Exclusive: Action Bronson's Favourite Food Pairings
A special teaser from Mr. Wonderful's new book, 'F*ck, That's Delicious: An Annotated Guide to Eating Well'
We got our hands on a copy of Action Bronson's new manifesto, 'F*ck, That's Delicious: An Annotated Guide to Eating Well,' and, as you can expect, it's excellent. Whet your appetite with this little segment, and order it from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.
I. The WWF WRESTLING ICE CREAM BAR AND THE PARK.
The WWF Superstars of Wrestling Ice Cream Bar was my second favourite ice cream bar in the world after the Chipwich, both of which are now extinct (though the Chipwich has made a comeback here in New York City). When the ice cream truck came by the park, those were the only things I wanted. This bar had a picture of one of the wrestlers on the cover and came with a trading card and a sticker with a quote, both of which I collected. They had a soft, shortbready-almond cookie top and a chocolate back, and they were banging. They had to change the name to WWE, because of issues with the name and the World Wildlife Fund, but whatever. (I love ice cream trucks in general. In fact, one time way back when I was playing in a baseball game, the ice cream man starts playing the song as I'm about to go up to bat. I of course go to get an ice cream, and they're looking all over for me. I run back, get up there, and hit a home run.) Another honourable mention is those icees with the faces, like Batman, or a Powerpuff Girl, where the eyeballs are gumballs. The gumballs are never chewy, because they're frozen for mad long and they just turn into this gummy dust—they're incredible.
II. AREPAS AND A JUGO DE MORA.
This is a combination I feel everyone should encounter in their life. An arepa is a Colombian corn cake—it's just corn, no extra sugar like one of those you get at the fair, which are also amazing. You blister it on the stovetop to where you have these pockets of charred corn action, you top it with this shredded, salty mozzarella–type Colombian cheese, and then you get a jugo de mora—frozen blackberries and ice blended into a slushie. You drink that together, the blistered bits from the arepa with the salty cheese against the sweet-tartness of the berry drink? It's orgasmic. For the drink, they'll ask you if you want it with ice or milk— agua o leche? You want it with ice. But before you get those, you have to start with almojábana, a little round puff ball made with cuajada cheese and corn flour. Un-fucking-real, and you have to get it first thing when it comes out of the oven.
III. TAKEOUT EATEN OFF THE HOOD OF THE CAR.
Fried chicken on the hood of the car, sandwiches on the hood, pizza on the hood, pretty much anything on the hood of the car. Generally, I want to eat standing in front of the restaurant, leaning around the car parked just outside. I don't want to have to put on a blazer or eat sitting on a stool. That's what me and Meyhem and Body have been doing our whole life—never would you eat sitting down.
IV. CRISPIX AND SKIM MILK.
I've been standing over the kitchen sink at my mother's house eating Crispix for thirty years, out of a bowl with a fat Italian chef on it. (I also must have a small spoon—I can't eat cereal with a big spoon.) This is stoner food for me—if I buy a box of Crispix, it's over. I just scarf it down in one sitting. It's been breakfast, lunch, and dinner, everything. Both Crispix and Rice Krispies are 100 percent lifers, as in I will love them for life. There are other cereals when I go on binges: Product 19, which was an old-people cereal I loved, and Lucky Charms, but only the marshmallows. Each cereal has its own special way of being eaten: Crispix and Rice Krispies are always served with skim milk. Cookie Crisp, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Fruity Pebbles, these get no milk—these you just drink out of the box. Rice Krispies must be eaten almost like a risotto, meaning you put enough milk in there to where you can stir it but it's still kind of crunchy. None of them beat Crispix, the best cereal ever invented.
V. WENDY'S SPICY CHICKEN SANDWICH AND A FROSTY.
The Malaysians, they also know that spicy fried chicken just works with something chocolaty and cold. In Sydney, one of my favorite restaurants is Mamak—Mamak are Malaysian-Muslims originally from South India—where I always get the Malay-style spiced fried chicken with an icy drink made from milk and Milo chocolate malt powder.
VI. ASIAN FOOD AND AUSTRALIA.
Australia, man, that is where I've had some of the best Asian food of my life. It is like the most diverse place in the world to eat Asian food. There's Mamak, above, which has unbelievable food and even has one person standing there all day long making Malaysian roti, a doughy, flaky, just unbelievable thing that's almost like a crepe. Chef Dan Hong, who runs a Chinese-Asian-Vietnamese place called Ms. G's, also took me to this Vietnamese city called Cabramatta, about an hour west of Sydney, where his mother used to have a restaurant. People are just growing stuff in their backyards like squash flowers and banana leaves and selling it on the street. I didn't know much about good Vietnamese food, and that trip introduced me to so much ill shit— shrimp paste on sugarcane and rice paper wraps and bún bò huê, this spicy beef and pork noodle soup. And this place in Perth called Long Chim is also banging, and where I had some of the most incredible northern Thai food with just a little bit of Pacific Island in there. Their larb, or that thrown-together ground meat salad also called larp—oh my god. Theirs felt like there was no meat in it, and I mean that in a good way. It was filled with lime leaves and chiles and fried crispy things and salty and sweet—you just shovel it into your mouth, you can't get enough of it, like those peanuts on the fucking bar with the lime and the chile. In reality, one of the best meals I've had in L.A. ever—at this place E.P. & L.P.—was actually really more like an Australian-Asian deal because the Chinese-Indian-Fijian chef Louis Tikaram came to L.A. from Australia, where he grew up. One of my favorite things there was smoked lamb neck with herbs like mint and basil, wrapped in lettuce leaves and dipped into some shit—oh, fuck, it was crazy, and it all tasted like being back in Perth.
