Living in a legalized-cannabis state has brought a lot of great things: informative dispensaries, easy accessibility and—most importantly—ultra-cool cannabis-infused dinner parties. If you never thought cannabis could be considered gourmet, you’ll want to read on to see how you can host an elegant cannabis-focused dinner that’s educational, fun and insanely delicious. Call your best buds, it’s dinner time!
Cooking with Cannabis
Cooking with marijuana demands an understanding of decarboxylation, the process of heating the cannabis flower that breaks the carbon chain, converting tetrahydrocannabinolic acid to THC, to give cannabis its effects. Do it wrong and at best you’ll fail to unlock its psychoactive properties; at worst you’ll ruin the bud altogether (expensive mistake!). Plus, unless you’re testing for THC, you won’t know how much you’re consuming. An alternative option is purchasing packaged products that do the work for you.
Edibles Grow Up
The most common edible purchased and consumed today is the gummy. “Far and away,” says Greg Shoenfeld, vice president of operations at BDS Analytics, a cannabis analytics company based in Boulder, Colorado. “And these are sophisticated confectioneries.” That, in a microcosm, is the forward motion of the ingestible market, the cannabis industry’s fastest-growing sector, which pulled in $712 million from January 2019 to June 2019, an increase of 27.5% from the previous year.
The new face of edibles is beautiful packaging, refined flavors, and quality ingredients. The sugared gummy pearls of Portland, Oregon–based Grön are a shining example, as is Denver-based Coda Signature’s coffee and doughnuts chocolate bar, dusted just so with cinnamon sugar. “There was an opening for wonderful flavors, quality ingredients, and bringing about nostalgia,” says Lauren Gockley, director of edibles for Coda Signature, who spent two years working with chocolate and pastry under Thomas Keller at Per Se in New York City. In August 2019, Coda also launched a line of high-end fruit chews à la pâte de fruits in flavors such as strawberry rhubarb and, Gockley’s favorite, coconut lime with makrut lime–infused sugar.
The high from an edible is very different (and has a delayed onset) than the one from inhaling marijuana. “Don’t fear the edible; just start slow,” says Laurie Wolf, founder of Laurie + MaryJane, an influential cannabis edibles company in Portland, Oregon.
WHY CONSIDER PAIRING CANNABIS WITH DIFFERENT FOODS?
Cannabis is more than a psychoactive substance. It’s a culinary herb that ranks among the likes of rosemary and thyme. Cannabis flowers produce complex terpene profiles and punchy flavours. Some cultivars produce sweet notes of fruit or chocolate; others hit the tongue with savoury tastes of earth and pine. Brownies and space cakes have been the go-to cannabis edibles for decades, but modern cannabis chefs are now infusing cannabinoids and terpenes into just about anything; from pasta to salad dressings!
The enormous diversity in terpene profiles allows cooks to get creative in the kitchen. Different strains go well with different meals. Does that stash jar tickle the nose with hints of fruit? Then infuse it in a cheesecake! Does it reak of diesel and wood? Harness those rich tastes in a hearty soup.
Not only does cannabis-infused food taste superb, it’s also more psychoactive! Edible cannabis takes longer to take effect, but provides a more potent experience. This is because THC must first pass through the digestive system. It’s then converted into 11-hydroxy-THC before passing through the blood-brain barrier. This powerhouse molecule is responsible for the amplified effects.
PREPARATION IS KEY
You’ll need to prepare thoroughly to ensure your dishes are fully psychoactive! Make sure all of your plant material and extracts have been properly decarbed. People haven’t come just for the food; they want to get baked in the process. If you’re making burgers or similar recipes, it’ll help to grind all of your weed beforehand. It’s little tips like these that simplify the process.
Preparing well also means you get to have fun too! Chances are you’re going to be as baked as the guests. It’ll put a downer on your high if you realise you forgot to make enough of a particular dish or run out of weed. Make sure you’ve completed everything so you have time to relax too. Cook everything you need, wash up, top-up on dank weed, and create a long music playlist. With all the boxes ticked, it’s time to relax and have a good time.
DON’T FORGET THE DRINKS
Your guests are going to get thirsty. It doesn’t take long for cottonmouth to set in. Prepare a good selection of beverages for your guests to enjoy, and a suitable strain for them to enjoy it with. We’ve already covered coffee, but what about pairing some strains with wine? Fruit Spirit will go down well with a fresh rosé.
WHAT CANNABIS PAIRINGS HAVE YOU DISCOVERED?
Before you start cooking up delicious dishes and pairing them with strains, you’ll need to experiment. Acquaint your palate with some of the tastiest cannabis strains around while you perfect your recipes. Eventually, you’ll find out exactly which terpene profiles work best with each meal. Once you’re confident that your cannabis matches you’re cuisine, it’s time to invite your friends over!
Carefully Consider Your Guest List
You’re getting high, after all! Ditch the big crowds and go for hosting a more intimate gathering with your closest pals—this isn’t usually a family affair unless you happen to have a very chill uncle, then by all means invite him. The guest list should be people you trust, have a good time with and would want to get high with! Also preferably people who have gotten high before, although it’s key to create a safe and comfortable environment for everyone, including first-timers.
Pick a Theme
This is your chance to be creative with the theme, invites (social media and hand-written) and labels to get everyone excited for the dinner! We’ll never say no to a good pun, so here are a few to get your creativity flowing:
• Ganja Gathering
• Best Buds Dinner Party
• High Times
The First-Ever Legal Cannabis Restaurant
At the Original Cannabis Cafe in Los Angeles, guests can openly smoke pot and eat infused edibles while snacking on vegan nachos and sticky tamarind wings. Its opening represents the culmination of three-and-a-half years of legal hoop-jumping and bureaucratic negotiating. Guests order food and drinks from one menu, and pre-rolled joints, loose marijuana flower, edibles, and cannabis concentrates from another. Bongs and glass pipes are available for rent. Due to California law, cannabis and alcohol are prohibited from being sold at the same venue, so all drinks are nonalcoholic, though some of them contain cannabis. Nothing on the food menu is infused, and guests can’t take home any leftover cannabis. The idea is to enjoy imbibing before and during your meal, as you would with a glass of wine.
That last point is particularly important to chef Andrea Drummer. The soft-spoken 47-year-old wants to destigmatize cannabis consumption in the U.S. “There’s no better way to normalize [cannabis] than by combining it with something we do every day: eat,” Drummer says. “It’s two communal experiences at once.”
She hopes that the restuarant and other operations like it will help change both the cultural perception of cannabis and the legal status quo. Despite more states legalizing, cannabis arrests are rising, and according to the ACLU, black users are nearly four times more likely to be arrested than white, despite roughly equal usage.
The cafe is attempting to counter some of that disparity by offering a Social Equity and Reparative Justice Program, which gives employment priority to recently pardoned nonviolent cannabis offenders reentering society. Drummer is outspoken on this point. “Why is it that I get to earn a living by doing something that’s normal, while other people are doing life in prison?” she asks. —Jamie Feldmar