Here, on a patio at cocktail hour, there are joints laid out like truffles on a platter. Along with the wine from Los Olivos–based Habit Wine Company, there are small vials inscribed with the name of this evening’s host, Flow Kana, which recently launched across the L.A. dispensary market. The joint we’re currently being offered is a CBD-based blend called Balanced in the Pines, from Red Tail Ranch, and is intended, says Adam Steinberg, Flow Kana's head of business development, to give us a nice, even-keeled high before dinner.
Balanced Between the Pines does its job. Its buzz is euphoric and chatty. At seated booths, and clustered across the cobblestones, a cross-section of Los Angeles' upper-crust eccentricity is engaged in conversation. Chefs Chris Ho and Steven Fretz have prepared appetizers such as Flamin' Hot Kimchi Fried Rice Balls, which are being passed around. Young and hungry investment executives — many of them freshly transplanted from the Bay Area — puff away on the heady mix alongside today’s agriculture elite: the hip and tan proprietors of Mendocino’s fabled marijuana farms. Flow Kana is a cannabis label produced by a collective of farmers in the area’s famed “Emerald Triangle.” Unlike much of the flower generally available in the Los Angeles area, its buds are, in Flow Kana's words, “sun-grown … embracing California values and the small-farmer ecosystem.”
Just as the climate of Central California has proven ideal for the growth of certain wine grapes, the temperate and sometimes foggy topography of Mendocino County has become yet another testament to California’s generous soil. Pressed into hiding in the area in the 1970s, marijuana farmers soon found that the varied microclimates of the Emerald Triangle region yielded distinctive and reliable strains, which could be influenced by environmental factors such as fog or a pond nearby the crop.
The presumed passage of Proposition 64 in California has sparked fears among some members of growing communities that the sudden arrival of Big Business in the cannabis space will shut out small-batch proprietors. By joining forces under a collective like Flow Kana, small farmers in Mendocino, who have crafted the art of cannabis production in the remote and picturesque folds of California’s northern region, hope to work together to compete in the impending market boom.
Flow Kana intends to bring its intimate earth-to-consumption connection from Northern California to L.A. According to Steinberg, the love of small organic farming runs deep in the veins of many of the small-batch producers he works with. Many Flow Kana farmers use cannabis as a subsidy crop, which allows them to grow less profitable crops such as small-batch vegetables. Scattered throughout tonight's party are virtual reality headsets, which present an immersive digital view of the green hills where the seeds of our buzz were sown. One of the fun-loving investors nearby tells me Samsung has just released a new kind of virtual reality — as a promo for the HBO show "Westworld" — that will put what I just saw to shame.
There is an cultural overlap between the communities of tech and cannabis — the brainchildren of the Golden State. Both are young, lucrative and filled with rising pockets of wealth and innovation. There is a smart obsession with design showcased by many of canna-tech’s most promising new companies. At my table, the proprietor of Hmbldt vape pens passes around a sample of his product. His pens come in four "Outcomes," he says: bliss, sleep, calm, and relief. He’s offering us bliss. It is a sleek, aerodynamic pen that vibrates when you’ve consumed exactly 2.25 mg of vape. When the predinner video Flow Kana has prepared to play freezes, someone nearby scoffs, “This is why you need Silicon Valley in L.A.”
The flower we smoke with the salad course is Blue Dream, grown out of Blue Racer Ranch. Blue Dream is arguably the most reliable sativa, but, as the growers say to the crowded banquet hall before we dig into it, “There is something special about ours.” The high-frequency buzz pairs wonderfully with the tanginess of the butter salad’s sesame soy vinaigrette.
To fully experience notes of the joints being passed to us, we are instructed to smell the flowers pressed into the rolling paper before we light up. The bright flavors in the marijuana open up my palate for the playful textures and levels in Ho and Fretz’s "saku tuna takaki," which include elements such as "compressed apples" and "crispy fried Spanish onions."
The fried chicken and cabbage coleslaw course that follows is similarly exhilarating, as is the round of Lemonhead OG from Green Mountain Farm that’s passed out to keep our stomachs settled and our appetites whetted. Across loud, smoky, candlelit tables, strangers postulate about the future, chuckle, pitch their current incubating business.
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SHOW ME HOW
Before the dessert course, chefs Ho and Fretz emerge to address us. They are happy and grateful, and maybe a bit drunk and stoned. We laugh along with them and clink our wine glasses to cheers before their sweet brioche doughnuts with triple-fermented brown butter glaze are set down. The brown butter notes are in the “burnt” range — inspired, the chefs say, by the flavor profile of Sour Diesel.
I unapologetically grab for one, dipping it generously in glaze, which is thick like hot wax. I close my eyes so I can focus on the sweetness melting heavily into my tongue. I go slowly, because I never want this doughnut to be over. It is a rare luxury to taste firsthand the things that have been made by people who actually care.