Purpose of this blog

This blog will really be a true web log. I will post here about different wood-fired ovens as I find them.

If you know of any wood-fired ovens I should know about, you can send an e-mail to me. (If you build wood-fired ovens, I would like to hear from you too.)

There will lots of posts and lots of labels, since I plan to create one post for every appropriate web site that I find, and however many labels it takes to describe each one (usually at least the type of page and the location of the oven).

The accumulated information will still be found at the real Quest for Ovens web site links pages, but that is not updated as frequently as this blog will be.

If you are from outside the US and Canada, let me know what you find interesting about it. I see that I get visitors from India and Iran, and other faraway places. I'd like to know what draws you to this blog.

I received e-mail from the organizers of the BBC Two television show asking if the Saint Paul Bread Club could post a notice about their show Great British Bake-Off for amateur bakers. The information they gave me is now accessible through a link. (The organizers don't have a web page for the show itself yet.)

Please share this with any amateur bakers in Great Britain you may know, or post the link where they might see it.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Vino in the Valley, near Ellsworth Wisconsin Field Report

I have a previous blog post about Vino In the Valley, near Ellsworth, Wisconsin (their Facebook page).

I had the opportunity to stop at Vino in the Valley during a vacation in western Wisconsin. This was to be our last major outing of our vacation.

What I had heard about Vino in the Valley was that they had an outdoor oven. That turned out to be true. Their oven is outside.

What I had been expecting was that it would be a wood-fired oven. In that, my expectation was not met; it was fired by gas (of some kind). It actually was a two-level oven; it might be that the different decks were maintained at different temperatures.

What I thought might be a kind of vineyard setting (more like Falconer Vineyard’s Vineyard Bistro, Red Wing, Minnesota) turned out to more of an open-air supper club. There was a long building with fabric walls, many tables, a couple of bars, and even a lounge singer (seen below heading for her outdoor stage).

The building has a couple of angles so that the ends bend toward the gazebo that acts as the stage.

You can see the outdoor bar in the background here and many tables with umbrellas for people to wait at. After checking in at the reception desk, we were given one of the squarish electronic devices that vibrates and flashes to let you know when your table is ready. As a couple, we got seated very promptly.

We were actually seated near the front, right next to an indoor bar and close to the oven.

Whoever was running the oven, was very quick. I never had enough time to snap a picture of what was going into or out of the oven with the oven door open.

Unlike some of the other places we ate at on this trip, a small pizza came with a salad and a bread basket. The pizza when we got it was at best OK.

What Vino in the Valley apparently is, is an open-air supper club. They had a big parking lot, and there were a lot of cars in it. What Vino in the Valley is not, is a wood-fired pizza place. There was a mismatch in expectations between what I was hoping to find and what they are. For people who are looking for what they are, they are great. For somebody like me who looks for wood-fired oven pizza, they are not what I was expecting.

For similar places, click on the vineyard and farm labels on the right of the page. There is also a blog post about Wisconsin Pizza Farms.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Third Street Deli, Pepin, Wisconsin Field Report

On the third day of our field trip to Wisconsin, we had dinner at the Third Street Deli in Pepin. I had checked with them about some questions I had, so that when I arrived, I was recognized. We actually stopped by twice, once before they were heating the oven and later after they started serving food out of the oven.

The oven was built last year. It was more massive than they were expecting.  

The oven is part of an outdoor kitchen with some counter seating and an outdoor patio. There is some shelter from the weather while still being out of doors.

It's a pretty big oven. It looks like a relative big barrel-vault oven instead of a hemispherical oven more typical of a pizza-only oven.

They have some of the tools that I would expect for a wood-fired oven, but not all of them. (It's enough for what they do.)

Once the oven is heated up, they keep a fire in the back to keep the temperature up. That takes some practice to regulate and to cook with.

Here are a couple of calzones in the oven.

One got a little charred. This is apparently a rare problem, and they remade the item (for free of course) for the people who ordered it.

This is a "before" picture of my margherita pizza.

This is the "after" picture of my pizza. It pretty much comes out of the oven and then to the table. (It was only about 5 minutes before the pizza going in and me taking the after picture. Part of that was remembering to get my camera out before I ate the pizza.)

I thought it was a very reasonable price for the pizza ($8). Unlike A to Z Produce (the Pizza Farm), the Third Street Deli does not specialize in pizza; they have a lot of other offerings. (My wife really liked the roasted beet salad.)

The next time I'm in the neighborhood of Pepin on a day when A to Z is closed and Third Street Deli is open (Thursday through Sunday), I would happily go there again for pizza or for something else on the menu.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rabbit's Bakery, Lake City, Minnesota Field Report

One the second day of a vacation at Stockholm, Wisconsin, we crossed the border back into Minnesota to visit Rabbit's Bakery in Lake City. We got there just before noon, so that baking for the day was over, but the wood-fired oven was being heated up for the next day's baking.

There were lots of tasting things in case waiting to be chosen. We saw lots of people coming in to buy things or to have lunch at the bakery cafe.

There was some breads of the day on the rack waiting to be taken, a menu for drinks on the wall. You can also see a sign for pizza (lower right), which they currently make once a month.

They have their distinctive sign hanging outside their door.

Here you can see the chimney stack and cinder block addition for their wood-fired oven. It looks like they also added some additional venting.

Just in case you can't find it going by the address, they also have a distinctive sign on the exterior wall of their bakery building.

Everything we bought was good. I'll certainly stop by again if I'm in the area.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A to Z Produce, Stockholm, Wisconsin Field Report

For my wife and me, if the weather is good, and the day is Tuesday, the usual question is, "Can we go to Stockholm, Wisconsin for pizza?" A to Z Produce is, as far as I know the original pizza farm.(I have collected many links about them here.)

