This story, like so many in Hollywood, has a guaranteed happy ending. My brother Doug, an executive at a company that makes all the big movie trailers, sent me the following email about his years-long search for a certain type of BBQ in the City of Angels:
“A few years ago a friend invited me to a party being thrown by a guy involved in the movie industry at this amazing house in Malibu. He had made a movie a while ago, but like so many people in L.A., he was living a luxurious life without any ongoing discernible income.
“His kitchen had a Sub-Zero refrigerator with glass doors, a vintage stove, the works. He had prepared several different kinds of marinated tri-tip, and each plate had a card attached with the marinade recipe and accompanying drink suggestions.
“I commented to someone at the party, ‘This is a man that has a lot of free time.’
“He also had a grill that I have thought about constantly ever since that day. It was a wood-burning grill, not a smoker. It was basically a square metal firebox with an adjustable height grate. I asked my friend about it after the party and she said he claimed not to remember where he had gotten it.
“I have fruitlessly searched and searched for this grill.
“Here is the grill. It is less than $200.”
After receiving this joyous email from my brother, whose smoked brisket is revered and requested at backyard parties throughout the greater L.A. basin, I did a slight bit more research. Santa Maria is a central coast town in California with a history of cattle ranching. The cowboys used to hold large barbecues after roundups.
Traditional Santa Maria barbecue requires either a 3-inch thick boneless top-sirloin or a tri-tip, usually 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. Season only with salt, pepper and garlic (a big central California crop, of course). It is cooked over red oak and served with toasted French bread.
My brother has ordered his. He will be having a party soon. If you are invited and ask, he will not be as stingy with information as the Malibu guy. He’s a working guy like you. Anyway, why should barbecue tips be considered “a secret?”