One day there might be cannabis restaurants. Until then pop up dinners serve it right.
Like most people Ronnie Fishman’s early cannabis cooking experiences focused on getting high with pot brownies and green cookies. Healthier and more discrete than smoking cannabis, edibles appealed to her. The lack of diversity didn’t.
“It was all heavy on the butter and sugar, as if they were the only way to cook with cannabis,” she says.
As a trained chef it didn’t take Fishman long to explore beyond cliche treats into original culinary territory. It took her longer to sort through the trial and error of dosing and flavour. She now hosts five-course cannabis-themed pop up dinners in Toronto and manages Hempster.co, a website she developed to share cannabis recipes and tips on cooking with the herb. She’s part of a growing community of chefs using cannabis to add new flavours, textures and emotions to all kinds of dishes and meals.
“Cannabis has an untapped flavour profile that not many people have experienced before. Plus there are tons of medicinal benefits.” — Ronnie Fishman
“Cannabis is a really fun ingredient to use,” she says. “It has an untapped flavour profile that not many people have experienced before and most can’t quite put a finger on it. Plus, there are tons of medicinal benefits.”
Fishman treats cannabis as an ingredient first, psychoactive effect secondary. “I pick the strain for the terpene profile,” she says. “What it smells, tastes and looks like. All those attributes impact the dish.”
Coreen Carroll often takes the opposite approach. The San Francisco-based chef and cannabis cookbook author also hosts pop up dinners, but she often aims to add cannabis without changing the taste of a dish.
Regardless of approach, the key to a successful cannabis themed eating is dosing. Both women take it very seriously, testing ever infusion they make to ensure they don’t spike dishes with too much THC.
“From flower to flower of the same strain there can be differences in potency,” warns Carroll. “It comes down to a milligram here, a milligram there.” And it matters. “You don’t want to host a dinner and end up with everyone passed out on the floor,” she says.
“It’s not only flavour and texture. You can also play with how you want the person to feel.” — Coreen Carroll
Do it right and cannabis adds a third dimension to the eating experience. “It’s not only flavour and texture. You can also play with how you want the person to feel,” says Carroll.
At a pop up dinner, that means using different strains of cannabis with each course to gently manipulate the guests’s mental state.
“Over a five course dinner you see the progression,” says Fishman. “Personalities shift, smiles come out, conversation deepen, everyone eats quicker. It adds a nice ambience to the experience.”
Fishman likes to start with a sativa to energize and lift up the mood. Then she’ll pull things back a bit with a strain higher in CBD, which mellows a high. She brings out the “heavy hitters” later on. “I fine tune the experience so everyone can last four hours and wants to come back again,” she explains.
No jurisdiction allows restaurants to serve cannabis infused foods. Both Fishman and Carroll run their pop up dinners as private, invite only events. Fishman thinks it is only a matter of time before the rules change in Canada.
“In the future we’ll be going to restaurants and eating meals that pair cannabis and wine,” she predicts.
But first, edibles need to shed a stigma.
“I think the biggest misconception with edibles is that they will knock you out.” — Ronnie Fishman
“I think the biggest misconception with edibles is that they will knock you out,” says Fishman. “It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s nothing like a perfectly dosed cannabis themed meal.”
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