When my wife and I visited on August 21, we got there early so we could avoid the wait, but there was already a great throng of cars. Still, I think we were still only pizza 38. We found a place to park pretty close to the ovens.

We were amused by the signage they had posted. The rules are few, but important. I told my wife that "Fences zap" is a warning most places would never post and most people would never see. It's a useful warning though because the location is a working farm with cattle, and the cattle fences have to work as intended, meaning live electric fences. (We arrived about 4:45.)

Since A to Z remodeled a few years ago, there is now more shelter over the ovens and for people waiting for their pizza. It is not so important on a pleasant summer evening, but when it's raining or cold, the shelter is very welcome.

The way to order is simple. They list the pizzas they are making, and you pick the kind you want. They will make you a pizza that half one kind and half another, but you need to accept what you get. It seems like every time we have gone there recently, the person taking order simply takes your order and says, "That will be 10 minutes."

Robbi operates the ovens herself. (People were not obeying the "NO FLASH PLEASE" writing over the ovens.) There are two ovens; there is basically a three-stage pipeline. About once a minute, Robbi moves a pizza from the second oven to a pizza box where the cashier will slice it. She then moves and rotates the pizza from the first oven into the second oven. Ted will carry a new pizza from the kitchen and put it into the first oven. When they are operating at full speed, they produce a new pizza in less than one minute.

So, when the person taking the orders says to everybody, "That will be 10 minutes," it is pretty much the truth. (If you come later, you may have to wait longer. The key is not how fast pizzas are made, but how fast people arrive. If a big crowd appears, the back up happens, but it's mainly handling the orders, not making the pizzas. One time when we got there later at 6:25 in the evening they were serving pizza 135 or so. Still faster than one per minute.)

This is the original oven, now used for the second minute of cooking.

They keep a lot of pizza boxes ready, but having them ready to go prevents a delay in boxing up the pizza. If you bring your box back, they knock a dollar off the price of your pizza.

This is Robbi turning a pizza before transferring it.

After we got our pizza home, I forgot to grab the camera to take a picture of it before getting slices out of the box. According to the time stamp on the picture, I took this picture at 5:16, which means we ordered the pizza, received the pizza, drove to where we staying, and then served the pizza all in 31 minutes.

This is the place that got me hooked on wood-fired oven pizza and the benchmark against which I compare all other wood-fired pizza places.

When we left, I checked the vehicles parked on the road around the farm. There were licenses representing five states, mostly Minnesota and Wisconsin, but also Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio. This is a place that doesn't care if you find them or not; they already have enough business. (This was highlighted in a recent blog post by Mark Leslie that he called "Old MacDonald had a ... Pizza Farm??")

We are already fans, but we enjoy reading about how other people react when they discover "the Pizza Farm."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Peterborough Community Oven

Sometimes there are coincidences. I discovered that I had overlooked some details in a couple of my sources about information about community ovens for Peterborough.

Someone else reviewing my links pointed out that I had confused Peterborough, Ontario, Canada (which has a Facebook community organization page). with Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Oddly enough, while I have been able to find a couple of mentions of the oven at Peterborough, NH, there is a bit more available on Peterborough, Ontario.

For Peterborough, NH, I found these two references:

  • "Kin Schilling ... organized school kids to build a community bread oven in Peterborough" (link)
  • "[O]ur community kitchen, grill, fire pit and outdoor Cobb/wood-fired C/Pizza oven offer great opportunities for cooking, often in community." (link)
For Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, I found these links:
  • Their Facebook community organization page
  • Mention of a survey asking for input about the oven
  • A more recent online article that mentions the outdoor brick oven
It's kind of interesting to contrast these two efforts. The NH oven is a cob oven built in 2009. The Ontario oven is planned to be brick, but isn't built yet.

There is something to be said for having a good oven now instead of a great oven sometime in the future. (These are not mutually exclusive alternatives.)

Regardless of those issues, I wish good luck to both community ovens, and I'm sorry I got them confused.

Point Douglas Community Oven, Point Douglas, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

A community oven project that I had filed under "Aspirational Community Ovens" (which is to say community ovens that might be built someday) moved forward to actual construction.

This was the North Point Douglas Women's Centre Community Oven Project (link). Their page shows some pictures of the construction and past updates for the project.

Some of the history of the project is recorded in the original blog post that I found that informed me about the project. That post mentioned some of the arts component of the project, which is made more clear by this invitation in a blog post to come and work on the mosaic that decorates the oven.

Interestingly, there is an community oven in Cringila, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia with a mosaic (link).

North Adams Community Oven, North Adams, Massachusetts

Another recent addition to my list of US community ovens is the North Adams Community Oven, North Adams, Massachusetts (they have a Facebook community organization page).

There is a picture of the oven being built as part of this page about a related effort to create a local sourdough culture.

This oven will be near a community garden.

This oven is one of a few built as part of a larger arts project.

There are some other community oven projects in Massachusetts, but this one is close to New York, which also has a lot of community ovens.

Park Avenue Community Oven, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

I received a lot of notifications about community ovens recently, both from Google Alerts and from e-mail.

One oven that I found out about is the Park Avenue Community Oven, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. This makes it the first community oven I have found in Nova Scotia.

They also have a Facebook community organization page.

As with many community ovens in Canada, this one is located in a park (the Leighton Dillman Park on the Dartmouth Commons) and near a community garden.

They have gotten some local television coverage, which is quite rare for these kinds of projects. Also rare, is that they got substantial local funding ($20,000) to build the oven and its environs, so the whole project ought to be very well established. (I like how the TV segment mentioned that some other organizations are now interested in having community ovens of their own.)

There was also some related press coverage (echoed here).