Good Takeout: Papa John’s

Panago is our go-to pizza take-out joint (we especially love their Italian meatball pizza). The nearest storefront on 104 Avenue is about a twenty minute walk though, so we inevitably end up driving there to pick up our orders.

When Papa John’s moved into a storefront a block away from our condo on 105 Street and Jasper Avenue, we were eager to give them a try – it’s great to have another option within walking distance of our place (Funky Pickle on Jasper Avenue and 102 Street is also close).

Their online ordering function wasn’t yet enabled for the new store, so Mack still had to call to put in our order. When he arrived to pick it up on a Thursday evening, he found the shop not the least bit busy – it will probably take some time for residents to know about their newest neighbour. Mack ordered two specialty pizzas for $25.99 (a price comparable to our usual Panago order): the Sicilian Classic (pepperoni, Italian sausage, Italian salami, ham) and the Canadian Classic (pepperoni, bacon, mushroom).

This was our first experience with Papa John’s, so the garlic dip and banana pepper we found when we opened the boxes were a nice surprise (to eat the garlic dip, however, is not recommended – it smelled like popcorn, and did not taste like garlic at all).

Papa John's

Sicilian Classic

We found the cheese topping to be extremely generous, one of the barometers of takeaway pizza. The crust wasn’t the least bit greasy, which might be ideal for some, but I still preferred Panago’s crunchier crust. The Italian salami added a bit of welcome heat to the Sicilian, but given I’m a sucker for mushrooms on pizza, the Canadian was my favourite of the two.

Papa John's

Canadian Classic

We’d definitely consider Papa John’s in the future if we were craving pizza and pressed for time.

Papa John’s
10540 Jasper Avenue (multiple locations in Edmonton)
(780) 429-7212
Sunday-Thursday 11am-11pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-2am

Slow Food Edmonton’s Wood Fired Solstice Supper

I first joined Slow Food Edmonton just over a year ago. In that time, I’ve attended Indulgence twice, participated in learning activities, watched a grilled cheese smackdown, put together a scavenger hunt, and am part of the team organizing the upcoming Beer & Boar BBQ. What I’ve found most engaging, however, have been the potluck suppers.

Mary’s annual wrap-up potlucks have been a running Slow Food tradition, and we were able to attend our first last November. I thought it was a great, informal way to get to meet others interested in local food. In January, Valerie kicked off the first in a series of solstice suppers, another excuse to get together and enjoy great eats with Slow Foodies. She generously hosted the party in her home, and at that dinner, it was announced that a second solstice supper would take place at Colleen and Vince’s residence, also home to Sophia, their wood burning oven.

Sophia, their “hot and tempestuous wood-fired oven”, heh

It was to be an intimate affair capped at thirty people, to ensure there would be enough food, as everything would be cooked inside the oven. So instead of a straight potluck with attendees bringing completed dishes, everyone was assigned an ingredient (locally sourced) to be cooked on site. Ingredients ranged from salad greens to potatoes to fowl. Mack and I were one of four groups chosen to bring enough ingredients for three pizzas.

Valerie prepping her pizza ingredients

With Colleen and Vince taking care of the pizza dough (they are exceptional bread makers – I had to restrain myself at the last solstice supper from consuming the crusty bread they had laid out), our job was easy. We picked up some crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spicy capicollo and prosciutto from the Italian Centre for starters, and planned to round out our toppings at the City Market the next day.

Perfectly formed pizza dough

We reached the market later than we had originally planned, however, and our selection was limited. We ended up substituting pea tendrils instead of arugula for fresh greens (from Sundog Organics), fresh oregano instead of basil (also from Sundog Organics), Portobello caps from Mo Na (Michael’s recommendation), tomatoes from Gull Valley, and a container of goat feta from Smoky Valley.

Getting the ingredients ready

Our pizzas were first up, to serve as appetizers for the hungry crowd. So just after our arrival, Mack and I joined Valerie, Wendy and Teresa in the kitchen. Vince showed us how to work the dough – stretching it and ensuring enough flour was between the pizza peel and the pizza to allow for easy transfer into the oven. He also advised us not to heap too many ingredients on top.

