A Swing and a Miss
August 31, 2009, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Main Dishes, Pizza Sundays

For a wedding gift from my brother-in-law Keith, we received a very nice pizza stone and an awesome pizza cutter.  The second we opened it I exclaimed to D.Jones “Oh, how perfect is this!?  We’ll use this all the time!”  That was in May of 2005.  Yesterday, which of course, would be August of 2009, I decided to try it.  The stone, that is.  The pizza cutter has actually gotten a lot of use.

I looked up easy pizza crust recipes and decided to do some slight modifications to the Smitten Kitchen’s “Really Simple Pizza Dough“.  I shouldn’t have.  Well, modified it that is.  I have no doubt that the pizza crust would have turned out perfectly had I followed the recipe as intended.

Who knows why I thought I would be some sort of expert at pizza crust making when it’s never even occurred to me to do so until moments prior to dumping some white whole wheat flour in my mixing bowl, but I did.  The result was a dough that was way too wet, so I started adding in more flour until I thought it was a good consistency.

I read that the pizza stone should be fully heated and the dough should be laid upon the pizza stone as it’s hot to achieve a perfectly crispy crust, so I heated up my stone as my dough was rising and I thought everything was good-to-go.

Now, stretching and rolling out pizza dough was more difficult than I imagined it would be, so I was getting frustrated, which helped nothing.  I ended up tearing the dough on more than one occasion and had little Cooper Jones been within earshot, he’d have some choice new vocabulary on his hands…just in time for preschool to start on Wednesday.

I sprinkled some corn meal on my pizza stone as someone else had recommended on another blog, and then finally was able to get my dough onto the stone.  It even looked reasonably okay.

On went the toppings, which I decided to keep basic for my first attempt.  Shredded mozzarella, sliced green olives and sliced red onions, with some homemade sauce, which I made out of tomato sauce, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, 3 garlic cloves and some fresh ground pepper and some red pepper flakes.  All to taste, really.  I measured nothing, and the sauce, I must say, turned out wonderfully!  I’ll include it in an actual recipe in the future, when I make attempt #2, which will be soon.

Here’s how it looked going in to the oven….


And the finished product…


Not bad looking, but it had some issues.  First, the crust was too soggy for me in some places, and the thicker parts of the edge were way too doughy.  Ick.  The other problem was that much of the crust stuck to the actual stone, which was frustrating and made clean up hellish.  The flavor was pretty good, but it seemed to be lacking something.  Not sure what…

It’s a good sign that my husband took the leftovers to work today anyway, so I guess it was okay, but not what I had hoped for.

It is kind of fun, though, and so satisfying to see it baking away in the oven.  I’m gearing up for my second attempt and will keep you posted.  If I feel it’s more successful, next time you’ll actually get recipes.  Until then, I’m proud that I finally gave it a go, and that pizza stone is finally going to get some much deserved attention.


Papa’s Pizza
July 27, 2009, 2:59 am
Filed under: Pizza Sundays, restaurants

D.Jones, Cooper and I were heading home from an exhausting day at a truck and tractor pull yesterday.  And yeah…you read that right.  It’s crazy the things we will do for our truck-obsessed boy!

Anyway, like I was saying, we were headed home from the uh, “fun”, when we remembered a pizza place that a good friend had recommended.  Pizza sounded fabulous, so we quickly took the proper exit off of 94 and headed toward Papa’s Pizza in Camden.

The place was easy to find, even though we are not at all familiar with north Minneapolis (and it helped that D.Jones was on the phone with an employee there, who kindly talked us through the directions).  Once we arrived, we wandered in a door that led us through a small deli with a few choices of gelatos, some imported cheeses and meats.  Then, through a small hallway where some statues of the Rat Pack pointed us in the direction of the dining room.  Now, we’ve been in some pretty dark and dingy family run Italian spots, between here and Wisconsin, but this dining room was light and bright, and even offered patio dining.  We opted to stay indoors after a long day in the sun, and ordered up a medium vegetarian ‘za for D.Jones and I, and a kid’s cheese pizza for Coops.


