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Charlotte Au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood
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Charlotte Au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  772 ratings  ·  135 reviews
Charlotte Silver grew up in her mother's restaurant. Located in Harvard Square, Upstairs at the Pudding was a confection of pink linen tablecloths and twinkling chandeliers, a decadent backdrop to a childhood. Over dinners of foie gras and Dover sole, always served with a Shirley Temple and often candied violets for dessert, Charlotte kept company with a rotating cast of e ...more
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published 2012 by Riverhead Books
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3.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  772 ratings  ·  135 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
3.5 Although this could be considered a lighter memoir, the mothers strength is amazing. Charlotte grew up in her mother's restaurant, located in Harvard square. She met many notables of the entertainment world, and took her naps underneath pink linen tablecloths. At the age of six, she had a huge appreciation of her mother's wonderful sounding desserts, but it would be years before she understood her mother's indominatble spirit. At the age of six, she was eating crab vicar, and smoked pheasant ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Many memoirists engage in name dropping. To her credit, Charlotte Silver does not (except for a couple of references to Julia Child, who lived nearby, and would've been expected to be a patron of the restaurant); instead she food-drops, giving descriptions of in-house dinners: crab, osso bucco, etc. Getting over my envy, I'm forced to admit that her mother rarely ever "cooked" at home, where plain baked potatoes were pretty much the norm. One of the more striking passages of the book concerned h ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
3/9/2012: This book was particularly interesting--and difficult--for me to read, because the author's parents were friends and colleagues of my mother. And the world that she describes, so lovingly yet so ambivalently, is now just a cluster of potent memories, for both of us. Charlotte Silver, the author of this memoir, is a full generation younger than me, so her clear memories of her parents' restaurant world begin pretty much where mine leave off. Still, there are overlaps: she relates her fa ...more
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women, true-stories
This is a fun, but also wistful memoir of growing up in the restaurant business, in this case "Upstairs at the Pudding," which was located above the Hasty Pudding Club in Harvard Square. Charlotte Silver literally grew up in the restaurant business:

"My life was not a child's life of jungle gyms and Velcro sneakers, but of soft lighting, stiff petticoats, rolling pins smothered in flour, and candied violets in wax paper. It was a life of manners, of air kisses, or 'How do you dos,' and a life fo
May 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Seemed like an engaging topic with lots of potential, and the writing was excellent, but the storyline fell incredibly flat. I was bored throughout and couldn't wait for it to end or for something significant to happen.
Jan 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: ala-2012
This is both a coming of age novel and an elegy to the restaurant the author's mother ran for years. It has a rather detached quality, but I think that's appropriate to a novel that consist primarily of those ethereal, elusive stories we record in our heads in the form of memories. The changes of staff and decor in the restaurant underscore the changes that take place in the author's life as she grows up. This book made me think about all of the businesses and places that I've loved and lost and ...more
For most of this book, I was waiting for something to happen or for one of the characters to become alive for me or for the restaurant that Charlotte spends so much time in to suddenly become a place I can visualize... or something. But it never did. And at some point I gave up hoping something would happen and just kept reading so I could finish the book.

Considering that Charlotte seems to have spent most of her childhood in the restaurant, she should have been able to create a vivid image of t
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
The premise of how the author saw the restaurant world change during her childhood is solid, once I realized that was what the premise was. (Before that, I was just puzzled.) But I don't think it was enough to make a book, and I suspect they even made this book smaller than most books in order to make it look longer, along with stretching and repetition. A lot of reminiscences about hanging around a restaurant I've never heard of didn't make for riveting reading; the author seemed to assume a ce ...more
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book was a big let down for me. This memoir is a about a girl who grew up with parents who worked in a high end restaurant. Her mother loves making desserts and has to deal with the heartbreak of dessert. My HUGE glaring issue with this book was that almost nothing happened, and her life was just not that interesting. It wasn't badly written, but I was looking for the hook, which never came.
May 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
In the 1980s, Charlotte Silver was the party-dressed princess of her parent’s restaurant Upstairs at Pudding, a sometimes hot spot in Harvard Square. She was served bottomless glasses of Shirley Temples, doctored to her Maraschino cherry and citrus garnish specifications. She sometimes napped beneath the bar. She ate dinners of pheasant and roquefort flan at table A-1. She developed friendships with the steady stream of employees who breezed through the restaurant.

“Charlotte au Chocolat: Memori
Jill Elizabeth
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
My review copy of Charlotte Au Chocolat was provided courtesy of, which also hosted the original (shorter) post of this book review on February 26, 2012.

