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Ruth Reichl Makes Return LA Visit

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Last night in conversation with Irene Borger at the LA Public Library’s Aloud series, author and food critic Ruth Reichl pointed out that few adjectives can effectively capture and convey sensory experiences. Though not nearly as tall an order as describing, say, the best foie gras you’ve ever tasted, we’re struggling to find adjectives to describe the pleasure of seeing Reichl -- the current Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet, celebrated memoirist, and former food critic for the Los Angeles Times and New York Times-- discuss her work in person.

So far we've come up with a few words: evocative, warmth and all-embracing.

We found that there's no gap between her writing and public presence. Reichl communicates as much unpretentious intelligence, charm, and down-to-earth humor in front of a live audience as she does on the page.

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A couple questions from the audience were LA-specific. Her response to the query of how her job was different in New York compared to LA, Reichl mentioned how people in Los Angeles didn't seem to care or fear critics with nearly the same intensity. (Her third memoir covers her years at the Times, during which New York area restaurant proprietors were willing to pay a hefty fee should her visage be recognized beneath her many efficacious disguises.)

Reichl touched on various issues of concern to anyone who thinks about food beyond the purely epicurean realm: the morality of fine dining, genetic modification, and the injustice of a society in which part of the population has access to the burgeoning marketplace of organic, nutritious foods while over-processed goods are increasingly the primary option of another socio-economic strata.

She emphasized the necessity of enjoying the everyday small joys of life in order to have a fuller, richer existence. Alas, LAist writes this as we tear apart a day-old sandwich while in front of the computer.

Despite countless hours and thousands of dollars spent in the world's best restaurants, she loves to cook. When asked about what her last meal might be hypothetically, Reichl quickly noted it would be something she'd concoct and eat at home with friends. Items on her list include raw clams on the half shell, risotto with shaved white truffles, "lots of caviar" with blini, salad with a light vinaigrette, a perfect peach, and tons of wonderful wines.

She was quick to add, however, that if asked the same question an hour later the response would be totally different. Flexibility is one of the marks of a great critic; we'd almost be disappointed if she were to say otherwise.