Friday, November 14, 2014

Amazing Pizza in PDX? Lovely's Lovely!

Much to my chagrin, I hadn't met Sarah Minnick until just a few weeks ago. She was ably manning the woodfired oven at Ayers Creek Farm (below left), having made its acquaintance a few scant hours ahead of having to crank out dozens of pies for people attending the farm's annual Ramble.

Sarah working her oven magic.

She'd built the fire and was trying to suss out its individual peculiarities—hot spots, cold spots, timing—by making a few test pizzas. Nicely blistered and oozing with the incredible flavor of the farm's tomatoes and greens accentuated by Fraga Farm's goat cheeses, these were some of the best pizzas I'd had anywhere. By the end of the day, with the oven and chef having settled into a mutually copacetic groove, I'd made a vow to get myself and Dave over to her pizza joint on Mississippi, which she owns with her sister, and have her pizza in situ.

Cornmeal cookies with Chester blackberry ice cream for the farm tour.

Just like Sarah herself, the interior of Lovely's Fifty Fifty is warm and inviting, the wood oven roaring in the back and the lighting at just the right level, enough to see what's on your plate and yet feel cozy, even at the long shared table. There's a seating area as you walk in if you're picking up a to-go order or getting some of her stunningly delicious ice cream to take with you. (I had a sample of her Chester blackberry ice cream sandwiched between cornmeal cookies made by Linda Colwell and thought I'd landed in a crunchy-creamy purple dream. In other words, even if you've stuffed yourself on pizza and the creative woodfired sides on the menu, order some ice cream anyway. Seriously.)

Black radish, peppers and soft cheese pizza on the farm tour.

We ordered their classic housemade fennel sausage pizza with braising greens and rosemary (top photo) and it came out just as I'd remembered it from the farm…the dough blistered with a pillowy rim, the base not crackery-thin but not too thick, the amount of filling in the just-right category, with plenty of there there and ever-so-fresh. Our side of wood-roasted cauliflower with golden sultana raisins and frenched almonds was toothsome (i.e. not cooked to mush) and slightly smoky, with a sweet-tart tang from the raisins and a crunch from the almonds. I'm going to be working on a version of this at home, for sure.

When it comes to using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, there are only a couple of other places in town that can compare with the 'za coming out of Sarah's oven. We're lucky that her place is just a few blocks from our front door—it's taken me long enough to get there, but you can be sure we'll be stopping in regularly from now on.

Details: Lovely's Fifty Fifty, 4039 NE Mississippi Ave. 503-281-4060.

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