Coastal New England Rising Stars: Why They Shine

Coastal New England Rising Stars: Why They Shine

In small New England cities, towns, and on the isles, we found a personal, playful pursuit of excellence and unparalleled dedication to hands-on cooking and community. Authenticity isn’t a quest here, it’s a manifestation and mantle each chef, artisan, bartender, brewer, and roaster proudly carries. What big city chefs are constantly striving for in their kitchens, comes naturally to chefs on the New England seaside, where small-town culture packs a potent and powerful punch. We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of world class culinary establishments thriving throughout America’s north Atlantic coast.

Chefs in this part of the country have a blatant disregard for fads and fashion. They’re literally down to earth, many pulling product from backyard gardens and family farms before that night’s dinner service. There is a teeming sense of community throughout the region among industry folk who are not following trends—they’re following tradition. This New England mentality has also attracted talented chefs from across the country, who have made Portland, Newburyport, or Providence their adopted home and place of business.

The Rising Stars of Coastal New England are re-making and modernizing the regional cuisine they have inherited without losing its character and the vitality it has always drawn from the North Atlantic. A generation on the coast is showing us the possibilities for a chef’s life and the life of a food community. From Maine to Rhode Island, here are our 2014 Coastal New England Rising Stars: who they are, and why they shine.                

Chefs: Tyler Burnley and Chad Hoffer, Thames Street Kitchen

Thames Street Kitchen is the neighborhood restaurant of your dreams—and the neighborhood caught on and never let go. In the beginning, Tyler Burnley and Chad Hoffer were the only two in their kitchen, but today they have a staff and a menu they've refined to several small, inviting plates, each focusing on the best of just two ingredients—and their own resourcefulness. This restriction actually frees them to play with flavor and ingredients until the composed result is as unexpected and satisfying for the chef as it is for their guests. It’s a system that’s symbolic of the synergy of this chef duo, taking the basics like ham and eggs, putting them through their technique and creative filters and making them memorable. TSK is one of those joints forging a new model: a classic diner for the 21st century.       

Dishes that clinched it: 

Australian Beef Carpaccio, Sunflower Seeds and Shoots, Garlic Confit, and Pickled Mustard Seeds    

Mushroom-Onion Dusted Skate Wing, Mushroom Sauce, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Puffed Tapioca, and Watercress

Chef: Chris Fischer, The Beach Plum

Chris Fischer's food has immediacy, as if the clam, pig, or fava bean had a say, consulting with Fischer about how they should taste. The cuisine at Fischer’s Beach Plum is stripped down, as simple as it is daring. There are rarely more ingredients on a plate than a guest can count on one hand. On that same hand they could count the hours from when most of the components were gathered, picked, or caught, and the miles from the restaurant from which they all came. Fischer’s family has lived and farmed on Martha’s Vineyard for generations. He’s not only an advocate for its farmers, fishermen, and foods, he’s also a teacher, telling the story of his family and the island one nightly menu at a time. 

Dishes that clinched it:

Bluefish Belly Crudo, Smoked Sea Salt, Lemon, and Arugula

Razor Clams, Green Garlic, and Chive Blossoms

Chef: Mayumi Hattori, Straight Wharf

There’s something so pure, so clean, so simple about Chef Mayumi Hattori’s cuisine and plating style, it draws to mind Japanese watercolors: vibrant and prosaic. Using elements of earth, fire, and water, she crafts harmonious, sensuous, powerful dishes, exalting each ingredient. She has an ease of presentation and thoughtfulness that betrays the years of honing skills, paying close attention, and sweating it out on the line. Hattori’s level of refinement and restraint at Straight Wharf on Nantucket is indeed artful. And there’s substance in her art, in the form of flavor, always pronounced and to the point. Hattori is as beautiful and soulful as the food on her plate. 

