To find Two Pony Gardens, you turn off a main, paved road onto a gravel one. The road is lined with trees in a way that makes you feel like you are headed into a place different from the one you just left — a peaceful and almost magical escape. You pass a greenhouse and a small, planted field. You may even run into a horse-drawn carriage. You park your car on a grassy field, and as you walk to the house, you’ll pass what you came for: the outdoor wood-fired brick oven.
You’ve arrived at one of Two Pony Gardens’ relatively new pizza nights. Lisa Ringer, the owner of the farm, and Siri Knutson, previously the farm manager and now in charge of the pizza nights, lead the operation, offering pizza pies for dinner. On a day-to-day basis, the farmers focus on growing heirloom tomatoes and dahlias.
Two Pony Gardens spans 40-acres and can be found in Long Lake, Minnesota, west of the Twin Cities. Previously the land belonged to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which, for a small fee, opened the property to the public. You can still find grates for fire pits around the farm. True to the spirit of creating a community space, Ringer allows guests to roam the fields and picnic near the farmhouse.
The concept of hosting pizza nights began in 2009 when Daniel Klein of The Perennial Plate and Knutson decided to host a harvest meal. They invited 50 folks to the dinner, and then planned more dinners in response to the demand. Eventually, Knutson and Ringer slowly began to host small, invited groups to the farm for pizza.
The farm offers just two kinds of pizzas. At every pizza night they sling traditional margherita pies with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. The other is a seasonal pie. When we visited, we feasted on a unique pie with a melon salsa, pancetta, and sharp cheddar. The crust on these pizzas is quite near perfection: light, but not soggy, and crispy, just when you need that crunch. The wood-fired oven creates a crust that lovers of Pizzeria Lola understand.
Visitors are asked to RSVP to the scheduled pizza nights (the next event will be August 3), and you even have the option of prepaying online. Otherwise cash is accepted when you order your pies. This is a pack-in-and-pack-out event. Bring your plates, cups, beverages, and blankets.
As much as possible, the farmers utilize tomatoes, herbs, and other various vegetables from Two Pony Gardens and sometimes neighboring farms. But when needed, they do also resort to grocery store products.
The price tag at Two Pony Gardens is hefty — they’re clearly asking you to pay for an experience beyond food. The pies aren’t cheap at $18 each, and we found that we needed two pies for two people.
But as we ate surrounded by trees, wandered the property to admire the flowers and tomatoes, visited with chickens, peeked in the farm-style house that is open for eating and bathroom use, and watched families pile in a wagon for horse-drawn buggy rides, we began to reconsider our initial disbelief at the price of the pizzas. After all, Two Pony Gardens offered us a cozy farm experience that we city dwellers crave.
Two Pony Gardens
Pizza farm in Long Lake
1700 Deer Hill Rd
Long Lake, MN 55356
OWNER / CHEF: Lisa Ringer
HOURS: Various Saturday nights, starting at 5pm
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE PRICE: $18