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Cannabis Cuisine Lights Up Cooking Shows, Restaurant Menus

Marijuana-infused fare is not for hippies anymore, as foodies get high and heal.

The first time I can remember a reference to eating marijuana came as a teenager seeing the prescient 1968 satire, “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!,” in which Peter Sellers transforms into a hippie after inadvertently dosing on pot brownies, its title a reference to the cookbook recipe from one of Gertrude Stein’s fellow avant-gardists.

Some 50 years later, tattooed chef Luke Reyes is preparing an all plant-based, cannabis-infused, seven-course meal at his downtown Los Angeles loft apartment on Spring Street for an invitation-only gathering of about 20, as tables are lined end to end in his living room.

The Massachusetts native, who is about to open his own “non-THC” ramen shop on 9th and Broadway, is chopping up some purslane, a common succulent that is found growing through sidewalk cracks and can be eaten like lettuce. He and his handful of assistants are also hard at work readying his take on tartare, with beets, tahini and sesame, using the Bill Gates-backed Impossible Foods’ soy-based potato starch, which tastes just like burger meat and he’ll later use in a delicious infused Bolognese pasta. The dishes all incorporate Reyes’ own THC-laced olive oil Vireo, which hit the market Sept. 1. His in-home pop-up dinner service La Hoja also launched that day.

“What we do is not just get you high, but also give you an overall experience that involves the medicinal side,” says Reyes, who continues to oversee preparations. “It’s pointless otherwise.”

Indeed, as the wine flows and aromatic joints are passed around the table, the effect is stimulating, but not overwhelming, the slight taste of cannabis working with the flavor of the food to create an intriguing sensation. Every teaspoon of Vireo oil represents 1.5mg of THC, while each dish includes two to four teaspoons, meaning an entire meal will amount to between 21mg and 42 mg, which is enough to get you pretty toasted. Still, even after the final dessert of berries, granita, lemon and sherbet, there is no sense of feeling either hungover or bloated — the more you eat, the better the food tastes, and the more relaxed you become.

Reyes has applied to the lottery to obtain one of the eight licenses being made available in West Hollywood for consumption lounges, which will be the next step toward the establishment of restaurants serving THC-infused meals. “It’s the natural progression for what we do,” says Luke. “And I won’t have to keep moving the couch to fit all these tables into my apartment.”

According to Organa Brands president Chris Driessen, edibles and concentrates now represent nearly 50% of the cannabis market in Colorado, and that figure will go up as states begin to pass adult-use legislation. “With the ability to slice and dice cannabis oil in a seemingly infinite number of ways, it affords more opportunities to market and brand these products,” he says. “With flower, there are just a limited number of ways to package it.”

“We have investors calling us every day wanting to be a part of this. This is ready to blow up.”
Bob Summers

Eating cannabis is different from either smoking or vaping it. Depending on one’s metabolism, and the ability to absorb the THC into the bloodstream, the recommended doses vary — often it seems like nothing is happening, you gobble down a couple more Cheeba Chews, and next thing you know, your feet are wobbling like one of those blow-up installations outside a used car lot.

“I don’t care for medicated foods,” says noted West Hollywood dispensary owner and “Disjointed” marijuana consultant Dina Browner, who nevertheless hosts her own semi-regular “Dinner With Dr. Dina” cooking show on her Instagram account. “I prefer head highs to body highs. If I eat an edible, it feels like my skin is crawling.”

Still, gummies, chocolate and candy are among the most popular dispensary edibles. No wonder a Cannabis confectioner like Dixie, which works with Snoop Dogg and WBC boxer Ava Knight, who uses THC+CBD products as part of her training recovery program, is also looking to expand its footprint — with plans to manufacture double its output in 2019.

Pot cooking shows are now the rage, with Netflix’s “Cooking on High” and Green-flower.com’s online “Doobie + Sushi Rolling” workshop, which demonstrates how to pair flower and spicy tuna in one glorious infused hand roll. Prøhbtd Media, which has raised more than $12 million in funding from investors — including Donald Glover — for cannabis-related enterprises, is producing “High Cuisine,” a 10-episode travel docuseries for TV following chefs Noah Tucker and Antony Joseph as they traverse the globe in search of mind-expanding herbs and plants, while Viceland’s “Bong Appetit” is being re-booted as a competition show with Cypress Hill’s B-Real as host. The rapper recently opened his own dispensary, Dr. Greenthumb, in his home turf of Sylmar, named after the seminal L.A. rap group’s song of the same name from its 1998 album, “Cypress Hill IV.”

“Ingesting cannabis is an entirely different effect than smoking it,” says Real, who would love to open his own smoke lounge at the new location. “When a savory, gourmet-style dish is properly infused, it’s a great alternative for people who want to consume marijuana without smoking. It also offers pain relief without the anxieties of getting high. It’s more about how your body is being affected in terms of healing.”

Bob Summers is the co-owner of Prank, a bar on 11th and Hope Streets in downtown L.A. not far from Staples Center that specializes in terpenes-infused cocktails. He also founded BotanaVista, a company with locations in L.A., Denver and Oregon which manufactures and markets both terpene and CBD oils. Terpene is the essential plant oil that provides both the taste and aroma of the cannabis, and similar to CBD, has no psychoactive ingredient but does provide body relief with its anti-inflammatory properties.

Viceland’s “Bong Appetit” reboot with hosts B-Real, left, Vanessa Lavorato, Miguel Trinidad and special judge Jairobi White.
Courtesy of Vice

Veteran bartender David Whitten is the master mixologist who comes up with the concoctions, mixing the terpene oil in with Papalote Mezcal and Johnnie Walker Black, along with non-alcoholic kombucha teas and a pineapple/ginger-flavored drink dubbed the Anti-Inflammatory. Other bars around the country, including Bubby’s in New York City, serve CBD-infused tea, while the vegetarian Mexican restaurant Gracias Madre in West Hollywood serves up cocktails such as Stoned Fruit, Sour T-iesel, Rolled Fashioned and Stoney Negroni, with 15mg of CBD tincture in each.

Summers points out that each strain of cannabis has its own distinct terpene oils that sport a different effect. Myrcene, for instance, produces a sedative effect, while Limonene offers a mood lift and energy, and while neither is psychotropic in nature, according to Summers.

“They do have a specific impact on your body. … You get a physical, rather than a mental reaction from the terpenes.

“You can drink all night and still not get a hangover or have that swollen feeling in the morning, because the terpenes and CBD are anti-inflammatories.” BotanaVista is working with a bottling company to market their terpene-infused drinks nationally.

“We have investors calling us every day wanting to be a part of this,” says Summers. “This is ready to blow up. It’s like discovering vitamins. We’ve found about 140 terpenes in the cannabis plant, and each one has a different, ameliorating effect.”

Organa Brands’ Driessen, who has recently developed a line of THC tablets dubbed Pressies, says: “Who doesn’t want to sit down to a finely crafted meal and enjoy a great experience? People are starting to replace alcohol with cannabis around the country. People enjoy eating good food and consuming marijuana, so why not put them together?”

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