Pizza Night at A to Z Farm: Wisconsin’s worst-kept secret

Hungry for pizza? How does this sound — hop in the car, drive 80 miles, wait in line for 20 minutes to order your $24 – $27 pizza, wait two and a half more hours outdoors for your number to be called. Then sit on the ground (a few feet from some cows and goats) and eat it.

Not interested? Too bad for you, because you’re missing a great dining experience.

A to Z Produce and Bakery is a 4-mile drive up out of the valley from Stockholm, Wisconsin, near Lake Pepin. (see previous post)

Emily and Kyle have been regular visitors to the “pizza farm” and have been trying to get us down there for a year. We finally made it last night.

When the weather is nice, you have to park pretty far away. (all photos by Steve Date)

A to Z offers pizza night only once a week — Tuesday evenings from March to November. Their deal is that they sell pizzas — fantastic pizzas made with things that are grown within a few hundred yards of where you’re standing — but nothing else. If you want a beverage, a napkin, fork, a snack while you wait, or anything else, you have to bring it to the farm with you — and you have to take all the wrappers and containers with you when you leave (including the pizza box you just bought). There are no trash cans. Oh, and you’ll also need to bring a blanket or a chair to sit on.

Check the chalkboard menu when you arrive to see what kinds of pizza are offered this week, place your order, and then wander around the farm or sit back and relax for a while.

This shaded area gets the most crowded.


Picturesque out-buildings remind you this is a working farm the rest of the week.

This is not a place to go if you’re in a hurry. If you can’t wait a couple of hours to eat, then bring some snacks. Your kids will love it here. They get to run around and explore the farm while you sip your favorite beverage and catch up with friends and family.




As a city boy, I don’t get to spend much time on farms, and it was nice to soak in the sights, sounds, and yes, even the smells. To sit for a few hours on a blanket with people you like in such a beautiful place is a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.


As for the pizza? I can’t imagine how it could be any better. Fresh vegetables that taste like you just picked them yourself and crust that is the most tender I’ve ever tasted make the wait and the price worth every minute and every penny.

Thanks, Emily and Kyle, for being persistent in your invitations.

I can’t wait to go again.

Who needs Sturgis?

On our way to eat lunch at The Anchor Fish & Chips in Northeast Minneapolis today (it’s great, by the way), we stumbled on a neighborhood motorcycle show called the Bearded Lady Motorcycle Freak Show on 13th Ave. NE just east of University Ave. This neighborhood has kind of become Hipsterville over the past few years and I like going up there to view cool people as they go about their lives in their natural habitat.

After our tasty and satisfying fish & chips, we wandered over to the motorcyle festival. There were a lot of interesting bikes, of course. But as they say in unsuccessful job interviews, I’m more of a “people person”.

The Grain Belt was flowing, the tattoos were glistening in the sun and I snapped a few photos. They pretty much speak for themselves, so I’ll shut up now. Next year, I’ll spend more than 30 minutes there.

(All photos by me – Steve Date)



















The spectrum of hipnicity


I want this shirt


OK, I had to put in one motorcyle picture

And finally — It ain’t over ’til the bearded lady scratches.

A lazy, hazy, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty kind of week

I got a note the other day from my friend Casey in San Diego and he mentioned something that I always point out to people who don’t live in Minnesota — that we have a more extreme range of temperatures here than just about any populated area in the world. Everyone knows about our winters (-20 is not uncommon and -30 is possible), but some don’t realize how hot it can get here in the summer.

We’re in the fourth day of a week-long hot spell up here. Temps are in the high 90s during the day and don’t drop out of the 80s at night.

I was on my run around Lake Harriet on Sunday, sweating out several gallons of disgustingness, and I kept thinking about two songs from when I was a kid. “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” by Nat King Cole came out when I was 8 years old in 1961. It’s a corny, old-fashioned kind of song that became etched in my brain and I couldn’t forget it if I wanted to. It’s an example of the early rock and roll era, when “How Much is that Doggy in the Window” became “You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog” almost overnight and both genres coexisted for a time on the Billboard charts and “rock” radio stations. That was also pre-Motown, so the only kind of song that a black singer could get on the pop charts while Elvis and others (Pat Boone ?!?!?) were making piles of cash from recording covers of black blues and soul songs.

A couple of years later, the Beatles came along and . . . do I really have to describe what happened? The mid ’60s were, among other things, the birth pangs of the Woodstock generation. The other song that was in my head on my run was “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, with John Sebastian. That song from 1966 has also left a permanent mark in my brain tissue. When I got home, I looked at a video of Summer in the City on YouTube and was instantly brought back to a time when I thought those guys were cool and that song seemed really edgy – even a little “dirty and gritty”. I was 13.

