The waning ritual of a home-hosted communal meal, à la the classic dinner party, is back with a major revamp thanks to the growing legalization of cannabis. One of the women at the helm of this burgeoning movement is chef Andrea Drummer, Los Angeles’s go-to personal chef for cannabis-infused haute cuisine. After pursuing a long-held passion for cooking after years of working as a drug counselor for nonprofits like Planned Parenthood—an irony not lost on Drummer—the Le Cordon Bleu–trained chef now sings the praises of incorporating the herb in the kitchen: “I want to offer a different perspective. I was a staunch advocate against cannabis and now wholeheartedly, with every fiber of my being, believe it should be legalized globally. Consuming cannabis and dining are a perfect marriage to me. It’s a new way to engage the possibilities of alternative medicine and to engage with friends, really engage. That’s the beautiful thing: At every dinner I’ve hosted there’s no one on their phone. You may have a few people take Snapchats of the food at the beginning, and then away goes the phone. Everyone is engaged with each other and learning and having the greatest time.”
Guests lucky enough to procure a coveted invitation to the secret monthly tastings (it’s invite-only with a four-month wait list) enjoy a curated menu tailored around their individual palate and desired high. Craving something savory with the repose of an indica strain? Perhaps the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese with étouffée sauce and bacon bit garnishes will do the trick. Looking to satiate that sweet tooth and get the creative juices bubbling? Have some brûléed bread pudding with caramel sauce, Chantilly cream, and seasonal berries, infused with Girl Scout cookies. It’s a welcome reprieve from the limitations of potent hash brownies and shoddily rolled smokes while creating a new way for people to connect. Plus, all ingredients are organic and locally sourced through Drummer’s dispensary Elevation VIP Cooperative, offering diners all the fun without morning-after gluttonous guilt. Hosting dinners may be on the decline and the perpetual temptation of takeout looms strong, but as exemplified by Drummer’s gatherings and rave reviews to boot, there’s no elixir quite like the intimacy born from good company and freed inhibitions over a fine meal.
Here, the chef shares her ultimate tips for throwing a dinner sure to satisfy taste buds and simultaneously transport you to a comfortable high, as well as a few recipes to get you started.
Give Careful Thought to Your Guest List
“For me, food is communal, as is cannabis. So when I do a chef’s table I’m curating the experience. I’m bringing together a very select few people, but I’m also vetting them to see what their interests are, their perspectives, how open they are to different topics, whether it’s pop culture, science, entertainment, politics, whatever the matter. It’s very intentional. I start there, then I want to introduce conversation and dialogue. We’re not only coming together eating, we can come together on varied topics and just communicate, even if we have opposing views. Often we’re afraid to have these dialogues, but to move forward and grow and unify it’s necessary. That’s the intent, unity. It’s the perfect platform to do so.”
Everyone Loves a Theme
“One of the past themes was ‘Make America Great’ not ‘great again’ but making America great. The menu was in alignment with the theme. Every course was of a different ethnicity or culture. There was a representation of Mexican culture, Southern and Creole culture, my French training, and Asian culture. The cohesion was perfect, nothing was out of sync or out of balance, nothing was disruptive. All the dishes flowed together perfectly. We can all exist in harmony. If the food can do it, surely us free-thinking people can figure it out.”
Have a Few Talking Points
“Have some talking points just to engage. People will get giddy and more open, and freer, and that’s a good thing.”
Know What’s in Your Kitchen
“Whether you’re using an oil, a butter, or tinctures, understand your product—where it comes from, the levels of THC, and how to properly dose the food. It gets rather science based, but it’s a great importance. You want your friends to have a positive experience.”
Create a Menu
“Menus are provided with every dinner, of course. I start with a simple rundown of what a basic to mild dose is for the average person, which is anywhere from 10 to 25 mg, followed by the dosage of each course. It’s helpful for your guests to understand how much THC they’ll be consuming throughout the evening.”
Moderation Is Key
“I approach cannabis similarly to any strong seasoning or spice I’d put in food. In no case would you want to have a cup of soup that has way too much garlic or way too much rosemary. You want it to complement all the other components in the dish. Why would I want you to have this overtly pungent flavor that overwhelms the dish?”
Pair Dishes With the Appropriate Strain
“It goes back to treating cannabis like an ingredient. You want to pair strains with the food that complements it. If I use Lemon Haze, I want to pair it with something vibrant that may enhance the flavor, so I do that often with my dressings. You don’t want something pungent like a Sour Diesel or another loud strain with a delicate dessert or pastry. I’d instead use it on a mole or stew, or something with a bit more body. Blue Dream is one of my favorite strains because it’s a hybrid and a sativa dominant, so it offers a more euphoric feeling. It has some blueberry notes and citrus tones, so it pairs really well with dessert but also goes great with savory.”
Set the Vibe With Good Ambiance
“It’s important, particularly for people indulging for the first time in years or in general, to create an atmosphere that feels safe and comfortable. You want to be amongst friends or just good energy, even if you’re around people you’re not greatly familiar with. I want my guests to feel that level of comfort in every aspect. Often I will have a masseuse on staff for dinner guests who feel anxious or those just looking to enhance the experience. If we’re outdoors I may string Christmas lights around. If it’s indoors, low lighting. Sometimes I do candles, depending on the theme. I may have a playlist going coordinating with the theme, and even that can be a conversation starter among guests.”