We watched the guys in the back tossing our freshly made crust and not too much longer, our pizza arrived looking absolutely delicious!  There is no grease to this pizza pie, and we tore right in!  The crust is sort of bready and is a great foundation for all of the super fresh toppings.  The sauce was more like fresh tomato sauce than a spicy pizza sauce, and was mild and good.  I added a few shakes of pepper flakes to mine because I like a little spice, but it was absolutely fine straight up.

I also sampled the kid’s cheese pizza, which allowed more of the flavor of the sauce to shine through and you could detect the oregano and spices more than on the vegetarian pizza.  Both were great.

Papa’s is located at 4159 Thomas Ave N. in Minneapolis, or you can check out their website here.

It’s a family-run place which is one of the things that makes us happy to give them our business.  Bonuses are that they have an excellent kid’s menu, as well as a beer & wine list for the bigger kids.  Oh, and they offer Surly beers! 

We’re planning on going back to check out their signature Tomato Pie straight outta Jersey~

Pizza Sunday (on Saturday) – Birchwood Cafe
April 26, 2009, 3:23 am
Filed under: Beer, Wine & Cocktails, Pizza Sundays | Tags: ,

Today’s Pizza Sunday is a day early for a very good reason….it’s Birchwood Cafe’s Saturday pizza party!  On Saturdays after 5pm at Birchwood a mere $30 gets you two small pizzas and a pitcher of beer or a bottle of wine.  Tonight our choice included a cheese pizza and a veggie pizza, plus a pitcher of Surly Furious.  It doesn’t get much better than that, folks…especially on a Saturday night when it’s warm enough to sit out at the outdoor tables.  As we sat outside tonight, the happy voices and laughter from other tables floated on the evening air as we munched on tonight’s veggie pizza selection, which was a chewy homemade crust topped with basil olive oil (no red sauce), cauliflower, sauteed spinach, diced local tomatoes, scallions and mozzarella.  D.Jones was not looking forward to it because he often reads the less common ingredients on Birchwood’s pizzas and turns up his nose, but once he gets a bite of it, he loves it every time!

The options we didn’t select from tonight included a sausage pizza made with wild rice pork sausage from Fischer Farms or a 1,000 Hills grass fed beef pizza with poached garlic spread, roasted mushrooms, sweet onions, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and cheddar.  Though we didn’t try them, I have no doubt they, too, would have been delish.


The cheese pizza is always good and even a hit with the 3rd person in the Jones party, who is definitely the pickiest of our bunch.


Usually I talk D.Jones into splitting a bottle of wine with me and Birchwood usually has a couple of great offerings of both red or white to enjoy with your pizza of choice.  Tonight, Doug wanted beer and I gave in, though then we argued about whether to get the Surly Furious or the Saison from Lift Bridge in Stillwater.   I caved and put my stamp of approval on the Furious, but as they filled our pitcher, the keg blew about 3/4 into our pitcher, so the awesome guy running the counter gave us each a mug of Lift Bridge’s Farm Girl Saison.  Furious is always delicious and the pitcher on our table definitely added to the perfect little springtime evening we were enjoying…


We sat and chatted and sipped as we waited for our pizza delivery.  Our discussion centered on how much we don’t mind paying to dine out when it’s at a place as fabulously conscientious as Birchwood, and how no matter what we order there, it just feels healthier than eating someplace else….even the pizza.

So…2 thumbs up on Birchwood for so many reasons I can’t list them, but tonight it’s all about the pizza.



Pizza Sundays – Dulono’s
April 19, 2009, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Pizza Sundays | Tags: ,

Located at 607 W. Lake Street, Dulono’s has been around since 1957.  My sister worked there way back in the day and Dulono’s has been a family favorite since the 70’s.

It’s always an interesting place to dine as you can see just about anything or anyone there during your visit.  Sometimes bikers, sometimes hippies, sometimes suburban looking parents with kids. 

This Sunday I had every intention of going out for a deep dish pie, but home plumbing issues found us under lock and key while D.Jones tried his hand at fixing some pipes.   Seeing as how I already told everyone I’d be writing about pizza on Sundays, Dulono’s came to mind right away.

