Farms in the Lens: Wild Acres

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

About the Farms in the Lens series: Much of what we write within these pages is focused on the restaurants of Minneapolis and St. Paul. But much of what we eat at those tables comes from farms around the state. With underwriting from Clancey’s Meats and Fish, we’ve set out to document a half dozen of these farms, focusing on the relationship between humans and animals. Check out our complete Farms in the Lens series, including: Wild Acres, Hidden Stream, Shepherd’s Way, Redhead Creamery, Twisted Suri Alpaca Ranch, and Paradox Farm.

Pheasant hunting has an air of romance to it — the combination of hunters, dogs, and prairie evokes a Victorian novel made real right here in Minnesota. Beyond Brainerd, off the highway, then onto a gravel road, past the hunters and a log cabin, a complex series of barns, buildings, and enclosures houses Wild Acres Hunting Club and Shooting Preserve, and also thousands of the area’s most treasured poultry birds.

Wild Acres supplies turkeys, ducks, chickens, and pheasants to many Twin Cities restaurants and shops. They control the whole process: They supply their own eggs, hatch the birds, raise them, process them on site, and deliver them.

clanceys-shirt-bannerWhat began as a shooting preserve in 1978 became a pioneering farm that in the 1980s was among the first to sell free-range chickens. The farm has been a favorite of many food professionals, including Wolfgang Puck, Charlie Trotter, and numerous Twin Cities chefs.

“Most of my chefs will say, ‘It’s not what we do with it; it’s a good product when it comes in,’” says Pat Ebnet, who owns and runs the bird-growing side of the business. (His mother, who is semiretired, runs the game preserve.) “Going to one of the restaurants and seeing the end preparation, that is the end benefit. That is the ‘wow,’ that these people really appreciate what I do,” says Ebnet.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A single flock of geese roams around the property during the summer. Many are sold at Christmas time.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Wild Acres started as a shooting preserve and still has a shooting club. Since Ebnet took over, the poultry operation has vastly outpaced the shooting preserve. Pheasants are hatched twice a year and live outdoors. Ebnet processes about 4,000 pheasants each year for restaurants and markets including local coops and Clancey’s.

Boomer Pizza in Baxter

Boomer Pizza in Baxter
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

If location were truly everything, Boomer Pizza would have a problem. Just off Highway 371 in Baxter, Boomer Pizza is in a nondescript strip mall behind a Holiday Station and adjacent to Cub Foods, a spot that doesn’t exactly exude high-quality cuisine.

Fortunately, in this case location isn’t everything. Boomer Pizza significantly raises the pizza bar in the Brainerd Lakes area. Once inside, diners feel the strip mall vibe vanish as they are greeted by friendly servers and get a look at the eye-popping, tiled, wood-burning pizza oven, from which pizzas are shoveled quickly in and out. Owner Chris Moran spent several years investigating the Metro area pizza scene — along with making a couple of trips to San Francisco — while developing his own crust formula and bringing it back to his hometown. The research and time paid off: his crust manages to be both crisp and chewy in the right proportions. One thing it is not: soggy in the middle. The crust keeps its integrity all the way across (and even holds up well after refrigeration and reheating).

Boomer Pizza in Baxter
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

One of the shop’s highly touted pies is Pig Heaven ($11.50), a sauceless pizza with generous amounts of mozzarella and grana padano, along with garlic, herbs, and best of all, big slabs of crisp, meaty, smoky, house-cured bacon, all resting on that more-than-respectable crust.

Boomer Pizza in Baxter
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The County Clare pizza ($8.50) is a smart nod to more traditional red-sauce pizzas, with zippy fennel sausage, cracked green olives, and oregano on a tangy, not-too-thick sauce. But the overly copious amount of nearly raw onions is a misstep. The intense heat of the wood-burning oven means that the pizzas overall are done in a flash, but the onions stubbornly remain raw. I love onions and frequently complain that there aren’t enough in whatever it is that I’m eating, but in this case, I picked off at least half of them. People less enamored of this particular allium will wish the onions had been defanged a bit by being sauteed in butter or olive oil before they were put on the pizza.

Boomer Pizza in Baxter
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Boomer Pizza offers a selection of Minnesota beers — including Surly, Summit, and Indeed Brewing — as well as wine and a full bar. Service is fast and friendly; the pizzas are reasonably priced and meticulously assembled (well, except for those onions); and location aside, the Brainerd area got itself a keeper of a pizza place.

Boomer Pizza
Pizza, beer, and wine in the Brainerd Lakes area
14039 Edgewood Ave
Baxter, MN 56425
218.454.4900
HOURS:
Sun-Tues 11am-8:30pm
Wed-Thurs 11am-9pm
Fri-Sat 11am-10pm
ENTREE RANGE: $7-$12
RESERVATIONS: No
BAR: Full
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited

All Hail New Bohemia and Morning Roundup

Beer and sausage hall New Bohemia opens today, two Open Arms events in honor of Food Day (one featuring our own Tricia Cornell), the Caribbean foods of Guy-Am Grocery in North Minneapolis, Pour Decisions goes on sale this Saturday (here’s our original profile), a visit to Goose Lake Winery, Madison’s Great Dane is named top brewpub group in the country at the Great American Beer Festival, and a snapshot of Brainerd’s food truck.