Culinary Guild of N.E. Opening Meeting

Commanders MansionSeptember 15th was a beautiful early fall evening, providing the proper ambiance for the Opening Meeting of the 2014-2015 season of the Culinary Guild of New England.  Our venue was the elegant Commander’s Mansion in Watertown and our featured guest speaker was celebrated chef and cookbook author Nina Simonds.

Board members had prepared a number of sumptuous spreads and delicacies in honor of the event.  A long table displayed a magnificent basket of fresh garden crudités and dips, along with a number of ripened cheeses, fresh breads and crackers.  These were contributed by Jen Verrill of Verrill Farm.  Guida Ponte served cups of her flavorful Mexican chicken vegetable soup.  Guests drifted throughout the stately parlors sipping glasses of Austrian Gruener Veltliner, or a delicious Chianti provided by Brix Wines.

The hors d’oeuvres were bounteous, one of them being a tray of mini spring rolls prepared by Chef Lou Schorr, owner of the new Thai restaurant Maekha Thai in Revere.  There were also a number of Mediterranean-style dishes from ‘ester, a new restaurant in Dorchester. Chefs at ‘ester had made Tzatziki, a Greek yogurt dip punctuated with cucumbers from their rooftop garden. ‘ester also provided Tabouli, a spread of fresh garden tomatoes and parsley as well as Muhammara, a dip of red peppers and walnuts.

Other appetizers had been strategically placed around the mansion. There were tiny cookies, “coins” of cheese and rosemary salt baked by Karen Ucuz. .  For dessert Lynne Gassiraro had made double chocolate biscotti, healthy brownie bites of walnuts, cocoa, and unsweetened coconut, as well as gluten-free double chocolate peanut butter bars. Sweet, crunchy white chocolate and pine nut meringues were the delicious work of Lisa Jacobs.

After an hour of eating, drinking and networking, it was time for the program.  After a brief update by Guild President Kris Piatt, and financial review by Treasurer Lisa Primavera,   Kris introduced our speaker:  Nina Simonds.

In her address to the Guild, Nina emphasized “the Optimum Healthy Pantry” and stressed the role of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and sources of proteins in our diet.

Suggestions for healthy dishes with life-giving properties she stated, can be found at  Among her specific suggestions for healthy eating were avocados, bananas, beans, lentils and other legumes as well as berries, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower–various cruciferous vegetables. Chili peppers, cherry tomatoes, cinnamon, cashews were mentioned as possible additions to numerous dishes with an emphasis on Yin and Yang. Foods with Yin qualities would be chilled summer salads and cool shrimp dishes with light summery flavors. Those with Yang flavors would be hot winter soups, thick stews, and chunky meat and pasta dishes.

Overall, stated Nina, the key to a healthy living lifestyle is balance with an emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruits as well as less meat.  She stressed the important life-giving properties of herbs and spices, which are under- utilized in today’s cooking.  We should keep in mind that the objective is a “Healthy Eating Plate,” and we should each strive to reach that goal.

Isabel Chesak  


Kennebunkport Food Festival

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some food, wine, and art while supporting a good cause.  This year our own Ronni Hass, CGNE’s Marketing Chair, has used her remarkable talents to help organize the Art of Dining: Private Dinner Series during the Kennebunkport Festival.

The Kennebunkport Festival is from May 31st- June 4th and offers up the best of Maine.  From their own website “the Festival is truly a collaborative event where all involved share a single vision: give you an epic and ever-so-memorable start to your summer.”  For visitors it’s a chance to see the art, taste the food and wine, and hear the music that make up the amazing culture of this coastal community in Maine.  For a number of charities aiming to end childhood hunger it’s a way to fund their good works.  Share Our Strength is the largest beneficiary of the Festival and tickets sales for the Art of Dining series go directly to them. Good Shepherd Food Bank, The Preble Street Teen Center, Cultivating Community, and East End Kids Katering are also supported by the profits for the Festival.