Prepare Yourself for Questions
“Millennials are very inquisitive. They want to know and understand the details: Where is it grown? What are the healing properties? What are the THC levels? Is it CBD rich? They’re young, they’re savvy, they’re foodies and artists in their own right so being able to educate and engage on that level is great. I want people to be informed enough to create their own experience in the privacy of their home. We have movements like What the Health, and we’re becoming much more conscious of what we put in our bodies, especially in California. We want to know if our products are organic or outdoor grown. We want to be more educated not just about where our chicken is coming from but also where our bud is coming from.”
Add an Extra Touch With Fresh Flowers
“Sometimes I’ll add flowers to the setting. I just found a woman who does floral centerpieces and incorporates bud. She’s used everything from artichokes, hydrangeas, broccoli sprouts, and fruits mixed in with different greenery and bud. They’re really beautiful.”
Have Guests Use a Car Service Home
“Elevation VIP maintains a basic partnership with Uber, offering dinner guests discounts on their first ride. To that end, I strongly encourage all guests to use a car service when indulging in an Elevation VIP (or any other cannabis) dining experience.”
Cucumber Watermelon Salad & Infused Pomegranate Reduction
Yields 6 servings at 7.5 mg of THC per serving
• 6 2×4 inch watermelon rectangles
• 6 fennel stems
• Kosher salt
• 12 2×4 slices of cucumber
• 6–8 tsp of feta cheese
• 2 cups of pomegranate juice
• 1 cup balsamic vinegar
• 1 cup of pistachios (crushed)
• 1 tbsp red pepper corn (crushed)
• Quarter gram sachet of cannabis material
Place three watermelon rectangles in a plastic bag along with few pinches of salt and pink ½ tsp of pink pepper corns. Vacuum seal the bag. Repeat and refrigerate overnight.
In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar and pomegranate juice to a boil over high heat. Add the cannabis product sachet, cook for 2 minutes then lower the temperature to a simmer. Reduce mixture by one half (1½ cups). Remove from heat, discard sachet, and allow it to cool.
Remove watermelon rectangles and pat dry. Plate it by layering a few pearls of the pomegranate reduction onto the top of the watermelon rectangle. Follow it up with two slices of cucumber, a thin layer of feta cheese, a thin layer of pistachios, and finish with a sprinkling of finely crushed pink peppercorn. Add reduction to finished plate.
*For plating, pour the mixture into a small squeeze bottle **Recipe based on product containing 18% THC
Yields 8 servings at 14.965 mg per serving
• ¼ cup oil
• ¼ cup butter plus 4 tablespoons butter reserved
• ½ tbsp clean cannabis butter
• ½ cup flour, plus extra flour as needed to form a paste
• 1½ cup yellow onion (chopped)
• ½ cup green bell pepper (chopped)
• 3 garlic cloves (minced)
• 2 bay leaves
• ½ tsp white pepper
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
• 1 tsp Cajun seasoning or to taste
• 3-5 dashes hot sauce or to taste
• 4 cups lobster stock (reference cookbook)
• 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
• 1 tsp salt
• 4 lobster tails (halved)
• ½ cup minced green onions, plus extra for garnish
• ½ cup fresh parsley leaves (minced)
To make the roux, melt butter (include cannabis butter at this point) with oil in a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk flour into the oil to form a paste; cook over low heat, whisking continuously until the mixture turns a caramel color and gives off a nutty aroma, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic, and cook over low heat until the vegetables are limp, about 5 minutes.
Add the black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, green onions, parsley, and hot sauce to taste. Add lobster stock, tomatoes with their juice, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until mixture thickens.
Add lobster and cook for 3-5 minutes, being careful not to overcook. Remove from heat, add the 4 tablespoons reserved butter, and stir to melt. Garnish with the green onions and parsley and serve over steamed rice.
Sweet Tea Crème Brûlée
Yields 8 servings at 15 mg per serving
• 1 cup infused heavy cream
• 3 cups heavy cream
• ¾ cups sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
• 7 large egg yolks
• ¼ tsp kosher salt
• 2 Lipton tea bags
Prepare oven and baking dishes: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Bring a kettle or pot of water to a boil. Place eight 5-ounce baking dishes in a large roasting pan.
Gently heat cream: In a medium saucepan, combine cream and half the sugar (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons). Scrape vanilla bean seeds into pan, then add pod. Add tea bags. Heat over medium heat just until mixture starts to bubble around the edge of the pan, 7 to 8 minutes, making sure it doesn’t boil. Remove tea bags.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl with salt and remaining sugar.
Temper eggs: Use ladle to pour a small amount of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, and then whisk to combine, making sure to prevent the eggs from curdling. Add two more ladles of cream mixture, one at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Gradually whisk in remaining cream mixture. Strain through a fine sieve into a large liquid measuring cup (to remove the vanilla pod and any bits of cooked egg).
Bake: Divide custard evenly among baking dishes. Place pan in oven. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake until custards are just set, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Chill: Remove pan from oven. Use tongs to carefully remove dishes from hot-water bath and place on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Then, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (or up to 3 days) before serving. The custard will finish setting in the refrigerator.
Caramelize tops and serve: Sprinkle raw sugar over each custard. Working with one at a time, pass the flame of the torch in a circular motion 1 to 2 inches above the surface of each custard until the sugar bubbles, turns amber, and forms a smooth surface. Serve immediately.