Thursday, June 13, 2024

Marijuana Industry’s New Secret Weapon? Pop-Up Dinners, But Hold The THC

It was almost like any other hip dinner party. Individuals were deep in conversation while sipping cocktails as a DJ spun records everyone knew, songs that couldn’t help eliciting a smile from guests’ faces. Waitresses danced between patrons, displaying metallic trays high in the air with hor d’oeuvres like candied pork belly lettuce wraps and bang bang prawns.

While the fashion was Austin, Texas eclectic—included, but not limited to: Hawaiian floral shirts with shorts, backless blouses and harem pants, summer dresses, silver metallic hi-top sneakers, and vest-tie combinations—the company could only be considered refined. Workers from local start-ups, documentary video editors, writers, and local grocer general managers all were present.

Looking around, you wouldn’t assume this was an event hosted for the cannabis community. We were in Austin, deep in the heart of Texas, were we not? This is a state with the country’s most limited legalized marijuana program, medicinal or otherwise. Yet there everyone was at a CBD pop-up dinner party, hosted by the CBD lifestyle brand Bee Delightful that sells hemp-infused honey. Onlookers and passersby wouldn’t think otherwise, however, even if they ate the delicious soul food.

Photos courtesy of Bee Delightful

All of which was the explicit intention of Chef Preston Day, a member of the Bee Delightful team, who concocted the evening along with help of Chef Tiffani Janelle of Cannachef Magazine. While marijuana in Texas is medicinally legal through the Compassionate Use Act, the program only allows for use of low-THC cannabis oil by intractable epileptics as prescribed by their doctors when traditional medicines have failed. But hemp-derived CBD has emerged in Texas and across the country thanks to a loophole in the 2014 Farm Bill and in-state retailers have taken advantage, selling CBD-infused products under somewhat of a gray and unregulated area. That introduction of CBD into the marketplace has driven curiosity from those inexperienced and not with regard to marijuana.

For those people, these pop-up dinners aim to “introduce cannabis in the most friendly, elegant way possible,” as Day relayed.

The elevated, innovative menu items weren’t weighed down by that oily, weed-y flavor, unlike other edibles you may have previously experienced (THC- or CBD-infused). That’s because Day and his team utilize a CO2 super-critical extraction method that strips away the CBD isolate and produces a tasteless “powder in the crystalline form.”

Day, who attended culinary school in Florence, Italy, infused that isolate with sticky salmon ribs (the true star among the offerings) and Korean fried chicken, and you receive all the medicinal benefits of the cannabinoid. Earlier courses contained 5-8 mg of CBD while the final food items carried about 20-25 mg. It won’t get you high, but it will produce a relaxing, calming effect.

Though Day or the rest of the Bee Delightful team can’t—and won’t—make any medical claims, they are strong advocates to its positive health attributes.

“People take all different kinds of nutrients and vitamins for this and that. They take Advils and they take Tylenols. They take everything,” Day said. “This is just a good way to cut that out and be proactive throughout your entire day and throughout your life. No inflammation, being stress free, any little aches and pains, that feeling is very alleviated [when consuming CBD].”

This isn’t the first pop-up dinner Day has hosted. Two months ago, Bee Delightful invited around 40 guests to a 13-course sit-down tasting menu in Day’s backyard. It was a more elevated experience, “using the nicest fish flown in [along with] local meats.” He also did a private dinner at Cannacon in Boston last month, which included the event’s founder Bob Smart.

Photos courtesy of Bee Delightful

Moving forward Day and the Bee Delightful team intend to travel around the country and host more pop-up dinners at exclusive restaurants and private outings, along with artist lounges at music festivals. Because for organizers running those festivals, “Who wouldn’t want their musicians and their artists a little chilled out and not so turned up?” as Day said.

He believes these pop-up dinners can help initiate and connect the canna-curious into the larger community. Because of his team’s extraction methods and the mouth-watering flavors of the food, it helps make cannabis approachable to newcomers. Bee Delightful’s mission also extends beyond the cannabis community, as proceeds from the dinners are donated to saving bees. With their recent event, Day estimates they’ll save around 250,000 bees, which is about 10 hives. As much as these pop-up dinners are about welcoming and educating more people to cannabis, it’s also about the bees.

“The best part about these dinners is that it introduces to this cannabis lifestyle change and experience, and at the same time it’s for a good cause. We’re saving bees,” Day said at the conclusion of the evening. “That’s the beauty of it. I get to cook for people and do exactly what I want to be doing, working with cannabis and cooking, and I get to save bees at the same time.”

Though perspiration still glistens on his face from cooking and running around as host, he can’t help but smile at the thought. Then he adds, “It couldn’t get better than that.”


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