Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blue Door: A Compendium of Visits

When I heard that the local diner, Golden Goose Restaurant and Bakery, was closing down for several weeks for remodeling, I was a little surprised. When I finally came to understand that the remodel was due in no small part to head baker Michael Bruno and his wife taking over the entire operation of the establishment, both bakery and restaurant, then it became a little more understandable. For several weeks, Michael would send out updates via Facebook about the progress of the remodel. When it finally came time to open back up for business, he announced that in the Golden Goose's ashes would rise a new restaurant and bakery, Blue Door Bakery and Cafe.

While I have covered Golden Goose during numerous visits, I couldn't help but think that once Michael controlled the restaurant's kitchen, he could apply the same level of exacting thought that he put into his baked goods. This definitely had me excited. In order to help him out, he brought in Valerie Miller and Tim Carson to help him run the kitchen while he focused on breads and pastries and managing front of house activities with his wife.

I should say upfront that by now, Michael, his wife, and many of the front of house staff know me by sight, so doing any kind of anonymous review would be laughable at best. At the same time, I neither asked for nor expected any kind of special treatment. I paid for all of my own food during each visit and probably the only "special" treatment I received was a visit from Michael at the end of each meal to ask how my experience had been.

The first item to note is that the transition from Golden Goose to Blue Door is still a work in progress. While the main entrance to the restaurant has finally been painted blue, the sign out front still says Golden Goose. Don't let that fool you. The restaurant located at the corners of State Road and Broad Street in Cuyahoga Falls has definitely begun a metamorphosis. Stepping into the freshly painted door, you come across the remodeled reception area:

New Pastry Case at Blue Door
This was the new pastry case. While the old one wasn't objectionable, I definitely like the open feeling to the new one.

To the right of the pastry case is the counter area and the new shelving behind it to hold the freshly baked loaves of bread coming out of the kitchen:

New Counter Area at Blue Door
On my initial visit (the day after they reopened), I was presented with an moderately redesigned menu:

Blue Door Menu Page 1
Blue Door Menu Page 2
Blue Door Menu Page 3
Blue Door Menu Page 4
There were definite holdouts from the Golden Goose's menu, but Blue Door's menu had been tweaked to really emphasize quality, organic, locally procured or produced items to really amp up the dining experience. While I can't really give many style points on the design of the menu, it definitely delivered on choices and descriptions.

Since my first visit was during lunch, I decided to start out my meal with a bowl of the Blue Door Tomato Soup:

Bowl of Gazpacho
Made with San Marzano tomatoes and homemade vegetable stock, what surprised me when it came out of the kitchen was that it was served cold. Gazpacho! While I didn't mind it being served as gazpacho, the menu didn't describe it that way, so be prepared for the temperature difference should you decide to order it, too. The flavor was everything that summer should be: slight sweetness and acidity from the tomatoes, ever-so-slight pungency from the garlic, and a bright, cool flavor that made this a refreshing soup.

While there was a lot from which to choose during my first stop, I decided on going with the Homemade Chicken Salad Sandwich and a Dressed Organic Greens Salad:

Homemade Chicken Salad on Challah with Dressed Organic Greens
Served on Blue Door's homemade challah, this was a total knock-out. I have loved Michael's breads since I first discovered them, but using it in this way really highlighted the flavors and textures of this fantastic eggy bread. The chicken salad was moist without being overdressed and the organic field greens had been dressed in an extra virgin olive oil and 30-year-old balsamic vinegar emulsion. The greens had also smartly been seasoned with salt. I have to admit, I was very impressed with the positive changes coming out of the kitchen.

So much so that I returned two days later to have breakfast with fellow food blogger Cedric and his lovely wife. After being seated at a booth, I was surprised and delighted to see that the restaurant had started using a local purveyor for their coffee, Angel Falls Coffee Company. Here's a shot of my steaming cup of decaf:

Cup of Angel Falls Decaf
To pair with my wonderfully bitter cup 'o Joe, I decided to indulge in a calorie-laden breakfast and ordered the daily special, Challah French Toast with Grilled Peaches, Thick-Cut Nueske Bacon, and Real Maple Syrup:

Challah French Toast, Grilled Peaches, Thick Cut Nueske Bacon, Real Maple Syrup
Holy. Crap.

To say that this was good would be a gross understatement. At one point I did a French Toast Battle between Golden Goose and another Cuyahoga Falls eatery, Chowder House Cafe. Golden Goose definitely lost points for serving maple-flavored syrup. This was no longer an issue. The bacon, hand-cut by the kitchen staff, was crispy, chewy, smoky, and salty: a perfect pairing with the sweet maple syrup. In fact, I think I paired the maple syrup more with the bacon than with the French Toast.

And how was that French Toast? The peaches added a wonderful textural and sweet compliment to the more savory battered and griddled challah. In addition to the standard vanilla flavor in the batter, Blue Door had finally upped the ante and started incorporating Vietnamese cinnamon, boosting the heady flavors even further up the scale. Were this my last breakfast, I could die a happy man.

