Charlotte Au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood

Charlotte Au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood

3.5 6
by Charlotte Silver
     
 

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Like Eloise growing up in the Plaza Hotel, Charlotte Silver grew up in her mother's restaurant. Located in Harvard Square, Upstairs at the Pudding was a confection of pink linen tablecloths and twinkling chandeliers, a decadent backdrop for childhood. Over dinners of foie gras and Dover sole, always served with a Shirley Temple, Charlotte kept company with a

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Overview

Like Eloise growing up in the Plaza Hotel, Charlotte Silver grew up in her mother's restaurant. Located in Harvard Square, Upstairs at the Pudding was a confection of pink linen tablecloths and twinkling chandeliers, a decadent backdrop for childhood. Over dinners of foie gras and Dover sole, always served with a Shirley Temple, Charlotte kept company with a rotating cast of eccentric staff members. Her one constant was her glamorous, indomitable mother, nicknamed "Patton in Pumps," a wasp-waisted woman in cocktail dress and stilettos who shouldered the burden of raising a family and running a kitchen. But when the restaurant—forever teetering on the brink of financial collapse—looks as if it may finally be closing, Charlotte comes to realize the sacrifices her mother has made to keep the family and restaurant afloat and gains a new appreciation of the world her mother has built.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Charlotte au Chocolat charms.”—The New York Times Book Review “Every paragraph here is a confection of wit, color, texture, and taste, all overlaid with a dusting of melancholy for a lost restaurant, a lost time, a childhood that set Charlotte Silver apart and inspired her to write this utterly captivating memoir.”—The Huffington Post “Silver illustrates the details of her upbringing with luminous clarity . . . these poignant moments are as exact as poetry.”—The Boston Globe "Bright and vivacious."—USA Today

"Child of artist-restauranteurs, Silver recalls a girlhood filled with pink linens, candied violets, and constant threat of financial ruin. But it’s her ode to her quirky, dazzling mom that makes the dish."—Good Housekeeping

Library Journal
Silver writes of her Cambridge, MA, childhood spent in her parents' restaurant, Upstairs at the Pudding, which shared a building with Harvard University's famed Hasty Pudding Club. Anyone familiar with the restaurant business knows how all-consuming it can be. This charming memoir is full of warm anecdotes of relationships with the many colorful characters the author encountered during the nearly 20 years she spent with her mother in the business. The Pudding became famous for its atmosphere as well as its remarkable cuisine—as Silver's mother always said, "The richer, the better." The book is full of mouthwatering descriptions of the dishes created for the Pudding, from the dessert Charlotte au Chocolate (for which the author was named) to the red pepper soup her mother was famous for. VERDICT This chronicle of life in Cambridge and a young girl spending her hours among adults is recommended for readers who enjoy family memoirs and those interested in the restaurant business. [See Prepub Alert, 8/8/11.]—Elizabeth Rogers, CEF Lib. Syst., Plattsburgh, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Memoir of a childhood spent at the legendary Harvard Square restaurant Upstairs at the Pudding. Silver brings back to life an era when Harvard Square wasn't filled with the soulless plate-glass windows of national banks--when local businesses were chaotic, working on trade, a little dusty, yet full of human spirit and character. The book will no doubt enjoy a prominent place in the windows of the Harvard Coop, and fans of Upstairs, a local institution that closed in 2001, will likely enjoy the backstage view of the beloved restaurant. As a memoir, though, the book is lacking. The author provides many lighthearted stories about long nights spent amusing herself in the restaurant, but she rarely re-examines the events in the light of adulthood. Silver gives equal attention to her youthful party dresses and her emotional inner life, with a slight edge to the party dresses, while significant events, such as court dates or divorces, are mentioned in passing. The author presents her stream of anecdotes in a straightforward way, rarely offering critical distance or narrative context. For example, Silver drops a description of an electrifying moment in her burgeoning sexual awareness in the middle of a chapter about mice in the restaurant. It's almost as if the author doesn't want to fully share herself with readers. Like its namesake dessert, a confection--enjoyable but lacking substance.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594486500
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/05/2013
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
301,662
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Margot Livesey
Charlotte Silver has written a love song to a remarkable restaurant and a vanished world. I devoured these pages with the same enthusiasm as the author brings to pheasant's legs and steak tartare on toast. (Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture)
Lily King
Charlotte au Chocolat is simply exquisite. Savor it. Devour it. Silver has taken a cool-eyed, unsentimental look at her unique and strange childhood and made lavish, glorious art of it. (Lily King, author of Father of the Rain)
Allison Hoover Bartlett
Reading Charlotte au Chocolat is like sitting down to a sumptuous, many-coursed dinner—and then, after taking your last bite of Queen Mother's cake—having the pleasure of lingering in the kitchen, where a cast of vivid characters conjures their culinary magic until closing time. A feast of a book! (Allison Hoover Bartlett, author of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective and a World of Literary Obsession)
From the Publisher
"Charlotte au Chocolat is simply exquisite. Savor it. Devour it. Silver has taken a cool-eyed, unsentimental look at her unique and strange childhood and made lavish, glorious art of it."—Lily King, author of Father of the Rain

"Charlotte Silver has written a love song to a remarkable restaurant and a vanished world. I devoured these pages with the same enthusiasm as the author brings to pheasant’s legs and steak tartare on toast."—Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture
 
"Reading Charlotte au Chocolat is like sitting down to a sumptuous, many-coursed dinner—and then, after taking your last bite of Queen Mother's cake, having the pleasure of lingering in the kitchen, where a cast of vivid characters conjures culinary magic until closing time. A feast of a book!"—Allison Hoover Bartlett, author of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

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Meet the Author

Charlotte Silver grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before attending Bennington College in Vermont. She studied writing at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and has been published in The New York Times. She lives in New York and Boston.

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Charlotte Au Chocolat 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
ElizabethBenedict More than 1 year ago
I love this book! It's witty, vivid, funny, and so moving - about a girl growing up in a very unconventional way: spending every night at her mother's posh restaurant, located above a club connected to Harvard. It's about having a rich (in event and experience, not money) , unconventional childhood with a bold, brassy mother and a Bohemian father - and it's written with wonderful verve, insight, and wit. The cover, alas, does not do justice to the wit and intelligence - and the wonderful writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought it was contrived and read like it was made up.
Dana77 More than 1 year ago
The prologue held such promise. I read a lot of memoirs and this just didn't do it for me. Lacking character development , let alone exploration of the characters in her life makes this book one-dimensional. Where is the life lesson? What am I as a reader / audience supposed to take away from this? As fiction, I might have given this a better review. As a memoir, it's disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago