Tag Archives: dishes

Gourmet ganja? Marijuana dining is growing up, slowly

How to set a tone of woodsy chic at a four-course candlelight dinner served under the stars in the Colorado foothills:

Live musicians and flowers, check.

Award-winning cuisine, check.

Beer and wine pairings with each course, check.

Marijuana pairings? Oh, yes.

The 100 diners at this $200-a-plate dinner smoked a citrus-smelling marijuana strain to go with a fall salad with apples, dates and bacon, followed by a darker, sweeter strain of pot to accompany a main course of slow-roasted pork shoulder in a mole sauce with charred root vegetables and rice.

And with dessert? Marijuana-infused chocolate, of course, grated over salted caramel ice cream and paired with coffee infused with non-intoxicating hemp oil.

The diners received small glass pieces and lighters to smoke the pairings, or they could have their marijuana rolled into joints by professional rollers set up next to a bartender pouring wine.

Welcome to fine dining in Weed Country.

The marijuana industry is trying to move away from its pizza-and-Doritos roots as folks explore how to safely serve marijuana and food. Chefs are working with marijuana growers to chart the still-very-unscientific world of pairing food and weed. And a proliferation of mass-market cheap pot is driving professional growers to develop distinctive flavors and aromas to distinguish themselves in a crowded market.

“We talk with the (marijuana) grower to understand what traits they saw in the marijuana … whether it’s earthy notes, citrus notes, herbal notes, things that we could play off,” said Corey Buck, head of catering for Blackbelly Restaurant, a top-rated farm-to-table restaurant that provided the meal.

The grower of one of the pot strains served at the dinner, Alex Perry, said it won’t be long until marijuana’s flavors and effects are parsed as intently as wine profiles. But that’s in the future, he conceded.

“It’s still looked down upon as a not-very-sophisticated thing,” said Perry, who grew a strain called Black Cherry Soda for his company, Headquarters Cannabis.

Holding his nose to a small jar of marijuana, Perry said, “If I asked my mom or my dad what they smell, they’re going to say, ‘skunk,’ or, ‘It smells like marijuana.’ But it’s like wine or anything else. There’s more flavor profile there.”

But chefs and pot growers trying to explore fine dining with weed face a legal gauntlet to make pot dinners a reality, even where the drug is as legal as beer.

Colorado’s marijuana retailers can’t also sell food, so guests at this dinner had to buy a separate $25 “goodie bag” from a dispensary for the pot pairings.

The bags came with tiny graters for diners to shave the pot chocolate onto their ice cream themselves; the wait staff could not legally serve a dish containing pot, even though the event was private and limited to people over 21. Diners were shuttled to and from the event by private bus, to avoid potentially stoned drivers leaving the dinner.

Marijuana dining may become more accessible in coming months, though.

Denver voters this fall will consider a proposal to allow marijuana use at some bars and restaurants as long as the drug isn’t smoked, with the potential for new outdoor marijuana smoking areas.

And two of the five states considering recreational marijuana in November _ California and Maine _ would allow some “social use” of the drug, leaving the potential for pot clubs or cafes.

Currently, Alaska is the only legal weed state that allows on-site marijuana use, with “tasting rooms” possible in commercial dispensaries. But that state is still working on rules for how those consumption areas would work.

For now, marijuana dining is limited to folks who hire private chefs to craft infused foods for meals served in their homes, or to special events like this one, limited to adults and set outside to avoid violating smoke-free air laws.

Guests at the Colorado dinner were admittedly experimenting with pairing weed and food, many giggling as they toked between bites. It became apparent late in the evening that a rich meal doesn’t counteract marijuana’s effects.

“What was I just saying?” one diner wondered aloud before dessert. “Oh, yeah. About my dog. No, your dog. Somebody’s dog.”

The man trailed off, not finishing his thought. His neighbor patted him on the back and handed him a fresh spoon for the ice cream.

Diners seemed genuinely curious about how to properly pair marijuana and food without getting too intoxicated.

“I am not a savant with this,” said Tamara Haddad of Lyons, who was waiting to have one of her pot samples professionally rolled into a joint. “I enjoy (marijuana) occasionally. I enjoy it with friends. I’m learning more about it.”

She laughed when asked whether marijuana can really move beyond its association with junk-food cravings.

“I have also munched out after being at the bar and drinking martinis and thinking, ‘Taco Bell sounds great,”” she said.

Emeril Lagasse tells life story via recipes in new cookbook

Before there were Food Network icons and cultish produce, before farm-to-table was a philosophy and cake decorating became a competitive sport, there was Emeril Lagasse.

And his is a life story best told by the kitchens that formed and informed him. There was the Portuguese bakery where he washed dishes as a youngster, the pizzeria where he stretched dough in high school, the Asian restaurants where he learned the secrets of Chinese sauces, and of course the grand kitchen of New Orleans’ iconic Commander’s Palace, where he became head chef at 23.

