Garlic and Sapphires

  • by Ruth Reichl
  • Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
  • 11 hrs and 1 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Garlic and Sapphires is Ruth Reichl's riotous account of the many disguises she employs to dine anonymously. There is her stint as Molly Hollis, a frumpy blond with manicured nails and an off-beige Armani suit that Ruth takes on when reviewing Le Cirque. The result: her famous 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.What is even more remarkable about Reichl's spy games is that as she takes on these various disguises, she finds herself changed not just superficially, but in character as well. She gives a remarkable account of how one's outer appearance can very much influence one's inner character, expectations, and appetites.As she writes, "Every restaurant is a theater...even the modest restaurants offer the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while." Garlic and Sapphires is a reflection on personal identity and role playing in the decadent, epicurean theaters of the restaurant world.


Audible Editor Reviews

Reichl, former New York Times restaurant critic, takes you on an undercover tour of the best New York restaurants. She makes you feel like you're right there with her, disguise and all. That's right, disguise. Because her work required anonymity, Reichl had to don new disguises in each restaurant. Her memories of both food and fa├žade are fascinating and highly entertaining.

Her descriptions of food will have even the pickiest eater craving sushi, caviar, even squid ink! She also includes simple recipes for things like New York Style Cheesecake and Spaghetti Carbonara.

Narrator Bernadette Dunne sounds very much like Reichl herself, inhabiting every delicious moment and brining you along for the bite. Whether you're a food fan or not, this is a great memoir.


What the Critics Say

"[A] vivacious, fascinating memoir." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Read engagingly by Bernadette Dunne

Reichl describes her life and the decisions that lead her to the job as restaurant critic at the New York Times; she doesn't shy away from her own insecurities, her anxiety as she waits for the response to her first review, her naivete in the face of the cut-throat world of both the New York dining establishments and the New York Times editorial mean-spiritedness and back-biting. Before even embarking on her first assignment for the paper, she discovers that her picture and personal information have been disseminated, and a reward offered to any restaurant worker who can spot her (presumably so that she can be lavished with attention and the finest of the fine food). Dismayed, she hatches the idea to go in disguise and begins a game of "fool 'em all" that last five years.

Interesting as her experiences in the restaurants themselves are, there is more to the book that I found equally pleasing. Her husband and son, her friend Carol, the other people who are in on the game and participate in her charade by dining with "Brenda" or "Miriam", and those who she dupes (sometimes rather unkindly) are all compelling characters. Many of them don't shy from bursting her bubble by finding some of her "costumes" attractive (moreso than her own persona) or repugnant (as she realizes she was more into playing the role than was necessary). The writing seems genuine, as Reichl wavers, struggles, comes to understand just how much of herself (good and bad) comes to the surface with each disguise. I got goosebumps when she described her trip to Windows on the World, the name of which I only knew because of its destruction with the rest of the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks. In addition to all the glorious food, the catty commentary, and the gossipy insider view of the New York Times Food Section, Reichl also weaves the reader through the New York of her childhood and references but doesn't ghoulishly dwell on the events that loom in New York's (then) future.
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- Nicole

If you like New York City novels...

This book reads (listens?) like one of those great NYC comic novels. I was not surprised when I realized that the narrator had also done The Devil Wears Prada. That Ruth Reichl is a professional writer is obvious from start to finish. Love it, love it, love it.
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- Susan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-21-2005
  • Publisher: Books on Tape