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restaurant that uses wood for cooking dinner

IT WAS THE UNMISTAKABLE SWEET AROMA SWIRLING THROUGH THE AIR THAT FIRST CAUGHT MY ATTENTION. As I followed my nose, I then focused on a tall wrought iron rack, stacked high with split oak. Naturally I became curious. As I walked passed the firewood rack and through the doorway, I was transported to a scene straight from an Old Havana courtyard with exotic tropical foliage and vintage décor. That sweet flavored scent of burning wood was now blending smoothly with all the restaurant’s culinary aromas.

“There was no doubt where I was having dinner that evening”

Ahhh…my dinner. “The Mixed Grill” …Black Angus steak, jumbo shrimp, chicken breast and chorizo sausage hot off a wood-fired grill!
This is part of the restaurant’s wood supply. Chef Chino says they use Oak wood because of its hardwood characteristics which provide a hot and steady burn. He also adds wood briquettes to help keep the heat even across the grill.

Located in the Tropicana Casino downtown Atlantic City, USA, the Cuba Libre Restaurant is cooking things up with an authentic menu of classic and contemporary Cuban cuisine. This fine dining restaurant offers a wonderful culinary experience. It features an open style kitchen where you can watch any one of the skilled chefs sear meats and seafood to perfection… all on a wood-fired grill.

Chef Chino rustles the wood embers while grilling my dinner. Notice the crank wheel to his left. It adjusts the cooking surface according to the heat and the rise and fall of the flames. Also take note of the slight angle to the v-channels. They are angled down to capture all the juices to be used for baking and sauce preparation.

I am discovering more and more restaurants using wood as a means to cook their culinary specialties. If you find yourself hungry while in Atlantic City NJ, be sure to stop by the Cuba Libre’ restaurant. They offer a few of their signature dishes prepared specifically over the hot coals of a wood fire.


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stacked woodpile of dry seasoned split firewood

There is no fire that will light and burn reliably if the firewood’s moisture content is high.  Freshly cut wood can contain up to 50% water and therefore NOT suitable for burning.

Heating your home with wood? Do you build campfires for fun, warmth or grilling food?

Entertaining family and friends by a fire pit on your deck, patio or backyard?



1. OBSERVE THE COLOR   As wood ages it becomes discolored. It darkens into shades of gray. This is a good sign of dry wood (See pic below).

Left: 1 year old split wood – dry Right: 1 month old split wood – wet

2. LOOK FOR CHECKS OR CRACKS. If the wood is dry, you will often see checks or cracks on the ends of the logs (See pic below).

3. USE A MOISTURE METER   Simply press one of these tools against your firewood logs and it can determine its moisture content. Remember that 20% moisture is optimal.

4. LOOSE BARK   Inspect the firewood. If the logs have loose bark or no bark at all, this is a good sign that the wood has aged.

5. SOUND   When you strike two like pieces together, dry wood will sound hollow with a sharp “crack”. Wet wood will sound like a dull “thud”.

6. WEIGHT   Dry wood is much lighter than wet wood (same species).

7. SPLIT FIREWOOD is better.  Un-split wood dries very slowly. But when wood has been split, more surface area is exposed which leads to faster drying.

8. Last but not least…. TRY BURNING SOME! If the wood is wet with a high moisture content, it will sizzle and bubble at the ends. This is NOT good.


It’s one of the best ways to “season” firewood.

First split the wood. Then stack it outdoors and off the ground for at least 1 year. Cover the top of the wood pile only and place it in a location where it is well-ventilated and exposed to sunlight. Bingo! There you have it…. the most efficient way to season your firewood supply.

But there’s more… stay tuned to The BZ Blog for upcoming articles with our best tips on how to season and store your wood supply.


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girl enjoying cup of coffee next to woodstove

Slow down and let your imagination come to life. 

Here’s a true story on how a “FIRE can INSPIRE”

Outside it was cold and wet as I gathered kindling to start the fire. The early evening grew dark and the moisture of the woods wet the surface of my clothes. I was anxious to get warm as I hurried to light the twigs and paper spread beneath the logs. With a stack of dry oak and a strong need for some peace of mind, I fed the fire till it roared.

“I had the worries-of-a-day weighing heavy on my mind and I knew exactly how I was going to let them go”

As the fire took hold and burned without help, I soon began to feel relaxed. The heat from the flames eased its way through the dampness and began to warm my face, then hands. The pops, crackle and sizzle of the burning wood echoed into the woods as I became mesmerized with the glow of the fire. The stress that had clouded my day was now slowly evaporating. It disappeared into thin air like the hot ashes circling up the heat funnel off the flames. It’s a Winter’s evening, outdoors, and now there’s a blazing campfire. This was a good night. With the worries of my day now taking a back seat, magically my world became a much better place. I continued to gaze into the glowing waves of reddish-orange heat and I began to dream… good thoughts, became my only thoughts.

Become inspired.

Choose to hang out with a fire once in a while. Discover its power, and the mystery of how it brightens your spirit.

The firepit outside, the chimenea on your patio or indoors with a woodstove, or fireplace…enjoy the flames. Experience how easily the chaos of life disappears while your body relaxes and the fire inspires.


Visit The BZ Blog often. New articles appear on a regular basis. 

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3 men with woodcutting tools next to stack of firewood

Above, Shane McDaniel, flanked by his sons, Henry McDaniel, left, and Harrison McDaniel, stand in front of their Washington state home with the wood they chopped. (Dave Robertson)



(by Caitlin Huson, Washington Post)

Shane McDaniel posted photos on Facebook of him and his twin sons surrounded by enough chopped wood to fill 80 standard-size pickup trucks. They’d spent months chopping and stacking the firewood, valued at about $10,000.

