'The Best Thing I Ever Ate' Creator David Hoffman Takes THR’s Taste Test
The executive producer at the Food Network – whose durable series celebrates its 100th episode on Dec. 9 -- talks wood-fired garlic knots, stir-fried crickets, banana cream pie, coconut and more.
David Hoffman dreamed up the straightforward-yet-addicting Food Network series The Best Thing I Ever Ate, as well as its companion spin-off The Best Thing I Ever Made. Both feature high-profile gourmands – think Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali, Nigella Lawson and Giada De Laurentiis – enthusing about their favorite dishes.
Quintessential food-porn, with its passionate exclamations of delight and close-up shots of sensorial splendor, the shows have become fan favorites. To celebrate the 100th episode in the ever-growing Best Thing canon, airing Dec. 9, Hoffman talks about some of the best things he’s ever eaten – as well as a few of the things he won’t eat, too.
DAVID HOFFMAN’S THR TASTE TEST
“The wood-fired garlic knot at Milo & Olive in Santa Monica. I’m not talking about those balls of garlic bread that are ubiquitous at every mini-mall pizzeria. Here, they take a round of pizza dough, pack it with enough cloves of roasted garlic to halt a host of vampires, tie it up with string to form a softball-sized purse, slather it with olive oil and sea salt – then cook to order for 20 minutes. The outside is that perfect combination of crust, char and chew, while the inside is mellow, soft and sweet. Mark my word: Like the California roll, goat cheese pizza and Chinese chicken salad that came before it, this dish will be popping up on menus all over town by early next year. By 2014, it will have been butchered by the chains. Which means get it here, get it now, so you know, when done right, what it’s supposed to taste like.”
Known For Cooking
“Truth is, I don’t cook: I assemble. My greatest talent in the kitchen is knowing where to go to find the best in a particular category and how to throw it all together. My downfall is that I’m too proud of that fact to lie and pretend that I made what’s on the table myself.”
“One of the roving farm dinners offered through Outstanding in the Field. I’m pretty much a pop-up restaurant whore. Blame that on the fact that two of the best meals I had this last year were the Sunday brunch at Ktchn105 and David Thorne’s Monday “night in” dinner series at Elysian.”
“Joan’s on Third set the L.A. take-out bar and for at least a dozen years, I’ve been a sucker for her salmon leek pie, which can feed at least eight, although it’s only available by special order and 48 hours in advance. But I’m an equal opportunity eater. Love Europane for homemade English muffins and the egg salad; Dolce Isola for crab cakes, tart tatine and a loaf of the city’s best sourdough; Clementine for chicken pot pie, sloppy joes, roasted tomato soup and marble cake.”
“I like heart and brains, but not on my plate. I ate bugs – ants on shoestring potatoes and stir-fried crickets with chilies and basil – as part of a story I did while working as a correspondent for Good Morning America. Looked disgusting when I saw the footage, but in reality, the taste was reminiscent of eating shrimp with the shells on.”
Simply Won’t Eat
“I’ve got a sizeable list, but at the risk of ruining my credibility, let’s start with the top two: coconut, which seems to rival cilantro in that people either love it or hate it, and olives, black and green. No phobia or allergies. I just don’t like the taste.
“Tate’s chocolate chip cookies. In a world where undercooked too often passed for soft and chewy, I eschewed Mrs. Fields and switched my allegiance to the crispy chocolate chip cookie camp - and it was all because of these. I used to schlep them back from New York until I was able to buy them here from a company on Melrose that put together gift baskets. A dozen years later, they are available at Gelson’s, Bristol Farms and mom-and-pop markets. The chip-less version may sound like sacrilege, but it’s perfect for making ice cream sandwiches, especially with any of the chip flavors – mint chip, mocha chip, black raspberry chip – made by Graeter’s.
“I walk several miles at least five days a week. And I eat chocolate – more often than not these days it’s the liquid caramel in a dark chocolate shell from Valerie Confections – based on the study released in March by U.C. San Diego, which concluded that chocolate contains compounds that favor weight loss and that people who eat chocolate a few times a week are slimmer than those who eat it less frequently.”
“I do feel, especially in a restaurant, that groups of eight are the ideal. You can stretch the head count to 12, but once it gets over that, it’s like people are at two or three different parties.
“Beans in my chili. Real chili has no beans. Google it. Waiters who ask, ‘Have you dined with us before?’, ‘Are you done working on that?’ and ‘Do you need change?’”
“That Sugarfish would offer side orders of the absolutely addicting warm vinegar rice they use in making their sushi. I’ve read their website; I get that they don’t. But discovering a small loophole – that they will serve a bowl of rice to small children – definitely makes me rethink my choice not to have kids.
“I was in New York for work – and stopped to grab a bite between meetings at the recently-closed Chinatown Brasserie. When I climbed up on a stool to order, I heard a giant riiiip, then looked to see that I had a four-inch tear in my jeans, running down my inner thigh. It went beyond any fashion trend, bordering on flasher. So I switched gears and got my order of egg rolls and dumplings to go, then walked out with the bag placed strategically in front of me.”
“A steak burger, fries – extra crisp – and a slice of banana or boysenberry cream pie from the Apple Pan. When I moved to L.A. in the ’70s, I opened a checking account at the Wells Fargo across the street – remember, these were the days long before ATMs – because I knew I’d be at the Apple Pan once a week, which would make getting to the bank once a week not an issue.
“I would want it to be long.”