I used to be one of those people who thought 'there are certain things that shouldn't be fucked with' and Mexican food was one of them. I rejected the idea that the flavors of my childhood could find a home in the world of fine dining. My personal perception of food has changed, mostly thanks to Chef Edward Lee. The global perception of what fine dining is has also changed in a really wonderful way, where the access to quality ingredients prepared with skill and refinement is seemingly everywhere.
Native Los Angeleno Chef Ray Garcia and his team create a bold menu of authentic flavors that truly caters to everyone. We got there just after opening, before the dinner rush, so we could appreciate the space. The dining room was very warm with lots of sunlight and neutral colors. It felt like a elevted version of my mother's family home in Mexico. The cement blocks caught the light in such a satisfying way, and the delicate details that lined the walls gave the restaurant a sense of calmness. Mexican culture is normally associated with loud parties and bright colors so it was really nice to see this type of aesthetic, rustic and homey but still refined.
We started our meal with a bowl of Papas. German butterball potatoes deep fried with perfectly crispy exteriors and warm fluffy centers, coated in apple cider vinegar, avocado salsa and cotija cheese. A burst of acidity cuts through the richness of the potatoes, while the heat of the salsa, the saltiness of the cheese and the freshness of the herbs helps balance it all out. I couldn't eat them fast enough.
For my main dish I ordered the lamb shank, conft in lard over a bed carrot puree with onion marmalade, chimichurri, cotija and micro cilantro. There was a lot of sweetness in this dish to counter the big, gamey flavor of the lamb. I love lamb, and was worried the sweetness would take away from the lamb but I was wrong. Plus the chimichurri, cheese and cilantro brought a lot to the party. I ate most of this dish on its own, but did make a few tacos with their house-made blue heirloom corn tortillas.
One of the most interesting desserts I have ever had was the Isla Flotante comprised of a masa harina meringue torched on one side and topped with dill, a rhubarb and mezcal sorbet over fresh strawberries, and avocado crema pearls and creme anglaise. Not overly sweet and insanely complex, it almost didn't feel like dessert. The meringue was out of this world, really reminiscent of the raw tamale masa I snack on when I help my mom make tamales, but sweeter of course. The mezcal balanced out the sweetness in the dish and the pearls added a much needed, and very interesting texture.
The meal not only left me feeling satisfied but it left me feeling hopeful for the future of food. How ingredients and techniques from different eras and different time zones can come together under one roof and create something extraordinary. I am looking forward to another meal here one day. To read more of my food adventures click here.
Here we are, more than halfway through the first year of recreational cannabis in California. While I may not be thrilled with the changes we've been experiencing, not only as an employee in the cannabis industry but as a consumer as well, I realize that eventually the dust will settle and things will feel normal again. Plus, recreational cannabis opens the door to an array of new products, like this Absolute Extracts and Lagunitas collaboration: HiFi Hops.
This is not the pairs first collaboration. In 2017 the SuperCritical series debuted; two cannabis vape cartridges infused with hop terpenes plus the Supercritical IPA - a non THC beer infused with cannabis terpenes. Lagunitas has a long history of cannabis appreciation since they opened in 1993. In 2001 the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureu asked them to rename their 'Kronik' Copper Ale because of its reference to cannabis. They changed the name to 'Censored.' In 2005 the brewery was shut down for their weekly 4:20 parties, upon reopening they brewed a Bitter Ale named 'The Undercover Investigation Shut Down Ale.' In 2011 they brewed an IPA in commemoration of The Waldos, the group of guys who made 4:20 a time and day we celebrate.
Complete with compliant, child-proof pop tops, each can contains 10mg of active cannabis, a 10mg THC drink and a 1:1 version with 5mg of each THC and CBD. It's different than other edibles because the cannabis used is water soluble. Technically a sublingual, your body starts absorbing as soon as it hits your mouth and is absorbed into your bloodstream through your stomach, rather than having to be digested. This results in a fast acting, long lasting high.