It was the year of The Monkees, The Association, Simon and Garfunkel, two generations of Sinatras — and the Billboard #1 song of the year was “The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Sgt. Barry Sadler.

But the times they were a-changin’ and John Sebastian was trying to place himself somewhere in the middle between The Beach Boys and what would become “hard rock” in just a few short years. But Sebastian never made it out of that transitional zone, although he did make an attempt by perfoming at Woodstock while on an acid trip.

Long story sh . . . . no, sorry, it’s just a long story. After my run, I went back over to “my” lake – Lake Harriet – and gave myself a one-hour assignment to shoot photos of people enjoying the lazy, hazy, heat.

There are a lot of great songs about summer that would be much better to get stuck in your head than the two I had — “Summertime Blues”, “Hot Fun in the Summertime”, “Heat Wave” (not about summer at all, of course) immediately come to mind — “Summer Wind” by Sinatra and “Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin (and a million other singers) are great songs. I’d even welcome an occasional “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. I’m going to try to conjure up one of those on my next run.

But for now, I’m stuck with this one. I hate to admit it, but I still kind of like it — and I really don’t want to lose the memories it brings.

So play the video of John Sebastian, smirking, laughing at himself lip-synching with his long, perfectly-combed hair and mutton-chop sideburns. Look at the photos of the lake, and then go outside and have some “sodas and pretzels and beer” like a “cool cat, lookin’ for a kitty”.

“You’ll wish that summer could always be here” — especially if you live in Minnesota.












A nice afternoon on the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin

We took a little drive yesterday down the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin, which begins just over the bridge from Red Wing, Minnesota, about an hour southeast of the Twin Cities. Inspired by Emily and Kyle’s stories of trips to the “Pizza Farm” and a nice article in the Minneapolis StarTribune by Rick Nelson, we felt it was time to take a few hours to stop and visit a few places we had previously only sped past on trips to somewhere else.

Lake Pepin is either a long lake or a wide part of the Mississippi River, depending on how you look at it. But at about 2-3 miles across and 20 miles long, it has the look and feel of a big lake surrounded by wooded hills and rocky bluffs.

The railroad hugs the shoreline on the east side of Lake Pepin (photo by Steve Date)

Large sailboats and speedboats mix with barge traffic.

View from the marina in Pepin, Wisconsin. People on the bench watching sailboats and barges go past. (photo by Steve Date)

The towns of Maiden Rock, Stockholm and Pepin are all cute little villages full of tourists in the summer.

Stockholm is a tiny town with lots of charm (photo by Steve Date)


Stockholm (pop. 97 according to the sign) has some fine, old buildings (photo by Steve Date)

Pepin’s claim to fame is as the the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It has a couple of hot dining spots, some gift shops, art galleries, specialty stores, and a fairly large marina.

The Pickle Factory bar and restaurant on the waterfront in Pepin is popular with motorcylers of all ages (photo by Steve Date)

We ate at the Harbor View Cafe, a wonderful, cozy place. It’s a well-known restaurant around these parts and is always packed on summer evenings.

The Harbor View Cafe in Pepin (darker blue building in center) is a great place to eat (photo by Steve Date)


Since we were there for an early lunch, we were able to get a seat right away. Our waitress told us that not only does the menu change daily, but “with each shift”. In fact, there are no printed food menus, only the handwritten chalkboard on the wall. Don’t expect the usual burgers and sandwiches. This is the full meal deal — soup, salad, meat and potatoes and lots of fish dishes. The prices are a little above average, but it’s worth it. The food is great.

After lunch, we drove up out of the river valley at Stockholm to the Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery which we had known about from an interesting article a couple of months ago in Heavy Table

Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery near Stockholm, WI (photo by Steve Date)

It’s a fun place to sample wine, cider and walk around among the apple trees on the orchard’s hilltop location.

Stroll through the orchards (photo by Steve Date)


Medaille d'Or apples. Not sure how they taste, but apparently they make good cider. (photo by Steve Date)

We had to do one more thing before heading home. Eat pie. The only question was where to do it.

We narrowed the choices down to two: The Homemade Cafe in Pepin (great photo in StarTribune) and the Stockholm Pie Company in Stockholm have both gotten rave reviews. We settled on Stockholm, mainly because that’s where we were when we decided to eat pie. We tried the chocolate pie and the triple berry. They were both wonderful.

The woman who sat at the table we had just vacated looks like she doesn't want to be photographed eating pie. (photo by Steve Date)

It was a very nice afternoon in some beautiful places. But the best part is that we left some stones unturned — the Pizza Farm (more about that in a future post), Amish furniture, and of course stopping in next time to see Julie and Alice at the Homemade Cafe to see how their pies measure up.

We’ll be back soon.