The pro at work

The first of our pizzas, with fresh mozzarella, Portobello and capicollo, ready for the oven

The dough was perfectly crispy and chewy, and tasted like no homemade pizza I’d ever had before. The oven, as Vince explained to us, reached temperatures of up to 900 degrees (he had a nifty electronic thermometer to measure its internal temperature).

 The first of our pizzas, out of the oven, topped with pea tendrils

Mack and I were clearly the most uncreative when it came to pizza toppings, which became evident when we saw what Valerie brought – pestos, roasted tomatoes and red peppers, duck confit, roasted chicken among them. They were delicious, and undoubtedly gourmet.

One of Valerie’s tasty creations, before baking (Mack’s favourite)

Valerie’s roasted tomato pizza with basil chiffonade

Once our last pizza was served, we were off kitchen duty for the rest of the night. That allowed us ample time to explore Colleen and Vince’s backyard oasis, built for entertaining. Between the large deck (featuring mounted external speakers), a small wooden house (for rainy days) and a lovely garden with lined paths, it was a pretty space to pass the time.

Enjoying the sun

View from the garden

The second half of the meal took several hours to prepare – Vince said it was difficult to control the temperature for such a lengthy period of time – but it allowed us plenty of time to catch up with familiar faces, and get to know some new Slow Food members.

Photo op

Though it was a shame that Mary Ellen and Andreas (of Greens, Eggs and Ham) weren’t able to make it, their products were well-represented at the dinner and included their salad greens and potatoes, and geese, guinea fowl and Cornish game hen (it turned out Mary Ellen helped coordinate the fowl somewhat, and prevented duplication).

Almost ready

When the fowl were crispy and cooked through, it was time to roast the asparagus and potatoes.

Seasoned and ready to go in the oven!

Crisp tender asparagus

The cold sides were prepped, and the eating began!

 Beautiful greens with lilacs sprinkled on top

Roasted vegetable salad (it tasted every bit as good as it looks)

Someone had made a delectable morel cream sauce to pair with the asparagus, but I have to say, the sauce paired well with everything. Mack loved the potatoes – tossed in a bit of duck fat, salt and pepper, the oven crisped them up like a dream. The fowl also did well in the oven, and as expected, the skin was the best part!

My plate

There was enough food left over for people to have seconds, but most were saving room for dessert. Roasted rhubarb was spooned over a ginger-spiced panna cotta (made with Bles Wold yogurt).  It was the perfect cap on a fantastic meal.

Panna cotta with roasted rhubarb

Thanks again to Colleen and Vince for being such amazing hosts. We were all well taken care of, and though I know dinner took longer to serve than Vince would have liked, we all had such a great time mingling that it didn’t matter. I’m looking forward to the next potluck already.

You can see our photoset here, and read Valerie’s post about the Solstice Supper here.

Take ‘N’ Bake Revolution: Papa Murphy’s

Who knew there was a pizza revolution taking place right underneath our noses? Forget frozen pizzas or even delivery, it seems the new movements is towards fresh-made pie, to be baked right in your home oven.

Though grocery stores have offered deli-made pizzas for years, businesses that specialize in take ‘n bake pizzas are relatively new to Edmonton. Papa Murphy’s opened its first shop in the city back in 2007, and now have six locations in the Edmonton area (their eventual plan is to expand to a total of 17 stores).

Papa Murphy’s trumpets their commitment of using always fresh, never frozen ingredients. Moreover, in an effort to set themselves apart from the likes of Pizza Hut, Panago and Domino’s, they emphasize the fact that their carryout pizzas will be hot out of your oven.

Armed with a 2-for-1 coupon, Mack and I stopped by the Papa Murphy’s around the corner from the Italian Centre South on our way home on Saturday, eager for an easy dinner option after a long day. It was empty, though in their defence, it was after 7pm. We were faced with twenty options, not including the possibility of a custom order. Pizzas ranged in price from $9.99 for a medium cheese pizza to $22.99 for a family-size double-layered grilled chicken and bacon-stuffed pizza. We decided on a more restrained choice, a medium Papa’s All Meat (mozzarella, ham, salami, pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef, provolone, cheddar) and a medium Rancher (mozzarella, ham, pepperoni, ground beef, onions, provolone, cheddar), both priced at $13.99.

Papa Murphy’s

Our pizzas were assembled right before our eyes, Subway-style, complete with a sheet of reheating instructions. My favourite line on the guide: “Please bake before eating”.

