One of the most popular food and beverage trends is to add CBD (cannabidiol, the element in cannabis that won’t get you high) to various food and beverages. Probably the most popular example of this is the plethora of coffee and tea shops that now offer a shot of CBD (usually about 10 milligrams) with your drink. Restauranteurs are simply responding to customer demand and are trying to keep their customers happy. At the same time, the FDA recently started hearings about ways to regulate the booming CBD market; one of the issues they are grappling with is how to treat CBD when it is used as a food ingredient. But while the FDA tries to decide what to do, innovative chefs are embracing CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the element in cannabis that does get you high) to create new and elevated dining experiences.
It is against this backdrop that I recently hosted a CBD infused meal and educational event at a local restaurant, well known for its innovative food. The event came about because of serendipity and collaboration. It all started when one of my friends who is a regular at a local restaurant began talking to the chef about cannabis. The chef mused that he would love to cook with cannabis because it would offer him new flavors to work with. My friend told him he knew a cannabis author who also knew how to cook with cannabis, and yes, that person is me. I was fortunate enough to learn to cook with cannabis from Laurie Wolf, a noted cannabis cookbook author, recipe developer and edibles business owner in Portland, Oregon. So, I arranged to meet with the chef along with my wife and the owner of the restaurant. As soon as we sat down and started talking about cannabis, we were off to the races as they say. We discussed prohibition, state regulations, cannabis history, a little bit of botany and then we started talking about cooking. Fast forward a couple hours later and a CBD infused dining experience was born.
The first thing we did was to locate a cannabis farmer in Oregon who grows several different CBD strains and ships them across the country. It is legal to ship CBD/Hemp across state lines as long as it contains .3%THC or less and the product which came from Tweedle Farms listed all of the cannabinoids (CBD, THC, etc.) and as a special touch they included a note to postal employees explaining why it is legal to ship hemp across state lines. But the most interesting part of this process was collaborating with the grower to decide which strains would work best in the dishes. In total, we were preparing 8 different dishes and we identified 4 different strains that would work well in two dishes each. Here is some information about the strains we chose:
Bast- 14.5% CBD, .02% THC, unknown genetics, terpenes include myrcene, caryophyllene, farnesene, pinene, humulene, and limonene
Sapphire- 16.6% CBD, .05% THC, unknown genetics, terpenes include myrcene, farnesene, pinene, caryophyllene, and limonene
Hawaiian Haze- 16.18% CBD, .09% THC, genetics are from DC Haze and Erb, terpenes include myrcene, pinene, caryophyllene, and guaiol
Cherry Wine- 15.4% CBD, .07% THC, genetics are from The Wife and Charlotte’s Cherries, terpenes include farnesene, myrcene, caryophyllene, and humulene
And here is the menu we developed:
Now that we had our menu and our strains, it was time to prepare the oils, butter and honey we would be using for the meal. The process of cooking with cannabis starts first with decarboxylating (slow roasting) the cannabis to activate the CBD and/or THC. About a week before the event Chef Matt and I spent hours preparing infused olive oil, butter, clarified butter, a blend of olive and canola oil, vegetable oil, and local, unfiltered honey. We opened an ounce of each strain, hand chopped it so it looked like oregano, separated each strain into quarter ounce sealed packets and put them in a Sous Vide (an underwater cooking device) for an hour at 200 degrees. Cannabis can also be slow roasted in the oven but be prepared for your neighbors to smell what you are up to! From there we let the packets cool to room temperature, opened them and put them in slowly simmering butters, oils, and honey. After another hour (two hours for the honey which simmers at a lower temperature) we let the liquids cool and then carefully strained them (with multiple strainers) into mason jars and containers being sure to mark quantity and potency. These butters, oils, and honey imparted such amazing flavors to each dish that the results could not have been better.
There are some chefs and home cooks who don’t take these steps when infusing and instead use commercial CBD and/or THC oil and essentially drizzle dishes with a “finishing oil.” For first time CBD or THC consumers this works fairly well because the dosing can be controlled and guests are put at east because they see the minimal amount of infused oil that goes into their dishes. But with this technique the opportunity to pair the terpenes (the bold flavor element in cannabis) with complementary dishes is missed so while the experience will still be positive, it may not be amazing. And our dinner was amazing!
Our dinner began when I explained to the guests how the night would unfold and what to expect. I also alerted them to certain flavors (terpenes) they were likely to taste in each dish. In between the appetizers and main course, we discussed topics such as: how does CBD work, how is CBD different than THC, what are our current state regulations, what is likely to happen in our state next regarding cannabis, and what medical conditions respond best to cannabis. It was a lively conversation and the guests soaked up the information. After the main courses and before desserts we discussed a few more cannabis topics such as: how to talk about cannabis, why you may want to become involved as a cannabis activist, and how cannabis intersects with social and racial justice. Then, after dessert I visited each table making sure to address any remaining questions.
When the guests filed out, many remarked how helpful the information was and many had specific stories or questions about their own health and cannabis or on behalf of someone they loved. Going home that evening after the event, I remember smiling thinking that everyone had had a good time, cannabis education was doled out along with top-notch original food, and that I hoped we could host another event soon. Some of our most important moments and conversations in life happen around the dinner table and many guests will fondly remember the night of June 24, 2019.
NB: A special thank you goes out to Caffe Anello (www.caffeanello.com) who had the vision to hold the event, to Chef Matt who sees cannabis terpenes as new spices to experiment with, to grower Andrew of Tweedle Farms who are a premier CBD grower and to all of the support staff from Our Community Harvest (www.ourcommunityharvest.com); this event would not have happened without you. I also owe a debt of gratitude to our sponsors:
Beth Nydick of Blue Barn Kitchen (www.bluebarnkitchen.com)
Ashley Picillo of Point Seven Group (www.pointsevengroup.com)
Warren Bobrow, the Cocktail Whisperer (www.cocktailwhisperer.com)
UnCanny Wellness for samples of water-soluble CBD powder for drinks (www.uncannywellness.com)
Pure Hemp Collective for samples of CBD capsules, CBD gummies, and CBD salve (www.purehempcollective.com)
Tom Corbo of ShoreGrow for boxes of plant nutrients and natural fertilizers (www.shoregrow.com)
The CBD Skincare Co. for their wonderful CBD shampoo, soap, and conditioner (www.cbdskincarecompany.com)
Stashlogix for 3 lockable, smell-proof stash boxes (www.stashlogix.co)
Maxine Morgan for samples of CBD capsules that help provide a more comfortable period (www.hellomaxinemorgan.com)
Tweedle Farms for supplying the CBD flower (www.tweedlefarms.com)
Author Bio: Rob Mejia has always been curious. Born in Denver as one of 13 children, he grew up like most kids — playing sports, hanging out with buddies, and smoking some cannabis. A talent for tennis, a head for grades, and a curiosity about the East Coast landed him at Georgetown University and then, later, NYC publishing. It was only when his beloved sister, Theresa, passed from cancer that Rob’s curiosity about cannabis blossomed into an obsession. He diligently began to learn about and research the world of cannabis and its medicinal possibilities. This journey resulted in the creation of Our Community Harvest, (www.ourcommunityharvest.com) a business focused on cannabis knowledge, foods and health-related products. Rob also published two cannabis books The Essential Cannabis Book: A Field Guide for the Curious and The Essential Cannabis Journal: Personal Notes from the Field. In addition, he writes a monthly cannabis Q & A column for The SpokesmanReview newspaper. You can find him on Twitter at @OurComHarvest.