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 r...moreRuth 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 Potatoes
1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups milk
3 cups heavy cream
Salt and Pepper
4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled
Preheat the oven to 325F
Rub 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.(less)
Have you ever been so "daw-gone" tired, that you're visualizing the comfort of your solitary bed? That warm down comforter. Your plush pillows. You ke...moreHave you ever been so "daw-gone" tired, that you're visualizing the comfort of your solitary bed? That warm down comforter. Your plush pillows. You keep pumping yourself up with the thought that you're nearly home. You've finally made it. You want to ensure that you really enjoy your night's rest, so even though you can hardly move, you go through your nightly hot shower ritual. Finally, you settle into bed, turn out the lights. All is quiet save for the steady breathing of your furry friends, and the soft noises of the house settling. And there it is! That moment when you shut your eyes and relish how wonderful it finally feels to completely let go. It feels so good, you can almost taste it! You find yourself unconsciously smacking your lips right before you drift off.
That is this book! It's so...tasty! Each time I settled in to read a few passages, I was just overcome with so much love and concern for all the characters. Despite having more than a few heavy themes and scenes, it all came together in a warm, comforting way. Definitely at the top of my comfort reads.(less)
Shangri-La. What exactly is that?! I had always assumed that Shangri-La referred to either the all-girl pop band from the 60s, or was a generic name f...moreShangri-La. What exactly is that?! I had always assumed that Shangri-La referred to either the all-girl pop band from the 60s, or was a generic name for seedy motels of questionable repute (ie Andrew McCarthy's very bad TV movie, The Courtyard). I was unexpectedly enlightened when I recently picked up Mitchell Zuckoff's book, Lost in Shangri-La: Escape from a Hidden World, A True Story.
Shangri-La was a fictional valley in the Himalayas created by James Hilton in his 1933 novel entitled Lost Horizon. It was supposed to be the ideal paradise on earth, isolated from the outside world. It was also popularized in the 1937 film adaptation directed by Frank Capra. So it was no surprise when a virtually untouched, beautiful valley deep in Dutch New Guinea was discovered by soldiers stationed at Hollandia Military Base during WWII, and nicknamed Shangri-La.
On May 13, 1945, a military airplane carrying 24 officers (male and female) from Hollandia on a sightseeing expedition over the valley, crashes into a mountain base at the entrance of the valley. Thus begins our story. Through eyewitness accounts, newspaper articles, and military documents, Zuckoff pieces together a memorable rescue mission for the remaining three survivors of the crash.
After surviving the crash, the officers have to contend with serious injuries, as well as the fierce natives, who are rumored to be cannibals, and who have never before seen people from the outside. Zuckoff gathers first hand statements from descendants of the Logo-Mabel clan, as well as the Filipino-American paratrooper team of eight sent in to rescue. This read like a Hollywood screenplay, and was surprisingly comedic at certain points!