After the Underrated

“What is easiest to see is often overlooked” -Milton H. Erickson

Hitting a new pizza spot when traveling is a must.  With daddy duties and work, I’ve been pretty stationary lately, so when I do travel I’ve got to make my slices count.

I’m fortunate Tess always plays along nicely, just last weekend obliging my pizza escapades on her birthday weekender to Door County’s annual Fall Fest in Sister Bay.

While a Door County trip is always filled with epic sunsets, sightseeing, apple cider donuts, and supper clubs it doesn’t have that much pizza.

Actually, when most think of Door County and pizza, I’d bet they either draw a blank or imagine the winding lines and lengthy waits that come with the infamous Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza.  While Wild Tomato is delicious and the obvious choice for most pizza craving tourists, I had to wonder what else is out there…

Maybe, something a little thinner, a little crispier and cut a little more rectangular? 

For the last three years, Joe Jo’s Pizza in Sister Bay has been on my to-do list with their super-thin tavern-style pizza, but with only so many mealtimes in a day and vacation itineraries to max capacity, they’ve always taken a back seat to Wild Tomato. 

This year though I opted to follow the road less traveled to the pizza less eaten and finally made it Joe Jo’s (despite their insanely early closing hours, 8:30pm!)

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Toppings under the cheese, yes, please.

Joe Jo’ had a delicate and almost brittle outer crust that was speckled with spices—that dusting across the cheese gave the pizza a unique oregano forward flavor, which I quite enjoyed.

In common tavern-style fashion, they tuck their housemade hand-pinched sausage and pepperonis underneath the cheese and let that mozzarella toast up to a golden brown on top.  It’s finished off with a party-cut.

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Joe Jo’s was a welcome change of pace from Wild Tomato. 

There’s no doubt that Wild Tomato is the Door County staple for pizza, but Joe Jo’s had many perks of its own, for starters, you can skip the 1-2 hour long wait times that can accompany Wild Tomato during dinner time and you get a unique spin on a tavern-style pie (plus there’s gelato).

Joe Jo’s made me realize that to continuously expand my pizza prowess, I’ve got to break the norm and look beyond the most popular places, even though their reputations may make them the obvious places to hit.

The hippest and trendiest restaurants, with the rave reviews and lines around the block, will always have a place, but there’s beauty in discovering those mom and pop joints off the beaten path.

What pizza taught me:

Perhaps in the shadows of the things we put on pedestals, there’s something that suits us even better.

What I’m eating: Joe Jo’s half pepperoni and sausage

What I’m reading:  Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance –Alex Hutchinson

 

 

 

Making It to the Market (For Wood-Fired Pizza)

“Art is too important not to share.” -Romero Britto

What’s the best way to lure a husband to an outdoor craft fair on a cold and rainy fall day?

Set up a wood-fired pizza stand complete with wood-burning oven.

Apparently, the coordinators of such events in southwestern Wisconsin have gotten wind of this fact, because they’ve rewarded me on back to back drizzly cold weekends to get out of bed and attend an early outdoor craft fair with made-to-order wood-fired pizza.  Thank you and thank you.

Fall is the perfect season for orchards, hayrides and markets and oh boy, does my wife love a good market, especially one that’s outdoors, in her favorite season and loaded with crafts.

For me, a fall weekend is a great time to sleep in and recharge my batteries, eventually popping in frozen pizzas and binge-watching Netflix shows and football in my comfiest of outfits.  But, when Tess (and wood-fired pizza) beckon, I follow.

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Two Wood-Fired Pizza Stands in Two Weeks

Round one:  Firepie Pizza at The Makers Market, Sun Prairie

The annual Makers Market in Sun Prairie is an event that naturally brings great joy to Tess as local artisans present clothing, candles, jewelry, soaps, and artwork.

I sought out the waterlogged tent that sheltered a neat little stack of chopped wood and a petite portable metal oven with flames flickering out the back end.  Through the veil of rain droplets falling from the canopy, I could see a duo busy in action; rolling out mini dough balls, pinching toppings and rotating 10-inch pizzas through a mini oven.

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Firepie is described on facebook as “Utilizing the most mobile pizza oven on the market, our Ooni Pro delivers authentic wood-fired pizza in as little as 60 seconds!”.

The pie indeed had a nice flame-kissed outer crust and a chewy, slightly thick center which provided proper support for the cheese and a balanced portion of toppings.  Each pizza was assembled to order from a list of about 7 different classic options like pepperoni, Hawaiin and deluxe.

We settled on deluxe and took turns swapping the umbrella for the pizza.

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Round two:  It’s Good For You Pizza at Fall Village Vintage Market, Mount Horeb

The Fall Village Vintage Market in Mount Horeb stretches along three blocks of the downtown area of the small community and has all the same clothing, candles, jewelry, soaps, and artwork as Makers Market but even more.  It has more food vendors, live music, trolls and you could order drinks at establishments and walk the streets with them (that’s right trolls, they take their Norwiegen heritage seriously).

In the middle of the festival sat the concrete dome for which I came.

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It’s Good For You Pizza sets a high bar for any pizza truck or stand.  It’s Good For You goes for quality over quantity, with only three options to choose from and all three of them executed incredibly well.  Their enormous traveling oven (I honestly can’t believe they haul that thing around!) and high-caliber ingredients definitely give them a leg up.

I went for the pepperoni pie and it was exceptional.  The crust was the star and the wood-fired method really elevated its flavor and texture; it was super thin, but crispy and chewy at the same time—a balance that seems hard to strike for many pizza joints.

The sauce was as simple, but that’s what made its bright tomato flavor shine.  The pepperonis were slim and crisped up and the mozzarella blistered to a nice brown.

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Pizza made from scratch is the perfect accompaniment for browsing the craftsmanship of local artists.

I hope this trend of mobile wood-fired pizza stands continues to climb, especially at events I wouldn’t usually attend, so I get off my butt and go experience them.

Regardless of which pizza was better the spirit behind all those vendors to lug around, assemble and display their art for the community in the damp early morning in Wisconsin is admirable.

What pizza taught me:

Perhaps it’s worth getting out of bed for the local scene, even if there isn’t a slice on the line.

What I’m eating: Deluxe pizza (sausage, pepperoni, onion, green pepper) at Firepie Pizza at Makers Market in Sun Prairie and Pepperoni at It’s Good for You Pizza Fall Village Vintage Festival in Mount Horeb.

What I’m reading:  Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur –Derek Sivers