactly what I had hoped for, a dishy memoir starting with how Ruth Reichl got her job as food critic of the New York TImes, and detailing the different personas she used to avoid detection when exploring restaurants. The food is lovingly described, as are the restaurants she visits, and the book is peppered with a few of her actual reviews, as well as a few of her personal recipes at relevant points (and I literally want to try every single one of them, as they sound both tasty and fairly simple). By the time I finished the book, I felt like Ruth and I were old school chums who'd just spent a weekend catching up on each other's lives -- that's how approachable and open this book is. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Audio Book performed by Bernadette Dunne

Subtitle: 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.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 14, 2016 |
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For my family, all of you, with many thanks and much love.
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"You gonna eat that?" The woman is eyeing the tray the flight attendant has just set before me.
The waiting room looked like a graveyard for rejected flower arrangements.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143036610, Paperback)

Fans of Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples know that Ruth Reichl is a wonderful memoirist--a funny, poignant, and candid storyteller whose books contain a happy mix of memories, recipes, and personal revelations. Amazon.com Interview
We chewed the fat with Ruth. Read our interview. What they might not fully appreciate is that Reichl is an absolute marvel when it comes to writing about food--she can describe a dish in such satisfying detail that it becomes unnecessary for readers to eat. In her third memoir, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Reichl focuses on her life as a food critic, dishing up a feast of fabulous meals enjoyed during her tenure at The New York Times. As a critic, Reichl was determined to review the "true" nature of each restaurant she visited, so she often dined incognito--each chapter of her book highlights a new disguise, a different restaurant (including the original reviews from the Times), and a fresh culinary adventure. Garlic and Sapphires is another delicious and delightful book, sure to satisfy Reichl's foodie fans and leave admirerers looking forward to her next book, hopefully about her life with Gourmet. --Daphne Durham

More from Ruth Reichl
Tender at the Bone
Comfort Me with Apples
The Gourmet Cookbook
Remembrance of Things Paris
Endless Feasts
Gourmet magazine

Amazon.com's The Significant Seven
Ruth Reichl answers the seven questions we ask every author.

Q: What book has had the most significant impact on your life?
A: Kate Simon’s New York Places and Pleasures. I read it as a little girl and then went out and wandered the city. She was a wonderful writer, and she taught me not only to see New York in a whole new way, but to look, and taste, beneath the surface.

Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?
A: Ulysses by James Joyce. What better place to finally get through it?

Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert. If you’re going to listen to one piece over and over, this is one that doesn’t get tiresome.

How to Build a Boat in Five Easy Steps. Since I’m going to be watching one movie over and over, it might as well be useful.

Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told?
A: I’m such a good liar, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Q: Describe the perfect writing environment.
A: I can write pretty much anywhere. But I prefer small, cozy spaces, with a good view over a lake or a forest, and room for the cats to curl up.

Q: If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?
A: "She’ll be right back."

Q: Who is the one person living or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
A: Elizabeth I. She fascinates me. She had a great mind, enormous appetites--and she was a survivor. The most interesting woman of an interesting time, and I have a million questions I’d like to ask her.

Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: You mean after creating world peace? This is a hard one. But I’ve always wanted to be able to fly.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:17 -0400)

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The editor-in-chief of "Gourmet" recounts her visits to some of the world's most acclaimed restaurants, both as herself and as an anonymous diner in disguise, to offer insight into the differences in her dining experiences.

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