Friday, March 28, 2014

Random bits of Ruth

Reichl (2nd from left) with federation members after her talk. 
Favorite moments/quotes/tips from Thursday night's appearance by Ruth Reichl as the annual spring lecturer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte:

  • A review should do more than just inform. The value of criticism, whether it's art, music, books, theater or food, isn't about just what you're eating, reading or seeing. "A good critic gives people a way to appreciate their experience."
  • "Restaurants are magical places. I wanted people to see that restaurants are where you can step out of your life and be anyone you want to be."
  • On the move away from restaurant reviewers trying to remain anonymous: "Not being anonymous is wrong. It's important to tell you what it's like to be a customer there." 
  • One of her most offensive moments when she was dining undercover for the New York Times was when she was wearing the costume of a flashy, colorfully dressed blonde character she called Stella. At a pricey restaurant, "Stella" asked if the striped bass was wild or farmed. The waiter's response: "It comes from around your neighborhood - Coney Island." Reichl is still mad about the disrespect of the customer. Expensive restaurants have an obligation to not only feed you, but to make you feel good about yourself, she says.  
  • Her three favorite New York restaurants at the moment: Il Buco Alimentari. (Andrea Weigl and I ate there in January, and I can second Reichl's recommendation.) Yopparai, a Japanese izakaya on the Lower East Side. And Pearl Oyster Bar ("like home to me"). 
  • Why she isn't fat despite her job: "Discipline. I was a fat teenager . . . You can get as much pleasure from a couple of bites of something great." 
  • And: "Butter and soy sauce is the fastest, best sauce for almost anything."