Wood-Fired Cooking is Catching on Like Wildfire

Some Italian restaurants like Chicago’s legendary Spiaggia have been cooking with wood for decades. Why? Because that’s the way it’s done in the old country. And if you want that authentic old-world taste, cooking with wood is the way to go. It infuses each dish with a flavor you just can’t get any other way.

In more recent years, chefs across the country have embraced wood-fired cooking for anything from roasted root vegetables to grilled calamari. And brick oven pizza joints seem to be popping up all over town. You can smell the wood-fired ovens for blocks, drawing people in with the enticing aromas. With the continued trend of gourmet cooking at home, it was only a matter of time before wood-fired cooking would become the next outdoor living phenomenon. Enter the residential brick oven.

Several years ago, Belgard anticipated this trend and partnered with Chicago Brick Oven to create a line of brick ovens clad in Belgard hardscape products that would blend seamlessly with other Belgard product lines to create fabulous outdoor kitchens with the added option of a matching wood-fired brick oven.

SRA_STOCKTON_RES_BEL2015_Patio_OutdoorKitchen_MegaLafitt_BristolPizzaOven_001B_previewBristol Brick Oven

Constructed with Weston Stone® wall block and accents of Urbana® Stone pavers, the Bristol Brick Oven makes a statement and adds major flair to wood-fired cooking. With a built-in wood box and large capacity oven, the Bristol oven is the outdoor chef’s dream and coordinates with other pieces from the Belgard Elements Bristol Series, including a grill island, fireplace, and various modular outdoor bar and kitchen pieces. Color options include the warm tones of Gascony Tan (shown) and cool gray tones of Cotswold Mist.

NFD_E_RES_BEL2015_Patios_Steps_Walls_OutdoorKitchens_Urbana_MegaArbel_Bullnose_Celtik_MegaBergerac_BordeauxElements_MidnightCopingBordeaux Brick Oven

The Bordeaux Series of the Belgard Elements line offers a smaller footprint and is clad with the contemporary stacked-stone look of Lamina® Stone veneer. The Bordeaux Brick Oven also includes a built-in wood box and is trimmed with accents of polished Cordova Stone™, available in either the Midnight (shown) or Buff trim options. Other coordinating pieces from the Bordeaux Series include a grill island and a fireplace with optional matching wood boxes. Both the Bristol and Bordeaux ovens can include optional low-voltage hardscape lighting.

MLR_RES_BEL2014_Patios_OutdoorKitchens_Urbana_WestonWall_AnchorHighlandWall_BullnoseCoping_ChicagoBrickOven_001_previewCounter Top and Mobile Ovens

With four versions to choose from, the counter top brick oven can easily turn any outdoor kitchen into a gourmet cooking space without the time and expense of a full custom installation. The counter top oven is available in copper or silver finish with either a dome (shown) or pyramid roof line. Durable steel carts are also available to convert the counter top model into a portable oven that can be re-positioned as needed around your outdoor living space. Hybrid models are also available that allow cooking with either gas, wood, or a combination of both heat sources simultaneously.

TailgaterHero-e1412618458661Tailgater Brick Oven

Take your passion for wood-fired cooking on the road with Belgard’s towable Tailgater package, making it possible to take the unmatched experience of wood-fired cooking and entertaining to collegiate and professional football games, motorsport events, music concerts, festivals, and more. The Tailgater brick oven is available in both the wood-burning model and the hybrid gas/wood model .

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For more information, contact a local dealer or installer or visit the brick oven page on Belgard.com.

Honor Grandparents with a Patriotic Backyard BBQ

There are certain words that just seem to go good together: peanut butter and jelly; Simon and Garfunkel; Grandparents and patriotism. It is hard nowadays to find a person from an older generation who does not have a deep love for their country. Many have fought for their country or have had friends or family who have served. This year, National Grandparents Day falls on the anniversary of one of the most devastating days in American history: September 11th. Take the opportunity to honor both your grandparents and your country by putting together a wonderful “America” themed backyard party that they are sure to love and remember.

Pulled pork sliders dressed with coleslaw.

Pulled pork sliders dressed with coleslaw.

What to Cook

Warning: the following recommendation takes about five hours to cook, so plan ahead.  For this party, try and cook some old fashioned pulled pork. Pulled pork is relatively easy if you take away the time it takes to cook it. Start by seasoning your pork with your favorite dry rub. Try ingredients such as brown sugar, salt and pepper, celery salt, chilli powder, paprika, thyme, and onion powder. Feel free to add whatever seasoning you desire. Wrap it all up in foil, and let it sit at room temperature while you heat up the grill. You want the coals to burn to a white ash, with temperatures reaching about 200 degrees F. Place some wood chips on top of the coals. This writer recommends pecan or cherry. Then place your pork on the grill using indirect heat. To keep this temperature, add coals every two hours to the grill. Once your pork has reached an internal temperature of about 170 degrees, remove it from the grill and add more foil to it to keep those juices in. The pork will be finished when you can easily pull the pork apart by hand. This whole process should take about five or so hours.


