The group at the end of the meal, huddled up on the couches like bed bugs and laughing like old friends, had a level of shared intimacy unlike the mood at the start of the night. Eleven strangers, all working in cannabis and down for a good time, had come together for a gourmet infused meal by Trang Trinh and Peter Machalek, the brass at TREC Brands, which include WINK Cannabis, Blissed and the Thumbs Up Brand, and now we were all soaking in our warm fuzzies—tingling, not drunk; sober, but with a twist.
“Feels good, right?” said Trinh, who had orchestrated the evening like a divine composer, crafting THC:CBD ratios with Blissed cannabis oil to ensure that everyone stayed on the right side of pleasantly buzzed. “It’s not the kind of thing that will leave you hurting the next day or—when dosed correctly—leave you embarrassed by your behavior, but it’s a vibe that’s perfect for sharing an intimate evening with adult friends.”
Elevated infused dining is a nationwide trend and celebrity chefs from Jordan Wagman to Ted Corrado to Craig Harding have gotten involved with mixing cannabis and otherwise delectable meals. With minimal alcohol and a distinct level of trust, infused dining takes the ritual of sharing a joint between friends and elevates it to a four-hour happening, with a body buzz that’s slowly dispersed over time as opposed to a quick joint hit that might cause nervousness or anxiety. Infused dining feels good.
I feel ‘high,’ but not ‘stoned,’ and there’s a difference, I think.
“Eating is actually my favourite form of consuming,” said Naomi Miller, president of Agripharm, who sources the cannabis in both her indoor and outdoor growing facilities for TREC Brands. “I think the buzz is subtler, smoother and almost makes me feel slightly giddy. I feel ‘high,’ but not ‘stoned,’ and there’s a difference, I think.”
I once heard eating edibles described by a friend in the industry as that feeling you got when you were a kid and you came home from school and dropped off your heavy backpack. When the edibles kick in, the backpack has been released onto the living room floor.
At Trang’s epic evening, hosted at the home of Natasha Koifman, president of NKPR, we started with mushroom soup laced with either 5mg of THC or 13mg of CBD; then snacked on a kale salad with a CBD-infused vinaigrette. I had steak, with an infused squirt of chimichurri sauce and cauliflower, with a spritz of CBD. None of the doses were particularly heavy and the buzz came on slowly, like a character actor in a movie you love that you can’t get out of your mind. Both Trang and Pete are enthusiastic, frequent amateur chefs and the quality of the food—and their tangy infusions—were superb.
“This is the dish that turned into the dinner party,” said Trang, upon introducing her tuna tartare. I had the great good fortune of standing beside Zamina Walji, who’s the VP of consumer and retail strategy for Aurora, when Trang said those fateful words.
Walji was packing Aurora gummies, and I gratefully took a hit.
The evening began to feel really good.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that I’m no stranger to weed. I like to smoke in the evenings and have two children and run marathons, but I also love the way that cannabis makes me feel. I find it a shortcut to my empathy, and also, I like being buzzed. Always have. And I think that’s something I share with lots of cannabis consumers and also industry colleagues.
People at the dinner party, like Jeremy Stepak, the CFO of Greentank Tech, which makes vape hardware, and Greg Pantelic, CEO of Ahlot, which packages cannabis variety packs, vibed with me like old friends. Sure, the 5mg of THC-infused balsamic vinegar I drizzled on my brussel sprouts was helping, but also, like so often happens in the weed biz, I found myself pleasantly buzzing in a room full of cool people.
Roxy Earle is a partner with Blissed, the TREC line of female-focused products, and she was having such fun at the dinner that she was thinking of incorporating infused cooking into her upcoming birthday bash.
“I feel amazing and it’s healthy. I don’t have to drink a bottle of wine,” said Earle, mentioning that she drinks 60% less when there’s cannabis involved in her nights on the town.
Charles Khabouth knows everything there is to know about nights on the town. A guest at the dinner and board director at TREC, Khabouth is a legendary nightlife impresario around Toronto who’s made his name over the past thirty years. Khabouth thinks the next step for cannabis is consumption lounges. “We know that adults like to come together in social situations and consume products that help them feel good,” says Khabouth, who already has designs in place for what a cannabis lounge might look like. In the early 2000s, Khabouth used to run smoking lounges, where cigarette smokers could enjoy their products, and he’s made ventilation systems that would ensure that the venues wouldn’t stink. For Khabouth, however, cannabis lounges, like those that currently exist in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, would do more than provide adults with a place for entertainment—it would help fulfill a public need.
“I think if we had venues where cannabis consumers could use their products, it would help decrease the stigma that unfortunately still exists,” he said. “Great dinners like this tonight shouldn’t only be enjoyed by a select few. Infused dinners should be legally enjoyed by everyone in this country.”
We ended our infused adventure with chocolate mud pies from a cookbook that the TREC team has been working on with famed chef and cookbook author Rose Reisman. It was 10:30 p.m. and the snow was falling and we’d entered the music-playing portion of our infused night.
The group, former strangers, was now huddled up on the couches like third graders at a sleepover watching Frozen, smiling equally big—sipping red wine slowly, grinning from ear to ear. Brittany Trumper is a leader at Deloitte in their mergers and acquisitions cannabis practice, and the cool kind of suit who bridges the gap between cannabis consumers and companies and understands the 2.0 legal cannabis vibe. She told me she was feeling no pain.
“Look at us, lounging and hanging out. Having fun, with a mellow, delicious infused meal,” she said, smiling beside TREC’s Peter Machalek, who, as the night went on, began appearing to me more and more like the actor Stephen Dorff. Trumper said: “I think with leaders like Trang Trinh and Pete and their team at TREC Brands, there’s going to be a lot more amazing creations coming out of Canada’s legal cannabis scene. It’s been great so far, but look at this evening. I think the best is yet to come.”
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