Midtown Farmers Market: Week 4–Wood Fired 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, Crêperie 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.

Wood-Fired Italian Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

A slice of Italian Sausage & Mushroom Pizza

Elizabeth of Olive Pizza preps a pizza on the cold line

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.

the interior of the portable wood-fired pizza oven

The staff at Olive Pizza, working under their market tent

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 charred–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 – 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.

the underside of the Italian Sausage & Mushroom Pizza

Pesto Pizza

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.

rhubarb, strawberries, and lettuce on a table


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5 comments on “Midtown Farmers Market: Week 4–Wood Fired Pizza”

  1. Uncle Don 22 May, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    I can hardly stop from ordering and oven!

  2. Sue 23 May, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Definitely Chris’ kind of food — can’t wait to try it in a couple of weeks.

  3. Lindsay 23 May, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Nice! I wish our local farmer’s market had something like this, especially while the produce selection is low.

  4. Aaron 24 May, 2010 at 8:02 am

    I can’t wait to try this. A couple friends and I have been talking for a couple years about the need for a local-mobile or park-environment (a la Sea Salt) wood-fired pizzeria. I’m glad they’re doing it and I can’t wait to visit.

  5. Crystal 24 May, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I’m so excited for Liz to get her business up and running and I will for sure be indulging in pizza!

    Posts linking to this post

  1. MARTHAANDTOM » Midtown Farmers Market: Week 5—The Lost (Asparagus) Week 26 June, 2010 at 10:50 am

    […] There’s been a lot of talk about asparagus and the lack thereof on our part this spring. With Monday marking the first day of summer, we’re officially past the peak season. Last year we were fortunate to discover asparagus at Midtown in only week four of the market season. We were hopeful for similar this year, but asparagus stalks never came. So hungry we were for this spring treat, we visited the St. Paul Farmers Market as Tom revealed in his prayerful post to the green goddess. As you can see, we found a little more than just (perfect) asparagus that Sunday after a light shopping day at Midtown the day before: […]