Hopefully you have yourself a wonderful vegetable garden by now. Take advantage of the end of the season and pull the remaining veggies from the garden. You can also show off your gardening skills to grandma. Add your garden-fresh veggies to a salad, or cook them on the grill. Prior to grilling, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


Seeing that you are going to have plenty of time to kill while you wait on that pork to cook, you should plan on some easy-to-play backyard games. A classic one that everyone knows is horseshoes. Just don’t let grandpa cheat. Croquet is another one that is fun for the whole family. A good croquet set is an inexpensive buy at your local sporting goods store. If you can, convince the kids to prepare and put on a funny skit for their grandparents. This could end up being the most memorable part of the day.

Homemade Old Fashioned CocktailCocktails

What’s a backyard BBQ without a few drinks? In addition to everyone’s favorite wine or light beer, try making some classic cocktails that grandparents surely know and love. A good old fashioned drink to serve your guests is, you guessed it, an Old Fashioned. Make it official by purchasing a few Old Fashioned glasses. Place a cube of sugar in the glass, then pour a few dashes of Angostura bitters on top. Put a splash of club soda or water into the glass. Crush the sugar with some sort of spoon or wooden muddler. Rotate the glass around so that the sugar and bitters line the glass. Place a very large ice cube in the glass. Proceed to pour in the rye, or bourbon if you prefer, then voila! You have yourself an Old Fashioned. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. If you like it a little sweeter, you can also add some of the cherry juice.


For dessert, once again do something simple and classically American. Baking a batch of cookie for grandma, rather than the other way around, is sure to put a smile on her face. Perhaps whip up an apple pie. This will keep the America theme going. After all, what’s more American than apple pie?

Outdoor Living Trends in New Home Construction

For over a decade, the gradual trend has been for homeowners to transform the formerly open backyards of existing homes into definable “outdoor living” spaces. In new home construction, however, this phenomenon has grown exponentially in more recent years to the point that outdoor living has becoming a standard feature at just about any price level. Although upgraded outdoor living spaces are more common at higher price levels, new construction home buyers at all levels want to know that they’ll be able to live in and enjoy their outdoor spaces. According to builders, realtors and landscape architects, some definable trends have emerged as being “highly desirable” to potential buyers.

Indoor/Outdoor Convergence: For several years, the trend has been to create outdoor living areas that mimic indoor living. This has evolved in a way that with many new home designs, there is no distinct separation between the indoor and outdoor spaces, but more of a fluid separation between the two areas. These types of designs might incorporate floor-to-ceiling retractable glass walls, stackable doors or floor materials that contribute to that sense of flow. For example, Belgard Porcelain Pavers were designed for outdoor use, but coordinate with a line of interior porcelain tile, which allows for the same flooring aesthetic to be used both inside and outside of the home.


Multiple floor-to-ceiling glass doors and Ardesie porcelain pavers make this porch feel like a continuation of the home’s interior living spaces.

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Fully Functioning Kitchens: Although this trend is more typically seen in higher priced homes, smaller homes are jumping on the outdoor kitchen bandwagon, even if on a smaller scale — like with a simple built-in grill. But for mid-level homes and above, buyers want an outdoor kitchen with all the conveniences of an indoor kitchen, and then some. In luxury homes, the outdoor kitchen often costs more than the indoor kitchen, with amenities that incorporate everything from dishwashers to brick ovens. In many cases, the outdoor kitchen also functions as an outdoor bar and includes items like roll-top beverage coolers, kegerators and wine refrigerators.

This well-appointed outdoor kitchen and bar includes seating, outdoor refrigerator, kegerator, Bristol Brick Oven, built-in grill, sink and storage.

This well-appointed outdoor kitchen and bar includes seating, outdoor refrigerator, kegerator, Bristol Brick Oven, built-in grill, sink and storage.

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Integrated Audio/Visual and Lighting: New homes of every price range are incorporating outdoor televisions and sound systems, even if on the smaller scale of an outdoor-rated bluetooth speaker system. Mid-level homes and above are taking the trend to the next level with outdoor sound systems that are integrated with the interior of the home so that the same music can be played inside the home as outside, which follows the indoor/outdoor convergence trend. With the rapid advance of smart phone technology, this can be taken to an even higher level with systems that can operate off of a mobile app to control every electronic aspect of the outdoor living space, including TVs, sound systems, lighting, fire features and pool equipment.

