The Wood-Fired Blog

More on Pizza Ovens and Innovation

The fishermen takes time to repair his nets, and lumberjacks always needs to carve out (see what I did there?) the time to sharpen their axes. So, what does a pizza oven manufacturer do during the rare quiet moment in the winter? We invest in our tooling. We are always developing new manufacturing tools and methods, and we’ve been particularly active this winter. Do you remember the early Lexus car commercials — the ones with the marble running along the perfect joints between the car panels? Forno Bravo is working harder than ever to improve the “fit and finish” of our ovens. Our interlocking oven design has always made it easy (and obvious) to correctly and accurately assemble our oven (this is important because many of our competitor’s ovens use simple butt joints, where it is really difficult to figure out whether the oven is pushed together properly), and we are improving our tooling to make those edges and joints even better.

Plus, starting in 2013, the Forno Bravo oven doors will be manufactured using a CNC (computer number controlled) laser cutting machine from 3D CAD drawings. This is really cool, and it means that our doors will be more accurate than ever.

Meanwhile, we’re busy moving to our new facility (more on that to come), but taking a break for the holiday season. Happy holidays to you and your family.

Casa Grande High School — OLE

Before we moved to the Monterey Peninsula (via Florence), we lived in Sonoma county in the beautiful California wine country. So when we heard about the Casa Grande High School OLE Project (Outdoor Learning Environment) in Petalum, CA, we were really interested. To quote the source:

The OLÉ Project is an exciting new venture that will provide students at Casa Grande High School with an expansive new area to learn about science, literature, history, math, and a variety of other subjects. The Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) will feature a kitchen with a pizza oven to be used by students, a vegetable garden and fruit orchard, and seating for classes and special events.

You can visualize how a pizza oven can serve as a real catalyst for community activities and student learning. So we decided to donate an assembled Toscana pizza oven to the project. We have done all of the paperwork, and the oven will be shipped and set up shortly. This is really exciting, and we want to wish everyone involved Good Luck!

Outdoor Fireplace as Art

Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration. InspirationFeed.com wants you to be inspired — whatever you are doing. So their recent web page on 30 Awesome Outdoor Fireplace & Fire Pit Designs demonstrates a lot of creativity and originality.

A fireplace is an architectural structure designed to contain a fire for heating. Over time the design of fireplaces has changed from necessity to visual interest. To put it simply, they make a fashion statement along with the interior design. I’m sure if you ask any homeowner they will opt in for a unique fireplace rather than ugly rectangle one (no offence if you currently have one). Listed below are thirty stunning fireplace and fire pit designs that might make you rethink your living room. Enjoy!

My biggest questions is how well many of the glass designs hold up to the heat and smoke of fire, and how well they hold up over time. Still, these all look great.

This outdoor fireplace is for sale at Fire Pit Art.

December Wood-Fired Newsletter

The December 2012 Wood-Fired Newsletter was distributed last week. If you did not received your own copy, you can Read It Online Here.

We started the Forno Bravo Newsletter in May 2008, and we have been distributing it each month for mid 2009 — over 3 1/2 years. I want to send a big thank you to the team that is responsible for writing, producing and distributing this wonderful publication. Thanks guys.

Want to have our free newsletter delivery each month to your computer? You can sign up here:

Pizza Oven Photos!

We just posted three new web pages of pizza oven photos on FornoBravo.com (about 40 pix), and there are some beautiful ovens. If you are just starting to design your own oven or outdoor kitchen, and you are looking for inspiration — this is the place to go. Click on Residential Ovens and it will take you to the new pictures.

The Forno Bravo Photo Journal

Or, if you already have your own pizza oven, and you are looking for a good excuse to do something creative, we will be announcing a new Forno Bravo photo contest in the next couple of days; in the December edition of the Wood-Fired Newsletter. The competition is open to everyone; well, everyone with a pizza oven. Your oven doesn’t have to be new, but your photo does. So if you have a wonderful photo of your pizza oven that you have never sent to us — send it. If you have already sent us all of your photos, then you can take new pictures of your oven and send those. The contest is officially for the best “photograph”, not the best “pizza oven”. Let’s get some really nice snow photos!

Stay tuned for the details of the contest. Meanwhile, you can send your photo entry to photos@fornobravo.com, and will be be sure to keep track of it.

Wall and Floor Temperature in a Conventional Oven

I had an interesting encounter with the conventional electric oven in our kitchen yesterday (not one of the more interesting pizza ovens on my patio). We were doing some Sunday baking that included a loaf of banana bread, two trays of mince pies and a sheet of focaccia. Yum.

Anyway, at one point the two trays with the mince pies were assembled and ready, but the banana bread was already in the oven — so I moved the banana bread to the bottom of the oven and set both trays of pies on the racks. The oven was on convection bake at 350F deg. What’s interesting is after a couple of minutes you could smell scorching, and I quickly removed a tray of pies, and put the bread back on the rack. As the first round of pies were done, I swapped the other tray in, and everything worked out nicely.