The flavor is familiar, enjoyable and refreshing. It tastes like what it is, hoppy sparkling water. It does not taste like beer, in my opinion, but that's also not a bad thing. I felt refreshed while I was drinking it, not something I can always say with beer. I drank both cans, and I can certainly felt stoney. If you're looking for a beer replacement and have a low tolerence to edibles and want to try something new, go snag a can and sip it slow. For more experienced cannabis users, this may be a fun drink to have in the fridge but you might need a few to get you going. Beer lovers might not enjoy this product as much because of it's lack of mouthfeel. But if you're like me, a lover of both, you will most definitely enjoy this refreshing cannabis infused hoppy beverage.
The good people at Cannabox recently reached out asking if they could share their Stoner Legends box with me. I currently have VYNL and Brat Box subscriptions and was excited to see what a cannabis focused one would be like. I have to say, I could have only been happier if a box of weed showed up on doorstep instead. The box included:
Cheech & Chong incense burner with peach incense.
RAW & WIZ king size papers. I love these packs because they include crutches and even a little poker to pack your joints it. I always roll joints using my rolling mat, they come out perfect every time!
Double Platinum Gin & Juice blunt wraps, which Alexis and I put to good use.
She also helped me figure out how to use the bubbler included in the box, which deceptively resembled a dry pipe.
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This September was packed full of adventures thanks to The Cheba Run, which means this month my reviews are coming from the road! Each month Phoenix based dispensary Swell Farmacy shares 5 different concentrates with me. I review these products and then share those opinions with you! These are listed in order from favorite to least.
MüV Products: Rugburn
Taste: Good smell, lots of flavor, sweet & dank.
Effect: Very enjoyable. Stoney & spacey with a nice body high
Canamo Concentrates: Chocolope
Taste: Smooth, sweet, floral.
Effect: Stoney & uplifting with a good body high.
Swell: Carrie Fisher OG
Taste: Sweet, fruity, tangy.
Effect: Very strong, heavy body high, spacey.
Canamo Concentrates: Platinum Girl Scout Cookies
Taste: Slightly sweet, floral, clean.
Effect: Very stoney, strong body high, heavy.
Taste: Clean and smooth but not much flavor.
Effect: Very strong, heavy body high, spacey.
This is the second month I've reviewed concentrates for Phoenix-based dispensary Swell Farmacy. This month I received three strains, two of which came in both shatter and crumble. Instead of reviewing them from favorite to least favorite like last month, I will be comparing the same strains against each other. Big thank you to the people at Swell for valuing my opinion!
Cherry Tang Shatter
Taste: Very citrusy, clean & smooth.
Effect: Spacey & stoney, but functional with a good head high and light body high.
Who's the winner? Shatter.
It's a tie!
The wonderful people at Swell Farmacy recently asked me if I would be interested in reviewing some products for them. Of course I said yes! I'm excited to start familiarizing myself with the products in the Arizona market. I was given 5 strains to review, and here they are! In order from favorite to least, on a scale between 1-5, with 5 being the best.
MüV Products: Gromulan [THC: 87% CBD 7%]
Taste: Strong smell and flavor, sweet & dank.
Effect: Very enjoyable. Uplifting with a light body high.
Canamo Concentrates: Guice [THC: 86.32% CBD: 2.14%]
Taste: Lots of good flavor, but a little harsh at the beginning.
Effect: Not too heavy, but relaxing & spacey.
Swell: Nerdy Kush [THC: 77.74% CBD: 2.61]
Taste: Clean, but not very flavorful.
Effect: Strong body & head high.
Swell: Tahoe Lemonade [THC: 84.81 CBD: 2.61]
Taste: Pleasant, but little flavor.
Effect: Light body high, uplifting & energizing.
Who doesn't love fried potatoes covered in cheese and bacon and pulled pork? If you don't, you're a liar. Our friends at Big Bad Wolf invited us to try their smothered creations this weekend and all I can say is YUM! The menu was limited due to the heatwave but everything we had was so good! The full menu must be amazing too.
