Guide to complementing your meal with the varied flavors and aromas of different cannabis strains.

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This time of year, many of us are pulling together menus for big meals, complete with wine and cocktails to pair, to enjoy with our family and friends. This holiday season, some adults in Washington state, and other areas where marijuana is now legal, may try adding something else to the festive meal mix: cannabis.

“Cannabis has a number of different strains, similar to different varietals of wine,” says Eric Gaston, co-founder of The Evergreen Market, a cannabis shop with locations in Auburn and Renton. “Now that cannabis is legal, we’ve been seeing increased interest in using cannabis the same way as you might wine and spirits, paired with food to elevate the dining experience in a new way.”

Thanks to the retail market consumers have ample opportunity to experience the varied flavors and aromas of different cannabis strains. Those flavor and aroma profiles are caused by different terpenes, basically essential oils that plants excrete that make them smell or taste in certain ways.

When pairing up cannabis with food and drink pay attention to matching these particular flavor profiles with certain foods. For instance, Gaston suggests trying an Indica strain called Kush, which has a terpene profile that’s earthy and herbaceous, with a thick steak cooked with mushrooms, the kind of meal you might regularly enjoy with a Bordeaux or a big cabernet.

If Italian food is on your holiday menu, try pairing the meal with some Afghani strain, another Indica which is known for its spicy, woodsy aroma and peppery taste.

For a more energizing experience – and a lighter meal – Gaston suggests matching a strain like Super Lemon Haze, a Sativa strain with lots of lemon flavor, with a white fish and a crisp white wine.

Suggested pairing methods

Unlike wine, the method of consuming cannabis can have a big effect on how successful your pairing is. Gaston suggests vaping instead of smoking cannabis if you want to enjoy the flavor profiles as you eat. “Your palate actually gets totally blown by the smoke, the same way if you smoke a cigar before dinner,” he says.

But if you prefer to smoke, or you just want a different experience, Gaston says try consuming the cannabis well in advance of the meal. “What I find is the effects of cannabis result in being a lot more present and focused on what you’re experiencing in that moment. For a foodie or a wine-lover this means you can really focus on what you’re consuming and experiencing. For many people, after you consume cannabis, things taste better, textures are more rich, colors are brighter and flavors are more vibrant,” says Gaston.

If you want a more involved method of mixing your cannabis with your holiday meals, (and are cooking for a game adults-only crowd) try incorporating cannabis oil or butter into the food itself. “Chefs have been doing this for private or pop-up events for years now, typically you’ll see a three-course meal prepared with cannabis butter or oil in many different ways,” says Gaston.

Just as you would if you’re vaping as you eat, try pairing strains with complementary flavor profiles into what you’re cooking, suggests Gaston. For example, use butter from a Kush strain in a mushroom tart, or the Super Lemon Haze in a soufflé. “Of course eating cannabis takes longer to absorb than smoking or vaping,” says Gaston. “So you won’t get as much of that mental engagement, at least at the beginning of the meal, but that’s offset by the unique experience of eating something that affects you differently and actually interacts with your food directly.”

A three-course cannabis-infused meal might be a little aggressive for those just trying food and cannabis pairing for the first time, but some methods are easier than others.

“We’ve got Christmas and New Year’s Eve coming up,” says Gaston. “Both holidays are terrific opportunities to experiment with edibles.”

From chocolate truffles to cannabis-infused cocktail mix, you can bring the cannabis to your bar cart or your dessert tray instead. Just be sure to keep the cannabis treats away from where kids might reach them.

“We have phenomenal chocolates and candies available now. The edibles market is probably the fastest growing part of our industry,” says Gaston.

One local brand, Craft Elixirs, sells cannabis syrups infused with organic fruit and cannabis oil that make great cocktails with a little extra something. “Instead of starting your Christmas meal with an Old Fashioned, you can try a Mo-weed-to, a shot of rum and 5 milligrams of blueberry elixir,” suggests Gaston. “You’ll start the evening off right, be relaxed with your company and later be engaged with your meal. The cocktails are a nice way to dip your toe in to trying cannabis to see if it’s something that makes sense for you.”

The Evergreen Market is committed to elevating the legal cannabis industry by providing a retail space where newbies and enthusiasts alike can shop for the very best cannabis that Washington state has to offer in an environment that fosters learning, exploration and joy.

DISCLAIMER: This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit-forming. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgement. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product. For use by adults twenty-one and older. Keep out of reach of children.