I can be suspicious of restaurants with large menus. Too much choice can lead to hum-drum dining. That’s not the case at the Good News Restaurant and Bar in Woodbury. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The expansive menu is a thoughtful exploration of world cuisines reflecting the curiosity of an accomplished chef. It’s good news, indeed!
The two-sided legal-size menu is supplemented with a sheet of daily specials and a handout of Ukrainian dishes. It’s impossible to try everything that appeals on just one visit.
Chef/owner Carole Peck brings a classical cooking background to her highly personal restaurant. Her life in the kitchen began at 15 and has taken her on a food journey through restaurant and club kitchens around America and on to France.
The menu includes recent innovations as well as dishes that have been on since the get-go, 28 years ago. It’s a scratch kitchen with a simmering stock pot, top notch ingredients – local when possible – and a full-time baker.
On the eclectic menu, a Coconut Red Curry bowl, Shrimp Quesadilla, and Crispy Chicken Livers stand shoulder to shoulder. Yes, you can get a burger, steak, or green salad (organic of course. But why would you in the face of the other fascinating options?
Marsha and I couldn’t pass up the delicious vodka martini with strawberry-rhubarb syrup on the Taste of Ukraine menu. Peck is second generation Ukrainian and is doing her best to support the people of her war-torn homeland. The evolving menu includes borscht, cucumber salad, pierogi, authentic kielbasa, and a honey cake with walnuts, dates, and currants. Each item includes a modest surcharge to support chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen. Donations thus far have exceeded $42,000.
Our lunch started with a shared Smoked Fish Dip ($9) For Marsha, the Horseradish Crusted Cod ($35) with beets, spinach and matchstick potatoes was “the best ever.” I enjoyed “Ropa Vieja” Cuban Shredded Beef ($27), slow-cooked with cumin and garlic then garnished with fried plantain. Everything was expertly prepared and bursting with flavor.
The brightly-painted restaurant hosts changing art exhibits. The Radio Room displays Peck’s collection of vintage radios against aqua walls and a boldly floral carpet. A wall-size blackboard describes the baked goods for dessert or takeout. The large square bar is a comfortable place for a drink or meal.
After lunch Peck joined us to chat about the restaurant, her career and what’s cooking. With her bright blue glasses and no nonsense manner, it’s easy to see how she balances creativity and business success. Her interest in food runs the gamut. “I just love to cook,” she said. Peck welcomes a chance to create “off the cuff” with ingredients at hand.
Early in her career she created the now-popular Lobster Mac and Cheese, bringing a kids staple to the adult menu. She’s looking into Korean as her next culinary exploration, but she’s anchored in France where she spends several months a year.
Her chef has been with her for 32 years, coming up through the ranks. Annie, the baker, is a 20-year veteran. The distinctive mural depicting the restaurant’s life was painted by French artist and friend Jean Duranel. Another friend creates and maintains the colorful plantings and kitchen garden. There’s a strong community at the Good News Restaurant.
On the way out, a couple stopped by to compliment the tuna melt ($21) (with roast tomato, bacon and manchego). “Best I ever had,” she said. “We make it with fresh tuna and bake our own English muffins,” Peck replied.
I wouldn’t want to be the person (or even on the committee) that picks the Best Restaurant in Connecticut. But Good News is in my personal top ten. If you get to visit, let me know if you agree.
The restaurant has a decades-long track record of cooking good food that pleases people. Carole Peck, a talented veteran chef, has nurtured a creative culture, distinctive food, and a unique atmosphere that continues to evolve.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.