New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl's memoir |


New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl's memoir

The Times' restaurant critic serves up a memoir

Listen up, Soup Nazi: Restaurant critic Ruth Reichl has a bone to pick.

Unfortunately for the Seinfeld adversary, it’s a shard of fish skeleton from his seafood bisque, which has wedged itself between the New York Times tastemaker’s teeth as she discusses her new memoir. Her size-large serving is ”scorched,” comments Reichl, and laden with ”great big ugly” mussels. ”I don’t want to eat it anymore,” she says. ”My eyes were bigger than my stomach.”

When it’s your job to dine out 11 or more times per week – and hell, somebody’s got to do it – you quickly learn the art of portion control. If Reichl were obese – she’s not even close – she’d have a hard time going undercover at high-profile Manhattan joints like Le Cirque, which got four stars last year partly because of its egalitarian service. The reviewer plans to preserve her hard-won anonymity (she owns nine wigs and often swathes herself, like puff pastry, in layers and layers of clothing) even as she visits eight cities and the Today show to promote Tender at the Bone. (”I’ve had to tour dead authors. Never an author in disguise,” anguishes her Random House publicist.) It’s a rare marketing challenge for a book that, despite having all the ingredients of its voguish genre (recipes, a nutty mom, a few points of fictional ”embroidery”), is unusually stirring.

”I sat down and thought, What are the stories I most want to tell?” says Reichl, who was weaned on sea urchins and cactus fruit and cooked for a Berkeley hippie collective in the ’70s. Perhaps that explains her criticism’s ”democratic tendencies,” which Times predecessor Bryan Miller once sniffed would ruin the star system.

If not the Soup Nazi.