Niche restaurants are special finds; an eatery like Wilton’s Vintage Salsa, has found its recipe for success in easy, family friendly, west coast Mexican fare built all around their six homemade salsas. Now, they’re adding an even more unique Wilton twist, by making limited batches of new salsas made from peppers grown at Wilton’s Millstone Farm. It’s the kind of local collaboration that stands to strengthen the larger community and help make each of the partners in the relationship stand out from the pack.
Vintage Salsa’s owners, Tiffany and Tony Tecce have worked hard in the last year to make their now year-old restaurant gain a steady foothold in the market. They’ve grown quickly, both because of a clever location–in the Wilton train station–and because they make fresh, great food. But a chance encounter with a Millstone Farm employee presented the Tecces with a new opportunity.
“In May, a guy riding the train came in at like six in the morning and said, ‘I work over at Millstone Farm, you should call them and I bet they can grow some peppers for you,'” Tony recounted. “Of course I didn’t do anything for a month, and then I called Annie Farrell, who runs the place and she said, ‘Sure, we’ll do some peppers for you.’ A month after that, we went up to Millstone, saw the pigs and chickens, and saw our pepper plants. Then Annie just showed up here at the beginning of August with some purple cayenne peppers and white havasus. Seranos are what we go through most of—it’s the most popular salsa. We got like seven pounds of seranos from Millstone. And while we don’t claim to be organic, everything we get from there is organic.”
Tony knew the appeal was that these salsa’s would be special–and limited. “I told them, ‘I don’t want a huge amount of any one type of pepper. Just a couple of pounds of different ones, and every week or two we’d do an extra batch.’ These are peppers you can’t buy in stores. And obviously you can’t get them year round.” They’ve taken to calling the special salsas “Millstone Farm Pepper of the Week.”
“We got started late this year, so next year we’ll do more,” Tiffany added. Both she and Tony are excited about the kind of produce Millstone can provide for them, as the Farm does for other area restaurants, like Wilton’s Schoolhouse Restaurant and Elm in New Canaan.
“Annie said they grow purple tomatillos, but they’re all spoken for this year. I would love to mix the purple peppers with purple tomatillos and do a batch based on what we do with the green tomatillos, just in purple. I’d love to see if I can get a couple pounds of the purple tomatillos, because visually, I’d love a purple salsa, that would be cool!” said Tony.
He’s a restaurateur who gets excited about creating new dishes, lovingly describing how he tastes new kinds of peppers, or how he worked hours and late nights in his kitchen when they first developed the salsa recipes for which they’re now known. This week there’s a new Millstone salsa they’ve started offering, made from smaller, spicier purple Thai peppers. Before he’d even seen the purple Thais, Tony had been eager to figure out what it would be like to work with a pepper he’d never had before.
“It’s not an exact science, each pepper is different. Serano peppers that grow at Millstone may be different than serano peppers that grow in someone’s personal garden. We may put in a lot of the little Purple Thai ones, and who knows what that will be like. It’s fun experimenting, it’s like having a loaded gun that you don’t know if it’s going to pop out with a little flag that says ‘Pop!’”
The special batches will last only until they last. But it’s all fun for Tiffany and Tony, even the idea of working with other local farms?
“It’s all new for us. Now that I’m getting into it, it’s really neat! Who knows what else we can try. Someone mentioned Ambler, and sure, we’d love to talk to them too. We could do taste-offs between salsas from peppers grown at Ambler and others grown at Millstone!”
Editor’s personal note: I’ve taste-tested the purple cayenne and the white havasu salsas. A lot. I’ve started hoarding the white havasu, my favorite, in the back of the fridge so my family doesn’t find it and I get to keep it all. It’s that good that I won’t share. Vintage Salsa is located at the Wilton train station, and Millstone Farm is at 180 MIllstone Road.