July 4, 2015
If you go…
What: Sensational Fusion Experience with Cultivating Spirits — a food, wine and cannabis pairing experiences
When: Saturdays from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Cost: $249 per person.
More information: Cultivating Spirits also does cannabis tours, private parties and more. See cultivatingspirits.com.
While fine cuisine has its gourmands and wine has its oenophiles, the names for those who appreciate marijuana are not quite as favorable. Pothead. Stoner. The nicknames bring up less than glowing connotations, right?
Philip Wolf, who has been on the business end of the Colorado cannabis industry since its beginnings, took notice of that and wanted to add a new term to the list — cannabis connoisseur.
"(I wanted) to show this sophisticated side of the cannabis culture. Middle America probably sees the standard stoner culture and that's their idea of what it's all about. We wanted to put it on the same level as wine," Wolf said. "I said, 'Let's do cannabis pairings like we do wine pairings. Let's make this a culinary trend.' Turns out people are really intrigued. We've gotten so much publicity about it."
Wolf and his business partners started Cultivating Spirits in 2014 in Summit County. The idea was to provide people with a luxury experience that paired food, wine and cannabis into a high-end (pun intended) night on the town.
Cultivating Spirits offers a number of products and programs, from private parties to running the cannabis component of Durango's new Bud+Breakfast cannabis camp. However, their signature offering is the weekly Sensational Fusion Experience, where guests are picked up in an Escalade limousine and start the evening off with a cooking demonstration at the Cultivating Spirits Eatery, or dining room. From there, a guide will take the group to a marijuana dispensary (where participants can purchase some to try) and a private wine tasting at a local liquor store. From there, guests get a driving tour of Summit, during which they can enjoy what they bought at the cannabis store while their guide walks them through the best way to smoke and experience marijuana. (Colorado laws prohibit smoking in the dining room.) Then, everyone heads back to the Eatery for a lavish three-course meal.
Like fine wine
While the tour is designed so that participants don't have to worry about a ride home or other logistics of drinking and smoking, it's also not an excuse to go completely wild. In fact, Wolf says they discourage guests from overconsuming, and thus feeling sick. Instead, knowledgeable guides are there the entire night to teach guests the best ways to maximize their experience.
As for pairing cannabis with food, Wolf insists that different kinds of cannabis can complement the flavors of certain foods. Most people don't know that terpenes are the compounds in marijuana that give it its smell, and Wolf walks his clients through identifying and appreciating the varied terpenes.
"You go through the proper way to taste cannabis to really allow you to identify the terpenes," he said. "You can think of terpenes as essential oils and how those give you different moods. It's important to know when you are using cannabis so you can know what you're going to feel. You can smoke with intention."
Eagle-Vail resident Sean Palmer went to one of the weekend experiences earlier this year and said he came away amazed. (As a disclaimer, Palmer heard about Cultivating Spirits through doing some digital work for the company. He decided to try out the experience for himself as part of a milestone celebration with a friend.)
"I'm by no means a pothead, but I appreciate that Colorado allows us some adult freedoms without guilt. A lot of us got our pot education in high school or at a party when the parents were away, and I feel like this was a real education," Palmer said. "We were given a fresh, clean pipe and our own lighter, and we were taught the proper way to smoke so we could allow ourselves to taste it and enjoy the taste. I realized there were elements of cannabis that I never knew about."
That's the point, says Wolf, who encourages guests to be mindful the entire time about what they're eating, drinking or smoking.
"They truly see cannabis in a different way when they leave," he said, adding that the night includes wine education and that the food is local, organic and fresh. "It's a reoccurring theme about what you're putting in your body and doing that responsibly."
A night out
The events are not cheap — $249 per person — but in its second summer, the cannabis experiences have been very popular.
Palmer said the night was just as much about luxury and a great night out on the town as it was about smoking pot.
"It's for anyone who just wants a day of relief, and it's a night out that you don't have to worry about anything. You'll be wined, dined, entertained," he said.
Wolf says the events have drawn an even mix of locals looking for a special event and out-of-state tourists curious to experience Colorado's pot culture. Cultivating Spirits also does private in-home parties in both Eagle and Summit counties.
"We've done quite a few of those in the Vail area, and they're great because we'll do cannabis-pairing dinners at people's houses, where you can actually consume it in a private setting. We've done parties where we've brought in live artists and DJs to play music accompanying the dish you're tasting. It's a unique way to throw a really cool party," Wolf said.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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