In case you couldn't tell, food and cannabis rule my world. For the last 10 years I have been refining my palette in hopes of becoming not only a better cook, but a better consumer as well. As a child I was glued to the Food Network, rushing to write down everything I saw in hopes of someday creating dishes that were just as exciting. I was in 1st grade when I bought my first cookbook, Cooking With Pooh. I still have it and I still use the sugar cookie recipe found in it. Cannabis didn't enter my life until much later, but as a young adult you know I always had a jar of homemade cannabutter handy in case I needed it.
As we settled in at the table there was a common sentiment floating around, 'can you believe this shit?' Sitting 12 stories high over downtown Los Angeles, we quickly realized that this was going to be a very special event. I couldn't help but relish in moment and truly appreciate how far we have come. Being born and raised in Northern California, there was never a shortage of fine cannabis products to choose from. When it came to edibles though, that was a different story. What was once just brownies and cereal bars has evolved to the level of a world class meal.
On April 20th, 2021 Discovery+ premiered a new cooking show, Chopped 420. If you are familiar with Food Network's Chopped you will have an idea of what to expect, just add cannabis. Haejin Chun, also known as Big Bad Wolf, was brought on to the show as an expert. Assisting competing chefs with infusion techniques and proper dosage. Haejin is known for her own cannabis infused dinner parties and catering services, as well as her association with title sponsor Permanent Holiday. Honestly, there were so many good reasons to attend this dinner but I have always heard that Haejin knows how to throw a party and let me tell you, I was not disappointed.
Upon arrival Kansas City based Curtis Hayes hit us with our first drink, the 'Affamata'. Made with non-alcoholic 'gin' and sweet 'vermouth', Giffard's Aperitivo, raspberry nectarine peach syrup, and adjusted with CBD. It was bright, fresh and just the right amount of bitter to start the evening. I talked to Curtis briefly about his use of non alcoholic spirits and getting creative with zero ABV cocktails. Alcoholic spirits have such a unique flavor and removing them from the equation leaves a lot of room for innovation. Creating an exciting drink that still feel like a cocktail is a true art and Chris is a master at it. I stopped drinking liquor a long time ago so it was a real treat to be able to enjoy such well crafted drinks without any apprehension. At the end of the night I even said to my friend "wait, I have to finish my alcohol" before I remembered that there wasn't any.
The dinner consisted of 9 courses paired with 5 cocktails. Each dish either used cannabis as an ingredient, was infused with THC or paired with a Permanent Holiday pre-roll, while the drinks were infused with CBD, CBG or CBN to keep everything nice and balanced. As a long time cannabis user with a pretty high tolerance, sometimes I forget that we don't need to push the envelope so much when it comes to dosage. The dishes and drinks that were infused were only about 5mg each but when you go slow and take the time to enjoy it, you can really feel it.
The meal started off light with our first offering from Michelin Star Chef Chris Binotto, a smoked Kumamoto Oyster with caviar and bacon, paired with a Kushmintz pre-roll. I was surprised at the richness the smoking processes provided. Plus the addition of bacon definitely turned it up a notch while the caviar reinforced that briney ocean element we love in oysters. Now, I will be honest, the notion of pairing cannabis with food was a concept I was never really sold on. Mostly because I don't like smoking while I eat, but this meal changed all of that for me. The smokiness of the dish was complemented perfectly by the dank, earthy Kushmintz pre-roll.
Chef Chris is no stranger to pairing his food with cannabis, as he runs a Cannabis Supper Club where he does just that. He also has runs Embers & Ash, which he calls a 'rustic fine dining experience.' As a Los Angeles native Chris let's his love for the outdoors, ancient cooking methods, and the abundance California has to offer inspire him in the kitchen. In this first course chef Chris sets the tone of the evening with a decedent appetizer along with his playful, yet sophisticated, plating.
Our second starter of the night was crafted by Chef Wendy Zeng. A Mala Tuna tartare covered with a layer of sliced celtuce, made with her own Sichuan Oil infused with Grape Pie. Easily one of my favorite dishes of the night, it was spicy, rich and perfectly balanced by the brightness of the celtuce. As a cook myself noticed the caliber of knife skills and appreciate the attention to detail in that regard. Inspired by her home in the Sichuan province of China and her time as an adolescence in Memphis, Tennessee. She realized that, across cultures, food was about family, history and the dishes that bring us together.
Chef Wendy is also owner of Drizzle Catering. With a focus on and quality, local ingredients and the flavors she has picked up along the way, Chef Wendy aims to bring the values of her childhood to every table. Fostering community among cannabis and food lovers alike, she utilizes elevated techniques and classic flavor combinations to create for us a dish that was beautiful, luxurious and comforting. Paired with Curtis' CBD adjusted 'Seaworthy' made with yuzu, honey, blanc verjus syrup, nori stock, lemongrass foam and non-alcoholic 'tequila' the briney, ocean flavor carried throughout.
Next up was our first offering from Seattle based Chef Derek Simcik. Heavily influenced by the bounty the Pacific Northwest has to offer, Chef Derek treated us to delicate Geoduck sashimi over grilled endive. Dressed in a ginger ponzu sauce infused with Citrus Heights and topped with caviar for that extra layer of luxury. Chef Derek is a regular contributor to Kitchen Toke Magazine and pioneered the Washington State infused dinner scene. The Pacific Northwest is known for resinous, terpene heavy cannabis that can easily be paired with food, similar to a fine wine. Chef Derek continues to use his refined cooking skills to enlighten those looking to combine their love for food and curiosity for cannabis.
