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Fired up for pizza

Food writer Holly Ebel says wood-fired pizza is a delicious summer destination meal, with great destinations all around.

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A trio of pizzas cook in the wood-fired oven at Squash Blossom Farm near Oronoco.
Contributed / Susan Waughtal
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A great – and tasty – summer excursion is to take in a wood-fired pizza on the farm experience.

If you haven't done this yet there is still time, actually plenty of it. Plus, in addition to the pizza, you'll hear some of the best local musicians in our area. And let's not forget the ambiance. I mean, how fun is it to sit outside, have a special pizza, listen to music, and have the beauty of a farm around? It makes for a perfect summer evening.

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So what's special about wood-fired pizzas? Everything.

It's definitely in a different category than chain pizzerias where electricity or gas do the baking. Special ovens are constructed of brick, clay or concrete. Wood is the heat source reaching temperatures of close to 800 degrees. With temperatures that high it takes just mere minutes to bake a pizza pie.

The bottom may be slightly charred but the toppings and the middle are perfect. There is also a slight smoky taste which adds flavor to the toppings. While this method of cooking pizzas has become popular over the past 10 years or so, we should remember that the earliest civilizations cooked over wood fires, recalling the adage there's nothing new under the sun.

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You have plenty of options to choose from as these have become very popular summer outings. Here are just a few that are well-known for what they offer, both pizza -wise and musically:

Squash Blossom Farm, 7499 60th Ave. NW, Oronoco, has been hosting Summer Sundays for the past seven years, since the owners added a commercial kitchen.

Says Susan Waughtal, who with husband Roger Nelson owns the farm, "We felt this farm was perfect for this type of event. Originally it was trial-and-error with sourdough and ingredients, and we had friends for pizza potlucks to see what were appealing combinations."

They quickly figured it out. The choices include the standards – pepperoni, margarita, garden veggie (from their garden) – but then the fancy shmancy choices include chicken, gorgonzola, grapes, pecans and various cheeses. There are generally nine different varieties, some invented by what ingredients the chef has discovered or has on hand, always seasonal. A basic pizza is $25. Summer Sundays happen from 4-6 p.m. until Sept. 17.

A Fall Fest takes place Oct. 1-2. This year, they have also added a Mead Tasting room, open Saturdays from 2-6 p.m.

As if that weren't enough, they also sell exceptional breads, pastries and tarts at the Farmers Market. Parking at the farm can be a problem, so go early. For more info visit squashblossomfarm.org or call 507-252-9639.

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The Honey Blossom Pizza is a unique creation at Squash Blossom Farm near Oronoco.
Contributed / Susan Waughtal

Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm, 41142 160th St., Waseca. offers 10 different 16-inch pizzas including one Emily Knudsen, the owner, calls The Pig and The Pork. Sound interesting? Its toppings include sausage, pepperoni and green olives with a red sauce. Also a top-seller is Sweet Georgia Pie with garlic oil as the base then topped with prosciutto, goat cheese and mozzarella. Once out of the oven honey and arugula are added.

Pizza fries are a favorite of youngsters. These are cheese garlic sticks with red sauce on the side. Pizzas range from $23-$27. There are walking trails to explore before or after your pizza, plus a llama, alpaca and goats to watch. (Knudsen stresses this is not a petting zoo.) You can also just sit and listen to the live music. Knudsen and husband Bill Bartz have recently purchased a mobile trailer for their pizzas, which they take to local breweries and vineyards. Hours are Thursdays-Saturdays 4-8 p.m.; Sundays, 1-7 p.m. They are open through October. For more information, call 715-523-0857.

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Berne Wood-Fired Pizza & Concert Series, 23148 Dodge County Road 24, West Concord, is the granddaddy of these wood-fired pizza parties. For 11 years, the pizza and concert series takes place Wednesdays from 5-8 p.m.

So, which pie should you order? How about the Greek, or JoAnne's Barbeque chicken. Maybe give Bacon Bleu a try? There are also the traditional choices, pepperoni, sausage, veggie. Interesting too is that there are monthly specials. For August it's a Swiss and kraut creation topped with mozzarella, bratwurst, sauerkraut and Canadian bacon, appropriate for a town named Berne.

Most pizzas are $23, and plain cheese is $18. This weekly event is a fundraiser for the Zwingli United Church of Christ, which supports many nonprofits as well as food shelves, schools and churches. For more information, call 507-356-4340. The last pizza evening will be Aug. 31. This is also a popular venue, so add it to your schedule.

Before you head to any of these, be aware of protocols. Bring trash bags to take home any waste, bring your own lawn chairs, leave pets at home. While most sell soft drinks, you are allowed to bring wine and beer. It's also a good idea to bring your own plates and any utensils you might need. How about putting together a salad to go with the pizza? Plan as if you were going on a picnic, which in essence is what these events are.

Now, go and enjoy some smoky good pizza.

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From left, Andrew Banker, Travis Heim and Olivia Allen-Wickler show getting the pizza dough ready is a group effort at Squash Blossom Farm near Oronoco.
Contributed / Susan Waughtal

Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com .

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Related Topics: FOODRECIPESHOLLY EBEL
Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com.
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