If you happened to take a twilight stroll through downtown's industrial district last Friday, you may have spied a wild figure waltzing along the cracked asphalt, between the art houses, coffee galleries and bombed-out warehouses.
He was dressed in mismatched knee-high socks, a navy blue coat, a gold-rimmed admiral's cap, a fake mustache and a pair of black spectacles, all which made him look something like a jollified Hideki Tojo.
The man called himself Commodore Booty McHooters, official guide of the "We Love Lionel Ritchie Walking Tour," tasked with leading columns of bewildered fans on a short walk from one super-secret meeting place to an even more secret factory/loft dining room. Depending on how your 4/20 transpired, this may or may not have been the strangest thing you saw all day.
All of it was a clever ruse though — a elaborate red herring used to cover the tracks of the evening's true purpose. The "Commodore" was, in fact, Starry Kitchen owner Nguyen Tran, and the "tour" was the second iteration of the Laurent Quenioux-Starry Kitchen collaboration billed as the "LQ@SK Weed+Chinese Herb Dinner."
And those Lionel Ritchie fans? They were the 100 diners who had managed to snap up a coveted reservation weeks earlier. Most of them appeared to be attracted by the idea of high cuisine rather than high times (though a few Snoop Dogg tees were visible in the crowd).
The five-course dinner, along with potent cocktail pairings by Josh Goldman, fulfilled the pipe dreams of the crowd with great aplomb. There was silky bantam chicken with fresh cannabis leaves, a gooey onion-bacon-cannabis tart, monkfish with cannabis-epazote pesto congee, spare ribs and pork belly with cauliflower gremolata, and a fragrant osmanthus panna cotta dusted with powdered cannabis soil.
Like the previous dinner, the addition of cannabis was intended to serve as an exotic seasoning rather than a mood-alerting substance — food indebted to Splichal more than Spiccoli.
Yet the most glaring difference between the original Starry Kitchen "herb dinner" — an intimate 30-guest affair held about a month ago at a hillside Encino home - and this night's ambitious extravaganza was the sheer crush of media coverage.
In attendance were no less than two local news crews, a Scandinavian press agency, a reality TV outfit and about half a dozen photographers. Even your grandmother might have watched the "4/20 dinner" segment during the 11 p.m. news. Now that's publicity.
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Tran, relieved that the event was pulled off without DEA infiltration, adamantly insisted that this would be the last of the dinners. Considering the labor-intensive production seems ripe to veer into Woodstock '99 territory, this appeared to be a wise choice.
Someday it's hoped that Los Angeles might be able to host legal cannabis-based banquets large and well publicized enough to pack the Hollywood Bowl, but until then, it looks like nothing green can stay.