Sep 11, 2013

Freetime at the Freehouse

 photo IMG_00000700_zps3c96a09e.jpgThe NDP Caucus strategy session was coming to an end, and before the last part began, we had some free time for lunch. Where should we go to enjoy this freetime? To the Freehouse, of course!

The Freehouse was established by a Saskatchewan consortium that includes several New Democrats, most notably former NDP MP Lorne Nystrom. There are two successful locations in Saskatchewan, the Cathedral Freehouse which opened in 1996 in Regina and the Spadina Freehouse which opened in 2002 in Saskatoon. The consortium tried to expand to Winnipeg, but sadly, the Osborne Village Freehouse didn’t last very long.

The Spadina Freehouse is located strategically in the heart of downtown Saskatoon, across from the Delta and adjacent to the Sheraton, guaranteeing an influx of travellers attracted by convenience and the large patio. Despite the inviting bright interior, Steve, Karine and I decided to sit outside – until the sun came out and we realized there was no shade anywhere to offer cover to the patrons. My fair skin couldn’t take it, and thankfully the staff happily obliged and set us up inside, despite the fact that we had already ordered our drinks.

They’ve got a nice looking pizza oven burning in the back where they woodfire cook their thin crust pizza. The Freehouse menu is eclectic, a bit all over the place.  For instance, the appetizers’ origins are all over the map: Red Pepper Hummus, Korean Rolls, Tandoori Tenders, Empanadas.  The rest of the menu is similar: Kasmiri Chicken, Sicilian Linguini, Red Curry Mango Penne, Chipotle Back Ribs, Chocolate Chili Lamb Shank, Tarragon Citrus Halibut and a selection of sandwiches, burgers and salads. There are also lots of vegetarian and/or gluten-free menu items if you’re looking for those things.

But we had heard all week the good reviews about their pizzas, and that seemed the way to go.

All Freehouse pizzas are 10” pies, offered at a 17$ flatrate (2$ extra for gluten-free dough.)  The selection is limited yet interesting:  Classic Greek (spinach, tomatoes, spanish (!) onions, black olives, mozzarella and feta on a basil pesto base), Tandoori Chicken (mango chutney, cilantro, chicken, red peppers, onions, mozzarella on a tandoori masala and yogurt sauce), Bruschetta, Fungi, and Spicy BBQ Chicken (chicken, onions, mandarin oranges, three cheese blend on a BBQ sauce) are among the choices.  We decided to order three different pizzas and share, so Steve went with the Pulled Pork and Apple pizza, Karine picked the Cappicola & Roast Roma and I went with the Carnivore.

It took a little while to get our pizzas but once they came, they were warm and glowing with flavour:

Steve’s Pulled Pork & Apple was the most intriguing.  A healthy serving of pulled pork with slivers of granny smith apples on a chipotle adobo BBQ sauce, topped with a blend of three cheeses.

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This one was delicious. There was a healthy amount of very tender pulled pork. The sauce was sweet and spicy, indeed a good heat level, and it went very well with the pork.  But what made it was the fresh explosion of tart and sweet apples – in fact, there could have been a little more.  A great combination. I thought there could have been more cheese, though.

Karine’s Cappicola & Roast Roma was the most traditional of the bunch.   Cappicola ham, roasted tomatoes, red onions and provolone cheese on a basil pesto base.

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This pizza was my least favourite.  The tomatoes were kind of mushy and the onions were basically raw.  The Cappicola was good, spicy, but its presence was masked under the pile of onions.  Karine discarded a bunch of them and there was a noticeable pile on her plate when we were done. The provolone was fine, mildly  sweet, helping the pesto base to shine. The pesto base was indeed fine, but it seems to me they should have gone with a tomato-based sauce for this one.

As for the Carnivore, it was different than the usual meat lovers offered by pizza joints.  Here, you had chorizo sausage, cappicola and pulled pork on a house made classic pizza sauce topped with mozzarella.

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Now, that’s what I called a hearty pizza!  There was loads of meat on it.  The same pulled pork as the other pie – but its own flavour was more present, not absorbed by the BBQ sauce.  It was a good contrast with the chorizo, spicy and texturally pleasant.  Contrary to the Pulled Pork and Apple, this had no cheese blend, but just pure mozza.  I thought that the cheese combo was kind of non-descript - this was more like it, cheesy and stringy but with caramelized bits here and there.

The crust was crispy and crunchy, thanks to the wood fired oven. It held the toppings together nicely, and was cooked perfectly.  But at 17$, these seemed a bit pricey – and once we got our food, our server disappeared - but it is worth pointing out that we were all sated and satisfied with our meal. That must be worth something.

Spadina Freehouse on Urbanspoon

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