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Editorial 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 façade 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.

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.

©2005 Ruth Reichl; (P)2005 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

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

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Nicole
  • Seattle, WA, USA
  • 11-16-05

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • PEARLAND, TX, United States
  • 05-14-05

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I had been really looking forward to reading this book, having read the author's columns for several years in the Los Angeles Times. However, although the premise of the story was amusing (restaurant reviewer forced to wear a variety of disguises), I found it repetitive after a while (how much foi gras and lobster can anyone eat?). Only moderately entertaining.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kelly
  • San Pablo, CA, USA
  • 05-07-05

Do Clothes Make the Woman or You Are What You Eat

This book grabbed me, waltzed me around the floor and then deposited me dizzy and hungry in a chair next to banquet! You have a great reader who takes you along on a ride that answers the question, "What would it be like to be the NYTimes Restaurant Reviewer?" The getups that Ruth devised to go unnoticed or at least unrecognized had me howling and I found that I had visualized the friends that she brought along to complete her story. I loved when her son learned to make hash browns or cakes, I hated the previous critic for his actions and I rode shotgun when she went on a food tour of New York. I could even understand as she starts to question her place on the (forgive me) food chain. I have enjoyed Ruth's other books, but this one really lightened up my life a little and I think that I started to eat a little better too, because who can have a bag of micro popcorn after hearing her description of a dinner at a four-star restaurant!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Engaging and Fun

This is my favorite audible book so far. Ruth Reichl's descriptions of everything around her, and not just food, is a treat to listen to. The narrator, Bernadette Dunne, inhabits the charecter so well, that I had to look back to make sure that it wasn't the author reading her own book.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Christine
  • Ramsey, NJ, United States
  • 10-23-07

Loved It!

I picked this book because I really loved the Narrator. She did such a great job with Devil Wears Prada and she was WONDERFUL in this.
I enjoyed hearing the author's dining experiences. I also liked how she explained the food and gave you some really good recipes too.
I recommend.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Mouth watering insights

Ruth leads us on a culinary exploration of the New York dining scene. I enjoyed learning the back room tricks of the resturants and the devious tactics Ruth used to get around it, her contemplations on your public personna and above all the food descriptions. From dumplings to duck the book was fun and fascinating. She can both distinguish flavors and describe them. This was a book I looked forward to having a chance to drive in the car to be able to listen to (but not one I sat in the driveway to finish off.)Nice to have the author as narrator - it was clear and very personal.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


could have done without some of the detailed discussions of the food and the recipes - I now its a book about food but... but I found it very entertaining. Liked the narrator

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Sue
  • Williamsburg, VA, United States
  • 11-17-12

Great listen-but don't listen while you are hungry

What did you love best about Garlic and Sapphires?

food, food and more food

What did you like best about this story?

the food descriptions

Have you listened to any of Bernadette Dunne’s other performances before? How does this one compare?


If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The food critic

Any additional comments?

this was a very easy and fun listen. The narrator was great. Very enjoyable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michael
  • Kenner, LA, United States
  • 10-08-08

A book for one who likes to cook, eat, or both

Ms. Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires was deliciously interesting and fun to read. I enjoyed every bite of it. Long before I read her book,I ate in some of the restaurants she reviewed. I found her critiques to be on target. I wish she had written about more restaurants that she reviewed. Her own recipes sounded pretty good, too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful