One of the oldest farm-to-table restaurants in the state, the Good News Café has been serving up locally sourced cuisine since 1992. Owner and Chef Carole Peck began her love affair with food 46 years ago, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1973. Pioneering a then male-dominated profession, she has achieved a noted reputation. After graduation, Peck worked as the executive chef at many restaurants, resorts and clubs from Cape Cod to Hilton Head, from Austin to Miami and New York City, always gaining recognition and professional acclaim. In 1993, she had the distinct honor of cooking for Julia Child’s 80th Birthday Bash for the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in New Orleans
With over 40 years of experience in the food business, Peck knows what excites and delights diners. Her philosophy is based on the French method of using local, natural products and supporting local farms. “I’m really happy people are now concerned about using farms, because it was a pity that 10 years ago we were losing farms left and right,” she said. “We’ve lost more farms than we should have. That’s what being local is about, understanding these farmers need to make enough to make a living.” Her philosophy…to cook well, you need good quality ingredients and the best are sourced locally.
If you’ve had the pleasure of dining at Good News Café as it nears its 25th anniversary, you know that you’ve experienced a chef who treasures local ingredients with great integrity. And even when those ingredients are for a salad, your mouth waters. Ms. Peck is that talented, that creative, and, she’ll add, that stubborn about quality.
Peck is so dedicated to providing fresh, organic foods that she makes her own ketchup, salad dressings, chutney and jams. In fact, she told me that she just finished making rhubarb and cherry chutney using fresh rhubarb from her garden today! She also likes to use foods grown here in CT that you wouldn’t expect to see in certain seasons like local maple syrup in the summer. Many of the farms she uses include Beaver Meadow in Litchfield, The Farm in Woodbury, Sun One in Bethlehem and Averill Farm in Washington, CT.
While Peck has been dishing up farm-to-table meals for years before the craze went viral, she told me that it’s still a delicate balance between offering what’s truly in season and giving diners what they want. For example, people will expect to have a salad with fresh lettuce and tomatoes in January – when we know they’re not in season locally, but diners have expectations.
“What people don’t realize is that just because you see a vegetable in the local grocery store, that doesn’t mean it’s growing seasonally in your local area,” Peck says. The truth is it’s probably been shipped from thousands of miles away and most likely has lost many of the vital nutrients. From a health standpoint, we’re not supposed to be eating the same thing week after week and month after month. That’s not how our bodies were designed. “Plus, isn’t it nice to look forward to something when you don’t have it year round?” she asked. I completely agree – we’ve become a nation of people consumed with instant gratification.
In 1997, Peck published her first cookbook, The Buffet Book, to wide acclaim; a second release of her book, printed in 2002, is currently available from Ici La Press. Her restaurant continues to receive attention in numerous magazine articles and outstanding reviews from Zagat’s Guide, The New York Times, Gourmet, Connecticut Magazine, Bon Appetit, House Beautiful, and Travel & Leisure. She has also made appearances on the Food Network, Martha Stewart Living Television and PBS.
At the beginning of 2000, Peck and her husband Bernard acquired a home in the Provence region near Avignon. Deep in the heart of French gastronomical history and Michelin-star chefs, they are continuing to further their romance with food and cooking in leading bi-annual culinary tours, always on the hunt to locate a new culinary star and spread the delights of their discovery. Bernard’s inside perspectives on French cuisine and dining, combined with Carole’s intimate, professional knowledge of regional French cooking, provide a unique experience for novice and experienced travelers alike. Visit their website for upcoming trips this Fall – http://www.saveurfrance.com.
Some things you don’t want to miss on the menu this summer at the Good News Café are the Salmon with Red Lentils, Spinach, Cucumber and Yogurt Zatar, the Eggplant Lentil Veggie Cake with Persian Rice, Bok Choy and Coconut Curry Sauce and a delicious Braised Beef Brisket Taco. And they have an in-house pastry chef whipping up amazing desserts some of which are gluten-free! And rest assured, the whole menu abounds with many creative choices for our gluten-free friends.
Submitted by Dr. Diane Hayden. For more information, visit http://www.good-news-cafe.com.