The crust is thin as can be, and crisp around the edges.  They never skimp on the toppings, which is usually a good thing, except that D.Jones always orders the ‘chovies and with the amount they throw on there, they can really smell up the Jones digs. 


Tonight he had a medium anchovy and mushroom, while the boy and I split a small 1/2 cheese, 1/2 pepperoni.  As always, Dulono’s does not disappoint. 

My father-in-law has a favorite pizza place close to his house in South Eastern Wisconsin.  In the largely Italian population of their hometown, pizza can cause heated debates and he does not mess ar0und.  Basically, if it ain’t Pa’s Pizza, my father-in-law is disappointed….until he tried Dulono’s.  He claims it’s the best he’s had in the Twin Cities.  Not as good as Pa’s, but a close second is quite a victory in his eyes.

If you like your crust thin, your tomato sauce not too sweet, and lots of cheese like a good old-fashioned corner pizza place kinda ‘za, you gotta try Dulono’s.  Mmmm….delicious!


Introducing Pizza Sundays
April 6, 2009, 12:33 am
Filed under: Pizza Sundays | Tags: ,

I always read blogger reviews of pizza places.  I mean pizza rocks in every way.  I remember one of my birthday parties that marked a turning point when I was old enough to invite friends and get dropped off somewhere and then picked up later.  I was probably…oh…12 or so and my parents dropped off a group of around 10 girlfriends of mine so we could have pizza at Davanni’s and they’d pick us up later.  I felt so mature.

Any kid growing up in the Midwest remembers either having or being at a birthday party at Shakey’s pizza, don’t they?  The big white styrofoam tophat with red stripes to mark the birthday kid’s big day?  It was way cool.

Pizza makes for good memories.  It makes for fun, casual family times, and later, for good times with friends over a pitcher and a pie.  Of course, poor pizza gets a bad rap for contributing to the freshman-15, but I dare you to find a college kid who doesn’t eat it on a regular basis.

And don’t tell my Dad’s doctor if you see him eating it more than the allotted once every couple of weeks because apparently pizza isn’t health food.  Pfft.  I disagree.  I mean, you’ve got tomatoes, cheese, veggies…whatever.  Sounds healthy to me, right?

Anyway, as an excuse to enjoy pizza more frequently, I suggested to D.Jones that we start reviewing a different pizza place every Sunday.  Being from a predominantly Italian area of Wisconsin, he thinks he’s quite the connoisseur, so he loved the idea.

I remember reading Aaron Landry’s review of Fireside pizza in Richfield here a while ago and wondering why we’ve never tried it.  I mean, he said it’s good and he’s tried his share of ‘za..he should know, right?  Plus, it’s not so far from home, and every time we drive by it we comment on the fact that it looks like a place we’ve just got to see the inside of…and yet never have.  Once I read Landry’s review and heard about the fake trees and good ‘za, I moved it to the top of our list as our first place to try.

So, this Sunday we went to Fireside Pizza on Penn Avenue in Richfield.   I noticed the fake tree immediately.  I mean, how can you not?!  Then we got seated in a cozy booth along the wall and took a look at the menu.  D.Jones said right away that he liked the place.  He thought the atmosphere was quaint and thought it was perfect for a neighborhood pizza joint.

We ordered Cooper a $5 order of kid’s spaghetti that came with the most buttery garlic bread ever.  It was really good.  He devoured his spaghetti, so I guess he liked it.

D.Jones and I split a large green olive and onion ‘za, while he sipped a pint of Summit.  The pizza was really good.  The crust was thin and perfectly crisp with just the right amount of cheesy goodness on top.  There were lots of olives, though I didn’t notice as many onions.

The service was right on, and when she brought some mint taffy with the check and heard me trying to coach Cooper on how to “bite really hard” to bite through it, she even swung back to tell me that it works better to warm it in my hand in the wrapper first, which softens it and makes it easier to chew.  Who knew!?

So for our first Pizza Sunday we give two thumbs up to Fireside Pizza.  It’s just good ‘za.