Is cannabis cuisine high-end dining, or just a passing craze?

More and more new restaurants and coffee shops are offering cannabis products as part of the menu.

By Michael MarksSeptember 21, 2022 1:56 pm, ,

A new coffee shop and restaurant plans to open soon in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. It’s called Wild Montrose. They’ll serve coffee and cocktails, brunch, and –  all with an optional twist. If you want, you can ask that your food or beverage be infused with cannabis derivatives, CBD or THC.

Using cannabis in cuisine is a growing trend in the restaurant world. But is this a gimmick, or is there a compelling culinary reason to use marijuana or its derivatives in a dish? Bao Ong, restaurant columnist for the Houston Chronicle, talked the trend over with the Texas Standard. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Is it, in fact, the case that more restaurants have started using cannabis in their food and drinks?

Bao Ong:  Absolutely. It’s a trend that we’ve been seeing for a few years now. You know, I think the bigger story, though, is that the use of CBD is part of this huge wellness industry that definitely plays a big role in the restaurant world today. There was one stat that I was reading recently that projected that the CBD industry would hit $16 billion in the U.S. by 2025.

But I’m curious, can you use cannabis as a spice to add something to a dish? Is there a culinary rationale behind this?

I think it’s more about the so-called wellness properties of CBD, which is very much in flux. There’s a lot of studies out there on both sides of the aisle. And the few times I’ve tried CBD — I actually tried a line of Martha Stewart Wellness Gummies a few years ago — it tasted like sugar to me. The CBD itself, the oil that you may use to infuse the dish, does not have its own unique flavor profile.

Of course, the fact that we’re talking about Martha Stewart and CBD, I mean, that says something unto itself, I suppose. But I wonder if the intent, most broadly, is that perhaps you can feel some of the psychoactive effects of the drug after you eat something that’s been infused with THC? Or is that really not the idea here? 

You know, I think people who want to achieve that high or some of the other side effects of marijuana would just go straight there. But I think the reason why CBD is so popular is because the wellness industry has really taken it on as one of the trends in health and wellness at the moment. You see Gwyneth Paltrow’s brand of Goop  sells a lot of products with CBD. You can find CBD candles, lotions, lip balm. And just how prevalent CBD is, even outside of restaurants, I think just shows that there’s this demand in the wellness industry. People are looking for things that address things like anxiety or people who have insomnia and they’re looking for ways to deal with it that they believe are healthy.

I was trying to think of a parallel trend. I mean, there are trends that come and go in food all the time, but I’m not sure that I can think of anything that’s quite like this. I guess that raises the question, are we talking about more of a fad, something that people are really buzzing about — no pun intended right now — but give it another year and there will be more eye rolls than anything else when it comes to infusing food with derivatives from marijuana? 

For right now I would put it into the fad category. I recently have seen CBD in cheeseburgers or even toothpicks INfused with CBD. And the studies haven’t really backed up the benefits, to a point where I feel that CBD is something that we will see ten years down the road, unless the studies say otherwise.

Having said that, I mean, what do you know about Wild? This is not their only shop, as I understand it. 

No, you know, they started off as a coffee shop. There was a dispensary component and a cocktail bar, as well. But this second location is probably Houston’s first legal, cannabis-infused dining experience that skews more on the fine dining side.

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