Collaboration Feeding Innovation in Lynn  


 By Bill Brotherton |  Item Live | January 10, 2020

 Two of the city’s most innovative chefs are teaming up for a special event on Wednesday, and they hope the collaboration is the first of many between restaurateurs and owners of other Lynn businesses.

Rachel Miller of Nightshade Noodle Bar (73 Exchange St.) and Michelle Mulford of Uncommon Feasts (Lydia Pinkham building on Western Avenue) created the four-course menu together. Liana Van de Water, Nightshade’s wine director, has chosen a wine to accompany each course.

The dinner is Wednesday, 5 to 10 p.m., at Nightshade’s intimate Central Square space. Reservations can be made via the events link at

The dinner starts with duck or mushroom torchon, and crispy sticky rice, mustard greens and mustard sauce. It will be paired with sparkling wine.

Marianne Staniunas, left, and Michelle Mulford continue the process of organizing the new space of Uncommon Feasts at the Lydia Pinkham Building. (Item Photo | Spenser Hasak)

The next course is New England coquillage vert or confit turnips, with akabane bread, Vietnamese herbs and chili oil, with a white wine.

The main course will be boeuf ficelle or chickpea panisse, with black radish and mushroom glacé, winter citrus, and horseradish oyster sauce, with a red wine.

Assorted cheeses and condiments, exotic fruits, kampot pepper peanuts, sesame olives and more, paired with a dessert wine, will complete the meal.

Cost is $65, with optional wine pairing $45.

“None of these dishes existed before,” said Miller, with a smile. “And it was important for us to offer vegetarian options for all four courses.”

Both chefs share an affection for French cuisine, but approach it differently, each bringing their own strengths to each course. Mulford said she’s more traditional than Miller, whose Vietnamese-American creations are packed with unexpected flavors. There is a French influence in Vietnamese foods, both agree.

“Everything came together from two different angles,” said Mulford. “It’s been fun, learning from each other. I sent a text with a dinner idea, and that created a cascade of ideas between us.”

Miller, whose imaginative pop-up food events are legendary, said she spent a lot of time in Uncommon Feasts while renovating the Nightshade space, which opened in October. “She had quite a few Uncommon smoothies and avocado toast,” added Mulford,with a laugh. The two chefs/restaurant owners often talked about doing something together.

“This community is open to experimentation. They are supportive and willing to try something different,” said Mulford. “We can be playful with wine and food pairings,” said Miller.

Both see Lynn as a supportive community that’s on the cusp of something great. Working together benefits all, they agree. “Some (food providers) look at Lynn like we’re in an entirely different universe,” said Miller. Both often were told by companies that they’d happily deliver supplies and the like if they were guaranteed a minimum of $1,000 a week in purchases, an exorbitant amount for a small business. Nightshade has 30 seats; Uncommon Feasts 49. “But now Lynn is not a far-away outpost,” added Mulford. “Collaborations give us more power.”

“Working together opens envelopes for other restaurants in Lynn. It makes a difference if we all come together,” said Miller. The two restaurants share some clientele, but collaborations like this should grow business for both, especially during the colder, slow season. “We are not competitors. We are a community,” added Miller. “I’m excited to share my kitchen space with Michelle. I’m excited to see if this is the start of other collaborations.”

Separately, the two restaurants are doing well, say their owners, by offering North Shore residents alternatives to standard fare.

Van de Water said a dinner on Dec. 18 at Nightshade that paired natural wines with desserts made by noted pastry chef Brian Mercury was a big success.

Nightshade will also be working with neighboring One Mighty Mill for a few new dishes this month. Miller said they use OMM’s flour for its biggest selling noodle dishes, and the two plan to create promo video clips as well. In addition, the Lynn resident is always adjusting her menu.

Uncommon Feasts, which opened in the artists-rich Pinkham building in late summer, has just started Uncommon Saturdays, weekly events that include movie nights and entertainment with a multi-course meal that ties into the film (Bollywood, with Delhi street food) or performers (salsa dancers, spicy entrees).

Mulford moved to Lynn to expand her successful catering business of the same name. Both are flourishing. “We wanted to create a community space where people could get really good food and spend some time with one another,” she said. “In the spirit of being a creative in an artistic community we feel inspired to continue building food experiences that show our passion and uniqueness. Telling a story through our meals that show seasonal local ingredients can inspire more than ‘from the farm to the table’ fare.”

Bill Brotherton can be reached at

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