Assembling our pizza

Ready to take home

The staff were friendly, though our question about freezing a pizza seemed to throw them off – there was no way Mack and I would be able to eat our way through two pizzas at one sitting. The staff person said it could be done, but warned us to thaw it thoroughly before baking it, to prevent a soggy, uneven crust.

Fifteen minutes in the preheated oven back at home, dinner was ready. We had baked the pizza on the included tray, opting to see how well it worked. No surprise, it didn’t hold a candle to the result on a pizza stone, but was better than using a conventional baking sheet. The pizza also wasn’t overly greasy, and contained a solid amount of both toppings and cheese. All in all, it was a tasty pizza.

Papa’s All Meat, ready to eat

Though we enjoyed the pizza, I’m not sold on the take ‘n’ bake concept. Sure, it’s great that the toppings are fresh, and it could be convenient to pick up a pizza on the way home after work, but if I was looking for a quick fix, I’m fairly certain I would prefer calling for delivery, particularly if it would only end up costing me a few dollars more (and, well, I like Panago). That said, given the increasing number of Papa Murphy’s locations in the city, it looks like take ‘n’ bake has found some fans in Edmonton.

Papa Murphy’s
10431 51 Avenue (5 other locations in Edmonton and area)
(780) 476-7272

The Cooking Chronicles: Pizza Stone Attempt #2

On Chris’s recommendation, our second pizza stone attempt revolved around a Peter Reinhart recipe for dough.

For starters, the recipe made enough dough for four 10 inch pizzas, which meant we had enough dough for another round of pizzas – a future dinner time saver! And though I was worried the dough wouldn’t rise (it didn’t double in size like Giada’s recipe), the bread turned out great. Mack, who was in charge of rolling out the crust, was a bit challenged at first, but with the aid of a rolling pin, was able to shape two thin crusts.

The recipe advised us to place a sheet of parchment paper underneath the dough prior to dressing the pizza, which would allow for easier transfer onto the preheated pizza stone. This was a very useful tip, as the paper also allowed for seamless transfer off of the pizza stone (we don’t have a pizza peel) – we simply pulled the paper (and pizza) onto a baking sheet.

Pizza Stone Product #2

We don’t usually marvel at how well recipes turn out, but on this occasion, we felt a small celebration was warranted. The crust was perfectly browned and crispy, and topped with tomatoes from Doef’s Greenhouse, and prosciutto and basil from the Italian Centre, it was undoubtedly one of the best pizzas we had ever made.

Thanks again Chris for the recommendation! I think we’ve found a keeper.

The Cooking Chronicles: Pizza Stone Attempt #1

Have you ever been wooed at the store by a kitchen gadget only to bring it home and allow it to gather dust? A pizza stone I had picked up at Winners last year fell into that category, even though I had the best of intentions when I bought it, with visions of crunchy, thin-crust pizzas overtaken by the reality of time and effort. Well, I hoped to reignite some of those visions and made it a point to finally make use of it.

The stone itself came with a serving rack, but Mack and I weren’t sure if the rack itself was meant to be put in the oven. We decided it would be safer to avoid potential melting and put the stone directly into the oven. The instructions directed us to preheat it for 40 minutes in a 450 degree oven.

We assembled the pizza using a tried and true recipe (Giada de Laurentiis’ dough base, though I wish I could toss dough like Chris instead). As instructed, we sprinkled some corn meal on the hot stone, lay our rolled pizza dough on top, and assembled our favourite assortment of toppings, including prosciutto, roma tomatoes, mushrooms and fresh basil. And into the oven it went, for about 15 minutes.

Out of the oven, the pizza was looking good – the crisp brown edges were just beginning to curl. When we dug in though, we found the crust to have an odd consistency. While crunchy on the bottom, the centre of the crust was chewy, almost undercooked. We weren’t sure if this was attributed to our mangling of the dough recipe, or perhaps a mistake of our first pizza stone try, but we were disappointed the pizza didn’t quite taste as good as it looked.

Pizza stone + pizza

We weren’t disheartened though – we will be making use of the stone again (with a different dough recipe), optimistic for better results!

