Bonnie Brasure’s Bleu Door Bakery in Uptown Village feels like part of Champs Elysees drifted onto Main Street. Long crusty baguettes, flaky croissants, and a framed painting of the Eiffel Tower can be found behind the blue door of this popular spot.
Given the Parisian ambiance of her bakery, it’s hard to believe that Brasure’s first trip to the City of Lights was last summer. Upon arriving at her hotel in the Latin Quarter, she threw open the doors to her hotel room balcony and caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. As it says on Bleu Door’s coffee mugs, “She believed she could so she did.”
After savoring the food, the art and the vibe of romance that swirls around Paris like an expensive perfume, Brasure and her two traveling companions continued on to Italy. She wandered the ancient streets of Florence. Floating in the salty waters of Southern Italy, Brasure had this intense feeling that she had found her place in the world. The azure skies, the briny sea, and the warm glow of the Mediterranean sun felt like homecoming.
At an agriturismo in Citta Della Pieve, south of Florence in the province of Perugia, she stayed in a house built in the 1800s and took a cooking class. Agriturismi, or farm-stays, are available throughout Italy. Farmers host visitors in rooms on their property. They serve guests rustic dishes made with fresh ingredients from their farm. These are remote locations where farmers must produce everything they serve guests. Their menus feature produce, like tomatoes and figs, or the chicken that you saw wandering around earlier in the day, or processed foods like olive oil and wine.
Brasure took an unforgettable cooking class at her agriturismo. She discovered the wonders of Pecorino cheese — how it can vary from new and creamy to aged and crystalline. The instructor also made fig jam and used a large clove of mild garlic to flavor pasta.