The Art of Dining Series, which Ronni was instrumental in organizing, is a series of intimate dinners set in private homes.  The dinners are prepared by Maine’s most-respected chefs, such as David Ross and Brandy Hynes and feature special wine pairings and invited artists. Seating is limited at each dinner and advanced reservation and ticket purchase required.

Ronni Hass, the CGNE connection to the Kennebunkport Festival, has been an active member of CGNE for many years and a board member for the past year.  To learn more about her check out this article in Maine Magazine.

The Guild Welcomes Two New Board Members!

The Culinary Guild of New England is proud to welcome two new board members into their midst!

We are thrilled that Vered Tomlak has agreed to take the position of Recording Secretary.  From an early aged Vered impressed friends and family with her passion for the culinary arts through her elaborate dinner parties – starting at the tender age of 13!  Vered first learned of the Culinary Guild after graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 2008. Before she could join, a job opportunity whisked her off to Portland, Oregon where she discovered the wonders of the North West and the rising restaurant scene of the Rose City.  In 2009 Vered accepted a job at the Sheraton Boston hotel and returned to the North East. Upon returning Vered became an active member with CGNE and has never looked back! The three ingredients Vered will never live without are olive oil, bacon, and french bread. Her favorite food is Carolina-Style Barbecued Baby Back Ribs and she is inspired by chefs who make amazing food with local ingredients.

Also new to the board is Barbara Baratz.  Barbara will take over with membership as Cathy Barry moves on to a new position looking into scholarship opportunities for the Guild participate in.  Originally from New York, Barbara has spent her adult years in Marblehead and Boston. She has a degree in Spanish education from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an interior design degree from Endicott College. With a passion for cooking and a talent for smart space planning, Barbara has spent the last 20 years designing kitchens. The three ingredients Barbara prefers not to live without are sharp cheeses, crusty breads, and coffee. For comfort Barbara loves a dish of vanilla ice-cream with mixed0in crushed graham crackers or the not-so-gourmet Good & Plenty candy. Barbara is happiest with a house full of friends and family, working together in the kitchen.

We offer both Vered and Barbara a warm welcome and look forward to the enthusiasm that they will bring to the board in the year to come.  To see the full board please go to the CGNE contact page.

2010/2011 Letter from the President

This year marks the Guild’s 31st anniversary. As I reflect on how much the guild has progressed since its inception I get goose bumps. It’s really astounding that women were almost non existent in commercial kitchens thirty one years ago. Today thousands of restaurants worldwide and even the white house all have a women chef at the helm!  As the perception of women in the kitchen has evolved so has the Guild. This year we have undergone many changes, most noticeably a new website. We have two new board members, Anne Zarrella and Guy Crosby, who bring a wealth of knowledge to the table, we have initiated a 5 O’clock Club and Lunch Club to our program list, hired Marlo Fogelman of marlo marketing to help us spread the word, added additional member benefits.

This year, to commemorate our rich history, we are planning a wonderful series of events.  We will hold our annual opening meeting on October 4th. Kathy Gunst, resident chef of NPR’s Here and Now program and co author of six cookbooks with Stonewall Kitchen will be our speaker. On October 7th we host our first 5 O’clock Club at Harpoon Brewery. On November 8th we are honored to host renowned Chef Joanne Chang at the BCAE center, for holiday baking. On December 6th we will usher in the holidays with annual Cookie Swap.  In the New Year, we will host a talk and dinner about sustainable fish with Legal Seafoods, a demo with Boston’s own Gordon Hamersley at Verrill Farm, a tour of America’s Test Kitchen, a member mart, an overnight culinary trip to Manchester, VT and a macaroni & cheese recipe contest in VIP judges.

I am thrilled to announce an updated directory has been printed and will be mailed to all members. The membership directory can also be found on-line in the password protected members only section on the website. As the Guild continues to go “green” we will update the on-line membership directory in lieu of printing new directories each year. I hope you will use our new website as your reference for events, contacts and member information.  Also there are links to Facebook and Twitter so you can stay virtually connected with the Guild.

It has been an honor to serve as your president this past year. I look forward to the year ahead. I hope to see both familiar and new faces, at the events and programs this year!!!

Carrie Richards

President, Culinary Guild of New England