Since prop 64 passed in November, marijuana is in the air… and in the food. On Monday night the restaurant 51 Tavern in Highland Park hosted a cannabis supper club. It was the first in a series called The Gathering.
For $250, diners were treated to a five-course menu put together by celebrity chefs Sevan Abdessian and Kris Morningstar. And every course had some form of marijuana as an ingredient.
This was not your college buddy’s pot brownies: just check out the menu.
With some element of cannabis in each of five courses, the chefs were not only working to create great food, but they had to be very specific about portions and about the amount of THC each dinner guest would ingest over the span of the evening.
That involved some trial and error.
The night before the supper, Chef Sevan tested a concentrated cannabis syrup he’d been given to work with. His wife, Tamar Kevonian, told me he took one drop the size of a nailhead. But at 95% THC, it packed a punch.
“I had to test it,” Sevan said, “to see [what] that particular syrup was going to do. And it was so intense that I told Kris this morning, we’ve got to really dilute this and distribute it throughout, because I ate enough basically to kill a small elephant.”
The chefs said each guest was to receive about 55 milligrams of marijuana across the five courses.
“It’s not about hammering people,” Chef Sevan told me. “It’s about elevating them.”
Inside, the owner of Ganjarunner, Carla, was at the bar. She had donated some of the herb being used for the event, including the parting gifts: little mason jars with nugs of weed.
“Some sativa strains, some hybrids and some indica. A nice variety. We’ve got some Kush and some Face Wrecker sativas, Jack Herer, Green Crack, and some more favorites.” (That’s all gibberish to me, but maybe it means something to you…)
My parting gift was Platinum Girl Scout Cookies. (Not actually a type of girl scout cookie.)
The meal was served at a candle-lit long table that had been set up in the center of the room.
The 14 guests were there for different reasons. Two were cancer survivors who had used pot to help them through chemo. Several were owners and operators of their own marijuana businesses, either selling weed or making vape pens and pipes and other paraphernalia.
Shavo, a member of the band System of a Down, was there with his wife. There was another journalist and others who simply were pot enthusiasts.
Max, seated to my right, told me he uses a little every day when he gets home — either vaping or as an edible — and it helps him relax and de-stress and sleep well.
As the evening progressed — with pot in the food, the occasional toke, and the wine that was paired with each of the five courses — people were definitely getting to a happy, friendly place, and the conversation was flowing freely.
The meal used Middle Eastern ingredients and was served in small portions with wonderful combinations of intense tastes. The third course, for example, was built around a roasted parsnip, with beet and rose hip reduction, zaatar smoked labneh, shaved golden beets, and spiced pomegranate molasses.
It should be noted that zaatar is a popular Middle Eastern herb mixture that often includes oregano. Chef Kris Morningstar’s version of zaatar was a last-minute ad lib. Looking for oregano, he remembered that that herb is often mistaken for pot, or vice versa. So as a kind of culinary joke, raw weed took the place of oregano in the splash of zaatar that ran across the plate.
It was paired with a rosé from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Despite the upscale vibe, there was still the whiff of the illicit. People all introduced themselves using only their first names. But there was also the joy of knowing that there was no longer anything illegal in what we were doing.
Many of the people at The Gathering had experienced brushes, or worse, with the law. Adam, who sat down the table from me, had spent two years in prison. Max had to do 15 narcotics anonymous classes after being pulled over with a small amount of marijuana in the car. Now, there was a kind of general euphoria about the fact that they no longer had to look over their shoulders.
As Buck said, “I can’t fucking believe we’re about to have a weed dinner in the middle of Los Angeles and we’re not even behind closed doors. The whole street can watch what we’re doing. I think it’s amazing.”