CannaisseurSeries_Founders Ryan Bush and Coreen Carroll – Photo by Craig Hackey copy

Chief D’oeuvre: The Art of the Cannabis Dinner

Meet the San Francisco chefs cooking up Infused fusion dinners, with some kind words about their favorite edible treat recommendations.

California law does not allow for cannabis to be served legally in a restaurant. But no fewer than 10 pop-up events across San Francisco are quietly serving infused fine dining with intermezzos of flower, vape hits, or more edibles. Those high-end marijuana-infused dinners seen on pop-culture websites and reality TV cooking shows? They really do exist; it’s just that they’re private, invitation-only events. SF Evergreen found out how you score one of these invites, and what to expect at a four-course prix-fixe cannabis dinner.

“There’s honestly nothing better than a great elevated dining experience with your friends,” says Jamie Evans, better known as cannabis blogger and Popsugar columnist The Herb Somm. “No menu is the same. As a foodie myself, I love this aspect of the cannabis space. There is so much creativity.”

Some of that creativity is just getting around the half-baked regulatory structure of California marijuana laws, which failed to consider gourmet cannabis dining.

“Prop. 64 and the subsequent regulations failed to provide a clear pathway for such dinners and private events,” says Dr. Menaka Mahajan of cannabis policy and regulatory affairs firm Mahajan Consulting. “Although such dinners and events are adored by consumers, it’s certainly a risk to continue to provide these social consumption experiences.”

A handful of epicurean experiences have deftly jumped these hurdles, with pop-ups at rotating locations that understand the privacy and Department of Health considerations for these events.

The Herb Somm’s Thursday Infused is a monthly private dining club primarily centered on low-dose infusions. Former Mourad chef Michael Magallanes now hosts pop-up dinners as The Opulent Chef. One of San Francisco’s longest-running weed dinners Cannaisseur Series also offers a brunch — and the loveliest bag of parting gifts you will have received in some time.

Anyone can attend these culinary soirées. You can generally get an invite by going to the event website, and after you click on the obligatory “I am over 21” button, sign up for their email list or request-an-invitation link.

We got on the list for to the most recent monthly Cannaisseur Series, held in a cozily decorated Bayview event space called Yosemite Roadhouse. Upon arriving, we were immediately greeted with a microdosed hibiscus lemonade with a mixed berry liqueur.

Wandering servers carried THC-glazed duck tenderloin hors d’oeuvres, while cheeses and charcuterie sat alongside plates of medicated honey. The four-course dinner to a group of 40 guests would include a THC basil parma prosciutto, guinea hen confit infused with CBD, and plenty of smoke breaks in between. (Vegetarian options were provided with each course.)

Most of the Cannaisseur’s infused dishes are non-psychoactive, to help you maintain through hours of imbibing. In fact, some servings are CBD-formulated to bring down your buzz (or — paradoxically — consuming more weed to get you less high).

“I really enjoy the non-psychoactive infusions,” Cannaisseur Series executive chef and co-founder Coreen Carroll tells us. “It helps destigmatize, because people realize it’s not all about just THC and getting high, there’s other parts of the plant. It’s a whole plant. It’s just like an herb: It’s a medicine, it can be so many things.”

Cannaisseur Series bills itself as the only gourmet weed dinner that fires up joints between each course. Other events prefer vape hits or concentrates, often because of restrictions on smoking at private event spaces.

“We love smoking joints,” Carroll says, noting that these parties are all about bringing strangers together. “There is nothing more connecting and intimate than sharing and passing a joint.”

The Opulent Chef prefers to serve vape hits between courses for a smoother palate.

“My events are typically dinners that are either cannabis infused directly into the food or cannabis paired with the food in the form of vaporizing concentrates,” Magallanes tells SF Evergreen. “The last event I hosted was a pairing event using ice water hash and rosin from NASHA Extracts consumed using Topstone vaporizers.”

There are also a few very high-class edibles on dispensary shelves for whipping up your infused gourmet feast. But there are a lot fewer than there used to be, as strict Jan. 1 legal marijuana laws took out some of our favorite artisanal edible crafters.

“The regulations have really hampered some super-inventive [gourmet edibles], especially the fresh pastry style,” Cannaisseur Series co-founder Ryan Bush says. “It’s been stifled.”

Lab testing is an edible maker’s costliest expense, as the new 10-milligram maximum serving requires much more precision than the old 50- and 100-milligram doses. And some types of food are inherently subject to federal guidelines that still treat cannabis as a Schedule 1 Drug.

“As soon as federal regulations are triggered, everything becomes more difficult and complicated,” Dr. Mahajan explains. But there’s a catch. “By defining cannabis products as ‘neither a food nor a drug,’ the California Department of Public Health is able to create its own regulations for cannabis products, such as edibles, that are distinct from those of the FDA.”

The Opulent Chef at work.

“That’s how we are able to buy prepackaged cannabis-infused chocolate, for example. However, once cannabis becomes an ingredient of something defined as ‘food,’ like a salad, the federal brick wall appears.”

A few standout Bay Area edibles still make the grade for a home gourmet dinner. The infused honey Potli is sourced from locally farmed bees, and sits well on a cheese plate. Mellows are the most artisanal marshmallows we’ve encountered, and among San Francisco’s best edible companies. All the top chefs swear by the THC olive oil Pot d’Huile.

When you try to get on the list for culinary cannabis events, don’t get discouraged if your first few tries don’t get the invite. Most of these sell out around a month in advance, and it may take a few attempts until you find an event that still has available tickets.

“There is a big demand for these types of gatherings,” The Herb Somm Jamie Evans says. “The more we can demonstrate that they can be hosted in a safe and responsible manner, the closer we get to hopefully having cannabis restaurants.”

These dinners cost about the exact same as a similar prix-fixe arrangement would cost at any San Francisco restaurant, plus these events are infused with all the marijuana you care to consume. They’re a terrific deal, where both you and your dinner will be baked to perfection.