Ganja Gastronomy

Presentation and connection is key with Cloth & Flame’s infused community dining events.
Cloth & Flame
Cassie Shortino (Guest Chef) and Ivo Knehnetsky (Dosing Expert), photo by Winona Grey

Consuming cannabis together with friends, loved ones, or even strangers, is a time-honored tradition. It’s a communal elevation of bodies and minds in a shared space as we seek connection and camaraderie. Inspired by this meaningful experience, Arizona-based Cloth & Flame creates unique cannabis-infused meals incorporating a scientific flair of molecular gastronomy that stretch the culinary possibilities of cannabis.

Cloth & Flame hosts private events, such as corporate gatherings or weddings, but it also offers popular limited ticket events as well (it’s important to note that some are centered around cannabis consumption, while others are not). Instead of operating from a single brick-and-mortar restaurant, Cloth & Flame’s dining experiences are hosted in a variety of unique locations, from historic buildings to stunning landscapes both in Arizona and in other states.

Cloth & Flame’s “Verde Series” in particular offers a communal cannabis experience with elaborate entertainment, atmosphere, and infused food to create an experience that diners will never forget.

Photo by Winona Grey

Founded in 2017 by husband-and-wife duo Matt Cooley and Olivia Laux, Cloth & Flame’s goal is to create unique experiences that unite attendees.

“People love to experience things like they belong to a community and they get to experience these beautiful places and it opens them up to each other,” Cooley says.

Behind the scenes of Cloth & Flame is a dedicated team of individuals working to ensure that their respective areas of focus deliver a spectacular impact. The result is an impressive display of themes, but Cooley explains that the guests themselves are always the most important part of the experience.

“Like they, the people attending, are actually the thing everyone else is experiencing the most fully,” Cooley says. “Our work is just kind of like, it’s a structure and a catalyst. It’s not the experience. The experience is the people.”

The first event in the Verde Series was entitled “Homegrown” and was held shortly after Arizona adult-use cannabis sales began in 2021. Other previous Verdes Series themes included “High Country,” “Flower to Table,” and “Hi Fi,” but the most recent ticketed cannabis event was the fifth, called “High Tea,” and was held at the 113-year-old building known as The Icehouse in Phoenix, Arizona on April 20-21.

Head in the Clouds, photo by Winona Grey

The High Tea event was limited to just over 100 guests. Within the grand entrance of The Icehouse, there was an installment of billowing clouds situated in front of an infinity mirror. Huge green curtains were hung around the space and the event began with a photo op consisting of moss-covered lawn chairs for tarot card and tea readings.

Upon arriving, attendees were served an infused beverage with a smoke bubble on top that popped when they took the first sip. The drink contained a 2 mg water-soluble THC distillate, a low dose that allowed consumers to gauge how much cannabis they’d like to consume further based on their personal tolerance and experience.

Cloth & Flame’s dining experience included an assortment of menu items that were thoughtfully crafted to represent the theme of High Tea. For that particular event, the multi-course meal was infused with cannabis products from Copperstate Farms, a Snowflake, Arizona-based cannabis company. Cloth & Flame’s chef Cassie Shortino and cannabis dosing expert Ivo Knehnetsky shed light on the thought and innovation behind some of the evening’s creative and nostalgic menu items.

“The whole dinner went back and forth between using CBD, THC, water-soluble THC, and water-soluble CBN in order for each guest to go on a little cannabinoid roller coaster,” Knehnetsky says. “The intention was that as the dinner progressed, each guest would feel the calming effects of CBD, then followed by the medicating effects of THC, finished with the sedative effects of CBN.”

“Passed bites” such as Copenhagen-style hot dogs (which contained 2 mg THC) were also available, an appetizer that Knehnetsky explains were inspired by his personal experience eating “some of the best hot dogs” he’s ever had in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“I had to recreate that moment of joy for this Verde Series dinner and did my best to include all the same toppings that I fell in love with in Copenhagen,” Knehnetsky says.

Smoke Show, photo by Winona Grey

Shortino credits culinary team member Kentin Cullymore as the creator of the warm Hokkaido milk buns (2 mg CBD) served with house-made jelly and butter that were served later at the table, describing the dish as “reminiscent of peanut butter and jelly.”

“Ivo and I designed the menu together and truly it was just a combination of ideas that would be delicious to eat high,” Shortino says. 

Other menu items included a taco salad bowl, cucumber mint popsicles, and prawn panang curry. One of the final items on the menu was a “Head in the Clouds” jasmine rose tea (2 mg CBD) that was served with a cloud of cotton candy on top that melted when hot water was poured into the cup.

More unique Cloth & Flame events such as the High Tea dinner are in development—keep an eye on their website for upcoming announcements.

This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

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