Dishes that clinched it: 

Casoncelli, Spring Greens, Snap Peas, Prosciutto, Goats Milk Ricotta, and Grana Padano

Seared Diver Scallops, Zucchini Ribbons, Tomato Confit, and Nasturtium Pesto 

Chef: Evan Hennessey, Stages at One Washington

At Stages at One Washington, in a teaspoon of a kitchen packed with immersion circulators, induction burners, NO2, stabilizers, and a small crew of motivated cooks, Evan Hennessey is going all out. He combines the bounty of New England, foraged treasures, and a knack for finding the unusual in the everyday to build an aesthetic and taste experience the likes of which Dover, New Hampshire has never seen. Few chefs think outside the box with as much ease and gumption as Hennessey. He’s pushing himself and his cuisine with every service, and has found the place and the space to live every chef’s dream—enabled by his successful catering company. Hennessey is serving edgy food for 36 diners a night, playing with and delighting them. His endless creative energy and boundless cooking style echo New Hampshire’s motto: live free or die.   

Dishes that clinched it: 

Glazed Berkshire Pork Leg, Wheat Berries, Sunchokes, Pickled Mushrooms, and Orange

Squid Ink Fettuccine, Shellfish Ragu of Clams and Lobster, Tarragon, and Fried Rock Weed

Chef: Matt Jennings, Farmstead Inc.

Matt Jennings is a chef that exemplifies what’s best about New England and who draws people to the Northeast coast—and ultimately to his restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island: Farmstead Inc. Jennings is a Master Cheesemonger, accomplished charcutier, and three-time James Beard finalist for “Best Chef, Northeast.” And just like the chef himself, his food has presence. From funky cheeses and unctuous cured meats to Rhody veggies and fresh catches from the coast, Jennings moves with ease from sea to land to plate, enhancing, layering, and asserting flavors that get straight to the point, as with his signature composed charcuterie plates that are at once pretty and powerful. As Jennings’s reputation skyrockets beyond his New England home, he’s becoming synonymous with the region.

Dishes that clinched it: 

Ham and Pickles: Cured and Smoked Pig Leg, Pickled Vegetables, Conpoy, and Curry Vinaigrette

Cast Iron-cooked Blackbird Farm Pork Loin Wrapped in Benton’s Country Ham, Scallop Soubise, Fried Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Brussels Sprout Leaves, Mandarins, and Togarashi    

 

Chef: Ravin “Bas” Nakjaroen, Long Grain

Born in Thailand, Ravin “Bas” Nakjaroen has cooked in the United States for more than 15 years. And from his restaurant Long Grain in Camden, Maine, he’s saving Thai food from the American lens that has muted its flavors and squashed Thai tradition. Far from the sad, strip-mall “palaces” and corner joints that dot American suburbs and cities, Nakjaroen is making things right, 30 guests at a time. His intense, spicy, salty, sweet, aromatic renditions stay true to his southeast Asian roots, proving that the human palette’s ability to recognize true flavor, heart, and soul is universal—judging from the fanatical reception of Nakjaroen’s food. He’s made a home for himself and for Thailand on coastal Maine, making Camden the capital for close-to-the-bone Thai food in America. 

Dishes that clinched it

Australian Beef Panang Curry, Roasted Red Peppers, Bamboo, and Coconut Cream

Garlic-Chive Rice Cake, Sautéed Bean Sprouts, and Red Chile Sauce  

Chef: Jake Rojas, Tallulah on Thames

French technique and south-of-the-border tastes mingle in Jake Rojas’s world of imagination, until every composition sits potent and powerful, elegantly waiting for your fork. Rojas grew up in downtown El Paso—Raiders jacket, Chuck Taylors, starched pants, and all—where career options for young men could be limited. Rojas rose above the fray and worked his way to the kitchens of Ducasse and Robuchon. At Tallulah on Thames in Newport, ingredients land on his plates with the same purpose and passion with which Rojas has single-mindedly pursued cooking since he was a Texas teenager, when he traded in the Starter jacket for chef whites. His mind is bursting with as much knowledge and ideas as his beef-tongue stuffed piquillo peppers are bursting with flavor. And Tallulah Tacos are now available at two locations in Newport, as Rojas’ reach and influence grows exponentially.

