LA's Cannabis Cuisine Is Fancier (And More Illegal) Than You Think
Chicken pot pies with flaky, buttery crusts. Pasta bolognese with citrus-scented breadcrumbs. Crisp spring vegetables with creamy burrata. Sprinkle in a bit of OG Kush in place of oregano or drizzle some THC-infused lemon olive oil on top and you've entered the world of haute cannabis cuisine. Toto, we're not in pot brownie country anymore.
With California laws changing the way we buy, smoke and ingest marijuana, cannabis-laced foods are more elevated than ever.
West Hollywood has already granted more than a dozen licenses for businesses that allow on-site cannabis consumption. That means you'll soon be able go to a restaurant where you can buy cannabis products then stick around to smoke, eat or drink them.
Some of the proposals are stunning, with designs that mimic top restaurants i.e. lots of natural light, cool tiles, plant walls, open-air patios and comfy booths. The first to open will be Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe although the owners haven't said exactly where or when. Led by chef Andrea Drummer, who has been curating high-end cannabis dinners via culinary events company Elevation VIP Cooperative, the seasonal menu will feature "virgin" dishes alongside options with THC and CBD.
What any chef will tell you is that cooking with weed isn't just about getting blotto. They're chefs, so it's about the food first. Then it's about connecting people, having a good time and generally spreading the good word on the cannabis lifestyle. The high, of course, is a nice bonus. While we wait for the first cannabis cafes to open, here's where to find some of the best canna-cuisine around town right now.
Officially, California prohibits the use of CBD in food or drink products. So any Los Angeles County business selling these items to the public -- cafes serving donuts, juices, brownies, cocktails, etc. -- technically shouldn't be. Businesses that do this are skirting legality (in fact, a few asked not to be included on this list although others were fine with it). The hammer comes down starting in July 2019. That's when L.A. County starts a new year of inspections, and any business using CBD oils or serving CBD in food or drinks will be docked two points on their health inspection. At some point, the FDA may approve CBD as a food additive. If it does, California and L.A. County will follow suit.
Lobster Bolognese at La Hoja
One of the early adopters of cannabis dinners, Luke Reyes has been doing his La Hoja events ("la hoja" translates to "the leaf") since 2015, catering everything from branded pool parties for a thousand Coachella revelers to small, intimate affairs in a Beverly Hills home. No matter the menu, there's almost always a handmade pasta, and his Bolognese -- extruded spaghetti with vegan, vegetarian, traditional meat sauce or pescatarian -- is one of the stars. He uses flower as an herbal element and incorporates his own bottled Viero THC extra virgin olive oil into both the sauce and the breadcrumbs on top. Although Reyes recently opened a restaurant in Bali, and he's working on the debut of 9th Street Ramen in downtown L.A., La Hoja still happens a few times a month. Reyes specializes in low-dose menus, something like 15mg for an entire meal. "It's not about getting really high," he says. "It's about using cannabis as a social lubricant and hanging out and enjoying the food." Subscribe to the newsletter for event announcements.
Potent Pot Pies from Chicks With Knives
Rachael Narins and Sarah Penton offer an array of culinary services -- field trips, cooking classes and catering small and large events. One signature Chicks With Knives dish is the flaky, buttery pot pie filled with chicken, curried root vegetables, beef short ribs or vegan white beans and a nice dose of THC. Narins says the pies are "rustic-chic, extra dope and people go wild for them." Name aside, the tolerance level on these pot pies are on the medium-lightweight side, each ringing at around 8mg of THC. Where's the weed? In the sativa butter, which is cut with pure butter so it won't knock you flat. Order for you next dinner or event ($12-$16 each), or learn how to make your own at a cooking class ($110 per person). Sign up for the Chicks With Knives mailing listfor more info.
Seasonal Squash with Salsa Verde at Cultured Create and Destroy
Herb is an herb, right? For Nate Santana's super underground happenings, the young chef creates super seasonal dishes with Latin influences, things like winter squash with pomegranate, salsa verde and cotija cheese. The salsa verde contains ground up OG Kush because the orange, earthy, pine terpenes go well with parsley, cilantro and pomegranate. Currently the executive sous chef at Preux & Proper downtown, Santana's side gig has him creating menus for one-off private dinner parties wherever he can: in someone's home, at a restaurant that's closed for the night, anywhere. With only a couple under his belt, he works directly with marijuana brand Botafarm, known as a "grand cru cannabis," for the parties. He uses everything -- fresh flower, decarbbed flower, homemade THC olive oils -- to layer his dishes with enough THC to have an impact but not so much to get you crazy stoned. Dinners start at $75 and go up from there. To hear about the next one, follow Cultured Create and Destory on Instagram.
Wheat Gargati with Wild Mushrom Fonduta and Nduja from Joe Sasto
Chef Joe Sasto left Cal Mare's kitchen in August and started creating cannabis dinners on the side while he works on opening his own restaurant. After doing a private dinner with Bong Appetit's Ry Prichard, he found his way into cannabis pairing dinners -- where spliffs and vapes are paired with each course -- and also into infusions. Catering mostly private events but also doing the occasional pop-up, Sasto does everything handmade, organic and seasonal. His pasta course is always a hit and might include heirloom wheat gargati with wild mushroom fonduta, 'nduja and lemon kush breadcrumbs. "The terpene profiles are so aromatic, I mix into into the 'nduja breadcrumbs for extra flavor and crunch," Sasto says. The healing properties of a plate of pasta just went up exponentially. Follow Sasto on Instagram for updates on upcoming dinners and events.
Marijuana Matzo Ball Soup with Cannavore Supper
When Passover overlaps with 4/20, you better believe there's a canna-seder somewhere. Private chef Danielle Steckler, who creates non-weed dinners with the popular Paper Palate catering company, prepares a multi-course, cannabis-infused feast for the Puff Puff Passover on Saturday, April 20. Expect lightly dosed dishes like matzo ball soup, along with CBD cocktails by Satbhajan Khalsa, guests reading out loud from the Yada Yada Haggadah -- which tells the story of Passover through a parody episode of Seinfeld -- and gift bags that include delightful treats like L.A.'s own Calivolve chocolates. Tickets are $150 per person; make reservations here. Find out about more Cannavore Suppers on Instagram.
Birthday Cake CBD Doughnut at Astro Doughnuts
The newest Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken outpost debuted in Santa Monica this March, and with it came a new CBD-infused doughnut. Why? Because why not. The birthday cake doughnut is topped with chocolate buttercream dosed with a bit of CBD oil, which means you can get a sugar rush and relax all at the same time. Because it's just CBD, you won't get the munchies, which would require an order of Astro's fried chicken sliders or doughnut grilled cheese.
2309 Main St., Santa Monica, 424-280-4414.