You don't see Blue Gardenia (3747 N Mississippi Ave., 460-2583). You smell it. Set foot in the sweetly appointed pale blue spot and what wraps itself about your head and pulls dollar bills straight out of your pockets is a heady cloud of yeast, coffee beans and Madagascar Bourbon vanilla.
The bakery's a family affair of the Goldsby clan. Mom Marcie Goldsby and her daughter Linn take care of the baking: small batches of chunky muffins packed with Granny Smiths and local bran, flaky, cinnamon-spiked pecan rolls and dense, chocolate "Mississippi ho hos." Christy, Marcie's other daughter, runs the front-of-house biz, and Christy's boyfriend, Dave Ewald, roasts a global selection of coffee beans in the shop's shiny black Dietrich roaster (he holds public tastings 11 am every Sunday).
Marcie's father owned a bakery in Norman, Okla. But the Portland Goldsbys are simply committed home bakers who decided to share their seasonally based recipes with the rest of us last April when they opened the Gardenia. It's in the same new North Mississippi complex that houses the Laughing Planet Cafe and Lorenzo's (see review, page 57).
Truth is, Bite Club wasn't too fond of this airy joint at first. It was too damn busy. Every weekend, Gardenia's worn vintage chairs are packed full of happy gurgling babies gumming the Goldsbys' baked goods. Jittery-eyed twentysomethings mainline multiple French presses of Ewald's robust-yet-smooth roasts at the bar in front of the cafe's roll-up garage door.
But last week, we happened to claim a free table on a slow Thursday morning. And as we gobbled down a decadent lemon-zucchini muffin-sprigged with toasted pecans and slathered with butter-we realized we were being idiotic. It's ridiculous to penalize a place for being a home-away-from-home attraction. Heck, according to Linn, the zucchini in those muffins came from a customer who walked in with the veggies fresh from her garden-proof that people are capable of true goodness once in a while, even those rapacious, real estate-hoggin' new North Mississippians everybody seems to be demonizing lately.
We'll just have to get our misanthropic ass to Blue Gardenia earlier-before those people wake up.
And now, a field report from Bite Club correspondent Ivy Manning: The world is full of quick-witted chefs who trade slaving over the stove for slaving over word processors as food writers. It's more surprising to find the reverse scenario at Pour Wine Bar (2755 NE Broadway, 288-7687). Robert Volz, a former Portland Tribune wine writer, has given birth to a stylish little boîte with his wife, Theressa Davis, that smacks of Woody Allen's campy film Sleeper. Think lots of mod white chairs and minimalist art. The service still needs tuning up (40 minutes to prepare a cheese plate?) but a far-reaching selection of wines that includes a longish by-the-glass list assuages the injury, as do small plates of marinated olives, mac 'n' cheese and panini.