It’s no secret that I hate the beach. And if you’re a good friend of mine, you would know better than to ever suggest to me that we do a beach barbecue. So when a friend of mine said barbecue and Malibu in the same sentence, I had to wonder. Do you not know me at all?!?! *sigh*
But he does know me, and the barbecue was not on the beaches of Malibu, but high up in the hills of Malibu, with a sweeping 270 degree view of the ocean. Now that’s the way I like to enjoy “the beach.”
The barbecues to which I am accustomed are like this: sometimes it’s BYOB, but if not, grab a Corona out of the cooler, and you have to cut your own lime on the chopping board over the sink. There’s wine (usually it’s pink) flowing like water from a box with a spigot, and maybe the group’s resident bartender is making mojitos in the kitchen. The host is pressing and poking the b’jeezuz out of burgers and dogs, hovering over the Weber in the corner of 2’x5’ balcony off a one bedroom apartment that’s got guests who smoke packed like sardines. While he’s grillin’, his better half, the barefoot hostessa, is chillin’, after she’s put out a bag of chips and a plastic tub of salsa, veggies and dip, and potato salad. It’s an affair of daisy dukes, tank tops, and visors.
Uh, this barbecue was a little different.
The barbecue was at someone’s house in the hills. Not deep within in a desert canyon. Not on a hillside. I got mildly nauseous taking hairpin turns on the outer lane, sometimes one lane (not one lane on each side, but ONE lane), all the way up to the highest peak of probably the highest damn mountain in Malibu. And there it was – enormous, with pale stucco walls and curved red tiles on the roof. A monstrous Spanish mission. I mean mansion.
We pushed open the iron-maiden weighted wooden castle doors, scanned rather quickly the sweeping, cavernous front hallway that passed under the wide spiral staircase into the museum of a living room. We took a right and passed through the kitchen. The kitchen, not the kitchen and dining area, but just the part that you cook in, was larger than my one bedroom apartment. I wanted to move in. Just into the kitchen. That’s all I need, really. The kitchen has its own bathroom so it was perfect.
So we stepped out to the backyard where the party was, which was much more than a backyard - it’s practically the whole side of a mountain. There’s an edge-less swimming pool (the kind in the pictures of luxury Cancun resorts) and hot tub. Perfect. I can enjoy the sweeping view of the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean down below from the nice, clean, chlorinated, germ-free and heated water in the pool.
There was a rather large man, dressed, how cute! In a chef’s jacket, behind an enormous built-in grill on the patio living area, with couches and coffee tables. Because you see, the patio dining area, with dining table and chairs, was further up the walkway. This must be the host, manning the grill. Sarah, meet Ray – he owns this place. Quick turn of head – there’s Ray behind me in his perfectly pressed linen Bermuda shorts, button down shirt and crocodile loafers sans socks. Wait, so who’s in front of me at the grill? OOOoooh. The man in the chef’s jacket behind the grill is actually – the chef! From the catering company – LOL! See, rich folk don’t barbecue (v. "to do actual work, get dirty and cook"). Dem rich folk, dey’z cater in da barbecue (n. "foods that magically appear on the table that are prepared by the hired help, but don't ask me how I've never cooked a thing in my life"), and walk around hosting their guests, sipping fruity margaritas that have been blended by the Hawaiian shirt-clad catering staff at the built-in bar on the patio dining area.
The whole scene in the backyard sort of reminded me of this movie from the early ‘80s with Goldie Hawn, Protocol. I was just a baby at the time it came out – but I remember watching it a few years later when it ran on TV and there’s this scene which I can’t remember the exactly, where a politician invites Goldie's character to a “barbecue.” She stumbles in wearing teeny tiny shorts, balancing a cooler, a boombox, and softball gear, but everyone else there is totally dressed up for a cocktail party that’s just set outside, like a barbecue, but not a barbecue. LOL! Oh well, it was funny to me. Did I digress too far? Anyway...
The bar thing made me smile. Great, I’ma gonna lik’a dees party! Can I get a margarita, rocks, no salt? The boy scout behind the bar gave me a blank stare. Aw geez, move over amateur, and lemme show you how to make a cocktail.
I think Ray is Latino, and I think he really likes all things Latino. Like Spanish mission architecture for his house. Like deep, rich, medieval Spanish castle inquisition interior decor (not in a scary way, but you know what I mean). Like the paintings by an Argentinean artist of flamenco dancers that will probably haunt me until I buy one for myself. Like the food he has catered in at his fiesta de barbacoa – Mexican.
Before the meats hit the grill for dinner, a gorgeous display of cut vegetables, dressings and dips, bread, and fruit had been set up next to the outdoor fireplace to fuel the early afternoon festivities. This ain’t your everyday barbecue veggies and dip. The chef also kept refreshing enormous bowls of handmade avocado-only guacamole (which I had never heard of until I saw a Delicious! Delicious! version), fresh pico de gallo, and the hit of the trio, ceviche. This wasn’t overly onions and totally tomatoes with a-few-paltry-pieces-of-puny-fish ceviche. No, there were entire slices of fish (not sure what kind, but slippery smooth, soft and fresh), the size of half the palm of my hand, swimming in a marinade of fresh squeezed lime juice (I saw the rinds on the counter in the kitchen), that was less like ceviche and more like sashimi served with a Mexican dipping sauce with whole leaves, no stems, of cilantro, chopped red onions and tomatoes, garlic. I don’t know what other herbs and spices were in there, but I could have made an entire meal out of just the ceviche and the whole grilled corn and flour tortillas. Incredible.
Dinner was fairly simple. Grilled steak that had been marinated with the same sort of Mexican flavors – lime juice, cilantro, chiles – and chicken. There were some additional grilled vegetables, but though I got a little of everything on my plate, I didn’t do anything but take tiny little tastes. To be polite and all. I just
kept eating the ceviche and washing it down with my margarita. I love this kind of “beach” barbecue – sitting in the comfort of a million-dollar mansion, feasting on ceviche, and enjoying the “beach” from yards and yards above sea level.