Midtown Farmers Market: Week 4â€”Wood Fired Pizza
By Tom // Posted 22 May, 2010 in: Farmers Market, Minneapolis, Pizza
May in Minnesota, however mild, is not exactly a month of abundant agricultural production. Plants just haven’t had enough time to shake off the winter chill and start the reproductive cycle that brings us delicious veggies all summer. Given that fresh local produce is hard to come by in this early month, one might question why Martha and I bother to strap on bike helmets every Saturday morning and pedal down to the Midtown Farmers Market. Why not wait till June?
The answer is, of course, that there is more to the market than the vegetables. In addition to talented artists and some intriguing specialty food options, Midtown is boasting a very impressive lineup of prepared food vendors this year. There are the favorites from last season: the Magic Bus Cafe, CrÃªperie Mala, Taco Taxi, and Fireroast Mountain Cafe (who fill the much-needed tamale niche). But there are also some exciting new vendors: this week brought the debut of Olive Pizza, who are cooking wood-fired pizzas to order at the market.
Olive Pizza is the brainchild of Elizabeth Vossen, who also serves as lead pizzaiola. After a summer spent lugging pizza screens to friends houses to satisfy a seemingly-never ending demand for grilled pizza, Elizabeth and her husband decided it might be fun to try their hand churning out pizzas professionally at the farmers market. Although they loved their grilled pizzas, they figured the seven minutes it took to bake them would be a little too long for a production environment. And so they took the plunge and invested in a very impressive mobile set-up, with a brand new trailer made in Colorado (still boasting a temporary CO license!) and an oven from Forno Bravo.
When I asked Elizabeth if she had any previous food service experience she replied, “Only if you count working at Dairy Queen in high school.” Experienced or not, I was impressed by the professional operation they were running. I ordered, paid for, and received my pizza all within a few minutes, and enjoyed passing the time in between chatting with fellow pizza nerds.
As for the pizzas themselves, they are excellent. With wood-fired pizzas, the crust is paramount, and the Olive Pizza crust is just as it should be: cracker crisp on the edges but soft and slightly chewy throughout and, most importantly, spottily charredâ€”top and bottom. The sauce is bright with acid and just slightly sweet. I ordered the mushroom and Italian sausage pizza and Martha the pesto-tomato. The toppings were great â€” I am excited to see what they will do with some of the fresh market produce as it begins to arrive in the weeks to come.
Oh, speaking of produce, there’s some of that, too. Gardens of Eagan continues to bring some of the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever had, as well as a variety of lettuces including some artful baby romaine new this week. Rhubarb also made its first appearance, so I made sure to buy way too much of that as well. It’s a small variety of vegetables to be sure, and lacking these early arrivals I’m not sure I’d be able to bring myself to come; but then again, the wood-fired pizza alone might be worth the trip.