VII. BIG MACS AND FAT CAMP.
I used to run Big Macs and candy bars at fat camp, and that's a true story—and don't fucking tell anybody, because we're going to have some issues. It was Camp Shane in New York, and it was literally like the movie Heavyweights. One of the counselors used to get me the stuff. Anything I wanted she would bring me, in the middle of the night sometimes, and then I would sell it off: Snickers, a bucket of fried chicken, and especially Big Macs. There were definitely kids there who lost no weight because they were just eating burgers. I stuck to it, and I actually lost about thirty or forty pounds. That counselor really broke all kinds of rules—she broke the ethics of life. She was nineteen, and I was just fourteen, but I told her I was seventeen. I lost my virginity to her the last day of camp, in a room full of boys asleep in bunk beds. It was awesome.
VIII. BASKIN-ROBBINS AND MINI BASEBALL HELMETS.
When I was younger, Baskin- Robbins started selling two-scoop sundaes in mini Major League Baseball helmets. You had to collect them all—it was like getting a Happy Meal, meaning sometimes you don't even really care about the ice cream, you just want another helmet. FYI: When I was younger I liked vanilla chip, but as I got older, I became a mint chocolate chip fiend, and there is no new flavour that can stop me.
IX. SUNNYDALE LEMON ICED TEA AND A HANDBALL GAME.
Sunnydale Farms was a milk company from Brooklyn that sold milk, juice, and tea in milk cartons with this cool design to all the New York City delis until 2005. They had lemon tea and fruit punch—that shit was like crack. They were a handball special; after handball you'd go in the corner store and they were like twenty-five cents—or free, if you just take one and walk on out.
X. FRIED CHICKEN AND NATURAL WINE.
The last time I was in Australia, we ate fried chicken every night and we drank natural wine every night. That's all I wanted: I was addicted to that combination. We got them both from this place Belles Hot Chicken, which focuses on natural wine and fried chicken in the Nashville style, where you roll it in the dry spices after it's fried. A few days later, we did it in fucking Melbourne too, because there's a Belles Hot Chicken there too. We even had Kimchi Pete Jo, a Korean chef and sommelier who is also Belles' natural wine consigliere, taste us through some of Australia's best natural wines on a rooftop. I was drunk off my ass—but a happy drunk, just enjoying myself—and I don't think that fried chicken has ever tasted so good, because that fucking natural wine acts like a fluffer.
XI. HOOD CHINESE FOOD AND DUTCHES.
As in asking the Chinese deliveryman to also bring up two vanilla Dutch Masters along with my General Torso's chicken. Hood Chinese is not actually hood, it's just New York City Chinese-American takeout Chinese. Do they deliver to a three-mile radius? Then it's hood Chinese.
OK, this is a big thing for me, I am not going to lie. I've switched between the brown sauce and the "light" white sauce (cornstarch, water, salt, and chicken stock) for years. I went through stages: General Tso's chicken, sesame chicken, or chicken and broccoli. I get on these kicks and I overdo it. There were points when I got sesame chicken every day for a month, then General Tso's every day for a month, then there'd be another switch-up. By then they'd know my order, and when I changed it, they would always be surprised: Oh, different today? It was like a Seinfeld episode. When you get General Torso's chicken—that's what I always call General Tso's—all you get are three lousy little pieces of broccoli, and they always taste like fish because they steam them in the shrimp dumpling basket. With the brown and the white chickens, the broccoli is sautéed together with everything else.
XII. BURNT-CINNAMON SAUSAGE AND NATURAL CIDER.
State Bird Provisions in San Francisco makes two of the best things I have ever had in my life: potato chips with salmon roe cured with Meyer lemon and served with crème fraîche, and this Thai-style Chiang Mai sausage with burnt cinnamon and sour fermented rice. They served it to me with a spontaneous, funky, natural hard apple cider, the alcoholic version, one where the yeasts that fermented the apples were wild and left to do their thing. That might be the most incredible pairing that I've ever had in my life, honestly, or at least at that moment it made me feel like it was.
