Sunday, March 30, 2014


noun: oligopsony; plural noun: oligopsonies
  1. 1.
    a state of the market in which only a small number of buyers exists for a product.
    That would be what I do.
    Why would someone spend more on a true brick oven as for a cast-refractory (concrete) brick oven shell?  (This is not always accurate if you check the 'high end' cast concrete shells advertised.)
    The question has three compelling answers:
    1. A true brick oven dome, built to precise standards, is far stronger than a cast dome.  Try jumping on a cast dome shell.
    2. The view into a true brick oven is of a pattern of brick that is both pleasing to look at and actually built by a real person.  (Okay, real people at factories pack the concrete into the molds that form the cast shells). Cast refractory domes are, by definition, industrial looking.
    3. My design for the modern version of the Pompeii domed oven has numerous advantages over the cast refractory ovens.  While preserving the traditional shape of wood-fired ovens found in many cultures for thousands of years, I have refined the design so that my current ovens have: a face that is wider than the mouth giving perfect access to all parts of the oven interior, a custom damper system that allows these ovens to be built into interior kitchens, and fresh air (or make-up air) channels for improved draft.
    Thriving in an oligopsony means that the designer, builder, and company owner is the person whom you speak with when you call about your project.  The same person, David Neufeld is present when the project is in motion. 

    A market in which a great number of buyers exists is call a Walmart (easier to pronounce).

    Because I am in an oligopsony, I have gotten to work with superb masons all over the U.S. who have specialties of their own that contribute to the final oven.  Thanks to all of them.

    This is the first and last time I will burden anyone with that word.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Brewster Academy Oven update

Now more than a two months into the use of their brick oven, the Brewster chefs have expanded to include nearly every kind of food.  Here's a quote from Executive Sous Chef Tom Kelliher, " “If we knew what an asset our wood-fired oven would have been for Brewster Academy, we would have requested this years ago” Brewster Academy produced a video so that their extended community could see the project in action...
"Brewster’s admissions office enjoys the reactions from potential Alumns’ families when they first set eyes on our brilliant WFO [wood-fired oven].  Located in the center on the servery and outfitted with a rock façade from floor to ceiling and granite hearth, our oven has become a sight seeing destination for our guests..." 
Chris Dill
Food Service Director BA

 Because I live near this place, I get to see the chefs using the oven. I enjoy hearing about all the ovens I've built.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Brick Oven Cost revisted

It's been exactly two years since I attempted to give those interested in purchasing a brick oven a solid bead on the costs.
In those two years, I have built more than a dozen brick ovens and consulted on a dozen others.  The answer to the question is...

What exactly do you want?  NOT a true answer, I admit, but it is the most important question that needs answering.

Because I build custom brick ovens, made for individuals and their unique locations and requirements, answering a group of questions will lead directly and effectively to an oven with a specific price tag.  It will, more importantly, result in an oven that works perfectly.

Here are a few categories of ovens and uses:
  1. The residential or home brick oven.  Usually 36" interior diameter unless you have crazy-big parties; then 42" or bigger.
  2. The outdoor brick oven, often part of an outdoor entertainment and kitchen space.  My longtime company: North Star Stoneworks is able to build out from the oven and integrate it into the landscape.
  3. The indoor brick oven, a smart choice in rugged climates where rain, snow, bugs, wind, and local gangs or neighbors might be a problem.  These oven can fit into conventional kitchens by placing the volume of the oven in a bumped-out space adjacent to the kitchen. Code-compliant, stainless steel insulated chimneys allow for ease of running exhaust vapors.  Indoor ovens by TBO now have make-up air channels so negative draft issues and air infiltration is eliminated.
  4. Bakery brick ovens capable of producing hundreds of loaves a day and remaining at temperature for long periods.  These oven have extra mass in the dome and extra insulation under the floor and above the dome.  They are used to cook large amounts of food ranging from pizza to roasts, bread to slow-cooked casseroles.
  5. Portable brick ovens suited for catering business that want to cook on site.

The above five categories begin to determine cost.  The other factor is style.  Ovens range from exterior finish that is very simple to elaborate details such as stone roofs, special tile and brickwork, stone, and even frescoes.

What I can do for anyone inquiring (see website TBO Checklist) is respond to a detailed request that includes photos and desired features.  If after talking with you, we have a clear idea of the oven you want, an exact cost amount will follow.  Then you'll know the true cost. 

Please note: Factories, like those that turn out hundreds of cast refractory shells that you can buy, are able to put a dollar amount on their stamped-out product because they are all identical.  The hidden costs of finishing the job and the longevity of the oven are not mentioned.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

1844 House and Abbocato: Restaurants Extraordinaire

March 19th and another 6" of new snow outside.  Winter in New England is often long.  This year though it has also been cold.
Back in January, I built an oven near Potsdam, New York (See Sub-zero Oven post).  Shortly after, my wife and I flew to Costa Rica (last post).
These two restaurants, one in a town that was minus 41F in January and one in a place that averaged 80F in mid February, were both extraordinary experiences.  They were so far beyond good that I would go out of my way by many miles (3000) to eat there again. 

 Culinary team Brian & Jenny Walker opened the 1844 House in May of 2006 and have since made it a landmark of dining in the north country.

Check out this killer 'first flavor' dish.

Yellow Fin Tuna (GF)   $12
Picture of 'Yellow Fin Tuna'
A sampling of three preparations.
Sesame seared on a crisp wonton with spicy cucumber 

sambal, tartare style with pickled ginger and soy, 
five spice seared skewers with hoisin bbq glaze.

Picture of 'Rosemary-Garlic Roast Rack of Lamb'
Rosemary-Garlic Roast Rack of Lamb (GF)   $29

Cabernet demi-glace, creamy mashed potatoes, market fresh vegetables.

Yeah, it's that good.

On the night I was there, I spoke with Brian Walker, the chef of that evening.  He, as many great chefs are, is always trying new flavors.  Although there are favorites at 1844, he is enthusiastic about introducing his guests to new dishes, ones he and his co-chef and wife Jenny devise.

Despite the bone-chilling temperatures outside, the consistent quality and beauty given to every part of the dinner made winter disappear.

All of desserts exceed expectations with surprise flavors tucked into each one.

Nearing the last day of our time in Costa Rica, we drove to Abbocato because ALL the reviews were five stars!  We found the restaurant in a palatial building on the property of Hacienda Del Mar, a quietly growing resort above Golfo Papagayo (go to link:
This is another restaurant in which the chefs working together is integral to the perfection of the dishes.  Paola Villalobos Pinzon welcomed us warmly and together with Andrea Fiorentin suggested the tasting menu (Wow!). 
When two great chefs combine their talents and agree to serve only dishes both of them deem perfect, the dining experience is unparalleled.  As we were the last to leave that night, we had some moments to talk with Andrea and Paola.  They shared their enthusiasm for what they do and their plans for the future of Abbocato. 

The world of fine food is a tightrope walk.  
These two chef teams, 3000 miles apart, have perfect balance.

Thanks to Brian and Jenny...and to Paola and Andrea!