Lisa H.'s Reviews > Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
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Aug 09, 11

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in November, 2010

Follows Reichl's transition from main food critic at the LA Times to the equivalent post at the NY Times - although in NYC, the NYT food critic is a much bigger deal, which she discovers on a flight to New York, when she is sandbagged by her seatmate, a server at a major NY restaurant. The "Reichl watch" by restaurant staff across the city means she has to develop elaborate disguises in order to be able to try a dining establishment without immediately being identified and given the star treatment. The most fascinating part of her stories is the ways in which her various personae are treated at most of these fine restaurants, depending on how old/wealthy she appears to be. And the sycophantic behavior of the staff when she does go out as "herself" is proof that she made the right decision when she opted to go undercover.

Chapters are capped with recipes, usually family favorites or other comfort food rather than elaborate constructions from the restaurants she covers. Nonetheless, her descriptions of the succulent and artful creations of the city's top chefs are drool-worthy, and made me want desperately to go on a food tour of the Big Apple. Maybe when I hit the lottery?
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