This week we return to the charming streets of Vancouver, Washington. We’re bringing you a special sweet treat from our neighbors to the north. And while many associate “the ‘Couve” with a quieter way of life, historic downtown Vancouver bustles with pedestrian activity and expanding opportunity.
As the growth in Portland continues to impact its bedroom communities, places like Vancouver are feeling the love. The rising tide of housing starts lifts all business boats, and none feel this more than Bleu Door Bakery owner Bonnie Brasure.
Paris in the Uptown Village
Go for a casual stroll down Main Street in quaint downtown Vancouver and you can’t miss the giant rolling door and outdoor seating area in front of the Bleu Door Bakery. The Bleu Door Bakery’s delicious breads have been delighting the locals for years. “In the dead of winter while it was twenty-five degrees, people would be out there standing, waiting for their bread,” Brasure says.
Brasure, who has been a cook all her life and brings a long list of credentials and prestigious chef assignments to the table, settled on pastries ten years ago. Prior to that, she was what she calls a “food, food” chef who made her way from the East Coast to the great Pacific Northwest and like so many others, never looked back.
As success found the Bleu Door Bakery, Brasure decided she wanted to do something extra with the building, so she set about planning a pergola out front. Then, just before the buildout, the City of Vancouver threw a wrench into the mix. Undeterred, Brasure did the next best thing, “The city was giving us so much trouble, so I just bought the building,” she says with a chuckle.
Instead of an outdoor seating patio and pergola, she now had a whole new space to create the perfect French café experience. After heavy remodeling, the café opened this past July, and it’s been gangbusters ever since.
Elegance and Charm
Step across the threshold into the Bleu Door Bakery and you’ll feel instantly transported into any number of charming Parisian cafés set out along the bustling Champs-Élysées.
As soon as you enter, an array of delectable baked items sits appealingly arrayed behind a glass partition to your left. Wrought iron leaf scrolling proves that no two small details were left out.
Gorgeous chandeliers twinkle brightly, lighting up the room. And although you may initially assume each beautifully designed chandelier is the same, in fact they are all different, yet no less stunning in their own right. The interior color palette combines white and purple with grey and black. An array of picture frames lets your mind’s eye create the art as you scan the walls.
The vibe is heavy on authenticity while being light on pretense. The only thing expected of you at the Bleu Door Bakery is a hungry stomach. You’re sure to come feeling empty, but leave full, and for good reason.
A Local Gem
By sourcing local and serving the Vancouver area, the Bleu Door has achieved a respectable level of saturation, and not just north of the Columbia. “I know we get a lot of people that come from Portland exclusively for us,” says Brasure.
And yet, ask anyone in downtown Vancouver and they’ll tell you it’s a secret they would prefer remain one. Whereas the Bleu Door would have likely have, as Brasure puts it, “got lost in the shuffle” were it in Portland, Vancouver can lay claim to its own restaurant hot spot.
One thing that’s immediately clear upon visiting the Bleu Door is their passion for the food. “We do everything from scratch, nothing is pre-packaged,” Brasure assures us.
Some French. All Flavor.
Beyond near-total in-house preparation, the Bleu Door Bakery serves a need that many a Portlander would both understand and appreciate, by going out of their way to offer vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Portland local Melissa Nash-Farang had nothing but love for the gluten-free bread, which she called “some of the best she’s ever had.” Brasure only makes three loaves at a time due to the nature of such a labor-intensive process.
As the seasons change, so do the menu items. Brasure visits the farmers’ markets in the summer and develops menu items specifically around what’s “fresh and local.”
Having such a trained hand delivering the goodness of amazing pastries readily becomes evident as you begin with a couple traditional beignets. They’re warm, fluffy and sprinkled with fine powdered sugar. Dip each bite into a ramekin of house-made lemon curd for the perfect combination of sweet warmth and light tart. The velvety texture of the curd melts away in your mouth, leaving the soft crunch of the beignet in its place.
Clever variations on the theme exist for any number of discerning Portland palettes. The Portobello benedict settles two perfectly poached eggs on stop of a giant portabella mushroom and bed of lettuce. House-made hollandaise appealingly drizzles down the sides of the eggs. Like any well-prepared vegetarian dish, you’ll be too full to realize you didn’t eat any actual meat or carbs.
But while it’s nice to talk about breaking the mold, the beauty of tradition remains. Arrive at lunch time and partake in a sandwich full of complexity and flawless juxtaposition of flavor. A simple turkey and Havarti sandwich is elevated with house-made apple butter and a flaky, warm croissant.
After you wash it all down with a delicious Americano, the first thing you’ll want to do is tell all your friends about the Bleu Door Bakery. While many a Vancouver resident would bristle at the idea of revealing one of Vancouver’s local gems, Brasure sure wouldn’t mind the word spread far and wide. “I want to buy the next building over and expand even more!” she emphatically asserts. Certainly, that would be an expansion few would mind.
The Bleu Door Bakery is located at 2413 Main Street in Vancouver, Washington. They can be reached at 360.693.2538 or by visiting their main website. They are closed on Monday, but otherwise open 7:00am to 3:00pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 8:00am to 2:30pm on Sunday.
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is longtime journalist and blogger with over twelve years of professional writing experience. After a long career as an entertainment and political columnist, William now spends his time expounding on Portland restaurants, Portland plays and Android smartphone apps. When he isn’t writing or eating, then writing about eating, expect him to be outside enjoying the natural splendors of his home in the great Pacific Northwest.