It’s a story Lagasse is ready to tell. His latest cookbook, “Essential Emeril,” is his life in recipes, a collection that covers everything from Asian fusion and Tex-Mex to classic French and Italian.

“Cooking isn’t just about what ends up on the plate. It’s the journey, taking time, having a plan, being prepared, being patient, noticing the smells, being mindful of what’s going on in the pan,” he said. “(The book) is a generous slice of the amazing journey I’ve had up until now in this glorious world of food.”

Through stories and recipes that chart his course through the television and restaurant worlds, Lagasse shares the foods and people _ everyone from his mother to Mario Batali _ that shaped his career. Peppered throughout the cookbook _ Lagasse’s 19th _ are many of the New Orleans dishes he has become known for, including barbecue shrimp with jalapeno biscuits, pork candy ribs with spicy hot Creole seasoning, and andouille-crusted redfish with Creole meuniere sauce.

And through those recipes, Lagasse gives us a glimpse at another side of the chef Americans came to know best for kicking things up a notch. He reflects back on those early, nervous years when he first took over at Commander’s and spent his days off in the Louisiana country, visiting farmers and Vietnamese fishing boats, sourcing trigger fish and escolar that “no one else was bringing to the table.”

“If I could control as much of the quality of what was being served on the table for my guests, then this was what was going to be the path in building an incredible reputation as a chef,” he said in a recent interview. Eventually, “memories of my childhood started flashing back at me and why my family had a farm and why they raised animals. … The avenues connected and my love and fondness for what I was doing just grew.”

Lagasse also isn’t afraid of dropping the names of the many celebrities he has counted among customers and friends. And that’s half the fun of reading the book. For example, there are the “potatoes Alexa,” made with a portobello-truffle emulsion, named after Billy Joel’s daughter, as well as the triple truffle risotto he served to Sammy Hagar at his wedding.

Lagasse went on to open numerous restaurants of his own, including Emeril’s in New Orleans, NOLA and Delmonico. And the book is filled with tips and recipes inspired by those who helped him along the way, Charlie Trotter to Julia Child.

More recently, Lagasse’s television career has focused on Florida, where he lives with his family. When producers first approached him about “Emeril’s Florida,” Lagasse was taking a break and not interested. But the avid fisherman, who loves spending rare days off on the boat with his kids, said he started thinking about the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and all the lakes and ponds around the state. “I’m going to show people that there is so much abundance here.”

“I love the state,” he said. “I’ve met some amazing people from shacks that sell fish sandwiches to five-star restaurants.”

In the kitchen…

CHICKEN WITH CHAMPAGNE AND 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC

“The slow cooking of the garlic makes this dish sweet, nutty and creamy,” Emeril Lagasse writes in his new cookbook, “Essential Emeril.” “Some folks like to cut up a whole chicken, but I prefer all thighs. They braise well and the meat stays juicy. I used Champagne because I love the subtle flavor it adds, but any dry white wine could be substituted.”

Start to finish: 1 hour 45 minutes

Servings: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 to 12 large bone-in chicken thighs (about 5 pounds)

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

40 cloves garlic, peeled (about 3 whole heads)

1/4 cup lemon juice, or to taste

1 cup Champagne or other dry sparkling or white wine

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

6 sprigs fresh thyme

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oven to 325 F. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high. When the pot is hot, add the oil.

Season the chicken on both sides with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Working in batches so as to not crowd the pot, sear the chicken, skin side down, until golden brown, about 6 minutes per batch. Brown briefly on the second side, then transfer the browned chicken to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Add the garlic to the empty pot and cook, stirring, until lightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, Champagne, broth and thyme. Return the chicken to the pot, nestling the pieces down into the liquid. Make sure some of the garlic is sitting on top of the chicken. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pot, then place in the oven. Cook, stirring once midway to ensure even cooking, until the chicken is falling-off-the-bone tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Transfer the chicken and some of the garlic to a platter, then cover with foil to keep warm. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs from the pot.

In a medium bowl, mash together the flour and butter to form a smooth paste. Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of the hot juices from the pot into the paste until smooth, then add this mixture to the pot along with 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Whisk to combine. Don’t worry if some of the garlic cloves get smashed; they will help to thicken and enrich the sauce. Cover and cook over medium heat until the gravy has thickened, 10 to 20 minutes longer.

Season the sauce with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or more to taste. Serve the chicken with the gravy spooned over the top and sprinkled with the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley.

Nutrition information per serving: 870 calories; 560 calories from fat (64 percent of total calories); 62 g fat (18 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 325 mg cholesterol; 1,090 mg sodium; 13 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 56 g protein.

(Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s “Essential Emeril,” 2015, Oxmoor House)