The perfect food-wine pairing has, historically, been key to any fine-dining experience - but for those who prefer fewer calories, no red-stained teeth, and almost zero potential for a hangover, delicately prepared dishes featuring cannabis as a herbal enhancement are the way of the future.
Cannabis cooking is now all grown up, far surpassing the admittedly low bar set by the brownies and Rice Krispie treats of your college days. Chefs are now playing with the science and art of cannabis cooking in unexpected ways, creating dishes that literally shift the diner's perception with every bite.
Here are five chefs broadening the uses of marijuana as a culinary herb.
1. Chris Sayegh
"I create intriguing and delectable food first, and infuse it with cannabis second," writes Los Angeles-based chef Chris Sayegh, 23. "It is always about the food, the people eating, and Mother Earth." Sayegh, aka The Herbal Chef, specializes in haute cuisine ranging from carrot confit gnocchi with cannabis-infused pea emulsion, to New York strip steak with parsnip purée and a medicated red wine reduction, to decadent sticky toffee pudding with toasted coconut and medicated chocolate, according to the International Business Times. He stages pop-up banquets around LA and elsewhere that'll run diners $20-$200, depending on the menu, as well as private banquets at a cost of up to $500 a head.
2. Jessica Catalano
Catalano, who teaches the Cooking with Cannabis Class at Cultivating Spirits, co-hosted the first cannabis pairing dinner at the 2015 Aspen X Games, and judged multiple High Times U.S Cannabis Cups in the Edibles category, employs a "groundbreaking terpene-pairing technique" that treats each strain as a the fine herb it is, "harnessing [its] unique flavour and fragrance profile" and matching it up with the right ingredients. The delectable results? Dishes like Vietnamese Lemon Kush Kief Spring Rolls, Humboldt Kannabis Candy Vanilla Kush Apple Pie, and Strawberry Honey Cannabutter. In her book, The Ganja Kitchen Revolution, Catalano teaches budding chefs the secrets for matching specific types of cannabis with foods that enhance both their flavour and effects, regulating dosage, and making sure you medicate responsibly.
3. Hosea Rosenberg
Top Chef champion Hosea Rosenberg isn't so much about cooking with cannabis per se: instead, he's created special meals with strain pairings to maximize the dining experience. Take Boulder County flatiron steak, potatoes and squash, charred corn and herb sauce supplemented with spicy, intense White OG, for example, or "deconstructed S'Mores" of espresso chocolate ganache, house-made graham crackers and marshmallows served with Harlequin. "Weed sommeliers" assist with the multi-course pairings, explaining the background for the bud and why it works with each dish. The owner of Blackbelly resto, Rosenberg raises his own produce and livestock in addition to being an enthusiastic supporter of legalization, telling High Times he "enthusiastically voted in favour of Amendment 64."
4. Mindy Segal
The notoriously fiery and demanding James Beard Award-winner and Chicago Magazine's Pastry Chef of the Year Mindy Segal has partnered with Cresco Labs, the largest cannabis grower and seller of medical marijuana products in Illinois, to develop a next-level line of edibles. Mouth-watering dessert offerings from the Mindy's Hot Chocolate founder include peanut brittle and whipped peanut butter milk chocolate, and toffee brittle with smoked almonds and dark chocolate. Each box comes with 10 individually wrapped confections with a light dose of 10mg of THC each.
5. Melissa Parks
"The more I ended up trying to make products for my friends, I realized how much I really enjoyed the chemistry behind cooking with cannabis," Parks tells Mashable: the Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef co-authored Herb: Mastering the Art of Cooking Cannabis, a book of recipes expressly designed to downplay marijuana's signature taste. Parks, who has done private chef work since 2005, offers simple, chic infused goodies like Thai-Style Chicken Wings, Lime Curry Chickpea Salad, and Avocado Crab Pasta - and the accessible recipes mean even novice home cannabis chefs start can quickly get cooking with gas.