We started with an order of loaded fries and an order of crispy wings with smokey BBQ sauce. The truck was conveniently parked outside BlackRock Brewers so we popped inside to sit down, eat and have a few beers. Jason had the Admiration IPA and I had the Tucson Tickle, I normally don't go for common beers but the name was too cute and it ended up being really good!
These loaded fries were covered in a spicy seasoning blend and covered in cheese, bacon and their signature wolf sauce. After a few joints and a beer, you know this hit the spot. The spice was balanced so well with the cheese and creamy wolf sauce, I couldn't stop eating until they were finished. The chicken wings were next and boy were they crispy! The sauce doused over the wings left enough crispy skin exposed to get those nibbles of perfectly crisped skin while still retaining the flavor of the sauce. 6 wings was not enough.
Round two was loaded pulled pork fries, delicious right? Those loaded fries I loved so much with pulled pork on top, yes! I haven't had pulled pork this tender and juicy in years. With the same smokey BBQ sauce used on the wings drizzled over the top, my mouth was in heaven.
Looks good, hu?
What's more romantic than freshly prepared French food for a Valentines Day dinner? Thanks to Feastly my boyfriend and I were able to enjoy an amazing evening catered by Chef Tommo. The venue was warm, well lit and our hosts eagerly met us with strawberries and champagne to get the night started. The 6 course menu focused on seafood and featured raw oysters, white fish tartare and poached lobster tail just to name a few.
My boyfriend picked up a bottle of CaliCraft's The Bay double IPA. It was a big beer, full of strong tropical and fruit notes. Some would call it too big to pair with seafood, but we thought it worked really well. The beer was big, but the flavor was clean and crisp, with a pleasing balance of tropical and bitter.
Our meal started with three large raw oysters, dressed with a light champagne vinaigrette. There was a harmony between the natural brininess of the oyster and the sweetness of the champagne vinegar. In my opinion oysters are best when prepared simply, so this was an ideal way to start a dinner in my book.
The white fish tartare was tossed in cucumber, green onion and capers. The fish was light, but the capers and cucumber really helped bring out it's natural sweetness while providing balance. The portion was small but ideal for the dish, just a few small bites and it was on to the next!
The next dish was improvised by our chef, as cooking doesn't always go as planned. I enjoyed the dish and the plating even, regardless of its last minute adjustments. Poached salmon and lobster on a bed of sauteed spinach and a wonderful tarragon sauce. The fish was tender and juicy while bits of lobster mixed in with the salmon added a nice surprise. The sauce really brought everything to life and the spinach added an overall heartiness to the dish, but it wasn't overbearing.
The star of the show was a butter poached lobster tail with a rice pilaf. All I tasted in this dish was butter and lobster but I was not complaining . As I said earlier, seafood is best when prepared simply and lobster is protein that can definitely stand on its own. Sweet and buttery with a hint of the ocean, to me there's nothing better.
The night ended with a cheese plate and dark chocolate mousse. The cheese plate had three types of cheese, I can't remember the exact kinds but one was tart and creamy, one was really sharp and one was more neutral. I ate them all without blinking an eye. When we got to the chocolate part, I was a bit hesitant. I've never been a fan of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, but once I tasted the strawberries at the bottom and the pistachio crumble I felt a lot better about the dish. There was nothing left in the ramekin by the time I was done.
This has only been my second dinner with Feastly, but I think it's an excellent service. Bringing foodies together while giving chefs a night to shine and express themselves passionately. As both a lover of cooking food as well as eating it, these meals have been a great source of inspiration for me. I can't wait to attend more. You can read more about my first Feastly experience here.
Tea time at high noon? Madame Munchie creates delicious, elegant and low-dose French style macarons certain to elevate your next tea party. Okay but seriously, all bad puns aside, remember when edible options were just the standard brownies and cookies? Normally rich with chocolate to cover up the taste of Cannabis. I am so glad we are past those days. I hope you are too.
