Garlic and Sapphires, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Garlic and Sapphires is Ruth Reichl's riotous account of the many disguises she employs to dine undetected when she takes on the much coveted and highly prestigious job of New York Times restaurant critic.

Reichl knows that to be a good critic she has to be anonymous - but her picture is posted in every four-star, low-star kitchen in town and so she embarks on an extraordinary - and hilarious - undercover game of disguise - keeping even her husband and son in the dark.

There is her stint as Molly, a frumpy blonde in an off-beige Armani suit that Ruth takes on when reviewing Le Cirque resulting in a double review of the restaurant: first she ate there as Molly; and then as she was coddled and pampered on her visit there as Ruth, New York Times food critic.

Then there is the eccentric, mysterious red head on whom her husband - both disconcertingly and reassuringly - develops a terrible crush.

She becomes Brenda the earth mother, Chloe the seductress and even Miriam her own (deceased) mother.

What is even more remarkable about Reichl's spy games is that as she takes on these various guises, she finds herself changed not just physically, but also in character revealing how one's outer appearance can very much influence one's inner character, expectations, and appetites.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Cornerstone
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: general
  • ISBN: 9780099489979

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Ruth Reichl was the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times, when her husband heard that the present critic for the New York Times, the most prestigious newspaper in the country had resigned, he persuaded her to apply for the job.Ruth quicky finds out that the New York restaurants have done their homework on her. Rumours circulate that her photo is posted in restaurants and some establishments are offering their staff a bonus of $500 for spotting her in their restaurant. Ruth realises fairly quickly that she will have to do her reviews incognito, or it will be impossible for the experience to be an honest one, due to fawning waitpeople and chefs going out of their way to provide her special meals that the average diner would not get to experience.She seeks help from an acting coach and begins work.There is a lot about the restaurants, and the food that she eats - Ruth is incredibly knowledgeable about food and ingredients, to the point of sometimes being a bit of a show off, but we also find out a lot about Ruth. She is quite surprised by how her behaviour changes when she is dressed in one of her costumes - sometimes rude and superscillious and sometimes meek and shy, depending on circumstances. Ruth becomes more and more uncomfortable with her own behaviour, after being told a few home truths by her husband and friends.I found this very good, and very entertaining. Ruth is now the editor of American Gourmet magazine.

Review by

What food lover has not dreamt of making a living as a food critic? Ruth Reichl invites into her memories of the years she spent as the New York Times' food critic. She describes the abysmal and the astounding of New York's most reputed restaurants with remarkable sensitivity.Understanding that a meal is more than mere sustenance when ordered in a fine restaurant and that the emotional experience can often have a greater impact than what is served on the plate, she revisits some of her most significant reviews and the meals that shaped them.To avoid unfairly hyped assessments of fawning performances by restaurant staff who recognised her, she adopted various disguises, and personalities to carry them. With each one, she discovered how one's self-perception can flavour an experience as much as the ingredients chosen by the chef. I found this book curiously touching. It will certainly make me savour the finest meals in a new way.