Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl is a book that's been making its way through Book Swap & I finally grabbed it for myself. This is the third book like this that I've read & the second book written by a NY Times food critic. I'm talking about Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain & Born Round by Frank Bruni, two books that I LOVED.
Don't get me wrong, I liked Garlic and Sapphires, it's just my least favorite out of these three books. I wanted Reichl to get more personal, to delve more deeply into her relationship with her mother. I did enjoy reading about her visits to all the various NYC restaurants, especially her foray into the more ethnic restaurants in Queens. She talked about the inner-workings of the NY Times more than Bruni did, which was interesting. I also really liked how her actual restaurant reviews are in the book - smart!
Here's the blurb from Amazon:
As the New York Times's restaurant critic for most of the 1990s, Reichl had what some might consider the best job in town; among her missions were evaluating New York City's steakhouses, deciding whether Le Cirque deserved four stars and tracking down the best place for authentic Chinese cuisine in Queens. Thankfully, the rest of us can live that life vicariously through this vivacious, fascinating memoir. The book—Reichl's third—lifts the lid on the city's storied restaurant culture from the democratic perspective of the everyday diner. Reichl creates wildly innovative getups, becoming Brenda, a red-haired aging hippie, to test the food at Daniel; Chloe, a blonde divorcée, to evaluate Lespinasse; and even her deceased mother, Miriam, to dine at 21. Such elaborate disguises—which include wigs, makeup, thrift store finds and even credit cards in other names—help Reichl maintain anonymity in her work, but they also do more than that. "Every restaurant is a theater," she explains. Each one "offer[s] the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while. Restaurants free us from mundane reality." Reichl's ability to experience meals in such a dramatic way brings an infectious passion to her memoir. Reading this work—which also includes the finished reviews that appeared in the newspaper, as well as a few recipes—ensures that the next time readers sit down in a restaurant, they'll notice things they've never noticed before.
Everyone I know LOVES this book, & I do recommend it; it's a good book. I just enjoyed Born Round more. Three stars.