On a January night in Aspen, Colorado, 54 invited guests gathered inside the chic city’s privately owned Crystal Palace building for a guided, five-course tasting adventure.
While X Games snowboarders and snowmobilers competed outside, diners inside nibbled on an ambitious haute cuisine menu featuring items such as pistachio-crusted tuna tataki, roasted duck breast with blackberry red wine marinade, deep-fried baby octopus, and dark chocolate ganache torte.
It was a night of highs—literally—as each dish arrived with a selected wine pairing as well as a cannabis pairing to be inhaled, with strains featuring names like Durbin Poison, Headband, Grand Daddy Purps, 303 Kush, and Platinum Girl Scout Cookies.
Philip Wolf, owner of Cultivating Spirits, which manages various cannabis-infused experiences across Colorado, including this one hosted with the cooperation of Aspen city leaders, urged guests to note the flavor profiles of the cannabis upon inhalation. Later, he directs diners to smack their tongues against the roof of their mouths for a deeper sensory experience.
“It was groundbreaking to see a room of 54 people mindfully consume cannabis and relate the flavors of the terpenes in the Grand Daddy Purps with the roasted duck breast,” Wolf says of the event.
With marijuana now approved for recreational use in four states—Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska—and a number of others considering such legislation, cannabis-infused edibles have gained increasing attention from consumers and foodservice professionals alike.
A Denver Post story last December called marijuana-infused edibles “one of the biggest surprises during the first year of legal recreational marijuana sales,” saying it “stunned” state and industry leaders following the Jan. 1, 2014, legalization of recreational marijuana.
“Potent cookies, candies, and drinks, once considered a niche market, now account for roughly 45 percent of the legal marijuana marketplace,” Denver Post scribe Jordan Steffen reported.
Leading cannabis culinarian Jessica Catalano isn’t surprised.
Catalano started her blog, The Ganja Kitchen Revolution, in 2010, one year after beginning to experiment with cannabis strains in the kitchen and 13 years after beginning to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. Within two years of her blog’s debut, Catalano’s escalating fan base sparked a publishing deal and a cookbook, The Ganja Kitchen Revolution: The Bible of Cannabis Cuisine.
“When magazines like Vogue are talking about my book, we know the interest isn’t just some small fringe group,” Catalano says. “There’s a greater market here.”
Indeed, there appears to be swelling consumer fascination with edibles in this post-legalization era, particularly given that snacking on a cannabis-infused cookie is far more discreet and diplomatic—and, some would argue, more delectable—than puffing away on a joint.