Every electronic aspect of this outdoor living area is controlled by the homeowner's mobile app, including the fan, lighting, TV and the gas starter on the fireplace.

Every electronic aspect of this outdoor living area is controlled by the homeowner’s mobile app, including the fan, lighting, TV and the gas starter on the fireplace.

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Intimate Outdoor Spaces: Home buyers are interested in having a relaxing outdoor living area where they can socialize and unwind, creating a trend towards more cozy seating areas, often incorporating a fireplace or fire pit. Some experts relate this trend to the fact that there’s typically a TV in every room of the house, so a cozy outdoor space away from a TV can be a place to escape. Unlike expansive outdoor kitchen spaces, which may be limited to luxury homes, an “outdoor retreat” can be created on a smaller budget and appeals to buyers at all levels. In fact, a cozy outdoor space can easily be created by adding a freestanding wall or two. With the help of a few staged furnishing, potential buyers can get a feel for how they would live in the outdoor space.

The Bristol Fireplace serves as focal point for this intimate gathering spot.

The Bristol Fireplace serves as focal point for this intimate gathering spot. This same sense of intimacy can also be created with the use of a freestanding wall, which can help define the space and create the illusion of an interior room.

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Sustainable Design: According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, this year’s top trends in landscape design include both rainwater harvesting and the use of permeable pavers. Although a standard permeable paver installation simply allows water to filter through the paver joints into the ground below, a permeable paver system can be designed to also harvest and recycle rainwater, converging these two trends into one and allowing the reclaimed water to be used for garden irrigation and other uses. Current top landscape trends also include native plants and low-maintenance landscaping.

A permeable paver system, like this Subterra Stone® patio, can be designed to include a collection cistern and a pump to harvest water for reuse with water features, irrigation or other greywater uses.

A permeable paver system, like this Subterra Stone® patio, can be designed to include a collection cistern and a pump to harvest water for reuse with water features, irrigation or other greywater uses.

The Secret to Restaurant-Quality Steaks at Home

Imagine this scenario: a special occasion is nearing. It’s your significant other’s birthday, or perhaps a distant relative is coming in. The point is that you want, and in some cases need, to treat them to something special. What is the first thing that comes to mind when the ole “special” word is tossed out? Why, it’s steak of course! Doesn’t just reading the word “steak” bring you to a happy place? Anyone who is a fan of steak probably already knows his or her favorite place in town to get a quality steak. Unfortunately, having a fancy chef at some restaurant cook this steak will not work for this special occasion. This one must be made from the heart by Chef You. Although grilling a steak properly can be tricky, it is well worth the effort for that special occasion. Here are a few tips to consider. For the sake of brevity, we’ll just focus on two of the most popular steaks to cook: the Tenderloin and the Ribeye.



Also called a filet, this will be your most expensive piece of meat. However, this steak is most definitely worth the price because it is considered by many, this writer included, as the most delicious steak that can grace your palate. Sometimes with these steaks, less is more. Heat your grill to high heat, add some black pepper and coarse salt to the top of your steak, then throw it on the grill. You want to cook these steaks over high heat until they are brown, which will take about five minutes per side, depending on how “done” you prefer your steak. For a particularly thick piece of meat, you may also want to brown the sides a bit. While some people prefer their steak rare or well done, there is nothing quite like a medium-rare steak. In fact, most chefs agree that medium-rare steaks give you the maximum amount of tenderness and juiciness while ensuring that the center of the steak is actually warm. To test if your steak is medium-rare, press your finger in the middle of the steak. If your steak gives ever so slightly then bounces back, you have yourself a medium-rare steak. A mushy steak will tell you that it is still rare. Keep going until you get that bounce-back. To get that restaurant-quality flavor, before the steak is finished, liberally baste it with garlic-infused butter. Garnish the top of the steak with a sprig of one of your favorite herbs, and proceed to blow the mind of your special guest.


This next steak can be one of the most flavorful and juicy steaks you can find. Where most the flavor comes from is up to you. If you prefer a simple flavor, liberally applying coarse salt and black pepper to your steak, and even some garlic powder if you choose. However, to get the most out of your ribeye, make sure to marinate it in a plastic bag for a couple of hours. Once it is in the bag, pour in plenty of balsamic vinegar or red wine. Another tasty addition to a ribeye marinade is Parmesan cheese. Feel free to marinate your steak with whatever your heart desires, or whatever the person you are cooking for desires. These are only suggestions. Just remember to allow plenty of time to let the flavors sink in. Once done marinating, throw that baby on the grill over low flame for about five minutes. Flip to the other side where you will most likely cook a little longer than the first side. Again, test the doneness by pressing the meat with your finger. Ribeyes are a little harder to judge than filets because they’re not as thick, but with a little practice, you’ll quickly get the knack. Once you think it is ready, pull it off and let it rest for about five minutes. This is very important to do for all steaks! Cut in too quickly, and the juices all run out, leaving the meat a little dry.