Dishes that Clinched It:

Miso-Harissa-Maple Pork Belly, Slow Egg, and Togarashi-spiced Fried Brussels Sprout Leaves

Beef Tongue-stuffed Piquillo Peppers, Sherry Cuisson, Nasturtium, Sorrel, Chervil, Fried Shallots, Roasted Garlic Aioli, and Lemon Confit

Chef: Daniel Sauer, 7a Foods

Dan Sauer runs the dynamic and free-spirited sandwich shop and bakery, 7a Foods, where fiction fantastically becomes fact as with his Liz Lemon sandwich—the sandwich of the 30 Rock TV show character's dreams—that he delectably realizes. This thoughtful chef and Montana native cooked at Oceana, Hearth, Craft before moving to Martha’s Vineyard, starting a family, and setting up shop. Every ingeniously conceived new sandwich is the one you never knew would be your favorite. And even though sandwiches are casual, the best aren’t casually crafted or constructed. Sauer’s are designed with all the consideration, flavor, and feeling of fine-dining. To put hands around his sandwiches is to grasp—fleetingly—this chef’s heart and vision for nourishing an entire New England isle.     

Sandwiches that clinched it:

Asparagus Melt with Fontina, Roasted Garlic Aïoli, Basil, Pickled Red Onions, Dried Blueberries, and Focaccia

Five Spice-braised Short Rib Sandwich with Wasabi Peas, Sour Cream, Pickled Vegetables, Pea Shoots, and Ciabatta

Chef: Patrick Soucy, Ceia Kitchen + Bar

Chef Patrick Soucy lives and breathes New England. Its hard to say whether his exquisite dishes come from intuition or ethic, but that’s a credit to Soucy and the bounty of New England jewels he corrals, tames, and composes on every plate at Ceia Kitchen + Bar in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He’s Ceia’s farmer, fisherman, charcutier, and baker. Soucy’s loyal diners revel in his creativity, holistic approach, and honest food. When Soucy’s impeccable French technique collides with all things harvested, foraged, cured, canned, fermented, and brewed there’s a big bang and the universe of his cuisine is born. It’s a universe where every plated element is the best version of itself and authenticity isn’t something you have to strive for—it’s where you live.  

Dishes that clinched it:

Braised Goat, Basil-infused Goat Yogurt, Wheat Berries, Violet Blossoms, Beet-Brunet Mousse, and Bee Pollen

Ramp-stuffed Rabbit Ballotine, Foie Gras-stuffed Ricotta Gnudi, Fiddlehead Ferns, Smoked Cherries, Walnut Purée, and Parsnips

Chef: Benjamin Sukle, birch

Ben Sukle’s food is brow-furrowing, tantalizingly tongue-tangling, and even a bit mysterious. A pinwheel of pink tartare appears soft and luscious until a bite elicits a crisp and satisfying crunch from a turnip-strip hidden in the beef. An unassuming, incandescent mound of squash becomes a hot, taste-bud-slapping soup when it’s doused with a super-fortified broth. Sukle’s talents were forged at Farmstead Inc. and The Dorrance, but he’s cooking food all his own. Strap yourself in at birch’s 19-seat counter for an adventure into the future of New England cuisine and into the mind of a patient, pensive, and inventive chef. Sukle cuisine is eye-opening but approachable, even scoopable—and every last bit slurpable. His ingredient-obsessed approach is cutting-edge without the flash or pretention, and at birch he’s shaping a culinary voice that resounds outside Providence.       

Dishes that clinched it: 

Warm Butternut Squash, Melted Leeks, Squash Seeds, Marjoram, and Brown Butter-Shellfish Bouillon

Rhode Island Beef Tartare Wrapped in Cape White Turnip, Fermented Turnip Juice, Crispy Rye Sourdough, Grilled Chives, Ramps, Capers, Beef Bone-Soy-Sherry Vinaigrette, and Aged Beef Fat-Yolk Emulsion 

Chefs: Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co.

They both share Rob Evans as a mentor. They both share ownership of Hugo’s. They both share an affinity for the classic oyster bar, and they both built one that adjoins Hugo’s. Their restaurants even share a kitchen. What else do Chefs Andrew Taylor and Michael Wiley share? A love of food, and playing with their food. Eventide Oyster Co. is a classic oyster bar reborn for the modern era in Portland, Maine. From its shared kitchen Taylor and Wiley nerd-up and geek-out over dishes like the lobster roll, applying technique and tinkering with it until it becomes anything but basic. Eventide is like a spa for seafood, where oysters and their kin come to be refreshed and rejuvenated, perhaps receiving a flash of Korean flavor. As Taylor and Wiley keep sharing and setting new standards for classics, they’re shaping coastal cuisine in New England. 

