Nancy Batista-Caswell sure knows how to throw a party. To celebrate the third anniversary of Brine Oyster Bar, her Newburyport shrine to chops and oysters, she is busting out caviar and oysters (of course), as well as who’s who of acclaimed chefs and rising stars to strut their stuff in Brine’s tiny kitchen from February 16 to February 23. Oh, and at a prix fixe ranging from $40 to $55, it is surely an event not to be missed.
“I wanted to give Newburyport a taste of some of the best chefs I have grown to admire and restaurants I truly enjoy personally,” says Batista-Caswell. “There isn’t a weekend that goes by that I don’t get a message [asking] where our guests should go eat if they are headed out of town.”
It’s not surprising that Batista-Caswell was able to attract such an impressive line up to Newburyport—mention her name, and chefs along the North Shore and beyond credit her with being at the forefront of bringing exciting food to the area – and creating a network for sharing ideas, management practices, and of course creative cuisine.
“I always found it valuable to maintain relationships within our industry,” Batista-Caswell says in her self-effacing way. “I have an immense amount of respect for chefs and their hard work, so I managed to cultivate these relationships in hopes of creating camaraderie.”
Her reputation has paid off in an impressive line up of some of the top chefs and rising stars in the area making the trek to Newburyport this week.
Kicking the celebration off on Tuesday is Chef Matt Louis of Moxy and Franklin Oyster House, both in Portsmouth, N.H. In addition to drawing critical acclaim for his use of local ingredients to create progressive dishes, his bona fides include time at the storied Per Se in New York. Wednesday, Matt Leddy helms the kitchen. Co-chef at Boston’s Townsman, acclaimed last year by many outlets, including Esquire, as one of the best new restaurants of the year, he specializes in elevated New England cuisine. The following night brings Justin Walker, chef at Kennebunkport’s Earth at Hidden Pond. Named a Rising Star Chef in 2014, he focuses on simple, innovative preparations in the farm-to-fork vein.
On Friday, Chef Patrick Soucy returns to the tiny kitchen where he helped build sister restaurant Ceia’s reputation as a destination dining hot spot. Now Executive Chef at Hampton Falls’ Applecrest Farm Bistro, he has brought the table to the farm, getting his hands dirty in the fields and using the bounty of Applecrest’s hundred-year-old fields, as well as a slew of local purveyors, to draw accolades all around.
Saturday night belongs to Brine’s Executive Chef Justin Shoults, soon to be helming the kitchen at Caswell Restaurant Group’s new Boston endeavor, Oak + Rowan. His deft touch with fresh seafood and charcuterie keeps Brine on top of area’s best lists.
On Sunday, Tom Berry, culinary director at Yvonne’s, the glamorous Boston restaurant that opened recently in the former Locke-Ober space, will be in the kitchen. Perhaps bringing his genius for small plates with an international flair.
Monday night, Brine patrons will get a taste of what will be on tap at Juliet, Chef Josh Lewin’s highly anticipated permanent Somerville spot for his pop-up darling Bread & Salt Hospitality. Closing out the week will be the charms of Michael Serpa, whose skillful way with seafood has drawn much attention to the tiny Select Oyster Bar in Boston.
Batista-Caswell hopes the investment in the Brine anniversary will be reassuring to long-time fans who worry that her opening in Boston this spring will leave the North Shore orphaned.
“We are not giving up on our commitment to the North Shore,” she says. “As we become larger … we have opportunities to provide collaborative dining experiences to our loyal guests so they don’t have to look far for food or something different.”