Why: Blue Dog, that ubiquitous blue and yellow dog creation by Cajun artist George Rodrigue, would fit right into the color scheme of Bleu Door Bakery, which recently opened in the former location of Je T’aime Bakery on Main Street in Vancouver.
Bonnie Gouger, who owns and runs the bakery, laughed when asked about the color scheme: “Yeah, and I’m a purple person,” Gouger said.
But Gouger, who also owns Brownies From Heaven, wanted a French theme for her bakery, something easy to pronounce and easy to recognize. Enter bright blue.
“If you look at pictures from France, you see blue doors everywhere, Gouger said.
And with that, the name and color scheme seemed obvious: A blue door, blue planters and yellow accents. And a name, Bleu Door, to match it all.
Atmosphere: Like the previous bakery in this spot, this is a walk-up experience. Customers queue up under the overhang, craning their necks to check out the goodies in the pastry case and chatting with each other.
A few wrought-iron tables and chairs are scattered under the awning. A microwave cart pulls duty as a coffee condiment station and a board suspended between two black wrought iron holders announces the day’s specials along with coffee prices.
Bundle up. There’s no outside patio heater, although Gouger says she hopes to have one soon. She also said she has plans to enclose the space, but that is a ways off.
What I tried: My friend and I visited for lunch. I ordered the Ham and Swiss Panini Sandwich, a bowl of Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and a Cappuccino. My friend ordered an Empanada, her own bowl of Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and a cup of Coffee. For dessert, I ordered a Kahlúa Cinnamon Roll and she ordered a slice of Banana Walnut Bread.
Both the panini and the empanada took a few minutes to heat. While we waited, my cappuccino was prepared and her coffee was poured and handed to us, along with our pastries. It was a sunny but chilly day, and the shade from the brick wall made the patio colder still. To warm up, we pulled our table into the sun on the sidewalk’s edge and sipped our drinks. Other customers had also pulled their tables into the sun, all of us looking for a sliver of warmth.
Within a few minutes, our name was called from the blue door at the counter. A smiling woman had ladled our soups into lidded containers and handed them, along with slices of rosemary bread tucked in bakery paper pouches, across the counter.
We used plastic spoons to eat the thick and creamy soup. Chunks of tomato and bits of basil made this a satisfying and hearty dish, especially when paired with the still-warm rosemary bread. We were a few bites in when we were called again from the counter, our sandwiches ready and tucked into paper containers.
The Ham and Swiss Cheese Panini had generous portions of Black Forest ham and melted Swiss cheese atop roasted garlic rustic bread. The bread was crunchy and toasted on the outside, with grill marks from the panini press. Each bite was savory, with gooey cheese stringing from the sandwich.
In a later interview, Gouger said that the outside of the sandwich is brushed with extra-virgin olive oil before it’s grilled. Inside, the bread is coated with Dijon butter. The result was a near Dagwood-sized sandwich, rich and melted. I’d definitely order it again.
The empanada was a wedge-shaped pie, filled with savory black beans, chicken, onions, carrots and chiles. The crust on this dish was flaky and tender, like you’d find on a homemade pot pie, but filled with that Southwestern medley. It was another try-again dish.
The Kahlúa cinnamon roll was sticky and gooey, a traditional cinnamon roll but with a hint of coffee liqueur in the mix. It was the perfect kind of messy. Something I’ll definitely opt for again.
Equally yummy was the banana walnut bread, which was densely packed with nuts and those brown banana flecks.
Highlights beyond what I tried: Some Saturday mornings, Challah Bread French Toast is on the menu. I’m a French toast fan and that sounds like just about the perfect pairing of a favorite dish. Biscuits and Gravy on Saturday mornings are another nice treat.
Other observations: This is a Fido-friendly place, with a jar filled with dog biscuits on the counter. (They cost about 30 cents each.) My pug has scored more than his share of treats while I’ve waited in line for a treat.
Cost: Sandwiches run about $7. Figure about $3 for a baked good.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Where: 2413 Main St., Vancouver.
Health score: Bleu Door Bakery received a health score of 3 for its Nov. 1 restaurant inspection. Zero is a perfect score. Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.