Saturday, December 28, 2013

Restaurant Size Brick Oven

Foamglas insulation blocks
The 54" brick oven project for Brewster Academy progresses.  Intended for a full range of baked food, this oven has a double floor illustrated by these photos.  I usually lay the subfloor straight front to back and the visible oven floor herringbone pattern.

Herringbone pattern layout

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Brewster Academy Brick Oven Project: part one

Dust enclosure on servery side
This project, compressed into the time between when students at Brewster Academy left for Christmas Break and when they return on January 7th, required more-than-average planning.

Forms over block base
Pouring concrete over backerboard

first set of rebar

An anonymous donor (who won't be named) wanted to change the way food is prepared by the chefs at Brewster Academy.  Executive Chef Chris Dill and others decided on a wood-fired brick oven.

The 54" interior diameter brick oven that I am currently building will have extra mass in the floor and dome to allow for only one firing per week but six days of cooking.
Laying out lines of oven floor

Part one involves the fairly heavy and mundane task of building a base and pouring the sub-oven-floor slab.  Weather cooperated in that it was drizzling and 40 degrees for much of the concrete mixing so that we could mix outside and bring the wet mix to the indoor location without creating a dust cloud.

Photos here show block base, forms, reenforcing, and slab. Stay tuned for more compelling shots.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Good Eats in the Big Apple

Granted, there are a million restaurants in the Big Apple.  I was there over Thanksgiving (thankfully missed the Macy's parade).
Not counted among the official eateries, I had a hot dog in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and my wife had a falafel from a vendor on 28th Street.

The Dim Sum lunch in Chinatown got us through the day before T-day.

But two restaurants served up really good food, reasonably priced, with a pleasing but contrasting ambiance and histories worth reading.

In the theater district, Chez Napolean  ( was a cozy, real-life French bistro style place with fantastic Prix-fixe dinners, low key service, affordable house wine, and a remarkable story.  Chef Grand-Mere Marguerite saved her native village from an end-of-war carpet bombing through an act of heroism.
For me, being able to step out of one city and into another simply, by entering a regional or ethnic restaurant, rates high among my eating experiences.

On Thanksgiving Day, prior to having dinner with my cousins in Brooklyn, my wife and I took the Q train to Coney Island.  I had grown up near there, eating in the original Nathan's, and had ridden the terrifying rides at Steeplechase such as the Cyclone and the Wild Mouse.
We strolled along the Coney Island-Brighton Beach boardwalk in crisp sunshine and stopped in at Tatiana's for bowls of Russian soup.  I had borscht and my wife had a mushroom soup, both perfect.
The semi-outdoor seating kept us on the boardwalk in spirit if not completely exposed to the 35 degree air.  The soup warmed us and the dark bread delivered the full Russian/Brooklyn experience.

The mint tea was nothing short of beautiful.

Later, we arrived at my cousins for a home-cooked dinner and a great reunion.