Garlic and Sapphires: The secret life of a restaurant critic in disguise

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Allen & Unwin, May 1, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 352 pages
When Reichl took over from the formidable and aloof Bryan Miller as the New York Times' restaurant reviewer, she promised to shake things up. And so she did. Gone were the days when only posh restaurants with European chefs were reviewed. Reichl, with a highly developed knowledge and love of Asian cuisine from her years as a West Coast food critic, began to review the small simple establishments that abound in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Many loved it, the Establishment hated it, but her influence was significant.

She brought a fresh writing style to her reviews and adopted a radical way of getting them. Amassing a wardrobe of wigs and costumes, she deliberately disguised herself so that she would not receive special treatment. As a result, she had a totally different dining experience as say, Miriam the Jewish mother than she did as Ruth Reichl the reviewer, and she wasn't afraid to write about it. The resulting reviews were hilarious and sobering, full of fascinating insights and delicious gossip.

Garlic and Sapphires is a wildly entertaining chronicle of Reichl's New York Times years.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - sanyamakadi - LibraryThing

I love reading about food, and Ruth Reichl's food writing is some of the best there is. I will probably never eat in the restaurants she reviews, nor even understand how to do so, but it is amazing to see food through her eyes. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - clue - LibraryThing

This is about Reichl's experience as the New York Time's food critic from 1993-1999. It primarily focuses on her attempts to dine without being recognized and on the culture of the Times. It's ... Read full review

Selected pages


The Daily Special
The King of Spain
Looking for Umami
Meat and Potatoes
Food Warrior
The Missionary of the Delicious
Recipe Index
Conversion Table

Dinner with Chairman Punch

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Page 136 - Dashiell Hammett used to say I had the meanest jealousy of all. I had no jealousy of work, no jealousy of money. I was just jealous of women who took advantage of men, because I didn't know how to do it.
Page 171 - Cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, stir in the flour and mix well. Return the pan to the heat and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Page 279 - Look at that!" he said reverently. "Charlotte Russe, a classic Brooklyn confection! You can't get these anywhere else anymore." He dug another dollar out of his pocket, plunked it onto the outside counter, and burrowed his face into one of the little white cups. When he looked up his chin was covered with whipped cream and he looked like an overgrown ten-year-old. "Hey, big guy!
Page 272 - Spoon 1 teaspoon of the scallion mixture onto the centre, fold the wrapper in half, and press the edges to make a semicircle. Repeat with the remaining wrappers. (If you do not have round wrappers, fold them into triangles.) Heat 3 quarts salted water in a 6- or 8-quart pot. When it is boiling, add the filled dumplings and cook for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander. Assemble the dish: Spoon 'A cup yoghurt sauce into a serving dish, and cover it with the dumplings.
Page 45 - We had already reached dessert, but our little plate of petit fours was whisked away to be replaced by a larger, more ostentatious one. An avalanche of sweets descended upon the table, and I was fascinated to note that the raspberries on the new desserts were three times the size of those on the old ones.
Page 276 - We came out of the tunnel and nosed deep into Carroll Gardens. Ed gestured around and said happily, "Isn't this neighbourhood wonderful?" He parked, setting off a couple of car alarms in the process. They were howling as we walked into Esposito's Pork Store, but Ed paid them no mind. It was comfortable in there, rich with spice and personality, a throwback to a vanishing New York. Housewives with loud nasal voices demanded this piece of veal breast, that slice of bracciole, and a little salami, not...
Page 272 - Blend the yoghurt, garlic, and salt in a bowl, and set it aside. Make the dumplings: Combine the chopped scallion tops, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic in a bowl. Toss to mix. Lay a wonton wrapper on a flat surface and brush the edges with water. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the scallion mixture onto the centre, fold the wrapper in half, and press the edges to make a semicircle.
Page 275 - You!" he commanded, coming towards us. "You! Come in here right now!" Ed speeded up. "Sorry," he whispered out of the side of his mouth, almost running now, "but we have to get away.
Page 275 - Have some," he said, handing me a piece. The flatbread was crisp and slightly oily, dotted with rosemary, and so delicious that each bite enticed you into another. "This is perfect!
Page 47 - The King of Spain is waiting in the bar, but your table is ready," says Mr. Maccioni, sweeping us majestically past the waiting masses. Behind us a bejewelled older woman whines, "We've been waiting a half-hour," but nobody pays her any mind.

About the author (2005)

Ruth Reichl is the chief editor at Gourmet Magazine, and was the chief restaurant critic for The New York Times for most of the 1990s. She held the same post at the Los Angeles Times for ten years and was chef/owner at the Swallow Restaurant in California in the mid-seventies. She has written for numerous publications including Vanity Fair, Family Circle, Metropolitan Home and Food and Wine.

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