But why did the bottom of my bread burn so quickly?

I got my infrared thermometer, and confirmed that the floor (and walls for that matter) were about 350F deg. This seems to be a case where the heat in the oven floor is conducting through the metal loaf pan faster (much faster) than the air (is the air also 350F deg?).

Time to do some research into this. It would be interesting to understand the physics of this. One last point, this does seem to confirm the recommendation that you put your pizza stone on the bottom of your oven, rather than on a rack — for more efficient heat conduction.

Here are my scorch marks. Other than, this is a really nice loaf of bread.

Happy Holiday Season

Happy Holidays from everyone at FB. Living on the left coast near the ocean has its pluses and minuses. As I look out over a warm day and blue sky (and think about going for a run at lunch), I can’t help but think about our relatives in the UK and our daughter in Boston — who are seeing real winter this year. On the other hand, we’ve been here in Monterey country for five years and I still can’t quite get over the lack of real seasons. Our local area is covered with Monterey Pines (of course), Live Oak and Cypress trees, and very few (almost no) deciduous trees, so it’s always green. Never red or orange, and never bare. In the days after our monster Pacific storms blow through you can barely tell which season it is by just looking out the window. So I guess it’s hard to complain about the weather when it’s so nice.

We often talk about how the best weather is in Florence. That part of Italy gets four real seasons — freezing in the winter and very hot summers; and just as you are getting tired of the heat or cold, you can feel the season starting to change. You never get bored, and there is some rainfall throughout the year.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday shopping season as well. We are getting lots of phone calls and Internet orders for pizza ovens, oven accessories at Forno Bravo, and I think we’re doing a good job of keeping up. If you don’t get connected straight through to a sales agent, please bear with us. If you are looking to have one of our smaller, pre-assembled ovens shipped in time for Christmas, but sure to let our sales people know, and we can work with you to see if it’s still possible. Don’t forget that you will need to cure your oven before doing any cooking, so roasting your Christmas turkey might not be possible at this point. But pizza for New Year’s Eve sounds pretty darn good.

Again, happy holidays to you and yours. It’s a wonderful time of year. Enjoy.

CIM 2012 Race Report

Race reports are a part of the running community, and I’m not sure whether you want to read them here — but I thought I would share. We try to be a little funny and irreverent, while capturing the feeling for the day and the race. So if you are interested, here is my RR from CIM 2012.

Wind and Rain

A little bit of background. I have raced CIM twice before — 2:55 last year, and 3:04 in 2010. Two years ago there wasn’t a 3:05 pace group, because at the time the 35 and under Boston qualifying time was 3:10. So I made a last minute decision to run with the 3:00 group even though I wasn’t ready to run sub 3. But it worked out, and I ran 1:29:30/1:34:30 to hang on to grind out a 5 minute PR (with a +5 split). Last year, CIM was the first leg of the CIM2LasVegas double, and I was scheduled to run 3:20 with Paul. Just fast enough to catch the flight to Las Vegas, but slow enough to reserve some energy. But at the last minute, Paul missed his flight, so I thought what the heck, and ran full speed. I did 1:26:30/1:28:30 for a 2:55 — which is my current PR. And then caught a flight to Las Vegas where a few of us ran the marathon there. It was a memorable day.

My training this year since the Headlands 50 has been designed to help me build the speed and endurance to break my PR and perhaps even get down to 2:51:59 — less than two hours plus my age. I knew that it was a stretch, and I could feel that my easy speed improvements as a beginner were coming to an end. Comparing my training cycles from  2011 to 2012, this year I ran more miles at a slightly faster pace. The 50 miler was positive, though a different running event, I ran a poor 5K in October, and two pretty good 12 miles tempo training runs in November. Which basically meant that nothing was in the bag, but lots of things were possible — I guess that’s what makes it fun.

When I went to bed Saturday evening the weather was pretty calm, and despite having watched the local weather on TV (who correctly predicted that the worst of the storm would come through between 4AM and 9AM Sunday morning), I fell asleep thinking that they might be wrong and that we might have some real racing weather. Classic denial. Or maybe misguided optimism. All of which shattered by reality when the alarm went off at 4:30 and I looked out the window and the rain was pouring down sideways in sheets and the wind was cracking through the trees. The weatherman is almost always wrong — but today they nailed it. Great.

I drove to the start with another runner from my hotel, and we were just laughing as the car danced along the freeway in the wind. There was a tree down in the road near the start, with emergency crews cleaning up, and after she parked we just sat there looking at each other and saying “I’m not going out there”. Finally, I put on my garbage bag and stood in line to take the shuttle to the start. Some people were laughing, and a few had a look of complete shock. Like “what the heck am I doing here”? You know me, I think marathons are great and getting the crowd going was a lot of fun.

