An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Nov 12, 2013
02:09 PMThe Connecticut Table
'Good News' for Hillary Clinton? Connecticut Restaurant She Likes Celebrating
Chef Carole Peck at her Good News Cafe with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton.
Parts of the political blogosphere already have Hillary Clinton being elected president in 2016, while others are bringing a white-hot intensity to parsing the potential matchup between Clinton and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—three full years from Election Day and before either one has formally announced a candidacy.
In Connecticut, there are much more savory ways to bring the Clintons into a conversation over dinner—and one way, especially, that will have delicious resonance this week, one in which light snow kissed the Litchfield Hills for the first time, signaling with sparkle the arrival of the holiday season, when feasting on heartier fare is in fashion again.
This fine “new” season, the week that we’re in and—as odd as these bedfellows seem in the same sentence—the Clintons come together in a recipe for enjoying the farm-to-table-before-anyone-else cuisine of chef Carole Peck and her Good News Café in Woodbury, which she co-owns and operates with her husband Bernard Jarrier. (Photo of Peck by Laurie Gaboardi/The Litchfield County Times.)
Good News is marking the 20th anniversary (Nov. 12) of opening the doors of its Route 6 location in Woodbury—after Peck had launched her debut restaurant in New Milford—with a special promotion offering its legions of loyal fans, and anyone else, 20 percent off the price of signature dishes that have anchored the menu for 20 years.
In the promotion, which runs from Nov. 13 through Nov. 18, that translates, for example, into $23.20 instead of $29 for the “always good” Wok-Seared White Shrimp, with green beans, peas, olives, roast potatoes, peppers and garlic aioli. (below)
Another dish that would cause a political-style protest if it came off the menu, “Lots of Lobster ‘Adult’ Baked Lobster Macaroni with Imported Provolone cheese [and] White Truffle Oil,” will ring up at $24 instead of $30.
Just $15.20 can buy another dinner entrée that’s been on the menu from the beginning by popular demand: Gemelli pasta with asparagus, spiced pecans and gorgonzola cheese, along with crisp capers, sage and six-year-aged balsamic drizzle.
Meanwhile, the standout staple among salads, “The Martha,” is $13.60, rather than $17—and it has synergy with the theme of smart, savvy, strong, determined women (think Peck and Clinton): “The Martha” features layered beets, avocado, peas, cucumber and greens, with horseradish chive cream. (Such is Peck’s talent that non-beet-eaters will be wowed and converted by “The Martha’s” will.)
Another signature winter warmer, the “original” lobster soup with lobster chunks, will be just $7.20 for a cup, and $8.80 for a bowl during the promotion.
“My cooking,” Peck says at the top of the Good News website, “It is what it is … handcrafted, seasonal, [as] local & organic as possible, definitely natural, love-inspired, pure & truthful, genuine & sophisticated.”
That sounds like a persuasive culinary campaign platform, and Peck wins because it’s all true and always has been, which is why Good News Café is brimming with business every day it’s open, and why it attracts a healthy combination of area residents and the most discerning folks in the land when they’re looking for a great meal—folks like actress Nicole Kidman and, yes, the Clintons.
Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, who was Secretary of State at the time, spent her 65th birthday weekend in Litchfield County in 2012, with their daughter, Chelsea Clinton, and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, and for their Saturday lunch they chose Good News—completely unannounced.
“Well I said to them, ‘I assume you came to Good News because I’m one of the few Democrats in Woodbury,’” Peck quipped at the time.
Hillary Clinton and Chelsea had chicken and salad plates, Mazvinsky had a lamb dish and the former president, a vegan, ordered the black bean burrito without dairy.
This week, you can have the same burrito as the president, served with rice, red pepper, cheese, tomato, “Pico de Gallo,” avocado and sour cream, for less than $15.
But enough about a former president and his wife—or should that be “and the next president of the U.S.”? Chefs like Peck and her Good News Café don’t thrive because of such lofty clientele; instead they attract bold-faced names because of the love, sweat, talent, inspiration and fidelity to details that underpin everything they do.
At Good News, the food is always creative—Peck sketches out new dishes in her head—always delicious, always changing (through the specials menu) and always paired with carefully-chosen wines or the “commemorative cocktails,” which are also 20 percent off during the promotion.
That formula results in wonderful dishes like those on the specials list for dinner on a recent Saturday—like a seasonal soup anchored by sweet potatoes and jazzed up with coconut milk and an apple ginger scallion garnish.
An appetizer featuring baby artichoke hearts stuffed with sundried tomatoes and paired with a salad of red Boston lettuce, orange supremes, pomegranates and pine nuts, with tomato vinaigrette, was pronounced “heavenly.”
Meanwhile, rating high on the hearty meter was the heritage breed chicken tagine with braised white beans, delicata squash, onions, carrots and king oyster mushrooms (left). Rich and bountiful, this North African dish that picks up French influences in places like Marseilles is the perfect warm-up for Peck’s cassoulet (which hopefully will arrive on the menu again this winter, a season in which Peck always shines.)
And there’s an ongoing nod to the French influence at Good News, and not just because Jarrier is French. Another element that keeps Good News so fresh is the annual visits to France by Peck and Jarrier, who own a historic property in Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, where they conduct popular culinary tours.
In a chat over dinner, Peck talked about how the restaurant scene changes and evolves in France as it does here, and how that gives her an opportunity to taste new and bold things that give her inspiration for new dishes for Good News.
The flavors that result are always wonderful—just like Peck’s and Jarrier’s journey to Woodbury.
Peck had been at the helm of Café Greco in Manhattan, which had drawn two stars from The New York Times, and she felt the call of the country, a release on the anniversary promotion recalled. The home for Peck’s first restaurant came through meeting the legendary New York Pops founder Skitch Henderson and his wife, Ruth, who had launched The Silo cooking school, art gallery and retail shop on Hunt Hill Farm in New Milford.
The Hendersons owned a small farmhouse on the main road (Route 202) down the hill, and that’s where Peck made her Litchfield County debut in the summer of 1988, in part to be close to the farms from which she was sourcing fresh, local and seasonal ingredients.
After five years, success collided with the small size of the kitchen, and it was time to move on.
So the hunt began for a larger place with more parking, close to I-84 for convenience but still in the country; from the beginning Carole was at the forefront of the organic and farm to table movement, always sincere and committed to it and not just using it as marketing tool,” the release says.
They found the current location in Woodbury, and the story goes, while working feverishly one evening to prepare for the opening, two “bicyclists stopped and asked, ‘What is coming to town?’ Carole answered: ‘I am reopening my restaurant as soon as possible!’ [to] which they replied: ‘Oh! What good news!’ Hence the name was born!”
And the name can be taken literally from Nov. 13 to 18, when the “good news” involves getting 20 percent off the café's best-of-the-best list of beloved dishes, as part of Peck’s and Jarrier’s early “thanks-giving” for their fabulous run—long may it continue.
Good News Café is located at 694 Main St. South (Route 6) in Woodbury. For reservations, call the restaurant at (203) 266-4663, and see the website for menus and other information, including details about the culinary tours.
Connecticut Magazine is on the record as being a fan, with accolades in the recent past including our Experts' Picks, citing Good News Cafe as a winner in the Best American, Best Appetizers and Best Vegetarian categories, and our Readers' Choice poll in 2012 honoring Good News is a number of categories.
'Good News' for Hillary Clinton? Connecticut Restaurant She Likes Celebrating