Xochi: What was it that initially drew you to the Cannabis industry?
Ashley: After the first time I tried it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn't see the danger in it, and I knew working with Cannabis was something I always wanted to do. And this was back in high school, so I that was definitely my inspiration. Just really loving it and finding it so therapeutic. My family has been cultivating Cannabis in Mendocino for generations, so I wanted to be able to bring something to the table as well.
Kim: A lot of the same, I've always enjoyed it and never saw a problem with Cannabis. It always lead me to ask 'Why isn't this legal?' so it may have been, not so much that I enjoyed, but that I was so bothered by the fact that something so harmless wasn't legal. Those were my reasons for getting involved. I had been to Amsterdam when I was 13 with my dad, because that's where he worked, and he stopped into a coffee shop to ask for change or directions or something and when he came out he just smelled so good. And I wanted to know, 'What's in there? What is that smell?' He told me about the way coffee shops in Amsterdam work and I said 'that's so cool! can we go?' He told me I was too young, but when I was 18 if I still wanted to go, we could go together Which is actually a promise he kept and when I was 18 I experienced legal Cannabis for the first time.
Xochi: So you grew up in Europe, what's the difference?
Kim: It's pretty in restricted in France, where I grew up. Amsterdam just gave me a different view of Cannabis, although I still think it could be a little more professional. But it makes you think that you're not crazy to believe it should be legal in other places too. It was actually an American experience that really showed me that Cannabis could have medicinal properties and values. The other side of the story is; I had previously been prescribed Ritalin for ADHD which I took for about a year or two, as well as another medication I can't remember that was used to treat depression which I was on for about 6 months. I didn't see much of a difference. And Ritalin was banned in France at the time, so it wasn't like I could talk to my peers about it or anything. So I had my American doctor and my French experience. And I told my American doctor, when I saw him the next summer that I had tried Cannabis and that I really enjoyed it and that I was the first thing to bring me that sense of bliss and serenity. And that was the end goal with all these medications I was trying. So he told me that if it worked for me, and I kept my grades in check and made sure I was living a normal social life, he had no problem with my use of Cannabis as a way to self-medicate. So it was nice to have this sort of 'stamp of approval' from my doctor at such a young age. And that was another thing that really drove me to find out why Cannabis wasn't legal, and why it took my own self- discovery to come across this product that helped me, and I planned on continuing to use as medecine. And I never took Ritalin, or any other pills again since then.
Xochi: Wow, that's amazing. Well let me just say, these macarons are so tasty! Who's the baker?
Kim: Both of us.
Ashley: Yeah, we both do it.
Xochi: So how do you collaborate in the baking process?
Ashley: We work together a lot. Sometimes one of us will have to go out and meet a client or something, so one person will stay behind in the kitchen. And we just switch off, to keep things balanced.
Kim: We actually learned how to make macarons together.
Xochi: So you learned how to make macarons just for this endeavor?
Kim: Yeah! Well, and to satisfy my sweet tooth. We actually hosted a little party when we had all the some of the flavors developed to help us narrow things down. People would come and try them out and write down which ones were their favorites and any comments they had. I still have those notes, they are great.
Xochi: Well I think your flavors are really inventive, I love the grilled PB&J. Did you have any difficulty finding a baking space?
Kim: A lot of our initial baking and testing happened in our home kitchen. After gaining some momentum from winning 1st place for best edible at the 2014 High Times Cannabis Cup, we felt more confident when looking for a space. And when we found one, we were very direct and upfront about what we do. Since our flower is all processed in Mendocino, we only deal with Cannabutter in our kitchen. So it's very low key.
Ashley: It doesn't smell that much. If at all.
Kim: And as far as liability goes, there isn't much to steal.
Ashley: Can you imagine someone trying to steal a bunch of Cannabutter?
Kim: It's not even a concentrate. It would just melt as you were driving away.
