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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Chief D’oeuvre: The art of the cannabis dinner

Meet the San Francisco chefs preparing Infused fusion dinners, with a few kind words about their favorite recommendations for edible treats.

California law does not allow: cannabis legally served in a restaurant. But no less than 10 pop-up events in San Francisco serve quietly infused good food with floral interludes, vaping hits, or more edibles. Those high-end marijuana-infused dinners featured on pop culture websites and reality TV cooking shows? They really exist; it’s just that they are invitation-only private events. SF Evergreen find out how to score one of these invitations and what to expect at a four-course prix-fixe cannabis dinner.

“There really is nothing better than a great dinner experience with your friends,” says Jamie Evans, better known as a cannabis blogger and pop sugar columnist The herb Somm. “No menu is the same. As a foodie, I love this aspect of the cannabis space. There is so much creativity.”

Part of that creativity is simply getting around the half-baked regulatory structure of California’s marijuana laws, which didn’t account for cannabis fine dining.

“Prop. 64 and subsequent regulations did not provide a clear path for such dinners and private events,” said Dr. Menaka Mahajan of Mahajan Consulting, the cannabis policy and regulation firm. “While such dinners and events are adored by consumers, continuing to provide these social consumption experiences is certainly a risk.”

A handful of epicureans have deftly overcome these hurdles, with pop-ups in varying locations understanding the privacy and health considerations for these events.

The Herb Somm’s Thursday infused is a monthly private dining club that primarily focuses on low-dose infusions. Former Mourad chef Michael Magallanes now hosts pop-up dinners like The sumptuous chef. One of San Francisco’s Longest Running Weed Dinners Cannaisseur Series also offers brunch – and the prettiest bag of parting gifts you’ll have received in a while.

Anyone can attend these culinary soirees. You can generally get an invite by going to the event website and after clicking the required “I’m over 21” button, sign up for their email list or the link to sign up for an invite ask.

We were on the list for the most recent monthly Cannaisseur series, held in a cozily decorated Bayview event space called Yosemite Roadhouse. Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted with a microdosed hibiscus lemonade with a mixed berry liqueur.

Wandering servers carried THC-glazed duck tenderloin hors d’oeuvres, while cheeses and cured meats lay next to plates of medicinal honey. The four-course dinner for a group of 40 guests includes a prosciutto with THC basil parma, candied guinea pigs infused with CBD, and plenty of smoking breaks in between. (Vegetarian options were provided with each course.)

Most of the Cannaisseur’s infused dishes are non-psychoactive, so you can enjoy them for hours. Some servings are even CBD-formulated to reduce your buzz (or – paradoxically – consume more weed to give you less high).

“I really enjoy the non-psychoactive infusions,” says Cannaisseur Series chef and co-founder Coreen Carroll. “It helps destigmatize because people realize it’s not just about THC and getting high, there are other parts of the plant as well. It’s a whole plant. It’s like a herb: it’s a medicine, it can be so much.”

The Cannaisseur series calls itself the only gourmet weed diner that fires up a joint between each course. Other events favor vape hits or concentrates, often due to restrictions on smoking in private events.

“We love smoking joints,” says Carroll, noting that these parties are all about bringing strangers together. “There is nothing more connecting and intimate than sharing and passing on a joint.”

The Opulent Chef prefers to serve vape hits between courses for a smoother palate.

“My events are usually dinners where cannabis is poured directly into the food or cannabis is combined with the food in the form of vaporizing concentrates,” Magallanes says. SF Evergreen. “The last event I hosted was a pairing event featuring ice water hash and resin from NASHA extracts consumed with Topstone vaporizers.”

There are also some very premium edibles on the pharmacy shelves to whip up your infused gourmet feast. But there are far fewer of them than there used to be, as the strict legal marijuana laws of January 1 have eliminated some of our favorite craft edible artisans.

“Regulations have really hindered some super inventives” [gourmet edibles], especially the fresh confectionery,” said Ryan Bush, co-founder of Cannaisseur Series. “It’s suffocated.”

Lab testing is the most expensive cost of an edible maker, as the new 10 milligram maximum serving requires much more precision than the old 50 and 100 milligram doses. And some foods are inherently subject to federal guidelines that still treat cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.

“Once federal regulations kick in, things get harder and more complicated,” explains Dr. Mahajan out. But there is a catch. “By defining cannabis products as ‘neither a food nor a drug,’ the California Department of Public Health is able to create its own regulations for cannabis products, such as edibles, that differ from those of the FDA.”

The sumptuous chef at work.

“For example, we can buy prepackaged cannabis-infused chocolate, for instance. However, once cannabis becomes an ingredient in something defined as ‘food’, such as a salad, the federal brick wall appears.”

A few standout Bay Area edibles still make the mark for gourmet home dinner. The infused honey Potli comes from locally farmed bees and goes well on a cheese platter. Mellows are the most artisanal marshmallows we’ve come across, and are among San Francisco’s top edible companies. All top chefs swear by the THC olive oil Pot d’Huile.

When you’re trying to get on the list for cannabis culinary events, don’t get discouraged if your first few tries don’t get the invite. Most of these sell out about a month in advance, and it may take a few tries to find an event that still has tickets available.

“There is a high demand for these kinds of gatherings,” says The Herb Somm Jamie Evans. “The more we can demonstrate that they can be hosted in a safe and responsible manner, the closer we will hopefully get to cannabis restaurants.”

These dinners cost about the same as a comparable prix-fixe package at a San Francisco restaurant, plus these events are infused with all the marijuana you want to consume. They are a great deal where both you and your dinner are baked to perfection.

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