Virtual cannabis pairing dinners
By Jessica Ashley Silva
For people who love to go out and smoke, eat and drink in groups, 2020 has been a year of deprivation. The days of casually passing joints around with 12 perfect strangers are on pause. No more intimate pairing dinners where you bask in the shared joy of gastronomic innovation with people outside of your quaran-team bubble. But modern problems require modern solutions. Like so many other businesses faced with surviving the pandemic, Food Flower Future has adapted with the times to create a new kind of socially distant smoke sesh.
Before COVID-19, Food Flower Future specialized in creating unique cannabis pairing dinners. Khara Pechtes, the company’s owner, delved into the industry acting as a bridge connecting and cross-promoting cannabis producers, chefs and food-lovers with a casual or curious interest in cannabis. Her events were (and will be again, in a post-vaccine world) elegant social affairs, aimed at promoting community, as well as food and cannabis education. She created spaces where guests could not only consume and smoke controlled dosages of some of California’s finest cannabis, but where they could meet the growers and producers, too. At the core of it all, Pechtes wants her guests to feel connected to the plant’s history: the places it grew, the hands that grew it and the producers innovating new ways to consume it.
Prior to the pandemic, attendees of Food Flower Future dinners would experience an elevated, cannabis-infused meal prepared by a chef, paired with cannabis-infused mocktails and pre-rolls with complementary terpene profiles. Gift bags would go home with each guest, complete with a mixture of samples, coupons and swag from the sponsoring canna-companies. But this format — depressingly — no longer works in a socially distant world. After the first few months of social distancing, Pechtes decided she was going virtual. With a few alterations to her business strategy, she has now successfully completed her second virtual cannabis dinner.
In November, we attended her second Food Flower Future (FFF) dinner and had front-row seats from our own kitchen. Pechtes gave attendees a swag bag containing all the infused goodies to be incorporated throughout the dinner, as well as shopping lists so we could cook along. Chef Kimberly Kamish King, formerly of Los Angeles, live-streamed via Zoom all the way from Jamaica. Each of Kamish’s courses were printed on FFF cards listing their respective cannabis-infused items for pairing; our job at home was to prep ahead of time, then tune into Zoom to follow along with instructions for cooking, smoking and drinking on cue. In all, we prepped, cooked and paired for three courses.
The first course was an elote-style corn with a zesty cilantro-lime butter, paired with a refreshing Lemon-Lavender CANN seltzer water (infused with 2 mg THC and 4 mg CBD), and a White Tahoe Cookies pre-roll (23.89 percent THC) from Aloha Humboldt.
Next was a choice of lobster or shrimp with plantain dumplings in a spicy tomato stew over rice. We were given a half-ounce of infused chili finishing oil (10 mg THC) from Potli, which added a burst of flavor and subtle heat to the dish. For a bit of texture, this course included sundried tomato and chili salt crackers from Tempo (2 mg each, 10 per bag). Paired with a WildLand Haze pre-roll (21 percent THC).
Lastly, dessert consisted of sweet tamarind balls, paired with a blood orange-infused sparkling water (25 mg CBD), and not one, but two more pre-rolls: Wookie Cookies from Arcanna Flowers and a Dad Grass joint (12.3 percent CBD). The pacing and arrangement of the ingredients made for a full-range experience, building with THC and ending CBD-heavy.
One aspect of FFF’s in-person events that translated seamlessly to the virtual format was the comingling of attendees with brand reps and owners. Attendees were able to meet the growers and makers via Zoom, ask questions and receive insider insight into the brands. Some of the sponsors in attendance included Tempo co-founder Robert Holland, representatives from CANN and Wyld, as well as Linsey Jones, the CEO of Aloha Humboldt. Aloha Humboldt, located in Willow Creek, is a small-batch, family-owned farm focusing on sustainable growing practices for their sun-kissed cannabis. While Aloha Humboldt is run by a husband and wife team, Jones, like many of the sponsors Pechtes partners with, is the CEO and brand visionary.
There are elements of a face-to-face dinner that simply can’t be recreated through a virtual replacement. But the quirks resulting from a bunch of THC-loving adults all tackling instructions separately added a levity that made the night indelible. Some attendees were (reasonably and hilariously) distracted by Instagramming and dabbing, some supervised with a glass of wine or a joint in hand as their kitchen partner toiled at the stove, and more than a few of us had to get creative with our tamarind selections (what do you mean there’s a difference between frozen tamarind, tamarind paste, and tamarind candy?). Also, why do so few of us know what a ripe plantain looks like?
When COVID-19 restrictions end, there is certainly a niche to fill for foodie entrepreneurs in Humboldt County. Cannabis food-pairings in the Emerald Triangle have been few and far between, with only a handful of publicized events occurring since legalization. For now, only those willing to venture to local dispensaries to create their own infused and paired menu can revel in a tasty haze similar to that of Food Flower Future’s attendees. For those within reach of Pechtes’ L.A. headquarters, virtual dinners continue to flourish until we’re allowed to dine with our fellow stoner brethren again.
Jessica Ashley Silva is a foodie, propagation specialist and processing manager in Arcata’s Cannabis Innovation Zone.