The Hightened Series was designed to be “an enhanced sensory experience combining cannabis and the art of fine dining.”
With elegantly crafted cuisine from Opulent Chef and featuring Humboldt County’s NASHA Extracts in Topstone vaporizers, guests were invited to “come meet the farmer, the hash maker, and the chef to experience a forward-thinking, unexplored, crop to kitchen concept,” at a dinner event held in San Fransisco last week.
We’ve got it made in the Bay Area when it comes to canna-cuisine — OG Chef Coreen Carrol’s Cannaisseur Series offers infused food plus flower and/or vape pairings, The Herb Somm’s #ThursdayInfused features, you guessed it, infused bites as part of the educational experience. Even with technically less than legal status, these events are always sold out, and new canna-cuisine hybrid events are sprouting up more frequently. Halfway through California’s first-year legal cannabis, the Bay Area isn’t starved for infused dinners, CBD cocktails and even cannabis-themed drag night — which is why it’s shocking this dinner was a “first of its kind” event for the veteran Opulent Chef.
Canna-cuisine aficionados know chef Michael Magallanes, or the Opulent Chef, founder and host of The Hightened Series is no stranger to working with cannabis, but this dinner was unique in how the chef didn’t use cannabis.
“Our dinners in the past were more focused on infusing cannabis into the food, how the flavors work in the food itself,” Magallanes said when I caught him before the event held on Saturday night at a secret location in San Francisco. “This dinner is about enjoying the food while vaping concentrates. And pairing the two. Enjoying the two together.”
So this meal wouldn’t include any cannabis in the food, but we would get to vape all the NASHA hash that we could want… cool.
It was easy to spot the dinner’s secret location in the airplane hangar-like structure thanks to the giant garage door, openly showcasing some of San Francisco’s finest hash heads. Skylights illuminated the space and high ceilings accentuated the stunning living wall —seriously it was like a jungle growing out of the kitchen. A funky collection of classic clocks adorned the other side of the room where The Josh Craig spun funky grooves in the corner.
Guests were greeted with an infused, non-psychoactive sparkling beverage. It was light and refreshing featuring mint and honey from the Sunboldt Farms. Sunshine Johnston, was in attendance at the dinner and spoke briefly on Sunboldt’s growing process. Using dry farming and beyond organic practices, Sunboldt proves top quality cannabis can be grown with minimal environmental impact.
Mingling pre-dinner I was happy to see some familiar cannabis industry friends- fellow creatives and foodies, brand reps and founders in the house, along with hash legend, Frenchy Cannoli and his protege Cherry Blossom Belle, whom I sat with, alongside a couple enthusiasts in town from Santa Cruz. Our table was one of three, all cozily packed with about 25 people in the room.
Topstone, the hardware device for the event, was new to me, and it seemed, nearly everyone else. One female guest commented that the high-end portable vaporizer was “very phallic,” while laughing, and I must admit she was right. About the size and shape of a longer cigar, I was not offended by the design, but more concerned about the coil. I usually prefer coil-less devices, but as always, I was open-minded. Barron Lutz, CEO and founder of NASHA was on hand discussing the hash varieties he brought for the evening.
“I’m used to working with a sommelier and chefs don’t tell a somm what wine to select,” Magallanes said of the relationship between chef and hashmaker. ”I work with a hashish with whom I can speak the same language, it’s a very trust-based relationship.”
Dinner consisted of nine delightful to mind-blowing courses. It began with an almond, anise liquid filled, gel ball, which Magallanes compared to “Gatorade,” I think for the hydration explosion we experienced upon popping the ball in our mouth. The next course was a melon, but our corner agreed it was the yogurt which was the star of that course. It was truly reminiscent of classic, old-school French onion dip, naughtily delicious. Skipjack, “the lamb of tuna,” was better than most sushi I’ve had lately. Cuttlefish was followed by allium grain yuzu, roasted bone broth, before the beef (or mushroom, for this vegetarian)course. I’m told the beef was as satisfying as I found the mushrooms, which were more like a savory, vegan steak, done just right. Taking us toward the sweet side of the flavor spectrum, tofu came before strawberry angel cake sent us off to sensory bliss.
In between the courses, Will Bosch, co-founder of Topstone Projects stopped by each table with the loaded Topstone vapes and we passed shared amongst our tables. Sitting next to me, Beth Breen from of Santa Cruz was a first timer to a dinner like this, but not new to cannabis. She was commenting on the flavors and feelings with such bliss, I felt more intoxicated in response to her authentic joy.
Magallanes meant it when he said it: this dinner was about cannabis and how it affects diners interaction with food. Of course, naturally cannabis affected how we interacted with each other. Vaping and smoking were allowed, and encouraged, but there was zero pressure to consume. This made the event perfectly suited for couples and mixed groups from canna-curious to total cannasseurs. This new freedom and the law of averages of newbies means at least one person is likely to have a little too much too fast. Reminder y’all, always start low and slow. It’s easy to add more, but not so easy to undo overdoing it.
“I eat with groups of friends all the time, but we never talk about food like this in the process- commenting on each flavor, of each component, of each course,” Breen said. “We’re more like ‘Pass that, ok thanks, as I was saying.’
This is just so much more… I don’t know it’s like just more…”
“Mindful?” I asked with sarcastic inquisition.
“Exactly,” she asserted.
“Exactly,” I declared. “Would you mind passing me hash?”
TELL US, would you attend a cannabis dinner event?