XIII. TING AND A BEEF PATTY.
In New York, a lot of people who know nothing about Jamaican food know about Jamaican beef patties from New York City bodegas or the pizzeria. You'd get the beef patty split open and heat it up with cheese or with pepperoni. It's no longer Jamaican, really—it becomes like a true New York beef patty right there, because everybody used to get a beef patty with cheese—everybody. If I am being straight up, that was my first encounter with Jamaican food. My feeling is the best Jamaican patty spot anywhere is the Jamaican Flavors window on 165th Street in Queens outside the Colosseum Mall, a very popular thing in rap lore. Every rapper used to go there to get their sneakers and their clothing and jewellery. Downstairs there's almost like a little mini Diamond District. At Jamaican Flavors you can see that the patties are handmade. You can see the fat between the flake. You get them with curry chicken, jerk chicken, callaloo and salt fish, spicy beef, regular beef, BBQ, and so on, and they have a cooler of tropical Mistic fruit drinks and Ting on the sidewalk. You always gotta get some sort of punch with the patties, and I get the Ting, the Jamaican beverage of choice, always found in a small green glass bottle. It's a sparkling grapefruit soda—I usually don't like grapefruit, but I love Ting. Jamaicans are apparently the only ones left who drink Mistic, those ridiculously sweet rainbow-colored fruit drinks. Drink too many of them and you'll end up having to cut your foot off and walk around like Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump.
XIV. HOT DOUG'S AND A CHICAGO ROOFTOP.
I feel like something died in Chicago when Hot Doug's closed down in 2014. It's a shame. Hot Doug's was like a cuisine unto itself: To call what Doug Sohn did hot dogs or even sausages just does not do them justice. Each of his works was like a snowflake, found only once in nature, like the foie gras–and–Sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse, and sea salt, with a side of the duck fat fries that have that next-level crunch. We got into town three weeks before he was closing—I had nightmares I would miss my chance—and the line took four hours. We ordered fifteen diFFerent hot dogs and ate them on the rooftop balcony of the Michael Jordan suite at the Public Hotel Chicago overlooking Lake Shore Drive.
XV. WHITE TRUFFLES AND VANILLA SOFT-SERVE.
I've been putting olive oil on ice cream since forever, but at Lilia in Brooklyn, Chef Missy Robbins showed me how she puts truffles on top of soft-serve with olive oil, honey, and sea salt. Most vanilla ice cream is too rich and too delicious, but Häagen-Dazs is a good canvas for pretty much anything. Truffles are best on plain vanilla soft-serve, like at McDonald's or the one at Lilia. Usually with white truffles you just shave them onto something, but I feel like you have to activate them as well, with that little bit of olive oil and sea salt. Like at Babbo in Manhattan, where they do the pasta with white truffles with hot butter, a little bit of cheese, and salt.
(It's crazy, but the smell of that white truffle pasta reminds me of those little twenty-five-cent bags of Wise potato chips my mother used to get at Costco—that first initial blast of smell that's just been bubbling in the bag so that when you pop it open— whoa. My mother and I would go explore the Costco on Old Country Road in Long Island, so long ago it was still called Price Club. At Costco I got a see-through jade green beeper with a grey clip, Kirkland Signature cashmere sweaters, the Sega Genesis pack with Sonic the Hedgehog and Altered Beast and one controller, and a mountain bike. Mainly I would wander off and taste all the samples—you couldn't let me in the cake area or the croissant aisle—and pull the disappearing kid shit. Then when I couldn't find my mother, I would follow the sound of the jingle of keys on this silver key chain she had.)
XVI. CHOCOLATE AND LEMON ITALIAN ICE IN THE SAME CUP.
The chocolate-lemon mix is my thing—in Italian ices or even gelato. It used to be chocolate and cherry, but the lemon is better. The chocolate is rich and nutty, then you get that bright lemon that cuts right through it. When eating ices, you must also chew on the paper to get the last bit. Shooting a Super Soaker while eating an ice during the summer is also a must.
XVII: MILTON A. ABEL JR.'S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES WITH SALTED HONEY BUTTER.
Milton is an amazing person and pastry chef. He's worked at the best of the best—like French Laundry and Per Se—and his dad was a famous jazz musician in St. Louis, the Milton A. Abel Sr. I first had his chocolate chip cookies and honey butter with salt when he was working at Amass in Copenhagen. They did this American-style barbecue for us outside, and Milton made the perfect chocolate chip cookie—soft inside, with a crispy edge and so many chips it's like a chocolate-stuffed cookie—but also corn bread with honey butter, which he made with really good butter, Danish honey, and a touch of salt. I put the honey butter on the cookie. A year or so later, I was in Copenhagen, it was late, he DMed me, and he straight-up made me some cookies and honey butter at midnight and brought them over to the hotel. These are Milton's secret recipes. They don't cut corners, but that's why they're so sick.
MILTON SAYS: "I was a young demi chef de partie at the French Laundry and I made corn bread for the staff meal. I am very proud of my corn bread. I was excited for Chef Keller to taste it for the first time. I spied him going through the chow line and my excitement grew. He came around the corner with a piece of corn bread in his hand toward my station and said in a jovial way, Where the honey butter, Chef? Always gotta have honey butter with corn bread.
From that day forward I have never served corn bread without honey butter . . . ever . . . no matter where I have worked. When Action Bronson came to Amass for the BBQ, I made chocolate chip cookies, corn bread, and honey butter. He took the combo to the next level by putting the cookies and honey butter together."