One of my more memorable moments was when I was sitting there in the porta-potty and the walls were rocking back and forth and shaking, and I thought to myself — “I am really glad I’m here. What a blast”. We had gusts into the high 20s (low 30s?), directly into our faces at the start.

Miles 1-6 40:41

As usual, I had no idea what my race plan was. A PR attempt was gone, but I wanted a BQ for 2014. I couldn’t make up my mind whether to settle in with the 3:20 group, or try to go faster. After a while Ron came up beside me and said hello — which was a big stroke of luck. He’s been running for years, we’re the same speed, he’s a Silicon Valley guy, he went to the same college where my daughter goes to school, and best of all, he actually knows what he’s doing.

We’re talking and running. My shoe laces come undone (I’m so not committed to the race that I didn’t even double knot my shoes), and I lose 20 seconds.

Early on, my watch gets wet and fritz’s out, so I’m gonna have to rely on other runners.

At some point Ron says that we are going to be taking a left turn into the wind soon and that we’d better find a group. Of course he’s right. So we speed up and get into the 3:05 group. My new home. We turn south and it’s like woof. The wind actually knocks you upright.

Miles 7-13.1 51:04

Water is pouring down the street — sometime over the top of our shoes making little puddles in the inner sole. We pass a dead raccoon who is making a dam and a little lake. Nice. Not much to say, really. The hardest part is trying to not trip anybody or get tripped, but staying tight really helps. Nobody is talking, and there is definitely not enough laughing. Tough crowd.

There are ankle high puddles everywhere and little streams and rivers in the road.

At some point after the longest due south stretch, Ron gets bored and says he’s off to catch the 3:00 group. He waves at me to come along, but I can’t do it.

I’ve never run with a pacing group before, and you get hammered at every aid station. Everybody slows down, we run into each other getting drinks, and then we have to get started back up again. Somewhere along the line I decide that I’m not perspiring anyway, so I stop drinking.

We hit the half, and I call out — what’s our time? And nobody responds. It’s survival mode.

Looking back, we hit the half at about 1:31:45 — on track for 3:03:30, so the pacer is a little ahead of schedule; though I didn’t know it at the time. And it took way to much energy to hit that time. A lot to much.

Miles 14-20 48:02

After the half, we grind on for a while (and I don’t know that we are faster than 3:05) and I’m thinking, OK, I’m going to fade so let’s try to beat 3:10 so that I don’t feel too badly about this race. Depression is a sad thing.

Then, a couple of miles after the half, we veer to the southwest, and the wind drops down. And we look up, and at the same time the pacer and I both say “maybe the wind is done”. The pace is feeling fine, so I pull out a little ahead of the pack to see if I can pull away. But after a couple of miles, I can hear them back there going pop, pop, pop, pop, so I give up and fall back into the group.

The pack is getting smaller, and we’re just holding on. But I’m right behind the pacer, and he’s a big guy — which is good, and it’s getting a little easier hanging with the group.

Miles 21 – 26.2 43:56

The rain has just about stopped and the wind has died down. If the race had started two hours later this would have been a PR day. Who would have believed it at 6AM.

At mile 21 something funny happens. We’ve been reeling in Ron — he tried to catch the 3:00 group but didn’t make it, and he had to run in the wind and rain by himself without the help of the group. So he isn’t that far ahead of us.

And then pacer slows down a little and says that he’s ahead on time, and he’s going to be slowing down — and the if you’ve got a little left in the tank to just go for it.

What the heck. Why not.

I caught Ron just before the bridge at mile 21.5 and keep going. In the last 4 1/2 miles I passed 49 runners, and got passed by two guys who beat me by about 100 yards. The crowds were out and the music was pretty good, and I was counting runners as I went. It was good for my concentration. My watch didn’t work, and I have no idea how CIM’s splits work, so I don’t know how fast I was going, but it felt OK.

My final was 3:03:40, so I ran almost dead even halves. That would include a fast first quarter, an awful second quarter that was both slow and a huge energy sink, and a strong finish.

Overall, this was a completely new experience for me. I’ve run PRs (which are pretty easy to get when you are a newbie), and a number doubles, where the second marathon is a fun run. This was neither. It wasn’t 100% effort, but it was close. And it felt good putting in my near best effort even though I knew it wasn’t a PR day. I could have mailed it in, but I didn’t.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Now it’s time to get ready for Boston 2013. I am committed to setting what is going to be my lifetime PR some time in the next couple of years. I would really like a Moose Mug (which does down to 2:52:59 in two month), I would love to hit a 2:49:xx before I get too old, and the course record for 55-59 at Big Sur is 2:57:xx. These are serious goals that I know are going to take a lot of work and some good luck. But I’m game to try.