Surf Meets Turf at Newburyport’s Brine
Brine brings the best of both cuisines—from fresh oysters to custom butchered meats—to Newburyport, Massachusetts
The word brine evokes good things. Salt air and seawater. Brisk ocean breezes. And, of course, oysters.
A dozen of local freshly shucked oysters (or littlenecks) at Brine in Newburyport, Massachusetts, let the sweet, salty flavor of the freshest raw bar selection in town come shining through. The staff can provide the provenance of each bivalve on the menu. Even the cocktail sauce is house made from fresh local tomatoes. The mignonette sauce is tangy without being overpowering.
But there’s more. Brine, which claims to be “New England’s first oyster, crudo and chop bar,” is heaven for carnivores and omnivores. The menu includes tartare, sashimi, carpaccio, and custom butchered meats. The pork and clam chowder is a nod to owner Nancy Batista Caswell’s Portuguese heritage.
Brine is the second of three restaurants opened by Caswell in the last decade. Her first endeavor, Ceia, was launched in the space now occupied by Brine. (Ceia is now located across the street.) Her newest venue, Oak and Rowan, debuted in 2016 in Boston’s Fort Point Channel.
But Newburyport feels like home to this award-winning restaurateur. Brine, which opened in 2015, was named Best Restaurant North by Boston magazine that year. It also earned Northshore magazine’s “Best of Northshore” kudos in 2017 and 2018. Caswell herself has been recognized as one of the movers and shakers in the New England restaurant scene for years.
The atmosphere at Brine is elegant, yet cozy. The interior features a bar made of stainless steel and gorgeous Carrera marble. The overall design scheme has a mercantile sensibility that blends industrial chic and vintage charm.
The menu is grouped by the raw bar offerings, soups, salads, crudo, seafood, house-butchered prime meats, and caviar, which is served with a buttermilk blini, minced shallots, and crème fraîche.
The bar offers a short list of inventive bespoke cocktails, and the majority of the featured beers and ales come from New England.
The wine list, personally curated by Caswell, is eclectic, far ranging, and selected to complement Brine’s menu specialties. The wine, like the food, reflects Caswell’s passion for each of her establishments. Her hallmarks at Brine are the freshest seafood, the best quality meats, and excellent and knowledgeable service. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
Halibut with Toasted Macadamia Nuts and Champagne Vinaigrette, Serves 4
This dish will be a welcome seasonal seafood addition to Brine’s fall menu. The restaurant serves the fish over roasted red kuri squash, but other winter squashes such as buttercup or Hubbard, cubed and roasted with olive oil and honey are worthy substitutes.
FOR THE MACADAMIA NUTS
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cracked green peppercorns
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet.
- Place the nuts, sugar, and ½ cup water in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Cook down the liquid, stirring the nuts so they coat evenly, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to reduce the liquid too much, or the sugar will burn.
- Spread the coated nuts on the baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, season with salt and pepper, and let cool.
FOR THE CHAMPAGNE VINAIGRETTE
¼ cup Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt, to taste
1 cup canola oil
- In a blender, combine all ingredients except the oil and start to puree on low speed.
- Slowly turn the speed up and drizzle in the oil until emulsified.
FOR THE HALIBUT
4 6-ounce halibut steaks or thick fillets, preferably with skin on
Salt and white pepper to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil, or enough to coat the bottom of your pan
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Place an ovenproof nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the oil and heat for about a minute.
- Place the halibut skin side up in the hot oil and sear for 2 to 3 minutes until the edge browns slightly.
- Place the pan in the oven and cook for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Remove the fish from the oven and flip the steaks or fillets and let them rest in the pan for about 30 seconds.
- Set the fish on a platter or on individual plates and top with toasted nuts and a drizzle of the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
23 State Street Newburyport, Massachusetts
Open for lunch from noon to 3 p.m. and for dinner until 10:30 p.m. Check brineoyster.com for more information on buck-a-shuck offers and special events.
Produced by: Marsha Jusczak