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Book Rec: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

Updated: Jul 6

“The King of Spain is waiting in the bar, but YOUR table is ready.”


While not exactly a typical foodie that eats foie gras and quail eggs, I love trying new foods and eat almost the entire international spectrum. So I was intrigued when I heard about Garlic and Sapphires and her eccentric disguises. Does a food critic always get better service? Can your appearance really have that big of an impact in today’s world? We already know the answer to that question, but Reichl’s anecdotes were hilarious and peppered with wisdom, not to mention a few recipes as well. Drop below for the discussion guide needed at your next book club and comment if you make one of her recipes!


Welcome to the Mrs. Doubtfire of the restaurant world.

a plate of spaghetti is being served, blocking the face of the person sitting at the table, presumably ruth reichl

Book Summary of Garlic and Sapphires


Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and former 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.


Discussion Guide for Book Club


  1. Reichl focuses on the different dining experiences each of her "characters" has and how those experiences can be better or worse depending upon her appearance, age, clothing and even dining companions. Have you had a negative restaurant experience of this type, and if so, how did you handle it?

  2. While I love food, I don’t really like to cook. But this book brings back the pleasures of it and cooking new things. In what ways has your thoughts on food changed because of this memoir?

  3. Describe your favorite restaurant experience? How does it compare to your ideal, dream experience?

  4. If you could dress in disguise, who would you be? Create your perfect dining character.


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