With all four seasons of rapper Action Bronson’s travelog food show F*ck That’s Delicious currently available on Neon, Dominic Corry revisits the Auckland spots Action visited in order to recreate the legendary New Zealand episode.
Every travelog food show is an extension of its host’s personality to a certain degree, but it’s hard to imagine a series that better embodies its frontman’s unique qualities than F*ck That’s Delicious, hosted by the inimitable Action Bronson.
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The rapper has presented four seasons of the show since 2016, and each episode sees him embrace an area’s local cuisine with bountiful amounts of enthusiasm and a complete dearth of pretension. He’s not resistant to any highbrow cuisine, but the fervour with which he embraces an area’s lowbrow offerings is nothing short of inspirational.
Early in the second season, he did an episode on Auckland while in town to perform at the Auckland City Limits music festival. Flicks decided to revisit the episode to celebrate the series and attempt to walk in some of Action’s culinary footsteps, where possible.
The episode, titled My Fair Bagel opens with something that has become a bit of a cliché for touring musicians – a trip out west to visit the stunning black sands of Karekare Beach. But as with many of Action’s activities, his pure, unfettered joy manages to make the whole thing seem brand new.
Hitting the sand with right-hand man and fellow rapper Meyhem Lauren, Action’s verbal utterances suggest orgasmic levels of appreciation for the beach from The Piano.
“My mind right now is in another zone,” he says, clearly needing a moment. “I don’t even wanna fuckin’ talk to nobody. Where the fuck are we?”
The episode begins proper with Action enjoying a Lion Red at what looks like the domain. Is Lion Red cool now? I am out of this loop, but the Eat Lit Food guy, another swear-word loving culinary chronicler, goes on about Lion Red a lot, and he is very cool. Maybe the Lion Red renaissance started with Action Bronson. Good for you, Lion Red.
Action’s first proper food experience occurs at Al Brown’s justifiably-adored Federal St restaurant Depot, where Meyhem is taught how to shuck oysters, which are then consumed with a bloody mary shooter.
Action is offered the delightfully meaty braised pork hock with apple and horseradish salsa verde, and he eats it with tongs, depositing giant chunks of pork directly into his mouth. Only Action Bronson could pull this off. Then it’s the dish that has become Depot’s most famous staple: the fish sliders, made with snapper and served with pickled lemon mayo & watercress.
When I visit Depot to recreate Action’s Auckland food experience, this is what I eat. It is far from my first time with this dish, but eating the sliders is such a disorientingly transcendent experience, I forget to take a photo. My food social game is not on point. The snapper sliders at Depot will never let you down. They are a dish of exquisite, delicate beauty. These sliders are, to quote the New Zealand equivalent of Action Bronson, a literal Slice of Heaven.
Adding to my experience is the sight of Kiwi national treasure Sam Neill quietly eating alone at the bar. Al Brown himself is also in attendance, entertaining some friends out front. Depot is a very good restaurant.
For the next food segment in the episode, which takes place after Action has performed his ACL set, Action joins Brown in his test kitchen to witness how the prolific chef uses traditional methods to make the bagels for his Best Ugly Bagels shops. They are Montreal-style, which makes them a bit airier in texture than the famously dense New York-style bagels, and slightly sweeter.
Brown invites Action to collaborate on formulating a curried egg bagel, and the resulting sandwich (christened the “Sunday Schmooze” by Action) features potato chips, kimchi, curry leaves and jalapeño relish.
During their bagel-storming session, Brown also fries up some craydogs (crayfish tail in seaweed and sesame seed breading on a stick), which go down extremely well. These are periodically available at Depot, depending on the season, and are beyond heavenly.
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When I visit the Best Ugly Bagels store in Commercial Bay to try and get a Sunday Schmooze, I discover it is no longer on the menu, if it ever actually was. I describe its contents to the counter person, and she literally begins to drool. She brings out the bagel chef and I enquire if there’s anything with curried egg on it, and he gives me a quizzical look.
Despite my disappointment at not being able to try the Sunday Schmooze, the Best Ugly Bagel menu is impressively varied and creative – there’s the Yodi, which features pastrami, mustard and grilled swiss cheese topped by a pickle. Or the Jelly Tip, a chocolate bagel with cream cheese, raspberry jam and chocolate sauce.
I developed a real affection for breakfast bagels during my recent time living in California, so I settle upon the Boss Hog, which features bacon, a fried egg, rocket sauce and cheddar cheese. Plus with the egg, it feels like the closest thing I’m gonna get to the Sunday Schmooze. It is stonkingly good, and I’m confident Action would approve.
Back to the episode, and Action is performing a hot and steamy private set for fans at K’Road institution the Las Vegas strip club. Following the show, Bronson enjoys an “orange creamsicle” while strutting down K’Road surrounding by fans, one of whom has helpfully handed him a joint.
He then heads down to the bottom of town with Meyhem to re-experience one of Auckland’s most legendary late-night feed spots – The White Lady, a converted bus that sells burgers and fries 365 days and nights a year. Action explains that he was taken here the first time he visited Auckland and wants Meyhem to experience the wonder of The White Lady.
“This is a place for the common man, along with the drug addicts,” is Action’s endorsement.
Action requests the biggest burger they’ve got, and they make him an offering with two patties, bacon, egg and pineapple. He is clearly very happy but isn’t above relinquishing it when a drunken passerby in a cowboy hat expresses interest.
When I visit The White Lady late on a Friday night, I explain that I want the same burger Action Bronson had in 2016. They’re a bit confused at first, but soon cotton on. I detail the contents and they say they will make their signature burger, which shares the name of their establishment, and add an extra pattie.
Upon receiving the burger, I realise they have taken advantage of my (slight) inebriation and upsold me – The White Lady burger also contains steak. I ain’t mad tho – it is pretty f*cking delicious, and amazingly consumable for such a towering mountain of a burger. Its structural integrity defies physics and it contains just the right amount of grease, great for soaking up the night’s other imbibements. I’m pretty much sober after two bites.
For the final segment of the episode, Action heads up to Matakana, where then-Depot chef Maia Atvars (he’s at Saint Alice these days) cooks him up an amazing dinner at a private estate where Action also enjoys archery and wine.
After trevally ceviche and some paua (which Action insists on pronouncing “power”), Atvars barbecues up lamb, chicken and beef. Then they all smoke weed. At this point, I stood up, saluted the television, and started singing the national anthem.
It’s a supremely entertaining episode, and emblematic of both the show’s overall appeal and Action Bronson’s charmingly-loose presenting style.
Throughout four seasons of the show, Action and his pals have covered much ground in the United States and travelled everywhere from Copenhagen to Kosovo, from where his family hails.
If he were to return to New Zealand, I’d love to get his opinion on the classic Kiwi fish ‘n’ chips. Consumed on a black sand beach. With Lion Red. And I’d probably take him to The Fed, just to complete the Al Brown trifecta. I feel like he might enjoy the Reuben at Ponsonby Road’s Dedwood Deli. And I’m sure he’d be game for a deep-fried Moro.