Washington is now one of four states, along with the District of Columbia, that allow recreational marijuana use, and many of us in the food world are curious about cannabis’ place in cuisine beyond the stereotypical pot brownie. Noted chefs and cookbook authors are exploring its place in the food world, and bakeries devoted to the little green bud are popping up. Indeed, it’s a controversial subject but one we feel is worth exploring. Does it have flavor profiles like wine? Could this become a new dimension in cooking? Yes, and probably slowly but, yes.
Little did I know that just blocks from my Seattle home is a bed and breakfast (and lunch, dinner and Scoobie Snacks) that caters to the pot lover. This is no high school stoners hangout though. The inn features an impressive 1960s bong collection, a vintage chair from the William R. Hurst Estate, eclectic vintage art from the prohibition of cannabis, and 700-thread-count sheets. Each guest room is conveniently equipped with the necessary pot paraphernalia, including a dorm-size fridge packed with your favorite munchies, and they’ll even customize your preference of bud. 7 Leaf Bud & Breakfast is owned by renowned cannabis chef Jeremy Cooper, former executive chef at Magical Butter, a high-tech appliance that infuses cream, oils and butters with any herb, not just marijuana. I thought I’d be neighborly and introduce myself to Chef Cooper.
Chef Cooper has a voice so soothing it could melt butter. He welcomed me into his inn (which smelled faintly like the inside of Cheech and Chong’s van), offered me a seat in his kitchen, and began telling me how he entered the world of culinary cannabis. It began years ago when a friend with cancer was ill from the effects of chemotherapy, so he experimented with dishes laced with marijuana to help ease her pain. This desire to make a sick friend feel good transformed into a career in making everyone feel good through cuisine. But he's not just a chef. Cooper is also a well-spoken and passionate activist determined to educate and change the negative views many of the populace have of marijuana, especially in the medical world, but in the culinary world as well.
It's not always about getting high. Sure, if you're engaging in a cannabis tasting menu, then chances are your aim to is to chillax and get high, just as one would get tipsy (if not drunk) from a food and wine pairing. But cannabis can also be an effective tool to relieve pain. There's one important word you need to have in your marijuana lexicon and that is cannabinoids. These are the chemical compounds secreted by a cannabis flower, of which there are two main types - THC and CBD. THC affects receptors in the brain, while CBDs are more likely to affect receptors in the body. So, essentially, you can achieve a “brain high” or a “body high” depending on which you ingest. Knowing the difference can help relieve a wide variety of conditions and illnesses from cancer and glaucoma to migraines and multiple sclerosis with varying levels of "high." The difference between these two cannabinoids also plays an important roll in cuisine and how one can plan a cannabis-laced menu without getting their guests too stoned to get beyond the first course. (Suffering from an ailment? Click here for an informative infographic from Leafly.com on which cannabinoid can help the best.)
As Jeremy talks, he carefully arranges a bevy of beautiful ingredients in an artful and almost obsessive-compulsive manner. He’s graceful in his movements and it’s clear that he takes his craft - one of both art and science - seriously. What he’s preparing is a sample of a cannabis tasting menu he provides his guests with at his inn. As a professional, he knows just the right amount of cannabis to include in each dish for its effect, something that can be extremely difficult to do at home. (Wondering if you’ve got the right dose in your recipes? Check out this great article.). Genetically closest to hops, different types of cannabis, like their hops sibling, can have a different flavor profile which can enhance your dish from sweet and fruity to spicy and herbaceous. Check out this fun flavor wheel for examples.
A Cannabis-Infused Tasting Menu
Spot Prawns on a Bed of Basil Mango Linguine with Multi-Colored Peppers,
Fat-Back Bacon, and Cannabis-infused Olive Oil
Sautéed Romanesco Broccoli with Cannabis Butter and Cheddar Cheese
Le Panier Epi with Cannabis Shallot Butter and Butter Radishes
Eggplant Sautéed with Garlic, Mango, Crystallized Ginger, Black Pepper, Honey, and Toasted White and Black Sesame Seeds. And, of course, cannabis.
Since I wanted to retain my faculties while interviewing Jeremy (and because I consider myself a total lightweight) I opted out of the full-on cannabis treatment (that is, he left the cannabis out of my food). Instead, after our glorious meal he packed up dessert and sent me home with four decadent Dark Chocolate Cake Bombs (small, cake pop-like treats) to get a taste of what edibles can do. After just one delicious ball (“bomb” should have been a clear indicator as to what was coming) I enjoyed a most relaxing evening without feeling overly stoned, and that night I slept like a log (actually, more like petrified wood) - a deep, blissful, dreamless sleep. The downside? I was pretty much useless the entire next day. But it sure felt good.
An easy stovetop method for making cannabis-infused butter (or canna-butter) at home.
1. In a large stockpot on low heat, combine 1 cup of water and 1 pound of butter. Let butter melt at a low simmer.
2. As butter begins to melt, add in 1 ounce of ground cannabis.
3. Continue to simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
4. Place a fine mesh strainer (or a cheesecloth-lined colander) over a glass container and carefully strain out all plant product from the butter mixture. Squeeze or press the plant material to get as much butter out as possible. Discard the leftover plant material.
5. Cover and refrigerate remaining liquid overnight or until the butter is fully hardened. Once hardened, the butter will separate from the water. Remove the solid canna-butter from the water (discard remaining water) and let the canna-butter soften to room temperature before using in recipes (do not use a microwave to soften the butter).