No Hand-Tossed Dough: Tony’s Pizza Palace

After visiting the new Alberta Avenue farmers’ market, and prior to the artsScene Edmonton launch party, we stopped in at Tony’s Pizza Palace for dinner. One of my coworkers raved about Tony’s after lunch there some time ago, primarily because she could see the chefs hand-toss the dough like in the movies. As a result, I was most looking forward to this aspect of our dining experience.

Based on our initial assessment of the older stucco building, Tony’s seemed to be a family-friendly, neighbourhood pizza place. When we walked in, the décor seemed to match our judgment – dated, but comfortable, with wooden fixtures, clunky chairs and at the back, an open window into the kitchen, where we saw six busy hands and a huge oven behind them.

With the laid-back interior, we were surprised to find that the servers were dressed to the nines. The waiters all had crisp white shirts, black vests, and ties – a major disconnect with their surroundings and the patrons, who for the most part were rocking jeans or casual slacks. Though their service was friendly and efficient, I had to wonder if management confused the desired atmosphere of Tony’s with that of an upscale French bistro.


At any rate, once settled with our drinks, we perused the menu. We ignored the entrees and pasta dishes and headed straight for their namesake dishes. The “specials” (topping combinations pre-selected without room for substitution) were quite expensive (ranging from $14.25-$21.50), at least when compared with the price to customize our own pizza.

We asked our server how large the medium was, and at 12’’, decided that Mack was hungry enough to warrant ordering two of them, knowing that any leftovers would make a welcome brown bag lunch. I decided on the classic margherita pizza ($14.25 for medium), though tomatoes were absent, while Mack customized a medium pizza with Italian sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms ($15.25 for three toppings). Unfortunately, basil wasn’t a topping option, so I could not have customized my own margherita.

While awaiting our meal, I anxiously watched the kitchen window and waited for the dough-tossing to begin. Unfortunately, my patience went unrewarded, and we did not see a single toss over the course of our evening. We should have asked if they had changed their policy, but our food was delivered shortly and I neglected to do so.

The pizzas were indeed generously-sized, molded perfectly to fit circular pan underneath. Mack noted the crust – not at all greasy and thin but sturdy – he was able to pick up a slice to be eaten without utensils. He much preferred this to its Neapolitan sibling – the chewy, and airy type propagated by Famoso, while I disagreed. The margherita, with its very basic cheese and basil topping, let the crust shine. Mack’s custom pizza, on the other hand, was loaded with meat and mushrooms, and despite the less-than-crispy pepperoni, he enjoyed it. I should also note that the sauce was not overpowering – sometimes a heavy hand is used to distribute the base, but these pizzas had just the right amount of sauce.

Margherita Pizza

Three-topping PIzza with Sausage, Pepperoni and Mushrooms

The isolated location of Tony’s would prevent it from becoming a regular haunt for me, particularly when the downtown location of Famoso, with their lovely charred and chewy crust, is so much more central. But I was happy to have tried it, even without the free pizza tossing entertainment.

Tony’s Pizza Palace
9605 111 Avenue NW
(780) 424-8777
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:30pm; Dinner: Monday-Thursday 4:30-10pm, Friday 4:30pm-midnight, Saturday 2:30pm-midnight, Sunday 4:30-10:30pm

The Cooking Chronicles: Birthday Pizza

My Mum offered to make me whatever I wanted for my birthday supper, and though I usually pick her sweet and sour pork when a special occasion arises, this year, I chose pizza on the grill. My sister and I tried making our own pizzas on the barbie last year, and though they were edible, the dough was a tad undercooked. We hoped to rectify that this time around.

Mack and I picked up some choice toppings before heading home (fresh basil, Hungarian salami, white mushrooms), and using the dough my Mum had made that afternoon, assembled our individual pizzas on par-baked rounds.

Assembling pizzas

My Dad was in charge of the barbecue portion of the recipe, and just a few minutes after the first three went on the grill, he knew they’d be burnt. We probably shouldn’t have par-baked the dough, but my Mum and I thought that’d be a way to avoid undercooking the dough.

On the grill

Luckily, my pizza turned out okay, and slightly less charred than the others. We learned our lesson though, and won’t be pre-baking the dough again.

My pizza (with lots of cracked black pepper!)

After dinner, Mack and I went for a walk in the nearby Mill Creek Ravine (or what I deemed, “the bush”), retracing the path my family and I used to take on warm summer evenings not unlike that one.

On a bridge


Mack and I