So it is with the culinary arts: A recipe can be meticulously measured, written down precisely and passed down for dozens of generations — each new cook striving to artfully express its essence — but the moment of truth always comes in the span of a single breath and the time that it takes for a human tongue to process that very first taste.
And then the moment passes. Perhaps another bite — another moment or two basking in the artistry of the dish.
There is, of course, a parallel between the dramatic sensory arc of a culinary experience and the ingestion of cannabis. The cannabis plant’s journey from seed or clone to cured flower (and often to processed product) has many important steps and stops along the way, but the ultimate judgment always happens in a heartbeat.
And if a typical gourmet chef can be likened to a student of the classical masters, a faithful torchbearer for the ethos of an established stylistic school, then the pioneers and practitioners of what’s often called “molecular gastronomy” can be considered the disciples of Pollock and Dalí — pushing the cultural and physical boundaries of the culinary arts past the point of absurdity and (when executed properly) elevating food into the sphere of the divine.
Derek Simcik, executive chef at Scout — the decidedly high-end culinary flagship of the luxury boutique hotel Thompson Seattle — falls somewhere between these two extremes. He negotiates a sensitive balance between tradition and innovation: His plating is just as likely to star traditional preparations and fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and as it is to showcase esoteric flavors and imagination-straining deconstructions — and twice as likely to feature both.
So when the regional industry innovators at Lux Pot Shop (a premium cannabis retailer that unofficially identifies as “the Nordstrom of pot shops”) joined forces with the forward-thinking marketing team at the Thompson this April, the result was a stereotype-defying, community-building sensory experience that challenged preconceived notions about both food and cannabis.
The meal itself was 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 was an exhilarating culinary experience and, at times, a truly delicious one. The dishes were all rooted in ingredients native to the Pacific Northwest, which was 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 it wasn’t just the preparation and design-oriented plating that spoke to the artistry of the evening, but also the thoughtful cannabis pairings, which paired with the rich and varied flavors the meal and provided an experiential dynamic that complimented and enhanced the moment.
And it was here that Simcik excelled beyond artistic fluency and into the realm of mastery. He extended that surreal moment of culinary magic over several courses, never fully suspending the sense of wonder and awe the assembled crowd of industry influencers and participants felt.
Then again, he had the aid of some of Seattle’s finest cannabis to help weave the magic. With sweet standouts like Strawberry Cough providing an invigorating undercurrent to the already decadent proceedings, it was a 420 feast like no other.
You may not have the time or inclination to attend or put on such an elaborate joint pairing dinner, but next time you’re looking to more fully appreciate the gift of a good meal, consider pairing some fine cannabis with your food instead of (or in addition to) the usual wine or beer.
With an ever-expanding variety of flavor profiles and suites of effects and impacts being expressed through cannabis flower, there’s practically no limit to the culinary and sensory heights of a home meal. And when you add the uncanny power that cannabis has to relax and connect us to each other, you have the makings your own masterpiece.
TELL US, would you attend an infused dinner party?