The beginning of my dalliance with the fantastic world of culinary cannabis started at Sweet Leaf, a mini dispensary chain founded in Colorado. I gave them $25 and signed my name as a participant in Mason Jar Event Group’s seasonal soiree of high-end food and green leafy contraband, and in return they handed me a locked, zippered pouch filled with weed-infused chocolate, tiny jars of fresh buds, a pot lollipop and some low-dose tea. Each item in the bag promised some sort of tasty high, but I would have to wait, because these treats were for dinner.
Since 2015, Kendal Norris has run Mason Jar Event Group, a cannabis-focused venture that pairs weed with yoga and food. The idea literally started with a dream: “In the dream I was moving around a room where people where doing yoga, eating, drinking and consuming cannabis, and I knew that it felt right,” says Norris. “It’s a new concept serving a group that has not had an opportunity like this before.”
As in the past, the summer version of Norris’s feast was created hand-in-hand with Hosea Rosenberg, the Top Chef season five winner and the owner of the lauded Blackbelly Market in Boulder. The pair met through mutual friends, and given Rosenberg’s focus on local and seasonal ingredients, it appeared to be a match made in heaven.
“We treat it like a wine dinner and create a menu to pair with the cannabis that hopefully elevates the entire experience,” says Rosenberg, adding that they don’t actually cook with marijuana. “We talk to the growers to find out more about the properties of a particular strain and create dishes that pair best with the flavors, aromas and overall sensations that stand out. Also, when people are high, they like to eat, so that makes my job extra-fun.”
This feast took place in Longmont, a farm town about an hour north of Denver. We were greeted with rolling green hills, tall shady trees, a glittering pond and Mason jars filled with a version of the Arnold Palmer, a blend of lemonade and Stillwater’s Blissful Black Tea. The effects of THC were barely noticeable, with only 2.5 milligrams per cup, but the herbal and lemon notes did sing lovingly alongside slices of roasted fingerling potatoes with crème fraîche, smoked local trout salad and chicken liver mousse on grilled ciabatta from local baker Grateful Bread. As the food was passed around, an eclectic group of guests of all ages mingled, toked and snapped pictures of the beautifully set communal dining tables.
I had a slight buzz, thanks to an oversize tumbler of rosé and sips of the special cocktail, when the real food and pot pairings started. To start, a massive bowl filled with — wait for it— salad from Cure Farms in nearby Boulder: organic Salanova lettuce, roasted beets, shaved fennel, radish, Haystack chèvre, pistachios and edible flowers in a citrus-mint vinaigrette. To smoke, we took out our little jar of Sweet Leaf’s Three a Light’s OG Kush, an indica cannabis strain that smelled like green sunshine and fresh-cut hay. Then, in true pot-culture fashion, the little pipes provided for us in the kit became insignificant with the passing of a Pax loose-leaf vaporizer, the Lexus of smoking tools.
Now, did the grand salad pair nicely with the weed? In truth, only the texture of the dish was heightened, and I am pretty sure we would have enjoyed the flavorful melody just as much sans ganja. Still, nary a leaf remained when the servers came to clear and refill wineglasses with Division Villages 2015 L’Avoiron Rose of Gamey, which complemented the greens very well.
The intermezzo of the meal was Canyon Cultivation’s Lavender Lemonade Lick It. This bright yellow lollipop had the tartness one looks for in a palate cleanser, and with 10 milligrams of THC per pop, it also had enough pot in it to rejuvenate our appetites for the next course. Enter: a succulent pork roast from McDonald Family Farm, laden with organic mustard greens, carrots, Western Slope apricots and an Israeli couscous that was the star of the whole meal. Well…almost the star. Before tucking in, we toked away on the second strain of marijuana we’d be enjoying that evening, Sweet Leaf’s Three a Light’s Berkle. This indica hybrid is a cross of Bubba Kush and Granddaddy Purple, with a darker, earthier aroma and a flavor akin to smoking emerald-hued moss on a hot summer day. I glanced around at my fellow diners to see if anyone had reached their limit, but overall the crowd remained upbeat, the conversation coherent and the appetites hearty. As the sky turned a wicked shade of pink and orange, my dinner companions and I talked about the stigmas of partaking, how Colorado had changed over the last couple decades, and oh-my-gawd, isn’t that couscous fabulous!?
At this point the sun dipped below the horizon, and the goblets of Division Villages 2015 Methode Carbonique Pinot Noir waned. Though we still had enough natural light to see everything before us, the cherry cobbler almost got lost in the mix. Made with organic local fruits, spiced amaretto ice cream and smoked candied almonds, the dessert buzzed when paired with Blue Kudu’s Black Forrest Bar, a dark chocolate spiked with cannabis. The CBD in the bar was enough to keep me awake, though others sipped on steaming cups of Marley Coffee. Yes, as in Bob Marley coffee, a local roaster owned by the musician’s son Rohan Marley. Each blend is cleverly named after a famous song and proved very appropriate given the theme of the event. With that, dinner was done and between the wine, weed and wonderful spread, so were we.