The ever-changing cannabis climate in Toronto intrigues a food writer like myself, since I’m always seeking out new trends in the industry. You see, Canada’s current federal Liberal leader and political dreamboat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that by 2017, legislation would be introduced to legalize marijuana.
While this is all great news, it has caused a lot of confusion for recreational users. Conservative leader Rona Ambrose says the legality of marijuana is unclear to most Canadians, stating in one interview, “Everyone thinks it’s legal because Justin Trudeau has been elected, and he’s for legalizing pot,” however this is sadly not the case until this proposed legalization legislation materializes and becomes law.
When a mysterious invite arrived for a 420-friendly brunch, it was no surprise that the instructions emphasized discretion, saying, “please do not share this invite with anyone and please bring along a friend who you trust.” I’ve been incredibly excited to see how Canada’s cannabis culture would intersect with the local food and drink scene, and so I was curious to see how this high-end medicated munchie sesh would roll out.
With no clear indication of what one was registering for, the ticketing page hinted at the true nature of the event through clever puns and word use. After registration, an e-mail was immediately sent out with further instructions regarding the venue address, which would only be released 24-hours in advance. Shrouded in secrecy, this brunch reminded me of early ’90s raves, where one would call for information, never fully knowing all the details of what would be happening.
Understandably, discretion for these types of events is absolutely paramount, considering how cannabis users are oppressed by the state. In May, Project Claudia took place in Toronto resulting in 90 arrests and 186 charges of possession against several Toronto dispensary operators, so you can’t be too careful!
While Toronto is eager to crack into the potential of 420-friendly events, especially ones involving food, questions still remain around legality. I brought along my friend Brian, brand ambassador for Dovercourt Park Bakery, an edibles producer in Toronto, who I felt would be the perfect companion. We arrived at a house in downtown Toronto, where a backyard table was set for 15 guests. Each guest varied in their background and abilities, creating a lovely mixture of folks who were genuinely interested in learning how THC infusions could be done in a thoughtful manner. Quickly transforming into a safe space, this backyard allowed 15 strangers to come together to experience something special, ask questions about the industry and get medicated.
Instead of devolving into the stoner clichés you might expect, this brunch was a classy, high-end affair. Before bringing out the first course, Chef Middleton launched into an explanation of why it was important for these chefs to teach their guests more about sharing and ingesting cannabis responsibly, while tasting the entire flavor profile of the Pink Kush strain featured at this event. Most endearing about this introduction was how much Middleton shared about how he and the other chefs are still learning about how to cook with cannabis. It made the brunch feel like a special moment, the beginning of an epoch.
From there, Chef Langley started service with a THC-laced Eggs Benedict, using a cannabis butter worked into the hollandaise sauce as well as the biscuit. The sauce had a very subtle flavoring that didn’t overwhelming the palate. Each bite gave way to a hint of the Kush it was infused with, whereas the biscuit had a green tint but no Kush aftertaste. It was everything you’d want in a breakfast, only a bit more lifted!
Next, Chef Gonzalez passed around a video of his self-smoking swordfish technique, which involved exhaling a large blunt into the barbecue! Our next dish, a sopa de pescado with cannabis, utilized this self-smoking method throughout, along with considerable time spent smoking the fish and vegetables in the barbecue with Pink Kush. The resulting stew was a heavy hitter in every sense of the word! With each bite, it was hard to believe it had any weed additives in it, as the flavor was subtle and gentle, with hints of Kush seemingly there.
After the second course, I began to feel the euphoric effects of the THC as the deeper effects lifted me higher and higher. I felt amazingly good as a serious case of the munchies was beginning to kick in—just as Chef Middleton rolled out with some non-medicated mini pizzas covered in tons of cheese, which were consumed with great gusto.
For the final course, Middleton decided to play on a childhood favorite, making THC-infused chocolate-chip cookies served alongside plain ol’ regular milk. Sitting outside in the backyard, watching the setting sun while sipping on cups of milk and nibbling cookies, the experience really illustrated just how far marijuana enthusiasts have come.
Normalizing marijuana throughout North America will still require a lot of work to be done, but if these chefs have proven anything, it’s that marijuana can be infused into any dish and paired with any flavor, technique and texture. 420-friendly events like these serve a larger purpose, changing the conversation while shifting the perception of who cannabis users truly are and shattering stereotypes about how we can enjoy this marvelous plant.
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