A cornucopia of delights
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  August 2, 2006

What a great idea — a breakfast-and-lunch café that doubles as a small whole-foods market. Though co-owners Lisel Woods and Alex Hart Nibbrig (both formerly of Salvation Café) may have envisioned their new business as a place where consumers could pick up organic fruit and veggies, along with naturally produced deli meats, the prepared foods at Bliss, such as lasagna, sesame noodles, lemon-thyme chicken breast, marinated green beans, and pea-pod-tomato salad (as well as pastries), have proved to be the big sellers.

The other plus for this Upper Broadway neighborhood of restored (or being restored) Vic­torians is the jolt of pride conveyed by such a carefully renovated building (by Lisel’s husband David Woods), offering such a welcoming spot on this busy triangular corner. In front of the open-to-the-breezes doorways to Bliss are 10 wood and wrought-iron tables and chairs, three with large orange umbrellas. Inside there are a few small tables, one tall table and a bar-shelf with stools, all with comfortably wide concave seats.

The airy space rises open to the rafters, with muted light-green walls, burnt orange accents, and lots of light wood surfaces. Part of the kitchen is open to view. Half of the room is market-oriented: a freezer with packaged meals and pizzas; cold cases with drinks, yogurt (a Greek import is a highlight); fresh produce and cream cheese/veggie dips from Babbette’s Feast; and three short aisles of organic cookies, chips, dried fruit, cereals, and the like.

We’d stopped in for lunch, and had a super one. Bill indulged in the Black Forest ham, brie, and caramelized onion sandwich on a fresh-baked ciabatta ($7). I ordered the marinated and grilled feta with avocado and a lemony sauce, over toast ($8.50). We shar­ed a wonderfully bountiful Niçoise salad ($8.75), with a whole can of quality tuna, hard-boiled eggs, terrific kalamata olives, marinated potato chunks, and marinated green beans with red onion, all over mixed mesclun greens with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Needless to say, we had to finish the salad (as well as the small salad with a chili-lime dressing accompanying my sandwich), and we took half-sandwiches home, albeit not before enthusing about how delicious they were. The ciabatta is a ready-to-bake bread that Bliss cooks throw in the oven each morning, and the combination of its chewy texture with the melted brie, the sweet onions, and the salty ham was dynamite. Simi­larly, on my sandwich, the saltiness and firmness of the feta bounced off the slightly sweet smoothness of the avocado.

We succumbed to some take-home items, including two breaded chicken breasts (organic, $3.50 each), a pint of sesame noodles ($3), a slice of local baker Kenny Eggman’s cranberry cheesecake, and some muffins ($1.50 each). The chicken was tender and flavorful; the round noodles, tossed with slivers of carrot, summer squash, and zucchini, had a tasty sesame dressing. On another visit, I had the English cheddar grilled cheese with pesto and organic tomatoes ($6). It was accompanied by a bit of Caprese salad — tomato chunks, fresh mozzarella chunks and chopped fresh basil. Both were delicious.

As for the pastry items we tried, the cheesecake was satisfactory, though nothing to rave about. Ditto for the muffins and scones. And likewise for bits of brownie: as dark as it was, I couldn’t get a strong chocolate taste. Perhaps we just haven’t found the best of Eggman’s offerings yet, as they all look so tempting, displayed along the counter.

And there are plenty of other items to lure us back, including Bliss’s “grab ’n go” nime chow (Cambodian spring rolls); veggie nori rolls; and chicken or tuna salad wraps. Other made-to-order sandwiches feature prosciutto with tomatoes and basil; potato-crusted crab cake; turkey pastrami; naturally raised roast beef from Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Maine (either with English cheddar or as a tartare); and a set of “tea sandwiches” — egg and chive triangles, and smoked salmon with cucumber. Three soups are ready for self-service, along with a sliced olive baguette. One day the choices were chicken, vegetable barley, or clam chowder; another day, gazpacho and lentil had stepped into the trio with chicken.

Breakfast items are also appealing, since the Irish-style oatmeal comes with cara­mel­ized bananas; the breakfast burrito has black beans, sharp cheddar, avocado, and organic eggs; and there’s a daily frittata with different veggies starring each time. The take-me-home-for-supper deli items change each day. Woods told me she had wanted to do “an elaborate farm stand” or “a 7-Eleven with better options.” How­ever you describe it, her customers are glad she followed her bliss to give us Bliss. 

Bliss, 311 Broadway, Newport | Mon-Sat, 7:30 AM- PM | major credit cards | BYOB | sidewalk-level access | 401.608.2322

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