It was an item in the food section of the New York Times which caught my attention. A fellow whom I have known casually for years had gone into the BBQ rib business…and they were as available as a quick phone call or Internet message. Yes, magazine publisher Stephen Sheanin, he of the magnificent moustache, had started a new career at age 75…and it was offering something which I hunger for night and day…barbeque baby back ribs which had been spiced and smoked, packaged in one long slab, and could be delivered by messenger with one call or picked up at a few nearby markets. I went online to bbqheroribs.com, gave them my credit card info, an order for two racks for $79.95…and 24 hours later a knock on my door told me that my ribs were here.
I scissored off the wrapping, cut the rack into individual ribs, and put them into a pre-heated 350 degree oven. I waited impatiently at the oven door and after about 15 minutes I pulled one out and put it on a plate. The meat was so succulent and soft I managed to burn my fingers as I pulled it off the rib…and heaven awaited me. The meat was smoky soft, juicy and utterly delicious. I quickly finished off several more. The next morning I called magazine publisher Stephen and asked him how he had gotten into the BBQ rib business. He laughed and reminded me that he had been giving an annual BBQ Party for many years for a hundred or more people (to which I was always invited), and his specialty was his spicy, hickory-smoked Iowa baby back ribs. He served them without a sauce, which he offered separately. We remembered some of the things he had smoked over the years, including a whole pig and a goat.
He told me that last year a few of his chef friends had asked him if he could provide them with the same ribs for their restaurant customers. I think our mutual friend, Silvo DeMori of Il Piccolino, was one of the first, as was the owner of Beverly Hills’ Porta Via and several others. So Stephen explored sources, found a California smoke house who would make his specialty just as he liked it, and voila, this January he was in the rib business. Shortly thereafter several markets (Bob’s, Vicente Foods) began carrying them, more restaurants put them on their menus (Brentwood Café, Sunset Marquis Hotel’s Cavatina restaurant), and he found that word-of-mouth had spread the word via his website. One woman even told her eatery owner, “I am from Texas and these are the best ribs I have ever eaten.” Famous Michelin-starred chef Ken Frank from La Toque praised them, as did Spago’s Chef de Cuisine, my buddy Tetsu Yahagi, and even Bob Spivak, founder of The Grill, sang their praise. Stephen modestly told me that now there are a raft of rib fans: Marvin Zeidler of Capo, former studio exec Sherry Lansing, and even former California Governor Gray Davis and his wife, Sharon. The Wall Street Journal’s film critic Joe Morganstern and USC political strategist Bob Shrum, to name a few more, are fans. The website will arrange to have them shipped anywhere in the country overnight. Incidentally, he also offers a <strong<Corn Bread Mix ($6) which was so easy to prepare that even I could do it..put a cup of water in it, mix and put on a sheet into a hot oven for a half hour. Out came the best corn bread I have ever eaten. I tried the spicy original sauce but put it aside…not for me.
So if the urge for some bbq ribs strikes you some day or night, here is the simple, delicious solution. And never use a knife or fork on ribs…fingers work best. Enjoy!
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