I love memoirs. I really enjoy reading a first-person narration of other someone else’s life. To me, it’s like having an extended conversation. Technically I get that it’s a monologue – since I don’t actually get to talk, or at least, when I do (which more than occasionally happens, teehee, especially with a book I either like
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have visited Harvard Square occasionally for almost 20 years, but I had never heard of the restaurant called Upstairs at the Pudding. The author’s parents created this unique dining experience on the third floor of a Victorian brick building, owned by the Harvard Hasty Pudding Club. With her father’s expertise in the kitchen and her mother’s equal expertise making desserts and hosting in the dining room, the restaurant became known for its haute cuisine in an elegant setting. It was where the ...more
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I was torn between 2 and 3 stars. I'm familiar with the area and the reputation of the Hasty Pudding Club and Harvard kids, so that drew me in. However, pretty much nothing happened and Charlotte's story line and nostalgia just get stale. It is very hard to keep a restaurant going and boo on the real estate company for doing in the restaurant, but neither the restaurant nor Charlotte nor her parents ever became "real" enough for me to care about.
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am totally biased because my friend wrote it, but this is a swift and sumptuous read. It is not as sunny as the cover suggests, but there is a melancholic sweetness that resonates throughout the memoir.
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
Not as sweet as you might think, growing up "in" a restaurant. These memories have a sadness yet they are delicious and feel true. I related to the idea of restaurant crew as family as I have experienced that myself. The descriptions of the food will have you drooling for a five star meal.
May 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the writing in this book, and of course the setting of the old stomping grounds is fun. But to me the memoir felt oddly detached. Very little emotion is expressed, even while describing a sad-sounding and lonely childhood.
Julie  Durnell
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
A delicious coming of age story in a famous Boston restaurant, with a soupcon of snarkiness, and without recipes! The descriptions of food, restaurant, attire and characters are superb!
Pretty clothes, pretty places, pretty food.
Apr 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
I wanted to like it - but I couldn't - -very surface, no depth. Liked the references to Cambridge etc....but it just wasn't a very good book.
Tish Vanoni
Jun 17, 2012 rated it liked it

I enjoyed reading this memoir. It was an interesting commentary on growing up in the 80's and 90's in the restaurant business.
Mar 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Pleasant enough, but probably would have been more interesting if I had actually been to the restaurant that is the focus of the book, because it sounds like it was pretty awesome.
Mar 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I said that I read it - but I did not because it was unreadable.
Aug 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
Beautiful descriptions of food and atmosphere at a chic restaurant, but lacking substance.
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
She's Got Books on Her Mind

"I grew up rich. The setting—or stage set—of my childhood was the velvety pink-and-green dining room of my mother's restaurant, Upstairs at the Pudding, located above the Hasty Pudding Club in a red-brick Victorian building at 10 Holyoke Street in Harvard Square. My life was not a child's life of jungle gyms and Velcro sneakers, but of soft lighting, stiff petticoats, rolling pins smothered in flour, and candied violets in wax paper. It was a life of manners, of air ki
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the author’s memoir of her childhood in the restaurant Upstairs at the Pudding. It was an unconventional upbringing, with the restaurant taking most of the energies of her parents, and of her mother in particular, after their divorce. She describes her delight in the decadent ingredients and adult menus; oftentimes, her meal at the restaurant would be the only decent food of the day for her. She mourned the day her namesake dessert came off the menu and the decline of the restaurant over ...more
Jill Blevins
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best stories are those where you want to jump in the shoes of the narrator, live their experiences, and feel everything on the page. This is such a story. It's just a wonderful, sweet, endearing memoir of growing up as the only child of a glamorous restaurant mother and all the delight, joy, hardship and love in a variety of forms that entails. There's such a nostalgic tone to this story, and such a deep tenderness for the situation that it's hard to finish. Or way too easy to not stop, rush ...more
Ann Boytim
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Charlotte's childhood memories revolve around a restaurant where first her father and then her mother were chefs. Everyday Charlotte would dress up and have dinner at the restaurant tasting every kind of dish imaginable for a child. Eventually her father left and if was just Charlotte and her mother who moved many times over the years but still worked very hard to keep the restaurant top notch.
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Fluffy & uneven. Not worth recommending. Not hard to get through. The premise is appealing and some anecdotes are interesting, but I didn’t end it feeling inspired or anything much at all.

I don’t remember where I got the book, but it’s the 2nd in a row from the stacks of books I’ve accumulated and hadn’t read til now. So that’s an achievement to celebrate.
May 19, 2018 rated it liked it
The restaurant anecdotes were fun, and it made me super nostalgic for the dear departed Harvard Square of my youth, but overall it felt disjointed. It rambles back and forth from celebration to eulogy, and the lack of a strong cohesive voice makes it hard to invest in emotionally. It did, however, make me google a recipe for Charlotte Au Chocolat.
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
So lovely. A tasty read. I particularly enjoyed reading memories of a places I know well from before I knew them, so I don't know how well this would hold up if you don't know/love Cambridge, MA. But... I do!
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“But worse, it was a new apartment. We both knew that, in New England, old was better. Old was cozy; old, like our farmhouse, like the Pudding, had magic and charm.” 0 likes
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