Why: When Je T’Aime Bakery rolled up its door the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a line immediately queued up outside of the Main Street bakery. If the gaggle of eager customers didn’t attract the attention of passersby, the wafting scent of fresh-baked bread did.
In the weeks since its opening, the bakery has become an uptown errand stop, with patrons snagging a bread loaf or chocolate dessert to take home or back to the office.
The bakery’s ever-changing mix of offerings is created from a fusion of family recipes and those developed by the owners, Cinamon Miller of Battle Ground and Claire Ghormley of Vancouver. Miller, a pastry chef for Vancouver’s La Bottega, focuses on the desserts: cakes, tortes, brownies and cookies. Ghormley, a co-owner of Mon Ami, works the breads: croissants, baguettes and rustic rounds.
Besides the bakery, the fare is available at Mon Ami and La Bottega.
Atmosphere: Je T’Aime is a walk-up experience. Patrons can gaze at the pastries in the window, nibble on counter-top samples and watch the bakers at work just beyond.
It’s an informal and intimate feel, where you’re offered culinary tips from the artisans while chatting with neighbors and shoppers who are standing in line.
Soon, the owners plan to add outdoor seating under a covered roof, which will be flanked by potted plants. Meanwhile, a patio heater helps warm patrons on frigid days.
What I tried: Over several days I tried croissants, a baguette, a Rustic Garlic Loaf, a slice of Chocolate Marble Mousse Layer Cake and a wedge of Bittersweet Chocolate Gorgonzola Dolce Torte.
The croissants were buttery, crisp and flaky on the outside, light and airy inside. With a smear of more butter at home, I’m sure it wasn’t a calorie-conscious choice, but it was a carbo-satisfying one.
The baguette wasn’t disappointing, but it wasn’t overwhelming either. Dusted with flour, it had a crunchy outside texture and was light and cavernous inside with a slightly sweet — think yeast — aftertaste. Ghormley suggests drizzling the baguettes slightly with water and toasting them in a 350-degree oven for five minutes just before serving.
The Rustic Garlic Loaf was a fresh-from-the-oven affair. I was dizzy with anticipation as the scent of warm yeast and garlic wafted from its paper bag during my walk home. The crusty round was infused with whole cloves of garlic, which melted like baked bulbs when the loaf was sliced and buttered. For garlic-lovers, or anyone who wants to fend off vampires, this is a bread worth trying. Miller recommends keeping the bread fresh by storing it with any leftovers in a tightly sealed plastic bag. The breads, which are made without preservatives, should last two to three days.
The Bittersweet Chocolate Gorgonzola Dolce Torte glitters golden against a marbled chocolate backdrop. I was skeptical — gorgonzola and chocolate? But the two marry in a rich and creamy texture that brings out the best of both in a slice that resembles a hunk of gourmet chocolate. But be warned: A wedge is almost too generous for one person, and could easily be split and shared by two people.
The Chocolate Marble Mousse Layer Cake is a triple-decker dip into chocolate decadence. The brownie-like bottom supports velvety chocolate mouse layers, which are the texture of buttery silk. As with the torte, one slice is generous and could be split with a companion — one who exercises self-control.
Other observations: The bakery is filling a neighborhood niche. It’s becoming part of the Main Street shopping experience, a place to stop after visiting a store or before heading home. It’s a friendly little place, where a mosaic countertop glitters and conversation stirs.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The Challah Bread, a Jewish sweet bread, is braided and coated with an apricot glaze. It can be made into French toast or enjoyed by the slice.
Cost: Breads and croissants run $2 to $3 for a loaf. Sweets, which includes cakes and tortes, are $3.50 per slice.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Where: 2413 Main St., Vancouver.
Health score: Je T’Aime Bakery received a score of 0 for its Dec. 4 inspection. Zero is a perfect score. Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.