The signature chicken salad on a panini dish at Vintage Port Deli, Café & Catering includes elements of a unique family recipe for potato salad that has been tasted by thousands of Baraboo residents.
Owner Taffy Harrison said secret ingredients in her family’s traditional potato salad make their way into the dish at her downtown Baraboo business.
“My granny, Lorene Harrison, developed Pierce’s Marketplace signature potato salad recipe decades ago that is still sold today,” she said. “There are some secret ingredients in that salad and my chicken salad that came right from my granny.”
Based on the folks that were in line to order the chicken salad panini, with chicken salad over lettuce and scoops of the salad, it’s a must-have item from the deli’s menu.
“I come here every single day,” said Mary Hultman, who serves as events coordinator for Downtown Baraboo Inc. “I think if Taffy didn’t have chicken salad ready, there’d be a coup.”
The secret to Harrison’s chicken salad could be the care, time and numerous steps it takes to create the creamy dish that includes just a hint of dill.
“I always use free-range chicken. The marinade is a wonderful array of spices and some special ingredients,” she said. “Then I grill the chicken, bake it and finally shred it. We’ll serve it on any bread you like but the healthiest and my favorite is the seven grain.”
Justin Madsen, who has worked as a barista and second in command for Harrison for many years, said the perfect pairing for the chicken salad is a lavender-infused mocha. The deli serves Collectivo coffee from Milwaukee and regionally produced natural sodas.
“We like to do things that are different here,” he said. “You won’t find any high fructose or other unnatural ingredients. Taffy just doesn’t do that.”
Harrison is a Baraboo native who moved to California after high school during the height of the health food movement, which started out West. She attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and moved back to Baraboo in 1999 to open Vintage Port.
“I learned a lot and loved the California food scene, but I wanted to come home,” she said. “You know that saying about you can’t take the country out of the girl?” Harrison said.
She said she often travels to Chicago to seek inspiration for new dishes.
Hultman said she enjoys the deli’s varieties of scones and has one almost every day for breakfast.
“We are blessed in Baraboo to have great restaurants and eating establishments like Vintage Port,” she said. “It is the first thing people ask us about when they visit from outside Baraboo, ‘Where should we eat?’”