Dude, They’re Putting Pot in More Than Brownies

Any slacker living over his parents’ garage can make pot brownies. Gourmet chefs are taking the art of cooking with marijuana to a higher level.

In Denver, a new medical-marijuana shop called Ganja Gourmet serves cannabis-infused specialties such as pizza, hummus and lasagna. Across town in the Mile-High City, a Caribbean restaurant plans to offer classes on how to make multi-course meals with pot in every dish.

And in Southern California, a low-budget TV show called “Cannabis Planet” has won fans with a cooking segment showing viewers how to use weed in teriyaki chicken, shrimp capellini and steak sandwiches.

The evolution of pot cooking was perhaps inevitable given the explosion of medical marijuana around the country in recent years. Many health-conscious patients would rather eat the drug than smoke it. And they would prefer to eat something other than sugary treats.

“When I started using marijuana, I was eating a brownie every day. I gained a ton of weight,” said Michael DeLao, a former hotel chef who hosts the “Cannabis Planet” cooking segments on Los Angeles’ KJLA. “Then I learned how to really cook with marijuana, and once more people learn about all the possibilities, we’re going to see a lot more people wanting this in their food.”

Ganja Gourmet’s menu includes lasagna (“LaGanja”), “Panama Red Pizza” and an olive tapenade called “ganjanade,” along with sweets such as cheesecake, muffins and brownies. Employees wear tie-dyed T-shirts that proclaim, “Our food is so great, you need a license to eat it!!!”

All patrons at the Ganja Gourmet must show a medical marijuana card that proves they have a doctor’s permission to use pot for some kind of malady. The place opened last week, and so far, 90 percent of its business has been takeout.

The food isn’t cheap. A whole pizza sells for $89, and a dozen sweet treats called Almond Horns cost $120.

“The food is really good,” said Jamie Hillyer, a 41-year-old medical marijuana patient who paid $12 for a serving of vegetable LaGanja. Hillyer said that he can’t taste the weed in the food and that it gives him a “more mellow” buzz than smoking pot.

Chefs are able to use marijuana in cooking because its key ingredient, the mind-altering drug THC, is fat-soluble, meaning it binds with oils or fats.

Marijuana chefs put leaves or buds in a food processor and grind the marijuana into green flour. Then they add the flour to oil or butter, cook it slowly for up to a couple of days while the THC binds to the fat, and strain out the green flakes.

The result is “cannabutter,” or butter that makes a diner high. Chefs say 2 teaspoons of cannabutter typically contain the amount of THC in an ounce of weed.

The pot-infused oils and butters have a greenish tint and an earthy taste, but chefs say the flavor can easily be masked with garlic or other herbs and spices.

Denver’s 8 Rivers Modern Caribbean restaurant does not serve pot-infused food, but its husband-and-wife owners, Scott Durran and Wanda James, plan to offer cooking-with-marijuana classes starting next month. They also own a medical marijuana dispensary, which they hope will eventually offer take-home soups and roasted chicken.

Marijuana chefs say it takes 20 minutes to two hours for the pot-laced food to produce a high. The biggest problem, they say, is that users often eat too much, thinking the food isn’t working. While you can’t exactly overdose on marijuana food, people who eat too much may feel more sluggish or disoriented than they would like.

So at Ganja Gourmet, customers are allowed to eat only one menu item every 45 minutes.

(The drug takes so long to start working that there’s little chance of a customer developing a case of the munchies and getting hungrier the more he ate.)

Ganja Gourmet owner Scott Horowitz tried to get liability insurance of the sort bars take out to protect themselves against damage caused by intoxicated patrons. But he said he couldn’t find any insurers selling similar coverage for pot shops.

Ganja Gourmet does offer customers a ride home if they need one. “If someone leaves my place wasted, I’m liable,” Horowitz said.

Horowitz’s liability worry may be short-lived. Denver’s City Council is considering an ordinance banning dispensaries from allowing marijuana to be smoked or eaten on site.

– Article from Associated Press on December 17, 2009.

Comments

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous on

    I mix my alcohol extracted hash oil into cooking oil or butter and then use as called for in any recipe.

  2. Anonymous on

    …oh that is terrible news, his column used to be a favorite of mine.

  3. Anonymous on

    That’s disappointing. When I make butter, I use a coffee press to ensure there is not plant material left. I’ve had brownies where it was just mixed in, I’m sure it’s fine for some people but I really don’t like it. This guy sounds like he’s in it just to make a quick buck.

  4. Samuel on

    I am a legal medical patient who lives in Denver; I have visited the Ganja Gourmet. I wanted to like their food and service, I really did, but after a few visits I have been forced to a few conclusions:

    1. The owner does not know how to cook.
    2. The owner does not know how to cook ganja.

    The food is incredibly overpriced and disappointingly lacking in potency. The pizzas are simply pre-made and then sprinkled with raw flowers; there is no canna-oil in the crust or any other form of processed marijuana. At nearly $100.00 each, you will be lucky of you and two other people are able to feel as if you got your money’s worth.

    The sweets were by far the biggest disappointment: the chocolates contain large amounts of raw, difficult to chew and swallow buds, often side-by-side with even thicker additions like peanut butter. A PB cup was supposed to be two servings: one half was too rich, tasted too much like raw ganja, and then failed to deliver any noticeable medicinal effect. I downed the other half with a cup of coffee about a half an hour later and was still left quite disappointed with the results, especially considering the price I paid for the snack.

    The owner is a “character”: he dresses like he just left a Wisepread Panic show and will introduce himself as “Steve Weed” (really!). If your girlfriend (or you) is young and pretty, he will make sure to circle around her a few times while he speaks, so he can give her the ole up-and-down lechery. I’ve seen him do it more than once.

    The saturation of the Colorado medical market seems to mean that there are a lot of people trying to make medibles who have never even spent much time in a kitchen: just like it is very difficult to grow good medical-grade cannabis without studying plant science, you cannot make delicious, effective medibles without knowing quite a bit about baking.

    I will stick with my lovely girlfriend’s homemade ganja-cinnamon rolls, I think, and let Steve Weed sell his overpriced pizzas and snacks to those with more money and less experience.

    Sorry. I know it’s a big deal that this place is open….but I just can’t give it a positive review at this point.

  5. Anonymous on

    Chef Ra passed away some time ago. He was a great man. Lets all have a toke for Chef Ra.

  6. Anonymous on

    I just love this idea! Where’s Chef Ra these days?