A California Farm Dinner
Inspired by a pioneer spirit and verdant agricultural landscape, California has always been the cultural home of the farm-to-table movement. Forty-seven years since Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, people continue to identify California with food and wine that is refined yet unencumbered. On a kitchen table or restaurant menu, agriculture that expresses a sense of place—with deference to organic standards—is what Californians want to consume and celebrate.
Cannabis has never been entirely absent from this rosy picture. Many are devoted to the practice of a pre-feast smoke to elevate the senses. But far from representing California’s bounty, cannabis has been prescriptively removed from accepted rituals of breaking bread. While passing a joint is fundamentally communal, it’s typically shared with micro-communities bound by discretion. Today, things have changed, a story we all know well. But beyond the dramatic shifts in cultural perception, cannabis is a fascinating plant. Just like a potato or pinot noir, cannabis can express itself in array of styles ranging from the mass-produced to the boutique. Also, like wine, there are various scales of measure: Do you prefer a strain by bud size, aromatics or physical and psychological effects? The variables are endless.
At the second annual Wine & Weed Symposium in Santa Rosa this August, the similarities between California’s two powerhouse agricultural industries were on display for the hundreds in attendance. An all-day event, breakout sessions with industry leaders covered cannabis tourism, legal options for tasting rooms, and direct-to-consumer marketing. Overall, the take-home message was that opportunity for collaboration between wine and weed are potentially endless yet still immensely fettered by legislation.
Stylishly wading into this emergent space, three wine industry professionals haven’t wasted any time finding creative ways to give cannabis a seat at the table: At “Terpenes and Terroir,” a wine country-style dinner following the symposium, industry leaders were given a glimpse of an inclusive—and delicious—future. Hosted by Jamie Evans of The Herb Somm, and Devika Maskey and Allison Kosta of TSO Sonoma, the three women have leveraged decades of collective wine industry experience to host canna-culinary events throughout the Bay Area. Events like Terpenes and Terroir are intended to educate consumers about the nuances of cannabis while highlighting the plant’s role in California’s culture of slow food and organic agriculture.
Held at Healdsburg’s rustic foodie temple, The Shed, the dinner opened with a green salad of sorrel and breakfast radishes paired with a dry sparkling rose to whet our appetites. Moving on to the first course, The Shed’s kitchen plated a generous boule of creamy burrata cheese with a bright handful of herbs, Armenian cucumber and sumac. Billed as the Sonoma course, the dish was smartly paired with a tropical Semillon produced by Alexander Valley’s Carpenter Wines. Cameron and Shannon Hattan of Fiddler’s Greens—the first permitted cannabis farm in Sonoma County—were invited to recommend a second pairing of their farm’s Pineapple Thai flower. As per most licensed cannabis events in California, “Terpenes and Terroir” was a non-consumption event; in a creative workaround, featured cultivators passed around their flower in wine glasses. With each pairing, guests enjoyed the fragrant terpenes of each cannabis selection, showcasing the provenance of each region, microclimate and farm.
For the second course, the hosts drew our imaginations further north with a pairing featuring roasted Diver scallops, a coastal pinot noir and Mendocino County’s legendary cannabis. The flower selection was Harmony Rose, a 1:1 THC:CBD strain cultivated by Emerald Spirit Botanicals and Flow Kana, offering a fragrant bouquet of cedar, rose petals and honey. A collective with stringent standards for sustainable practices, Flow Kana has helped numerous mom-and-pop cannabis farms stay competitive in the exploding cannabis industry. The enchanting aromas made the scallops and corn custard mutually decadent and medicinal, bookending the dish with herbal aromatics.
For the main course, The Shed’s kitchen truly shined with an imaginative wild king salmon served over roasted leeks, nettles, cranberry beans and chermoula, a green and garlicky Moroccan herb sauce. A full-bodied zinfandel from the Ellipsis Wine Company, and Coyote Blue, a proprietary strain from southern Humboldt’s Alpenglow Farms, rounded out the heady pairing.
As the sun set in Healdsburg that evening, small groups of new friends ducked outside to enjoy the fresh air and partake of the therapeutic rituals of a smoke break. No longer consigned to the back alley, lawyers, winemakers, farmers, writers and photographers openly enjoyed the fruits of California at face value. Making our way home under the Sonoma County stars, we were left with a nostalgic appreciation for California’s diversity and raw beauty. As they said goodnight to their guests, the Herb Somm and TSO Sonoma, who are savvy marketers, promised more unique and educational events soon—they know that the world is ready to experience California like never before.
Photography by Untold Creative Agency, Josh Semolik