Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows a thing or two about food. She also knows that as the most important food critic in the country, you need to be anonymous when reviewing some of the most high-profile establishments in the biggest restaurant town in the world—a charge she took very seriously, taking on the guise of a series of eccentric personalities. In Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl reveals the comic absurdity, artifice, and excellence to be found in the sumptuously appointed stages of the epicurean world and gives us—along with some of her favorite recipes and reviews—her remarkable reflections on how one’s outer appearance can influence one’s inner character, expectations, and appetites, not to mention the quality of service one receives.
I can't give this book a five-star review because there is a bit of disconnect between myself and the author. I don't eat the way she does nor I suspect do most of my friends. Its hard to relate to someone who thinks foie gras is a normal weekly meal. Personal tastes aside, Reichl is a phenomenal writer. I might not want to eat the things she is eating but she makes you feel like you are right there next to her. She has an amazing gift for describing both the flavor and aesthetics of food - it is clear she is a true gourmand.
I did find her "characters" (and the emotions brought up by them) to be a bit contrived - she seemed to be trying to prove personal growth during the process. Clearly, she is not your average American eater and there is no point in pretending otherwise. She still does a spot on job of relating the microcosm that is upscale New York dining.
If you are a foodie or just like a lushly detailed memoir, I think you will enjoy this book.
(And her recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara will definitely be added to my cooking repertoire.)