Kim: So the owner liked that, but I think we still got really lucky, we are really grateful.
Xochi: Were there any other hurdles you met along the way?
Ashley: I'm trying to think of something specific, but there are a lot of general things you overlook when starting a business. An overall hurdle is all the random things that come up that you'd never expect. Like oh, an employee is sick, now you have to readjust for that. A driver can't make a delivery, now you have to figure out how you're gonna make it happen.
Xochi: The daily in's and out's of the business.
Kim: I definitely agree that those can be some of the hardest things to deal with. Taking a step back and envisioning the future for yourself and the company can be really fun. But when you're trying to run a business and you have a day planned and something goes wrong, you don't get those hours you needed back because someone didn't show up or wasn't answering their phone. So going back to work everyday knowing there are always issues like these, that always seem to happen at the worst time, can definitely by one of the most challenging things to deal with. Big picture struggles would be things like banking, and existing in this grey area between medically legal in California and federally illegal. Most of what I learned in business school doesn't really apply here. But that's also what makes is so interesting, building it as it goes.
Xochi: Being in the middle of it all while it's happening.
Xochi: What are your favorite strains?
Ashley: I really like Trainwreck for the sweet floral taste. Another near and dear to my heart is Sour Diesel, it's been around forever.
Kim: I don't think I have a favorite strain but certain ones do surprise me and I remember them, like this green crack once just had the best high. But I know people change names all the time, so it's hard to know exactly what you're smoking. We cook with a hybrid blend, and I find it works really well for me. It's a well-rounded high I can feel everywhere.
Xochi: Yeah, I think hybrids are best for edibles too.
Kim: Yeah, a little bit of everything. And hopefully one day research on a Cannabis will be advanced enough that we can pinpoint Cannabinoids, but until then, I like this mix.
Ashley: I've seen a quiz or something online that helps you find personalized strains, which is cool but who knows how accurate it is.
Kim: In a way I kind of like not knowing, but if that research can potentially help people with more serious ailments, then it's definitely worth it.
Xochi: What is your professional history before you got into this industry?
Ashley: I've been in the Cannabis industry for a long time, and originally went to school for horticulture because I was so interested in cultivation. But as I went on I realized that it wasn't for me, so I got into fashion design. So I studied that and eventually got a corporate fashion design job. But as a designer, I really didn't like giving someone else all the credit for my work, so that job really wasn't for me either. So after that I really took another look at my options in the Cannabis industry and just dove deeper into that and tried to take my family's business to the next level.
Kim: I studied finance in school in France, and eventually moved to New York to work for a big Wall Street Bank. Sometimes I think I ended up there on mistake, because people would ask why I was studying finance. It wasn't something people could picture me doing. But I took this one class and it was really interesting, and I wanted to learn more and try and understand these people who were sto different than me. So I dove head first into it, But when I finally got to the end of it, I was like why did I do this again? I really wanted to see it from the inside, but understood why there was so much concern because the job wasn't for me. So my new plan was to get a job in San Francisco, move there and meet people and try and start and edible business. So that's when I met Ashley, and she told me about her family farm and I told her about my ideas to revolutionize the face of edibles, and yeah. It just worked out.
Ashley: Yeah, it's actually a pretty funny story. We met on OKCupid, and in my profile I mentioned that I worked in the Cannabis industry. And she messaged me like, 'oh tell me more!' So we planned to meet at Hippie Hill at Golden Gate Park, and we smoked a joint.
Kim: She needed to make sure I could handle my weed.
Ashley: Yeah, so our first business meeting was a few months after that.
Xochi: So you two went into this romantically involved and wanted to proceed as business partners?
Kim: My secret plan was: if she's my business partner, she's going to have to spend time with me, and I'll be able to show her how awesome I am. I'm a planner, what can I say?
Xochi: Long con, I get it. That's great. You don't think working together hinders your relationship, in business and in romance?
