Breaking bread is one of the oldest human rituals: the act of creating and sharing a meal is equal parts ceremony and social contract. Every culture has its own approach to food, but we all eat. And when we eat together we build new bonds — however tenuous — and plant new cultural seeds; some blossom into new recipes, others bloom into new communities.
Cannabis is also a famous creator and strengthener of social ties — many friendships spanning decades were launched by a single joint, smoked over the span of five or so minutes. And hand a joint to those same friends all those decades later and it’s like only five minutes have passed.
So perhaps it’s only natural that Washington’s cannabis industry — still reeling from years of near-constant fluctuation and upheaval in the laws surrounding cultivation, access and sale — would take the opportunity of this year’s 420 “holiday” to celebrate, but also deepen and expand the human roots that underpin the industry.
Enter Derek Simcik, Executive Chef at Scout — the almost impossibly top-shelf culinary flagship of the luxury boutique hotel Thompson Seattle — and the team behind Lux (formerly Stash) Pot Shop, a premium cannabis retailer that unofficially identifies as “the Nordstrom of pot shops.”
These two forces, under the expert guidance of an organizing team including Morgan Leigh of @thiscannabis life (whose photos of sexy, cool kids smoking weed make cannabis seem glamorous) and Lux communications coordinator Kalie Jo (whose sharp, socially conscious approach to community outreach fueled the cool, inclusive vibe of the evening) did much more than just put on an absurdly elegant and inventive dinner party with great weed.
Beyond the remarkable meal, they also curated an incomparable collection of cultivators, retailers and industry influencers. Add to the mix a spectacular array of fascinating guests from across the country — including a rising hip hop visionary featured by MTV and NPR and a radical college professor researching and lecturing on popular culture and media through the lens of Black feminism and intersectional social justice — and you had some of the most scintillating dinner conversation imaginable.
The meal itself is the kind of thing I would never eat normally — all pickled puree of foraged this and frothed reduction of that — served crudo, encased into pellets, infused into milk-poached fish cheeks… did you know people pickle strawberries? I come from a pickling people and I did not know this.
But it’s an exhilarating culinary experience and, at times, a truly delicious one. The dishes are all rooted in ingredients native to the Pacific Northwest, which is a minor thrill for an East Coast-by-Albuquerque immigrant to California who’s been living on Bay Area cuisine for the better part of a decade — I’d never eaten morels before, now I’ve had them like five ways on one plate.
And while my California cannabis snobbery is a matter of public record, I’m happy to report that Seattle has some excellent offerings on display, including a personal favorite — Strawberry Cough —and a Golden State staple — Gorilla Glue #4. The flavors and effects are masterfully paired with the courses, lending an extra layer of refinement to an evening already distinctly dedicated to conscious consumption.
But they also have a rig and a torch, and I have some terps, so of course I have to glob out. A little bit. Nothing outrageous… not by NorCal standards anyway.
The stated purpose of the rig is to facilitate the use of the impressive spectrum of extracted terpenes on display — all the usual suspects. I do a few dabs of some favorites, including Limonene-D and then Myrcene when the Limonene makes me a bit anxious. There is an offering of CBD extract (to level people out) but I’m ready to break out some extra THC.
Thankfully, I have some premium pull-n-snap shatter from Oaktown Dabs — “Berry Romulan Cookies” — which I’m dabbing in no time. Soon I’m explaining the finer points of dabbing and extraction to everybody who approaches the terpene table, so I quietly slip back to my seat and use my trusty Dipper to sneak in extra terps as desired for the remainder of the night.
All of this makes for a fun, festive 420, but as with any meal — particularly one intended as a celebration — it’s all about the people.
And if there’s one weakness to the near-perfect presentation and execution of the event then it’s also a key strength: the long banquet table organically separates the guests into smaller pockets of conversation. Although this definitely creates moments where one side of the table is discussing something different than the other, it also facilitates marvelous instances of conversational cross-pollination, where a fragment of one discussion collides with a kernel of another, creating a conceptual ripple in all directions.
The conversation at my end of the table is magnificent, thanks in no small part to my placement directly between event organizer Kalie Jo and Dr. Zandria Robinson, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee — she’s the radical Black feminist sociology professor.
Robinson and her husband, rapper and fellow social justice activist, Marco Pavé, are both in town from Memphis, Tennesse for the MoPOP Pop Conference, a gathering of music-oriented thinkers, writers and creators where they’re both giving lectures on “Trap Rap’s Crossover Into Mainstream Pop.”
Pavé’s new album, “Welcome to Grc Lnd” is a gritty, unflinching and masterfully composed concept album exploring the unique historical wounds of Memphis — the city where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated — and the living struggle of those still fighting for equality and justice there.
They both love their city and their community with a passion that’s as invigorating as it is inspiring.
Pavé and I chop it up alone for a few moments after the dinner, on a patio attached to the floor above the dinning room. We’re both freshly buzzed off a monstrous “cannagar” — basically a 12-gram blunt loaded with concentrate and wrapped in cannabis leaves.
When I talk to him about the state of the laws in California and the ready access to quality products many of us take for granted, he acts like I’m describing the fashion on Mars.
“We don’t have anything like that,” he says. “We’re still fighting to get a little of that.”
We talk about that fight, and how it intersects with a much larger one. We talk about hope, but we also talk about frustration and anger. We talk — the exchange reminds me how far we still have to go to bring the entire nation to a place of safe access, and how far that would still leave us in so many other ways.
It isn’t all sunshine and light, but we talk. And that’s the point of breaking bread.
The following day I’m physically exhausted, still a little buzzed and ready to explore what I can of Seattle in the six or seven hours I have until my flight back to Oakland International. As I head out into the crisp but unusually sunny Seattle morning, I can smell the salt of the sea and feel the energy of a cannabis community that, like mine, is still taking shape after all these years.
As I turn a corner towards a small park adjacent to Pike’s Place Market I fire up a joint of Strawberry Cough and inhale deeply — by the time I exhale a new journey has begun.
TELL US, have you been to a cannabis dinner party?