Chef-owned bistro Folly: Serious whimsey

By Nicole Colson

Peter Wallace, chef and co-owner of Folly, a 14-seat “modern neighborhood bistro” on Main Street in Wilmington, considers food a moving target.

“I change the menu each week,” he says.

At the same time, he brings his years of experience to the table. “I rely heavily on it,” he says, “so my food becomes more simple.”

His bold flavors reflect his colorful life of travel and both working at and operating several restaurants.

A Vermont native, Peter attended the Culinary Institute of America and moved to Nantucket, Mass., where he met his wife (and Folly co-owner), Kathleen, who was then working as a sous chef.

The pair ran a restaurant together for nine years—òran Mór, which the couple sold—and raised two children throughout their 35 years living on the island. They also ran a café, Up for Breakfast, in Manchester, Vt., before moving back to Nantucket.

Both avid skiers, the pair decided to transition out of Nantucket to live nearer to Mount Snow.

“The 110-day war got tiresome,” says Peter of the summer season at the restaurant. He adds that both of their children were then in college.

“Once we got to know more about Wilmington, we found a clientele we thought we could feed.”

In 2013, the pair opened a café, Folly Foods, in the wake of damage left in town by Hurricane Irene.

“It opened up a void in town,” Peter says. “Wilmington needed a coffee shop.”

When Kathleen was recovering from knee surgery, the couple were mulling over what they wanted to do at that stage.

“We’d always done dinner-only fine dining,” Peter says. They reopened a year and a half ago.

Peter describes Folly as a reflection of the couple and their careers. Hurricane globes adorn the wooden tables, which Peter made. Artwork on the walls depicts oceanscapes.

“It’s extremely comfortable,” Peter explains of the atmosphere. “Physically, the restaurant feels like both the restaurant we met in and the one we owned.”

Kathleen, whom Peter says has an incredible palate for wine and a great eye for detail, runs the front of the house. Peter works the kitchen. And though the atmosphere is relaxed, Peter’s food is refined—and reflects his life.

In the winter months away from Nantucket, Peter, who was once a commercial fisherman, and Kathleen traveled to such locales as South America, Nicaragua, the Caribbean, Spain, and France.

“I spend a lot of time on spice mixes,” he says. “That defines the cooking, as far as I’m concerned.”

Taste of the world

Diners will find that worldly influence on the menu in such Folly dishes as Spanish octopus with hot pepper relish and avocado crema, and spicy Brazilian bourride, a fish stew with cilantro aïoli and charred croutes.

Peter also relies heavily on locally grown ingredients for his menu, starting with those he plucks from his own garden on a plot about five miles from the restaurant.

“We grow things like edible flowers and herbs, black and red currants—things that aren’t easy to obtain at local farms,” he says.

Peter also enjoys taking the dog for walks in the woods to forage for ramps and chanterelle mushrooms.

What he doesn’t grow himself he sources from several area farms. Greens, beets, carrots, squashes, leeks, and kale arrive from Boyd Family Farm in Wilmington; tomatoes roll in from Full Plate Farm, a CSA farm in Dummerston.

“If I’m at the farm and can see things growing in the fields ready to harvest, it gets me going, thinking how I can showcase them on the menu,” he says.

Grass-fed beef comes from Boyden Farm in Cambridge; seafood comes from Brown Trading in Portland, Maine. European cheeses come from Spoonwood Cabin Creamery in Jacksonville; and whole milk, from Strafford Organic Creamery, Peter uses in ice cream for the Folly Guinness sundae, a popular carryover from Folly Foods.

The Wallaces also support local farms as part of a culinary team hosting the annual Farm in the Field Dinner at Boyd Farm, which aids the Guy Hawkins Cancer Fund for families struggling with the high costs of cancer treatments.

Also baked into the Wallaces’ bistro: well, fun. The restaurant’s name is a nod to the couple’s whimsical, carefree stage in their careers.“We play by our rules, focusing on our craft and on our service and food,” Peter says. “We’re not driven by anything or anybody else.”

Folly, at 33 West Main St., Wilmington, re-opens from spring break June 16 and serves dinner from 5:30 to closing time Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. For reservations, visit

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