Flavor to Savor

High-end LA chefs serve up an eight-course cannabis-infused banquet.

By Elise McDonough

Originally published in the September 2012 issue of High Times

Historically, when it comes time to whip up some marijuana-infused food, most cannabis-friendly home cooks choose to cover up the taste of their sacred, secret ingredient with heavy doses of either chocolate or peanut butter as part of sugary, fat-laden desserts. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but lately, adventurous pot-loving foodies and even professional restauranteurs have begun to embrace, rather than mask, the herb's distinct flavor, which French chef Laurent Quenioux describes as “incredible, very citrusy… sexy and sweet…. if it was legal I would serve it in my restaurant!”

cannabis monkfish congeeChef Quenioux first won mainstream culinary acclaim for his Bistro LQ in Los Angeles, and has since gone on to collaborate with Vietnamese chef Thi Tran on the trendsetting Starry Kitchen, which started out as a "underground" restaurant run out of an apartment before going legit. More recently, theses two heads joined forces to host a number of invite-only themed dinners and temporary “pop-up” restaurants, including the first in a planned series of marijuana-centric banquets. Naturally, HIGH TIMES was on hand to sample the goods.

The chefs' inaugural "weed dinner" was an eight-course feast featuring multiple components flavored or infused with cannabis, and all of it paired with ganja-infused cocktails from Daniel K. Nelson, mixologist from the Writer’s Room in LA. One concoction, dubbed “Cho Sun One,” was tinged with cannabis-infused sesame seed oil, lending a pungent smell to the blending of Korean pear and American moonshine. Nelson told us the occasion provided "a fun way to flex your muscles and do something different.”

Such culinary creativity was, in fact, on display from start to finish. The entire dinner revolved around using bright, fresh, fruity acidic flavors to balance the rich, salty, savory elements in each dish. The chefs also strived to reduce the potency of the overall meal by using cannabis sparingly, and in ways that complimented the other ingredients. Still, the amount of ganja in each course eventually built to a crescendo, starting with small hints of herbal flavor that grew to a substantially stony finish.

Highlights included a pot-infused lobster “jus,” paired with spot prawns, and a silky, buttery, unctuous monkfish that had been seared in cannabis-coconut oil on top of congee and cannabis epazote. Dessert brought the most unique preparation: panna cotta with rhubarb gel, served with a blood orange sorbet and “cannabis soil”—a fluffy powder in a neat little pile. Just a tiny taste of the “soil” revealed a powerful punch of ganja flavor. It was created using techniques of molecular gastronomy, including the cannabis-infused cream that had been dehydrated using the addition of tapioca maltodexin, leaving behind a delicious powder reminiscent of freshly fallen snow.

By the night's end, it was clear that as marijuana continues to move into the mainstream, more and more chefs will experiment with it as a flavoring. And with advances in the science of terpenes, we’ll soon learn more about pairing specific strains of cannabis with different foods—leading to more divine dishes like the Haze-infused Tom Yum Ganja featured in The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook.

See photos of the "secret weed dinner" here.