Dishes that clinched it: 

Lobster Sashimi, Sea Beans, Daikon Radishes, Frozen Ramp Purée, Ginger-Scallion Sauce, Nori Vinaigrette, and Fried Garlic    

Vitello Tonato: Beef Carpaccio, Confit Albacore, Caper Emulsion, Fried Capers, and Parsley

Chef: Justin Walker, Earth at Hidden Pond

Chef Justin Walker has vision, he’s got to. Walker has a 3,200-square foot farm to turn into sophisticated, composed plates for his dining room at Earth at Hidden Pond. And he doesn’t let Mother Nature, or his guests, down. His dishes seem to come together naturally, never contrived. Every element is so carefully considered and executed as to maintain the integrity of each ingredient, down to the nasturtium tendril or perfectly crisped rye. It’s the touch of a chef who’s been cooking since boyhood and now raises his own goats and chickens. Walker is devoted to Maine, becoming a major force in the region with the opening of a culinary center at Hidden Pond this fall that will welcome guest chefs, teach, and host pop-up restaurants. He’s sharing and showcasing the New England bounty that he cherishes and lovingly cultivates.   

Dishes that clinched it: 

Fried Oysters, Wood-fired Padron Pepper Relish, Bacon, and Sage

Seared Foie Gras, Mango Sambal, Pickled Mango Salad, Kaffir Lime-Shallot Streusel, and Black Garlic Purée

Community: James Mark, north

James Mark’s food isn't just good for the soul, it's good for humanity. And Mark isn't just a chef; he's part of a collective, a group of cooks making culinary and community strides in Providence. Mark actually prefers to be called a cook, and he knows how they want to be treated. At his restaurant, north, cooks earn more than a living wage; they earn a respectable salary. They also receive health insurance. Mark’s menu is seafood and vegetable heavy because meat is more expensive in Rhode Island, and he wants north to be affordable for Providence cooks. And 50¢ from every dish goes to the food bank. Mark donated more than his own salary in north's first year. He has a vision for expansion beyond north, with the same ethos, changing Providence at 50¢ a pop.

Dishes that clinched it:

Burmese-style Roasted Cabbage, Peanut Brittle, Apple, Fermented Chile-Maple Dressing, and Mint

Dan Dan Noodles, Goat, Squid, Fermented Chile, Black Pepper, Kale Stems, and Cilantro 

Hotel Chef: James Hackney, Twenty-Eight Atlantic

You get the feeling that Chef James Hackney is like a kid set free at Adventure Land when he’s in the kitchen at Twenty-Eight Atlantic at the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club. Though his mastery of technique is immediately apparent (10 years at L’Espalier will do that to you), it’s his playfulness that comes through in the dining room. Pops of color accentuate striking plates that combine the haute—black truffles, lobster claw—with the down home—clam fritters, watermelon. His combinations and compositions have an effortless sophistication that speak to both the old-school Englander and the post-modern food hipster. Twenty-Eight Atlantic is Hackney’s coastal tour de force, unparalleled in Cape Cod and a beacon in the region.

Dishes that clinched it: 

Poached Sole, Orleans Mussels, Black Quinoa, Watercress Broth, Black Truffles, and Herbs

Watermelon Carpaccio, Goat Cheese Panna Cotta, Chevre, Cantaloupe-Watermelon Foam, Pickled Watermelon Rind, and Balsamic Gel

Sustainability: Derek Wagner, Nicks on Broadway

Derek Wagner works with nearly 60 growers, producers, farmers, fisherman, and artisans to make his menus come to life. He also cultivates herb and vegetable gardens on-site at his restaurant, Nick's on Broadway. But Wagner's dedication to sustainability goes well beyond a comprehensive composting program, a certified whole animal butchery space beneath his kitchen, or even the fruit trees in his yard. Wagner is a real-deal activist and advocate for the people behind sustainability in food. Wagner is on the board of the Chef's Collaborative and is the only chef on the board of the Rhode Island Seafood Marketing Collaborative. In February 2014, he appeared before the U.S. Congress to speak on behalf of sustainable fisheries. Wagner also puts his beliefs into action, teaching other chefs practical, sustainable practices, because he knows only when chefs sustain their own businesses do they have the power to sustain the farmers and fishermen.  

