Aug 20, 2016 9:30 AM

Cannabis Cuisine Is New Trend in Five-Star Fine Dining

Somewhere between a plate of smoked mussels with fennel, toasted almond, periwinkles and a classic locro de papa, you may realize that you are pretty high.

Perhaps, you think that you are enough of a pro to make a perfect batch of pot-infused brownies. And all your friends are delighted with your “rasta pasta.” Of course, you deserve some accolades, but after visiting one of Colorado restaurants with a weed-and-food pairing menu, you will most likely start to doubt your cooking skills.

Edible marijuana products are nothing new—today, the cannabis market is one of the fastest growing markets in the United States, and experts predict that legal marijuana sales could hit $6.7 billion next year. On the other hand, cannabis dining is relatively new, and the legalization of marijuana in certain states has opened up opportunities for weed to seep into nearly all parts of people’s lives. The world is moving on from familiar infused chocolate cookies and THC candies and reframing the conversation around edibles. Gourmet applications of pot are being used by remarkable cookbook authors and chefs who are attempting to elevate marijuana cuisine beyond homemade weed brownies and reinventing the edible game with marijuana meals that may blow your mind. In Seattle, Denver, and many other cities where marijuana use is legal, restaurants promote pairing dinners featuring cannabis and food.

Around the country, chefs are incorporating cannabis into their cooking, but those who want to taste such dishes are not able to find them at their local dispensaries—they need to go to five-star restaurants.

In California, a restaurant Hapa Sushi offers a weed-and-dinner pairing menu where people can order Pakalolo Shrimp with Pakistani Kush or Honey Miso Salmon sushi set infused with Sour OG. In Washington D.C., a chef of The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm will serve you a delicious marijuana-laced eggplant in phyllo dough for breakfast. Or, if you are a friend of Chris Sayegh, a chef from California, you may taste an elaborate dish of carrot confit gnocchi with cannabis-infused pea emulsion and a sticky toffee pudding with toasted coconut for dessert at one of the Chris’ private dinner parties.

The sales of edibles accounted for nearly half of all marijuana sales last year. Many researchers claim that ingesting THC is much healthier than smoking it and believe that the number of those who eat cannabis in order to get high will eventually exceed the number of those who prefer to smoke a joint.

Edibles are no longer a food—they are culinary works of art composed with as much attention to texture, flavor, and technique as the meals from Michelin-star restaurants receive. They are infused with just enough of the psychoactive component to get you to relax and enjoy your meal.

Some cooks compare cannabis dining with tasting wine. However, unlike winemakers who attempt to reveal the subtlest facets of wines and save their original flavor and taste, cannabis cooks try to mute the flavor profile. Furthermore, cooking with pot requires a scientist’s touch to draw out and control the THC level.

Such cannabis compounds as terpenes are responsible for the aromatic profile of the plant. To infuse meals with marijuana, chefs use cannabis extracts, and if everything is done properly, a person may not even taste the cannabis in the food, unless the chef specifically wants them to taste it. There are many cannabis extracting methods. For example, Chris Sayegh prefers to extract the terpenes with water and CO2. Other cooks heat cannabis and combine it with fats like butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or cream in order to get a smooth taste and controllable effect. There are about fifteen terpenes that may be paired well with food. Myrcene is responsible for the earthy taste. Caryophyllene goes well with black pepper, clove, red meats, and steaks. Limonene has a lemon haze. Alpha-pinene has a pine taste and pairs well with fish. Of course, there are hundreds of other different combinations, and a cook can play with flavors, mixing them with each other and creating new delicious and unique dishes.

Moreover, there are dozens of different strains, some of which might smell like strawberry, wheatgrass, gasoline, lemon, or sage. They also provide different kinds of high. A proper dose of THC in a meal may bring just enough buzz or relaxing finish to your dining, maybe even more successfully than a glass or two of the chilled Chateau Merlo.

However, marijuana dining is not just about getting high. Marijuana perks up the taste and hunger receptors in the brain and body, so the flavors you feel on your tongue are intensified. Cannabis use may bring a wide range of health benefits, both physical and mental, including reducing pain and nausea, increasing appetite, controlling epileptic seizures, treating mental illnesses and addictions, and even slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Weed is also one of the most nutritious elements we have around: it is full of vitamins, protein, zinc, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants. Although hemp seeds do not provide a psychoactive effect, they are a real superfood. Each ounce contains 10 grams of protein (more than any other seeds), three-quarters of the daily recommended Vitamin E dose, and a third of the daily dose of zinc to help boost your immune system.

Restaurants, even haute cuisine ones, have constructed elaborate marijuana-imbued tasting menus and organized farm-to-table dinners that create a carefully calibrated experience. The idea of infusing lightly poached Gillardeau oyster and Chinese licorice with the extract of the plant that has a peculiar taste and smell may seem weird, but who could have predicted that kale would be the trendiest green on the plate, or that blue cheese ice cream would be served with pears?

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