My third visit was again for breakfast, this time with friend and fellow food blogger Tami. Both of us ended up succumbing to the Omelette du Jour, her the vegetarian, and I the porcine:

Omelette Du Jour with Potato Croquette
This was a chorizo, spinach, roasted red pepper and Havarti omelette with a potato croquette. I've had Michael's two inch high quiche in the past and one of the qualities I've always admired about it was how well-balanced the flavors behaved together. Sweet, sour, salty, crunchy, creamy. In much the same vein, this particular omelette also delivered. The eggs were light and tender and the filling just enhanced the experience. The potato croquette, an item which Cedric had gotten during my last visit, proved to be a deep-fried bit of love on a plate. Crunchy on the outside, it was tender and creamy on the inside. Honestly, I've never come across a restaurant that serves potato croquettes before, so I'm glad that Blue Door is not only serving one, but a decent version to boot.

Along with our omelettes, Tami and I each had the option for a "toast" side. Not only was Blue Door making their own breads and croissants, but they also were making homemade English Muffins! Now THAT is a rarity indeed. I knew what my side would be:

Homemade Toasted English Muffin, Strawberry Jam
Served with an individual jar of strawberry jam, this was a carb lover's dream. For someone who grew up eating Thomas' English Muffins, this was what an English muffin should be. While you certainly won't go wrong ordering up a slice of some of their other toasted breads for breakfast, try the homemade English muffin when you go. I'm looking forward to another one with my next breakfast.

On my next visit for lunch, I decided to go with one of the daily lunch specials, the Cuban Sandwich with Dressed Organic Greens:

Cuban Pork Sandwich with Dressed Organic Greens
All of the typical Cuban sandwich ingredients were present: pulled pork, ham, swiss cheese, stone-ground mustard, and pickle. One of the problems I had with the sandwich was actually the bread. It wasn't that the bread was bad, but the toasted challah it was served on just didn't seem to match up with what my sense memory said it should. When Michael stopped out to check on me, I mentioned this to him and he admitted that it was definitely better with the homemade sourdough bread, but unfortunately they had run out. Fair enough. The dressed organic salad greens were tasty as always though.

During my last visit (which was a week ago), I had intended on going for a late breakfast and getting something light, like a bowl of the oatmeal. Of course, once I saw the daily specials board, I knew my plans were going to change:

Daily Specials Board
Now is the time of year for great tomatoes. I'll happily forgo hard, grainy, not-even-close-to-ripe tomatoes the rest of the year so that I can indulge when they are in season. I mean, why even bother with them if they aren't at their peak?

So, my bowl of oatmeal morphed into a Heirloom Tomato Croissant with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil Chiffonade:

Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, Fresh Basil Croissant, Angle 1
Realizing that this was more of a knife and fork "sandwich" than a handheld one, I cut off a piece with all four ingredients and took a bite. Waves of pleasure rolled over me as I savored each chew. The tomatoes were sweet, sour, salty, and tender. The mozzarella was creamy and rich. The toasted croissant was crisp and buttery. The basil added a bright herbaceous flavor that unified the entire sensation. This was incredible.

Here was a shot of the reverse side of the croissant:

Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, Fresh Basil Croissant, Angle 2
If you are thinking to yourself, gentle reader, that the croissant pictured above looks incredibly flaky, well, you'd be absolutely right.

Along with my sandwich, I also received a Prosciutto and Cantaloupe Salad:

Prosciutto and Cantaloupe Over Dressed Organic Greens
While pairing cantaloupe and prosciutto isn't anything groundbreaking, it's nice to be reminded now and again why they work so well together. The cantaloupe must be absolutely ripe in order for the sweetness to balance the saltiness from the prosciutto. In today's case, the pairing was perfectly executed.

I also wanted to mention the overall service I have received since the restaurant transitioned to its new name. Blue Door has been fairly busy every time I've gone (with the exception of the last visit), so if you are looking for a thirty minute lunch, I'd suggest trying it out when you have more time. Also, note that there have often been daily specials that also appear in a "regular" form on the printed menu. French Toast is a great example. The day that I ordered the French Toast with the grilled peaches, that was the daily special. There was also a regular French Toast already on the menu. Just make sure your server understands which one you actually want in order to avoid confusion.

These few minor quibbles aside, I think what Michael and his wife have done to transform the Golden Goose into the Blue Door is nothing short of remarkable. The food coming out of the kitchen is being held to the same standard that the breads and pastries have long achieved. The food is not inexpensive, but at roughly $10 for breakfast or lunch per person and for the quality you receive, I think it is a great value. If you've been hesitant to try out the restaurant or just haven't been back for a while, now is the time to take action.

And if you go on a day where they have the heirloom tomato croissant, get it. You won't be disappointed.

The Blue Door Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon


Kathy said...

Great review Tom! I too am a big fan of Blue Door and Michael Bruno and I've only ever ha breakfast there. I want to have lunch but I love the breakfasts so much. I've even Had that same French toast with peaches and that incredible bacon! Yum.

DianeS said...


I can hardly wait to get there!

DineInDiva said...

I'm so happy to finally have a decent place for weekend breakfast around here.

I've been about 4 times now, and the croquette is mostly definitely better when piping hot.

Mahala said...

The Blue Door is on my list for a visit. If I can tear myself away from Flury's! I really hope the Brunos' ambitious new undertaking is met with lots of customers and success. My mouth is watering after your description of the peach French toast. Nice review!

FutureMrs said...

Looks amazing, I can't wait to try it out. We LOVED Golden Goose so this should be perfect!

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