Dishes that clinched it:

Fluke Crudo, Apples, Radishes, Pickled Cranberries, Kumquat, Grapefruit, and Herbs

House Focaccia, Bone Marrow-Onion Jam, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Carrot Purée, Baby Mâché with Poinsett Point Oyster, Roasted Mussels, and Horseradish Sabayon

Pastry Chef: Melissa Denmark, Gracie's

For Melissa Denmark, pastry wasn't so much a career choice, as it was a biological imperative from a young age—baking is in her bones. Now, as a bonafide pastry chef at Gracie's in Providence, she leaves no resource untapped in a constant search for flavor, product, and ideas. Ambitious and focused, she takes broad concepts like romance or common ingredients, like the bay leaf, and conceives singular composed dishes. But all Denmark's desserts share a common bond: they have it all. No matter the technique or profile she's highlighting, every plate is sweet, salty, sour, bitter, smooth, spongy, crunchy, creamy. Even Denmark's "sweet" has subtle variation: savory-sweet, tart-sweet, rich-sweet. And if her work at Gracie’s—a restaurant synonymous with Providence—wasn’t enough, she has spearheaded the bread and pastry program at Ellie’s Bakery, making Denmark’s food an imperative in Providence.    

Dishes that clinched it:

White Japanese Yam Custard, Maple Pecans, Brown Butter Shortbread, Pomegranate Jam, Crème Fraîche Ice Cream, and Wood Sorrel

Grapefruit Pudding Cake, Candied Kumquat, Persimmon Frozen Yogurt, Shaved Persimmon, Cocoa Nib Meringue, and Honey Comb

Pastry Chef: Ilma Lopez, Piccolo

Pastry Chef Ilma Lopez makes desserts that make you wish you lived in Portland. The Caracas, Venezuela native got her start at Malabar and worked at DB Bistro, Corton, Tailor, Café Boulud, and Le Bernadin in New York City before taking her many talents to Portland. She opened Blue Rooster Food Co. and Piccolo with her husband, Chef Damian Sansonetti. At Piccolo, Lopez does the hardest thing any chef can hope to do: she takes the simplest, most elegant, classic, beloved ingredients and desserts and makes them superlatively her own. Who’s tiramisu do you want? Ilma’s. No one else’s will do. Lopez uses the highest quality ingredients, impeccable technique, and that mysterious personal touch that makes every great pastry chef, truly great.                 

Dishes that clinched it:

Chocolate Budino Crostata, Candied Hazelnuts, Maldon Sea Salt, and Vincotto

Tiramisu

Artisans: Ian Cappelano, Peter Kobulnicky and Michael Lingwall, Foremost Baking Co.

The crumb in Foremost Baking Company baguettes is incredible to behold, just before you rip into the warm and crusty rest of it. But the most remarkable thing about the baguette isn't the crumb—that bubbly-bread mosaic—it's that it may still be warm when it hits your hand. Bakers Ian Cappelano, Peter Kobulnicky, and Michael Lingwall stagger their baking, so whether the bread or pastry is gong to a café for the morning rush or to a restaurant for dinner service, the product is as fresh as humanly possible. And whoever begins a bake, finishes it—the same hands that formed the dough, also deliver the loaves. Across Providence, they're changing the way people eat and restaurants serve, freshening it all up, and creating a bread baking model for cities across the nation. 

Baked goods that clinched it:

Baguette 

Honey-Almond Danish

Artisan: Eli Cayer, Urban Farm Fermentory

Don’t be fooled by Eli Cayer’s carefree demeanor—underneath it all, he’s a fermenting genius and an entrepreneurial mastermind. At Urban Farm Fermentory, Cayer is wild-fermenting it all—everything from dry cidahs to pepper ghost-chile kombucha is fair game. His 6,000-square-foot space houses a tasting room, a community market, an apothecary, and an area for artists and artisans, and he’s busy building a green-house out back so that his bottled and on-tap buchas’ flavor is homegrown. And he’s got bigger plans brewing: lacto-fermented foods (think kimchi and sauerkraut) and a brewery are in the works. In a cool, calm, easy rider style, Cayer is not only thinking big, he’s making it happen, on his own terms, with some of the best damn funky stuff we’ve tasted.

