ON THE MENU
Here’s what Doug Spalding served to his
guests during one of his PizzAmore gatherings last week.
Multi-grain, sun-dried tomato sourdough flatbread with choice of toppings —
goat cheese, smoked salmon or pesto.
Spinach-infused pizza crust from homemade eight-grain flour, freshly milled.
Most of the pizzas are topped by freshly shredded Monterey Jack or mozzarella.
Several oven-baked pizzas:
• MARGARITA CHICKEN. topped with pesto, chicken tenders marinated in lime,
Italian dressing and honey mead wine.
• BARBECUE PULLED PORK. Pork loin, slow cooked and smoked, on top of Beal
Street BBQ sauce from Bath, and fresh chives from the
• SHRIMP SCAMPI. Maine shrimp scampi with asparagus and garlic.
• HAMBURGER. Ground beef with plain tomato sauce.
• CRANBERRY MUSTARD. Chicken tenders over a homemade sauce of fresh mustard
mixed with Maine cranberries.
• MARMALADE. Pulled pork over homemade marmalade — grapefruit, orange,
• COMBINATION. Half chicken and half pulled pork over barbecue sauce.
Homemade brownies with vanilla ice cream.
Although Doug Spalding’s PizzAmore gatherings
are not open to the general public, Spalding said he’s always willing to
invite new people to experience the food and fellowship. He said anyone is
welcome to email him through his website, dougspalding.com,
and inquire about attending a gathering.
"The first one!" a voice cries out,
followed by the metallic din of a bell.
noon Tuesday, the feasting among a small group of friends has begun in this
improbable setting: the remote home of a retired postmaster, beside his
homemade wood-fired oven and a small shelter with three walls made of stacked
of the ingredients are fresh, and the pizzas spend just a minute or two on the
fire brick before they're ready for serving.
is what I do for fun now," says the host and head cook, Doug Spalding.
"I don't cook from recipes. Everything I do is from today's urge."
and his friends call this ritual PizzAmore and it's held every couple of weeks
year-round at the home of Doug and Marian Spalding off Pond Road. The
gatherings are as much about fellowship with friends and strangers as they are
about trying the most inventive and freshest pizza creations imaginable.
64, has been retired for seven years now, having spent the 19 previous years
as the St. Albans postmaster, and before that, at other post offices, a
sawmill and the tannery in Hartland. Now, Spalding has a photography and
idea for the brick oven pizzas sprung from the bread-making conference he
attended in Skowhegan in the summer of 2007. Spalding went to a seminar on how
to build a wood-fired oven from about 500 bricks and no mortar. Inspired by
the possibilities, Spalding went ahead and began construction of his oven,
finishing it in 2008.
brick oven gets extremely hot: between 850 and 1,000 degrees. When pizzas are
cooked in most commercial ovens, he said, they take much longer because the
temperature doesn't get hotter than 650 degrees.
brick oven saturates the pizza with intense radiant heat that's coming from
all four sides, resulting in an evenly-cooked, crisp pie.
also built the "bottle house," a shelter that partially encloses the
oven and provides a space for him to prepare the pizza and for guests to eat
and mingle. Spalding said he got the idea for the shelter while he and his
wife were traveling on Prince Edward Island and came across a small village
that had been made from old bottles.
walls of Spalding's shelter are made of stacked wine bottles held together by
cement. The recycled bottles are from the Bartlett winery in Gouldsboro.
Tuesday morning, light rain gave way to partial sun as a handful of friends
began arriving at the bottle house.
Spalding's knowledge, no one else uses his signature spinach-infused,
eight-grain sourdough for pizza crust.
Wiers arrived wearing a Scottish kilt -- he finds them comfortable -- and he
is Spalding's right-hand man at the oven. Spalding jokingly refers to Wiers as
his "ski patrol and apprentice turner," referring to how Wiers once
located a woman lost on Spalding's ski trails and how Wiers turns the pizzas
in the oven when Spalding isn't.
parents, Mike and Libby Wiers, arrive a short time later, as do Jim and Linda
Miller, of Newport.
Spalding, using fresh, local food is more than a fad; it's a way of life. If
he isn't growing the food and spices in his garden or canning them in his
stacked pantry, he's buying it all from local farms.
up is the appetizer: sun-dried tomato sourdough flatbread with choice of
toppings -- goat cheese, smoked salmon or pesto.
the table in the bottle house, Spalding flattens the dough with a rolling pin
and pours on olive oil, a process that's repeated for all of the pizzas. He
doesn't toss the dough to stretch it because it does not contain gluten, which
gives the dough elasticity.
in the oven, the flatbread is bubbling within 30 seconds and done a minute
can't find this anywhere else," Jim Miller says after biting into the
tomato flatbread, topped with pesto. "I make bread myself, but there's
something about baking in this oven that makes it real special."
at the bottle house and brick oven, Marian Spalding jokes that she asked for a
garden gate, "and this is what I got."
is methodical when he embarks on his multiple-pizza journey, immediately
starting on the next pizza when the last one is pulled from the oven. Several
toppings are cooked in a cast-iron skillet within the oven before they're
placed on the pizza dough.
pizzas he makes over the next two hours or so are Margarita chicken; barbecue
pulled pork; Maine shrimp scampi with asparagus; ground beef with plain tomato
sauce; cranberry mustard with chicken tenders; pulled pork over homemade
marmalade; and chicken and pork over barbecue sauce.
will tell you on one of the most exciting things about coming here is they
never know what they're going to have," Marian Spalding said.
Spalding encourages friends he invites to bring along people they know.
lot of the time I don't know who they are," Spalding said. "I ask
them to bring someone interesting."
eclectic mix of guests has included four-star generals, an ExxonMobil
executive and a sheriff from Missouri.
Spalding thought about turning his informal gatherings into a business?
once in a while, I do," Spalding concedes, "but then I smarten up. I
don't think I could produce the same quality, because I would have to do this
every day and it would take the fun out of it. This is my fun."
Monroe -- 861-9239