But they had no intention of selling it — they were giving it away to people in need.

“No one goes cold in our hood this holiday season,” McDaniel, 47, wrote in his post, offering to deliver wood, free of charge, to neighbors who needed a hand heating their homes near Lake Stevens, Wash., about 35 miles north of Seattle.

Within days, the post had spread not only in his Lake Stevens community but also to people across the country and even around the globe. Messages started flooding in — requests for firewood, offers of help, notes of thanks and even marriage proposals.

Nobody was more surprised at the huge response than McDaniel himself, a single father of six. He had logged back onto Facebook only a week earlier, posting a status update saying he hadn’t been on the site in 10 years because he “thought social media would go away by now.”

It turned out that he reached some of the neediest people in Western Washington, many who heat their home with wood only. Firewood is measured in cords — one cord is about four feet high, eight feet wide and four feet deep. In the Lake Stevens area, a cord costs about $400. The McDaniels had 40 of them.

Since early November, McDaniel and his sons have brought the wood to hundreds of people who don’t have money to heat their homes, and there’s still more wood to be delivered.

Piles of wood outside the McDaniel residence in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Shane McDaniel)

Single mom Katelyn Ticer, 28, who lives in a mobile home in Lake Stevens with her 3-year-old daughter, was thrilled to get a delivery from the McDaniels, as a wood-burning stove is her sole source of heat. McDaniel delivered a full truckload of wood, and even came back a second time with a half-load and a chimney sweep coupon.

“To get that much wood and the chimney sweep brought me to tears,” Ticer said. “So much stress and anxiety for my daughter is off my shoulders. I couldn’t be more thankful.”

McDaniel was hoping to help people like Ticer, but it wasn’t the motivation behind all the chopping initially.

As a local business owner with several rental properties to maintain, dealing with downed trees is part of the gig, and chopping firewood is a favorite — and often, mandatory — father-son pastime. Not just for McDaniel and his twins Harrison and Henry, 21, but also for McDaniel and his father, who passed away five years ago.

“I had to cut wood with my dad constantly. I was always helping him cut wood, split wood,” he said. “He just loved doing it.”

Chopping wood all summer with his sons was a way for McDaniel to feel connected to his father. By late summer, the McDaniels’ house was surrounded by 40 cords of firewood, a massive wall of logs that even the McDaniel men admired.

“I started out wanting to connect with my father, and at the end, I thought he was yelling at me,” McDaniel said, laughing. “It was so much cutting, so much splitting.”

Harrison McDaniel said once the wood started piling up high, people would pull up daily and ask to buy a cord.

“We politely told them none of it was for sale, and they’d look at us like we were crazy,” he said, adding that he was surprised at how many people burn wood as their only source of heat.

For some, using a log for a fire is a winter ritual, done mostly for that cozy hygge effect. But, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than 12 million households in the United States use wood to generate heat, and for millions living in older homes or in off-grid rural areas, it is their only heat source. Wood-burning stoves can be more effective and economical than standard heating options, but there’s still a significant cost to firewood, including time and labor.

In early November, Lake Stevens had its first cold snap of the year, with temperatures dropping into the 20s. That’s what prompted McDaniel to hit “share” on the Facebook post, including photos of him and the boys wearing muscle shirts and wielding axes. His mission to give away all the firewood in time for the holidays had officially begun.

Abby Valentine, 42, was one of the people who responded, and she was grateful to have the wood. Making ends meet while living on a set income through disability benefits has been a struggle, she said, made worse this year after her oldest son was killed in April by a drunken driver.

“My home is really old and very cold,” said Valentine, who lives in Seattle. “With the help of the wood for my fireplace, we can cut back on using the heat. I try to save as much as I can, but if my home is way too cold I have to use it because I don’t want my kids getting sick.”

There were hundreds of requests like Valentine’s, many sad, desperate and hard on the heart to read. McDaniel started reading them himself. Then his business, the craft beer emporium Norm’s Market-Keg and Bottleshop, became the hub for firewood donations and requests. Haylie Rude, a manager at Norm’s, was enlisted to tackle the burgeoning Facebook inbox.

“One day it took 11 hours to just get all the comments to load on the post,” Rude said.

Once the McDaniels’ generosity started going viral, others in the Lake Stevens community started pitching in. Local food bank volunteers help sort through the firewood requests and make delivery lists. A company offered free chimney sweeps and inspections. A bulletin board at Norm’s is filled with donation offers, and people show up day or night to drop off truckloads of wood to add to the McDaniels’ pile.

Harrison McDaniel, Shane McDaniel and Henry McDaniel stand in front of a sign at Norm’s Market-Keg and Bottleshop.
(Andrew Grimes)

For Henry McDaniel, his usual reply when someone asks for a delivery? “I’m working a full-time job, but if you’re available for a delivery tonight, I’ve got two hours. Let’s do it.”

Many recipients are effusive with tears and hugs and heartfelt gratitude, but Shane McDaniel said there are plenty who are not.

“Some aren’t even friendly. It’s just not in them. They are mad at the world and mad that they had to ask for help,” he said. “They just have no other option than freezing.”

He understands. He is not put off.

“Some still just say, ‘thanks … put it over there’ and walk back in their house and never say another word or even come back out,” he said. “But I’m okay with that. Giving is the reward — it has nothing to do with how well it’s received, but it’s about how much it’s needed.”

The McDaniels are on track to deliver the last of the donations before Christmas, but that’s not the end. They have their sights set on an even bigger stack of firewood next year.

With an army of volunteers, community work parties and hopefully a couple of donated log splitters, the new goal for next year is to cut 100 cords minimum. There is still so much need.

Kudos to the McDaniels family for helping people in need!


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