Brews that clinched it

Ginger Kombucha 

Dry Cidah

Concept: Bennett Coffey and Kyleen Keenan, Not Your Sugar Mama's

Bennett Coffey and Kyleen Keenan didn’t have a ton of experience in the food business, but they had an idea and they ran with it. Clever, fearless, and with a contagious love of chocolate, they got down to business—and it worked. Starting in the kitchen of Coffey’s parent’s house, Not Your Sugar Mamas now has two cafés on Martha’s Vineyard, and their chocolate products are sold at 85 locations across New England and New York, and as far west as Oklahoma and Iowa, including many Whole Foods. Just like the Mamas, their chocolate emanates health, happiness, and love. They use raw cacao, unrefined sugars, and no dairy—both firm believers that their way is the most nourishing for mind, body, soul, and palette. This isn’t your mama’s chocolate. Coffey and Keenan make chocolate that matches their spirit.        

Chocolate that clinched it:

“Be Local” Rose-Raw Chocolate Bar  

“Be Original” Goji Berry-Raw Chocolate Bar  

Brewer: Nathan Sanborn, Rising Tide Brewery

When a batch of yeast got held up, Nathan Sanborn took the beer for which it was intended, threw in house yeast, cherries, and put all that into red wine barrels for five months. A seasonal beer called Calvera was born. Rising Tide brewer Sanborn goes with the flow. And he’s had beer on the brain for a long time. He was a home brewer for a decade before making the leap to his small-batch brewery, and the ideas flowed forth. In addition to their barrel-aging program, they bottle brews, too, and have a taproom with three flagships on tap. All Sanborn’s brews have a hazey sediment at the bottom because his natural, unfiltered process leaves the yeasts alive and well—symbolic of the energy he has injected into New England brewing, where his Rising Tide is raising the bar for craft brewing.        

Brews that clinched it: 

Daymark American Pale Ale 

Main Island Trail Ale

Roaster: Eric Lepine, New Harvest Coffee Roasters

Working with New Harvest—a decade-plus old roastery which recently opened a retail café—Eric Lepine landed in the deep end of coffee, not just attending to the palates of New England, but visiting origin coffee sites and observing and enhancing the nuance of his product. From funky, natural process coffees and light roasts to the bolder, darker tastes of the region, Lepine is the man behind the house blends of bakeries, cafés, and restaurants all across the Northeast. He’s also a leader in the coffee community, with New Harvest hosting the Mane Coffee Conference in 2013, their nearby training facility in Hope Artiste Village, and by throwing frequent Barista Jams and public cupping classes. Lepine is influencing professional and consumer coffee palettes across the region. 

Cups that clinched it: 

Ethiopia, Yirgacheffe, Misty Valley, Natural Process, Light Roast

Guatemala, Finca Santa Isabel, Light Roast 

Roaster: Will Pratt, Tandem Coffee Roaster

In less than two years, Roaster Will Pratt has created a citywide hotspot with his Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, Maine. Pratt, a carpenter, and his wife and partner Kathleen, a painter (both are former Blue Bottlers), literally built Tandem Coffee Roasters from the ground up—upping the craft coffee ante in Portland, a food town known for quality. Pratt uses coffee to build community and reaches beyond Maine with their wholesale side. Tandem designs coffee programs, train baristas, and advises on equipment and pricing. On the retail front, there’s expansion. A new Tandem café and bakery is coming soon, laying the foundation for small-batch, craft coffee, and caffeinated community for years to come, in Portland and beyond.   

