Thursday, March 23, 2017

Speaking of Brick Ovens

For those of you who live near Durham, NH, I will be speaking at the Seacoast Home and Garden Show on the UNH campus on April 2nd.  This is an opportunity to see a visual presentation (highly informative), meet me, pick my brain, or just enjoy seeing the spectrum of possibilities that brick oven cooking offers.

Sonke Dornblut, a German baker for whom I built an oven last summer, will join me for commentary and bring hearth loaves for sampling.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What about The Patio?

Of all the outdoor brick ovens I've built, I can't recall one that didn't include a patio.  As a lifelong
landscape designer imagining and then building the patio or terrace in natural for me.  As with the ovens, each project is taken as a fresh opportunity with new people.  The photos here show a project in process.  A landscape design as it interfaces with a house and an outdoor kitchen has the advantage of adding embracing curves and multiple levels.

Often the clients and I have a conversation or two in which we walk around the space and think about shapes and uses.

Then I sketch a few ideas.  I feel that part of my job as a landscape designer/builder is to guide the owner towards the best possible design.  Sometimes wire flags are used to outline the area.

As the project unfolds, I look for elements that compliment the original design.

TBO 36" built on a ledge, bricks laid to point to the oven mouth

TBO 36" and outdoor grill, pot-burners, and workspace.
TBO 36" in Ventura CA 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Moby Brick: The Ventura Oven revisited

Thanks to Herman Melville

"Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse (purse?), and nothing particular to interest me on shore I thought" I would build a brick oven for my brother.
"It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul (and in New England); whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever"* my California brother asked for improvements to his place.

The project allowed me to explore the process of building  brick ovens far from my home base.  On one hand there were vast differences in environment and local style.  On the other hand, connecting with local Latino masons added a social (and language)l dimension that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I had previously designed and built the terraces on his steep hillside lot.  The oven, built between mid-December and early January expanded into a wine cellar project from a converted concrete tool shed.

I worked with local masons on the basics, something I do when far from my home turf.  The technical parts of the oven and the 'artistic' finish of the oven are mine to do.  Having seen some stone roofs in France, I modified the design to incorporate 1500 pounds of flat stone laid in a relaxed shingle.  

"Now small  (and tasty) fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago."

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Conservatory Brick Oven: Part Nine

Nearing the finish of the brick oven in my conservatory.  Just in time as the season will be starting for the ovens I'll be building around the country.

The face is done and the side walls are scratch coated awaiting the final stucco blend.

The square spaces on either side of the oven are for both later inspection and will be covered in metal grills to allow the little heat that escapes the enclosure to warm the conservatory in winter.

This last week, with outdoor temps in the 40's, the conservatory was in the mid-50's, a pleasant Springtime in the middle of February.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Explaining Brick Ovens

For two days, at the recent Portland Home, Remodeling and Garden Show in Portland, Maine, I attempted to explain the workings and advantages of brick ovens.  Granted, as a builder and baker myself, I am partial to the device.  Yet, in the history of cooking, there has never been a device that has outperformed or been more durable than a brick oven.

Time and again, people told of memories from earlier in the their lives or of houses from the past where these ovens played a big role in making food.

Some points that came up often:

  • It takes a laundry basket of hardwood to fire a 36" diameter oven to 700 degrees and without additional wood, the oven will be hot enough to cook many other meals for 3-4 days afterwards.
  • The cost of a true brick oven is less than most cars we buy yet it will last a life time (of five) without repair costs.
  • They can be built outdoors, indoors, or in moderated spaces such as three-season porches.
  • True Brick Ovens travels to most places in the country to build these.  We have a process and method that makes sense to do this.
  • And lastly, brick ovens are social magnets.  Owning and using one will change your social life as well as the quality of food you eat.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Conservatory Brick Oven: Part Seven

Despite the inclement weather of the past two weeks, the brick oven I am building in the conservatory space at my own home is progressing.

Pictured here is the 4" block surround wall and  will contain the insulation.  The front of the oven will be faced with brick and the sides will be stuccoed.