For the intermezzo Chef Wendy created a non-infused celtuce, honeydew and yuzu sorbet meant to cleanse our pallets for the next set of dishes. The texture was so smooth and luscious. Not one single flavor overpowered the other and the everything complemented each other perfectly. Chef Wendy has always used cannabis as a way to boost her creativity, expand her consciousness and simply have a good time. As an Asian American in the cannabis space, Wendy hopes her cannabis infused recipes will help break the stigma our elders may still have in association to cannabis.
As you can see this dinner brought together chefs from all over the country. Aspen, Colorado based Chef Emily Oyer was next to showcase her cannabis infused dish, our first sizeable dish of the night. A Platinum OG infused tagliatelle with a spring pea ragu, tons of parmesan cheese, meyer lemon zest and crispy prosciutto. The pasta had the perfect bite to it while the freshness of the ragu flawlessly complemented the sharpness of the cheese and the lemon zest added the right amount of brightness to tie it all together.
Chef Emily works as a private chef where she combines her love for cannabis with her passion for food. As a gay, female chef who advocates for mental health and the medicinal properties of cannabis, Chef Emily hopes that her elevated yet approachable dishes will help shape a healthier conversation around cannabis and the ways we consume it.
Curtis' next cocktail was the CBG adjusted 'Farmyard Appeasement' made with snow and snap pea syrup, prosciutto stock, lemon juice, soda water, balsamic drizzle, non-alcoholic 'gin' and a ton of fresh mint, which was my favorite drink of the night. As the drink came to temperature the richness and saltiness of the prosciutto came forward while the balsamic drizzle added a much needed sweetness. If you positioned the glass just right you were hit with a big whiff of mint to tie it all together. A truly brilliant drink.
One of the more visually appealing dishes of the night was Chef Maverick Kelly's herbed polenta with oyster mushrooms, infused with Ice Cream Cake. Garnished with a delicious tempura cannabis leaf, I loved the way Chef Maverick used cannabis as an ingredient as well as the infusion. Supple oyster mushrooms paired with soft polenta over a bight yet rich tomato sauce. The unique combination of flavors and textures set this dish aside from the rest. Accompanied by our next beverage crafted by Curtis Hayes, the light and bright 'Daylight' which consisted of aciculated blanc verjus, orange blossom water, soda water and Red Belly Honey. Infused by bees, Red Belly Honey is the world's only full spectrum, whole plant hemp honey.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Chef Maverick has led a life that has taken her up and down a variety a career paths between here and Atlanta which ultimately landed her back in Los Angeles where she flourished as an entrepreneur creating products like Mavsauce and Mav Snacks. After being diagnosed with MS and Crohn's Disease in 2006, creating her own line of cannabis products was crucial in her managing her symptoms. After over 10 years of soul searching Chef Maverick has found a home within the culinary arts and sharing her cannabis infused vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and GMO free products is her passion.
The second offering from Chef Chris Binotto was another smoked dish. Instead of rare Japanese coal as his smoking element, this A4 Wagyu Ribeye was smoked with Kushmintz and served over tempura fried fingerling potatoes with a pickled corn salsa. The beef was delicious and tender with the perfect amount of fattiness. The corn salsa provided some relief from the heaviness of the dish and overall, I would have called this one perfect. I was almost certain I was going to hate the potatoes but I think this is going to be my favorite way to make them going forward.
The second offering from Chef Maverick was an incredible African Spiced Lamb with roasted carrots and a pomegranate reduction, infused and rubbed in Kushmintz. The sweetness of the pomegranate and carrot cut the gaminess of the lamb. Tasting the cannabis on the lamb itself was also a real treat. There's something so primal and honest about bone in cuts which I really respected. It's no surprise her line of infused condiments are a hit.
Named one of People Magazines 2017 Sexiest Male Chefs in America, Chef Derek Simcik crafted one of the most creative and downright sexiets desserts I have ever seen. Shattered foie with peanuts and sliced grapes, paired with a Grape Pie pre-roll. Inspired by a childhood classic, Dip'N'Dots, Chef Derek created whimsical and elevated version of a frozen peanut butter and jelly. Funky and sweet and all over the place texture wise it was hard to pin this dish as a dessert, but it was still an amazing way to end such a spectacular meal. Paired with our final drink of the night, 'A Very Extra Fizz' adjusted with CBN and made with cinnamon nutmeg white chocolate syrup, rice milk, egg whites, soda water and non-alcoholic 'bourbon.' As I sipped what felt like an adult milkshake I truly could not think of a better way to end the night.
Sleep was impeccable that night and for the next few days, it was hard to shake the experience. I felt an overwhelming sense of hope afterwards. Not only for the future of cannabis and its place alongside fine dining, but what that means for people like me. People who have thrown themselves headfirst into the heat of the kitchen and came out with a few scars to show for it. People who want their passion to flourish in an environment full of the love and compassion that cannabis provides. I hope we are able to continue to meet at this table where our struggles don't weigh on our shoulders quite so heavily. Where we are met with more understanding and less judgment. Where there is more love than anything else.
In the end, you're just happy you were there - with your eyes open - and lived to see it.
stoneyxochi. 30 year old California native. proud pothead, Mexicana and woman.