Cups that clinched it: 

Kenya, Kikai AB                                                                                        

Guatemala, San Juan Microlot Blend, La Libertad, Huehuetenango 

Bartender: Jay Carr, The Eddy

Jay Carr is the craft cocktail proselytizer and bartending force who’s helping establish a Navy-strong cocktail culture in Providence. Eddy opened in December 2012 and has become something of juggernaut, though Carr originally conceived it as an intimate bar. In a space intended for about 32 guests, Carr is banging out up to 280 cocktails a night—95 percent of which he makes himself. He mixes like a perpetual-motion machine (with raw, bald spots on his legs where they rub into the well of his small bar to prove it) and works noon-to-wee-hours shifts. His menus are as intriguing and balanced as his drinks, with the classics alongside his classics-in-the-making. Carr thrives in this small neighborhood bar that he’s made into a packed Providence sensation. And with his bartender’s choice program, he’s teaching the city how to drink, night after night.      

Cocktails that clinched it: 

Orange Julius Caesar: Shellback Caribbean Rum, Bols Yoghurt Liqueur, Lime Juice, Vanilla, Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate, and Orange Peel

Rye-talian: Rittenhouse Rye, Amaro Montenegro, Fernet Branca, Cocchi Americano, Orange Bitters, and Orange Peel 

Bartender: Andrew Volk, The Hunt & Alpine Club

Andrew Volk came to Maine on a mission: to construct his own bar and build cocktail culture—rooted in the classics—from the ground up. Mission accomplished. At Volk’s sleek and easy Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, the drinks list is a longtime coming for Portland and for Volk, who has spent years perfecting his craft. Modern mixology now has a home and fertile training ground in Volk’s Club, where the classics mingle with new coupe-glassed darlings. And his influence reaches far beyond the devoted clientele and vacationing revelers. Volk works closely with Maine distillers and distributors to expand the selection of spirits in the state controlled market, single-handedly shaking new life into New England’s nightlife. Portland Hunt & Alpine Club is cool, classic, and modern all at once, reflecting the style and the cocktails of Maine’s bartender on a mission.         

Cocktails that clinched it:

Fratelli Stinger: Laird's Applejack, BrancaMenta, Bourbon, Angostura Bitters, and Lemon Peel

Barrel-Aged White Negroni: Beefeater Gin, Cocchi Americano, Dolin Blanc, and Green Apple

Sommelier: Tanya McDonough, Straight Wharf

Tanya McDonough more or less builds a new wine program for two restaurants every year. And then she prepares for the crush: 12 months worth of covers squeezed into four months. That’s just the seasonal nature of her job as sommelier at Straight Wharf and Ventuno on Nantucket. And you can’t BS the wine drinkers of Nantucket. They’re a savvy group of oenophiles. At Ventuno she repeatedly dives deep (or more aptly, cannon balls) into the wines of Italy, making waves, pulling bottles, and making tableside pairings that satisfy the thirst of guests who know their varietals. At Straight Wharf she has more freedom, incorporating Riesling and Sancerre, all the while she’s keeping a mental inventory, knowing she gets to do it all again next year.       

Pairings that clinched it

Albacore Tuna Crudo, Kumquats, Olives, Chile Paste, Meyer Lemon-Coriander Vinaigrette, and Fennel Fronds paired with Riesling, Joh. Jos. Prüm, Kabinett, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany, 2011

Seared Diver Scallops, Zucchini Ribbons, Tomato Confit, Nasturtium Pesto paired with Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc, Les Boucauds, Claude Riffault, Loire Valley, France, 2011

Restaurateur: Nancy Batista-Caswell, Caswell Restaurant Group

It’s difficult to get Restaurateur Nancy Batista-Caswell’s success story out of her because she talks with such immense pride and passion about her staff, not her own personal toils and triumphs. And her employees at Ceia and Brine feel the love—turnover is exceptionally low at both of her Newburyport, Massachusetts establishments. At Ceia Kitchen + Bar she strives to create an ethos based on New England tradition, authenticity, beauty, and flavor. And just across the street at sleek Brine, which focuses on oysters, crudo, and chops, she encourages the same with some Italian and Spanish flourishes. Batista-Caswell cut her teeth working with restaurateur Chris Schlesinger, who she counts as a mentor. She inspires staff through education, empowerment, and unwavering, approachable leadership. Her restaurants are becoming part of the fabric of the New England Coast—and that success speaks for itself.