Pairing Pot with Food: The Next Big Culinary Trend?

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“Cannabis should be treated like fine wine,” notes Philip Wolf, founder of Cultivating Spirits, Colorado-based hosts of cannabis cooking classes as well as pairing experiences. “It harmonizes so well with food when you have the right pairings.”

Cultivating Spirits started offering food, wine, and cannabis–pairing dinners last summer. Wolf believes the upscale events, sparked by the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, are part of a growing demand for curated cannabis experiences.

“A lot of people are just being turned on to the idea that cannabis has flavor profiles just like wine,” he explains. “The pairings we’re doing are at the forefront of a new movement.”

Wolf insists that these events are about more than lighting a joint and getting high. In fact, he talks about terpenes (the aromatic compounds found in marijuana) and the flavor profiles of small batch cannabis with the same passion that some sommeliers use to describe tannins in wine — and he takes the same care in selecting strains to complement the dishes served during the Sensational Fusion Experience, a five-course cannabis-pairing dinner. For example, Wolf recommends pairing sativa, a species that offers a more uplifting buzz, for lighter fare like fish and vegetables while indica, which has a more calming effect, is a better choice with heavier dishes like steak and comfort foods.

Before each dinner — which includes gourmet fare prepared using local, organic ingredients, wine served with each course and, of course, cannabis — participants learn how to smoke marijuana to best experience its flavors. (Hint: There is more to it than sparking a joint and inhaling).

Wolf explains how to ID sativa or indica species based on the color and texture of the marijuana, and he encourages diners to breathe in the aroma to experience the full scent profile. After that, it’s time to pack a small amount into a bowl, burn a fresh hit and notice how the flavor changes between inhaling and exhaling.

“We get a lot of people who tell us it’s the first time they thought about the flavor profiles of their cannabis,” he explains. “It really does enhance the experience.”