Charcoal vs. Gas

Ah, the classic grilling debate. In this writer’s opinion, always go for charcoal over a gas grill. With charcoal, it is a slower process, but it tends to give your steaks a more distinct flavor. Also, do not be afraid to experiment with wood chips. Cherry or pecan are both particularly good choices. But don’t throw the chips directly onto the charcoal, which will cause them to burn off too quickly. Wrap the wood chips in some tin foil and place them next to the fire. This will deepen the flavor profile of your charcoal-grilled steaks.

Happy Grilling!

Permeable Paver Driveways: Beautiful in Form and Function

Pavers: Eco Dublin®

The use of permeable pavers in driveway construction is growing exponentially across the country, particularly in areas with water use restrictions or strict stormwater management guidelines. Not only do permeable pavers boost your curb appeal, they also positively impact the environment by decreasing stormwater runoff and improving the water quality of local waterways.

Pavers: Aqualine™ Series

How, you ask? It’s ingeniously simple, actually. Permeable pavers are installed over a gradient bed of aggregate, with tiny aggregate filling the joints between each paver. As rainwater falls onto the pavers (or drains onto the pavers from another surface), the water percolates through the paver joints and down through the base materials below. There, the water is filtered by the aggregates, removing a number of pollutants before the water makes it’s way into the groundwater supply or returns to local waterways. The rising trend is to incorporate an underground cistern with a pump under the paver system so that the filtered water can be captured and recycled. A number of states and municipalities offer grants or tax incentives for these types of rainwater harvesting systems. The recycled water can be used for irrigation, water features, or other greywater uses.

Subterra Stone® improved the safety of this steep driveway.

Constructing a driveway with permeable pavers can also provide a number of other solutions for homeowners. For example, for steep driveways, permeable paver construction is safer during rainy weather conditions than traditional impervious surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, because rain can permeate through pavers instead of pooling on the surface, thus improving traction.

Illustration of heated paver installation.

In areas prone to heavy snow, a heating system can also be installed under the sand base of the pavers so that snow or icy rain immediately melts and drains away, eliminating snow shoveling or ice accumulation. The sand acts as a buffer between the pavers and the coils, preventing damage from any shifting caused by automotive traffic.

Tour the 2016 Coastal Living Showhouse in The Hamptons

As the official hardscape supplier of the 2016 Coastal Living Showhouse located in the heart of the quintessential coastal community of The Hamptons, Belgard is proud to offer you this virtual tour of the outdoor living areas of the elegant coastal cottage — including charming cobbled walks, tailored garden walls, a contemporary poolscape, and an inviting outdoor living room with a gourmet grill station.

To begin our virtual tour, take a step back in time to the cobbled streets of yesteryear, with a stroll down the Old World Paver™ driveway and adjoining walkway (color: Sable Blend).

Next, enter the elegant poolscape, constructed with Stones 2.0 Porcelain Pavers to create a contemporary modular design (color: Pierre Blue). Because Belgard Porcelain Pavers can be installed over a variety of bases, the same pavers were able to be used on the pool deck (traditional paver base) and the adjoining stepping stones (grass base) and porches (concrete base), which helped to create a cohesive outdoor living design.

On your way to the cabana, take in the cozy backdrop of the surrounding garden walls, built with the natural stone look of Tandem® Wall in an ashlar pattern (color: Bella).

Tandem Wall also serves to enclose the relaxing outdoor living room with connecting grill station. Fireplace and grill island pieces from the Bordeaux Series of the Belgard Elements Collection serve as focal points for the inviting outdoor living space (color: Midnight). Stones 2.0 Porcelain Pavers provide the patio flooring for the living room and connect with the pool deck via the stepping-stone walkway.

“The coloring and trim of Belgard’s Midnight Bordeaux Elements flowed very nicely with the rest of the outdoor space, as we were going for a comfortable, coastal look,” said Calais Ongania with landscape design firm Mahoney Associates, Inc.. “To soften up the hardscapes, our team used bluegrass, hydrangea, and other flowers of similar color to tie into the grill and fireplace coloring, but give the backyard a warm feel.”

landscape design team: calais Ongania and nasir molla, Mahoney Associates, Inc.

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For more on the Coastal Living Showhouse, click here. The home will be open to the public through September 4, 2016.