McCain's Mouth-Watering Weekend

John McCain grills ribs at his ranch in Sedona, Arizona.
John McCain grills ribs at his ranch in Sedona, Arizona. (Heather Brand, - )
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If Americans voted for president based on barbecuing skills, John McCain would win in a landslide.

The Arizona senator spent Memorial Day weekend doing what he loves best: presiding over the grill at his Sedona ranch. "He barbecued ribs all night," Sen. Lindsey Graham told CBS's Bob Schieffer. Graham was among the 20 or so guests ( Mitt Romney, Joe Lieberman, Sam Brownback, Charlie Crist, Bobby Jindal) invited for the "purely social" get-together.

His veep-stakes are a deep secret, but McCain readily shares his love of barbecue with anyone within hearing. "Nothing makes me happier," he told reporters in March. "I have so much nervous energy, it keeps me moving."

McCain, who favors gas over charcoal, has two large grills at the ranch. His favorite dish is baby-back pork ribs with a dry rub (equal amounts of garlic powder, salt and pepper), cooked bone down on low heat for 90 minutes; the bone gets hot and cooks the meat from the inside out. The secret to keeping them juicy? He brushes on fresh lemon juice. They are, from all accounts, yummy.

In the interest of equal time, we asked Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to share their outdoor cooking skills.

Obama's campaign was uncertain about his grill preferences. "They've certainly enjoyed a lot of barbecue on the campaign trail," said a spokesman. The Illinois Democrat was spotted near a grill during a campaign backyard barbecue in Iowa last August but didn't pick up the tongs.

Clinton's folks didn't return calls, but the candidate is savvy enough not to singe herself in the cooked-meat debate. "The only question, the only question I will not answer is, 'Which is the best barbecue?' " Clinton told a crowd in North Carolina earlier this month. "I've made plenty of mistakes in my life and I'm not walking into that one!"


One in an occasional series of dispatches from parties you should have crashed.

Occasion: Thursday's 20th Sons of Italy awards gala at the National Building Museum, celebrating all things Italian.

VIPs: Singer Tony Bennett, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, actor Joe Mantegna, casino magnate Steve Wynn.

Tangled roots: Organizers thought Wynn would be the first non-Italian to be honored by the organization until they discovered his maternal grandfather was from Naples.

Menu: Tasting reception with dishes prepared by Roberto Donna, Massimo Fabbri and others; sea bass and tenderloin with polenta, hazelnut daquiose.

Bar: Open! Italian wines, of course.

Star power: A 45-minute concert by Bennett, still going strong at 81. "I love being Italian," said the singer, who hardly ever talks between songs but was a regular chatterbox at the party. He opened "The Good Life" by saying, "If I may, I'd like to dedicate this song to ex- Governor Spitzer," and lobbied for positive images of Italian Americans in Hollywood: "They should be making movies about that instead of the other junk."


· Ted Kennedy went sailing on his schooner, Mya, yesterday, one week after he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. "It couldn't be a more wonderful day," he told well-wishers and reporters. The Massachusetts Democrat raced on the second leg of the Figawi regatta from Nantucket to Hyannis and finished second in his division; wife Vicki, Sen. Chris Dodd, and sons Patrick and Edward Jr. joined him for the two-hour sail. "He was at the helm all day and was barking out orders," Edward Jr. said at the awards ceremony, adding that his dad was "looking forward to coming back next year."


· Married: CNN's Dana Bash, 36, and John King, 44, in a traditional Jewish wedding on Cape Cod Sunday night. The media couple -- Washington co-workers who fell in love -- tried to keep the beachside nups low-key with just family and a few friends. King converted to Judaism for his bride; second marriage for both.

· Married: Sen. Daniel Inouye to Irene Hirano Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif. The Hawaii Democrat, 83, and the 59-year-old head of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles tied the knot in a small private ceremony.

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