A Taste of Spring
The season of new growth has sprung, providing a bounty of local greens, dairy, meat and fish. Here’s a fresh-food update from a Litchfield County legend who pioneered the concept of Connecticut farm-to-table on her menu.
“My customers are already asking us to set up the patio,” says chef and restaurateur Carole Peck of the amazing warm weather that coincided with the arrival of spring this week. Her Woodbury landmark, Good News Café, now in its nineteenth year and a legend for its great food, friendly vibes and boldface clientele, is an obvious destination for dedicated foodies looking for menus that coincide with the harvest of fresh and local ingredients.
While the early burst of daffodils and cherry blossoms has confounded everyone, Peck notes that most local farmers will not be planting their fields just yet.
“No matter how it feels today, the growing season in our zone is not out of frost danger,” says Carole, who has many local sources for the produce on her menu. Right now, she obtains many greens and early vegetables from farmers’ hoop houses, which are half-round shaped, plastic covered greenhouses--a zero energy solution to counteract frost in cold-weather regions.
One spring delicacy, fiddlehead fern, finds a place on the menu through the skills of a Massachusetts source, who forages for this once-a-year specialty on four hundred acres in Otis. But locavores shouldn’t confine themselves to produce alone.
“We get our duck from just over the border in New York, and we have a farm in Bolton that raises Italian Red heritage chickens, which are delicious. And Connecticut has a coast and plenty of fresh water, so people shouldn’t forget fish and seafood.” While it’s now a comfort food on many high-end menus, Carole introduced lobster macaroni more than a dozen years ago, providing an outlet for the catch of Long Island Sound fishermen. This past weekend, Peck obtained soft shell crabs, and anticipates wild striped bass, shad and shad roe soon.
"Always Good" Wok seared white shrimp green beans peas olives roast potato pepper & garlic aioli
Wines for spring? Carole and her partner and husband, Bernard Jarrier, run four culinary tours of Provence each year, using their own restored house in the village of Monfrin as home base for these weeklong extravaganzas of gastronomy. The pair knows their way around a French wine cellar, and Carole recommends “a nice Sancerre, or for reds, a Chateauneuf du Pape or Cotes du Rhone. “
For our readers who love fashion as much as food, Carole revealed that her dairy products—milk and cream, and now ice cream—come from the Arethusa dairy farm in Litchfield, an ambitious agricultural endeavor of Manolo Blahnik executives George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis. One glance at their website with its images of beautiful cows may send you in search of their products (available locally in Fairfield County at Walter Stewart’s and other markets).
Litchfield County, with its beautiful light and panoramic views across miles of green hills, is a great weekend jaunt in the spring; Woodbury is an easy ride with lots of art and antiques in its shops. Peck’s café—or her new hot spot, Zeeburger, a few doors down, for more casual, but equally farm-fresh fare—is a great place to get lunch or dinner. Be sure to call for reservations at the café.
Outside back patio of Good News Café
If you’re cooking up your own feast, try Carole’s recipe for another spring delicacy—asparagus--when it arrives in the market. This one makes a great appetizer:
Asparagus in phyllo
16 medium asparagus
2 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs such as tarragon, dill, chervil, mint, chives
6 oz. butter, melted
Salt to sprinkle
8 sheets phyllo
Stem, wash and dry the asparagus. Cut across into halves.
Add the herbs to the melted butter.
Lay out the phyllo, two sheets at a time. Brush with herb butter, layer two more sheets, and butter again. Cut into eight strips, then cut across the strips. Sprinkle with salt, place an asparagus spear on each phyllo piece, and roll diagonally and tight. Place on tray in refrigerator.
Preheat oven at 350 . Bake the asparagus spread out on a baking sheet for approximately 15 minutes until golden and crisp.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt, and let cool for 5 minutes. Then serve as is, or with your favorite dipping sauce.