Pairing Cannabis with Food: A New Culinary Trend

Living near Napa Valley, everyone seems to know a lot about wine. Often, I have been invited to wine pairing dinners with friends who have spent countless hours learning their Cabs from their Pinots and the cheese with which to pair it. Wine pairing has been popular for so long, it’s now passé. Given the current trend towards marijuana legalization, many people are now treating cannabis like wine and high-end cannabis food pairing events are starting to pop up like mushrooms in February. According to Philip Wolf, a pairing experience expert, “Cannabis should be treated like fine wine. It harmonizes so well with food when you have the right pairings." Gone are the days of stoner food and in is the convergence of sophisticated chefs, growers and collective owners throwing elaborate culinary fetes in intimate settings. Sounds like fun, right?

So, it was with much enthusiasm that I recently received an invite to Sava’s upscale cannabis and food pairing event in San Francisco to celebrate the launch of their new online collective. I’ve talked about Sava before; I love the Etsy-like concept and the highly curated, hand crafted cannabis brands like Flour Child and Hepburns which are represented. Never having been to a cannabis & food pairing, I was excited to see how it might play out, and in the back of my mind wondered if the evening would devolve into some sort of weird insanity. Always a possibility.

As cannabis and food pairings are still on the fringe of what some may consider ‘publicly acceptable’, the exact location of the event was kept a secret until just a few hours before the event. Around 3pm on Friday I received an email that let me know that the dinner would take place that evening in the Mission, a popular San Francisco neighborhood. My husband Mark and I pointed our new Google self-driving car (OK, wishful thinking) toward the city and we were on a good-times-Friday-night-journey.

Arriving at the door of a large Victorian, just shy of being late, we were both warmly greeted to the Sava event by a woman in an apron who asked for our names and our medical recommendations. I handed her my HelloMD paper rec and Mark showed her his new digital recommendation on his IOS, but not before he chided me for being wicked old school. Whatever. Keiko checked us into the event and we were ushered into a beautiful home, warmly lit and full of about 45 other diners. Everyone was abuzz and happily socializing. Vaporizers, kindly offered for the evening by the folks at Firefly, were neatly arranged on a silver tray in the spacious gourmet kitchen. My hunch had been correct; this would be a very fun evening full of interesting people!

Philip Gelb, a well known Bay Area Vegan chef and mastermind behind the pop up catering dinner series outfit called Sound & Savor bobbed between the guests in the kitchen. The event coordinator mingled with the dinner guests who started on the outrageously delicious chickpea crepes canapés being offered with the first pairing. JX13, a sativa and indica hybrid was lightly packed into 10 next generation Firefly vaporizers by an assistant bud tender. Andrea, an engaging & educational hostess introduced the JX13 like a true cannabis sommelier. After tapping a knife gently on a champagne flute full of Prosecco she guided the crowd gently through the experience they were about to have:

“Welcome everyone! I would like to take a few moments to talk about JX 13, which is what you are currently enjoying. JX13 is a new strain that is quickly gaining popularity. It’s a cross between Jack Herer and G-13 with strong sativa and strong indica under tones. JX13 has all the flavor notes of Jack Herer and contains citrus, fruity, pine flavors. This flower will create the cerebral high of sativa but also has a strong body effect, but will not couch-lock you. JX13 is also high in the terpene pinene which originated from the Jack Herer, and is thought to be an anti-inflammatory, a broncho-dilator and it is also thought to help counter the short-term memory loss attributed to THC.”

And so began the first of many guided experiences throughout the night. As the first JX13 pairing began, I watched on (I was going to be cautious this evening). Happily, I began chatting with many folks I know from the cannabis industry, including Nick Lanza co founder of Outset Edibles. Outset, also a California favorite of mine, creates ‘active lifestyle’ low dose edibles made out of dried fruit. Nick was one of many industry folks to attend the event, but the crowd was stacked towards the numerous medicinal patients who wanted to learn more about various cannabis strains.

One of the patients I met was a seriously entertaining Physics Professor who recently applied to be part of a ‘guest astronaut program’ i.e., she wants to explore outer space. Mark and Physics Professor tried to decipher which rocket would be safer-would it be Elon Musk’s SpaceX or Amazon? I chose neither. Physics Prof. was attending the event with her way-cool Mom, and both were interested in learning more about the various strains currently available in the market.

Cannabis pairing events, according to Andrea, are an opportunity to offer innovative and educational events for the community and allow her to, on a more personal level, go into further detail regarding each flower’s profile. During the evening she shared with the diners how cannabis had saved her life during a debilitating illness in which doctors told her she may not walk again. It was through cannabis she found relief from the pain and also the ability to start functioning without the use of heavy narcotics. In Andrea’s words,

“Even for patients that are already aware of the incredible health benefits that cannabis can provide, so many are still hard-wired to reach for a pill when something in our body goes awry. Being able to gather different people together in a warm, intimate space creates a special learning environment. In terms of the pairing the cannabis with food, every strain has it’s own distinct qualities and it’s fascinating to examine and explore those differences. For example, being able to introduce existing patients to how a CBD strain can feel or can be used is incredibly important to me, as it was a critical component in my recovery from extensive nerve damage. There are numerous different ways to connect people to new ways to manage stress or pain, and events paired with food provide a unique avenue.”

I’d say so. As everyone sat for dinner, the candles warmly glowing, more silver trays were delivered family style with numerous Firefly vaporizers. A sumptuous roasted beet salad with homemade cashew feta and arugula arrived as my Prosecco was refilled. The flower pairing with the salad would be Yoda, a flower that according to Andrea is “musky and savory; Yoda holds it’s aroma very well. While predominantly an indica strain, it tends to take you where ever your journey is meant to be, bringing a sense of both relaxation and joy.” At this point, I decided to take the plunge and go on my journey. To my surprise and delight, Yoda was exactly the way Andrea described it.

To learn more about Sava and future events, visit Andrea’s collective at GetSava.

If you are new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s 100% online, private and efficient.

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