May 19, 2017
By Nile Cappello | February 10, 2017 | Food & Drink
We explore the world of PopCultivate, a private dinner club in Los Angeles that infuses medicinal cannabis into a multi-course feast.
Following the vote to legalize recreational marijuana in California, the marijuana industry is gearing up for some major changes come January 1, 2018—what PopCultivate’s Chef Chris Yang calls the end of the cannabis “Prohibition Era.” As part of this sector’s growth in LA, we can expect to see an increasingly strong (and intuitive) relationship with the city’s thriving culinary scene; the opportunities for pop-ups, restaurants, and even food-marijuana combo delivery services feel both endless and exciting. In this, PopCultivate is ahead of the curve.
Even as a recreational and medical marijuana user, I was nervous at the idea of PopCultivate’s multi-course, medicated dinner. Despite singing the praises of the plant’s ability to help reduce my anxiety, get to sleep, and avoid taking (prescribed) Xanax, edibles frankly scare the s--- out of me. So a night guaranteed to get me stoned—for work—sounded like the recipe for a self-deprecating comedy, quite frankly.
As soon as I arrived at DTLA’s The Container Yard, a multi-purpose arts warehouse and common venue for PopCultivate dinners, I realized that this wasn’t just a friend from high school making pot brownies in her parents’ kitchen. This is the future intersection between marijuana and food industries in LA—and damn is it good. I attended PopCultivate’s ninth dinner, and it seems like they’ve got it down to a science: one part BYOB (beer and bud), one part medicated gourmet meal, one part arts exhibit, one part social event, and all parts for anyone with an open mind and an empty stomach.
“PopCultivate started as fun dinner parties for a small group of friends,” says founder Chris Yang. “After a few dinners, I realized it was a place for first timers to come and explore cannabis in a new way.”
The event I attended was themed “Coq Rouge” and centered around the Chinese New Year (2017 is the year of the rooster). Live artist Miki Yokoyama provided Asian-inspired patterns and murals as a backdrop to the modern Chinese menu, which encompassed things like lychee lemonade, pho soup dumplings, and Shanghai ox noodles. Though only every other dish is medicated, the organizers can omit the THC extract on any course or provide alternative dishes for dietary restrictions. One person at my table (who asked I refer to him as a “Young Fred Savage”) had Celiac Disease, and was able to get a medicated meal that fit his needs. It makes sense, considering the dinner club puts a premium on guest experience, and counts an event as a success only if attendees enjoy the food, make new friends, and, yes, get high. And if you’re a bit nervous about that last part like me and are envisioning tripping out, alone, in a room full of people you didn’t know, then don’t be. The amount of cannabis in the food will only provide a mellow, baseline high. Most guests supplemented the food with alcohol and joints, which can be smoked in a designated section.
“As the laws evolve in California and the rest of the country, our brand will continue to provide these experiences,” says host Patrick Brescia. “As we continue to grow the PopCultivate community, we're excited to welcome anyone new to our culture.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Shane Lopes