Kim: I definitely think it makes it tough sometimes. It can be really hard to take a break. Usually couples can go home and complain about their boss or co-workers to their significant other. But in this case it's like, 'you're complaining about me?!' But we've learned a lot about how to deal with it, and we are still learning.
Ashley: I think we're definitely both workaholics, so it's hard to turn off work and just have 'girlfriend time' because we get so excited about new ideas, sometimes it's all we want to talk about. We're both just really passionate about Madame Munchie.
Kim: The definitely keeps it going because even when it gets tough, it's so exciting!
Xochi: So you say you want to change the face of business in Cannabis, and Cannabis in general. Can you tell me more about that?
Kim: I feel the main way we can help end stigmas is simply but initiating the conversation. I find that our products help people talk about Cannabis to family members or professional colleagues that you otherwise wouldn't. When someone brings up Cannabis to an individual who doesn't know much about it, they can sometimes expect a negative reaction. But when someone presents that person with our product, there's always a little bit of surprise. They help loosen up the dialogue with parents or grandparents, and because they are low dose people are much more open to trying them. This is a great product for novice Cannabis users, especially for our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Ashley: And people come back to the product because of the dosage, because it's easy. But I think people like that the Cannabis we source is single origin, and we try and source as many local ingredients as possible. For example, we personally know our almond farmers personally, and we frequent their just to make sure everything is going well. And accurately dosing our product is super important to us, and we make sure each cookie is 20mg. Consistency is crucial.
Kim: It's really hard.
Xochi: But it's medicine at the end of the day, so I can see why it's super important to you.
Kim: And that goes back to the image on Cannabis, if you can have a safe and reliable product that people can trust, it's much safer and much more enjoyable. But if someone doesn't know exactly what they're consuming, that's where edible horror stories come from and it hinders our movement. So that's why it's so important to us that people have clear and proper dosage to prevent negative experiences with our product. But seeing my grandma use this product and enjoy it, it really made me happy.
Xochi: What do you hope to see as Cannabis legalization looms right around the corner?
Ashley: I'm just so excited. I know there's a lot of controversy over the what the ballot says, but I just want everyone to have access to this medicine. Even if only a few people benefit financially, everyone benefits from legal Cannabis. That's my stand, but I hope it's just a start to more fair and inclusive reform.
Xochi: Right, it's important to break that barrier. Do you hope that even with the idea of recreational Cannabis, it will still be viewed as a wellness product with therapeutic aspects?
Kim: That an interesting question. Honestly, I think Cannabis should be seen as just a product. Maybe a dietary one. Maybe somewhere between tea and tobacco. There's a psychoactive component to it that we think we don't get other products, but I'm not even sure if that's true. The way we are affected by what we eat or drink is so unknown to us. But I do think there is a lot of wellness in Cannabis and that's why I chose to smoke and not drink. But I also don't judge people who chose to drink. In the end people chose to live their own lives and as much as it may differ from mine, I'm not here to judge other people or say what they should or shouldn't use.
Ashley: I wanna say that I get high because I want to get high sometimes, but I also do see a lot of medicinal value in it, so I'm kind of torn.
Xochi: Well I think there's a healthy grey area where Cannabis can live. It's a great alternative to alcohol but can also be used to replace so many medications, over the counter as well as prescription.
Kim: I just hope legalization helps send a message to the rest of the world. Being from France, I know there were always eyes on California as the pioneers of this movement and if it could happen there it could happen anywhere. So I think it's a crucial decision for this state.
Xochi: To wrap up, any final thoughts?
Ashley: I'm just super excited to see where the industry goes and I'm excited to meet more people like you guys, like minded individuals. And I'm just so excited for Cannabis.
Kim: Quality is a focus for us, but I'm so excited to see more professionalism in the industry and being able to be open about it, and just learning more.
Xochi: Even just tonight, I think we've learned a lot from each other. Thanks for your time.
stoneyxochi. 28 year old California native. proud pothead, Mexicana and woman.