Have you ever wished you could be like Alice and take a trip to Wonderland?  Last July, two San Francisco based cannabis collectives teamed up to bring a whimsical cannabis infused afternoon in Wonderland to life!  We interviewed Stephany from Flour Child Collective, a craft creator of local and organic edible jams and topicals, on the details and inspiration behind San Francisco’s first Mad High Tea Party!

LOVE AND MARIJ:  WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR EVENT?

STEPAHNY:  It was a few weeks after we had initially launched Flour Child and we had recently partnered up with our first collective, The Hepburns– a small, SF-based producer of solvent-less ice water hash-infused, pre-rolled joints. We wanted to put on a few gatherings for the community that focused on celebrating cannabis and incorporating it into safe, positive social settings.

Allie Butler, the founder of Hepburns, was very inspired by Alice in Wonderland when designing her packaging, and it has always been one of my favorites, too. So, we decided that the first event we did together would have to be an Alice in Wonderland-inspired “Mad Tea Party”. Thus, the Mad High Tea Party was born.

LOVE AND MARIJ:  Take us through all of the details of what you put together and why!  (Any particular pairings you were excited about?)

STEPHANY:  My partner Akhil Khadse and I met while working in NYC restaurants; I was a pastry cook and he had been cooking in some of NYC’s best restaurants for 15 years.  We had always dreamed about doing a high-end cannabis tasting, so initially, we had talked about doing a tasting menu, with a series of infused, plated courses and terpene-paired joints and cannabis cocktails to pair with. However, even in San Francisco, it was challenging to find an affordable place where we could hold something like this.  A friend generously lent us her family’s backyard garden and home in Potrero Hill, so we decided to make it more of a casual-yet-fantastical elevated garden tea party affair.

For our research, we read some of Lewis Carroll’s poems and of course, watched the Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland.”  Alice in Wonderland is full of food references and Pinterest is full of Alice in Wonderland-inspired parties.  Culturally, Alice has become a reference to psychedelics and things being not quite what they seem.  We wanted to make a menu that was whimsical, playful, trippy and a bit surprising.

Rather than add cannabis to all of the food, we decided to offer a few medicated elements that guests could add to their plates, if desired, and easily control their own dosage.  Allie rolled a flight of Hepburns deluxe, complete with custom-blown glass tips, to pass around.  She chose flowers and hashes to pair with each dish, based on terpenes & flavors, much like a sommelier would pair wine.

To start, we had “Bread and Butterflies”- a platter of our favorite local breads, Vella butter from Sonoma, and a selection of our organic, hashish-infused Seasonal Jams.  This way, guests could taste all of our Jams while remaining in control of how much cannabis they were eating, as well as have the option to choose from different strains and combinations, depending on their tolerance.  We turned our hashish-infused Granola into a spicy, savory topping by sautéing it with black garlic, spices, and chilies, which we served with a farmer’s market crudité platter and green goddess dressing.  Guests were encouraged to add infused Jam or spicy Granola to their sweet and savory dishes as needed.

Our third snack was pulled straight from an Alice in Wonderland Pinterest search- little hard-boiled egg “toadstools” filled with egg salad and topped with tomato “caps” and feta dots. We picked up some farm eggs from the market, and made an herby deviled egg filling from the yolks instead of egg salad. Petite dry-farmed early girl tomatoes were the perfect size for mushroom caps, and the tastiest, too!  Salty feta completed the woodland look and made the delicious tomatoes really pop. These snacks were paired with Hepburns Deluxes rolled from ‘Red Dragon’ flowers and ‘Shiva Skunk’ solvent-less hash from French Laundry Fine Concentrates, which had just enough funky earthiness to pair with the savory bites.

“The Walrus and the Carpenter” has been a favorite poem of mine since childhood, so of course, we had to include oysters. The Walrus made do with pepper and vinegar, which is really enough with delicious oysters, and in San Francisco we are lucky to have access to Hog Island Oysters just across the Bay.  A mignonette is very traditional to serve with oysters, which is normally a mixture of vinegar, pepper and shallots. Since it was summertime, we added diced Frog Hollow Farm “Flavor King” pluots (possibly the single best piece of stone fruit in California, definitely my favorite pluot varietal! With a royal name to boot) and a touch of lemon verbena, to bring out the fruitiness of the oysters.  They seemed like things that could all grow in Wonderland, down to the farm names!  Hog Island ‘Sweetwater’ oysters with Frog Hollow Farm ‘Flavor King’ pluot & verbena mignonette really does sound like something Alice might have eaten on her adventures, and it made for a luxurious little starter.

Photo Credit: Monica Lo

For the main course, we wanted something savory and substantial, yet light enough for a garden tea party.  Tea sandwiches are traditional, but predictable. Enter smorgastarta.  Smorgastarta is a Swedish sandwich “cake”- essentially an inside-out sandwich, layers of bread with various fillings, usually “frosted” with soft cheese and decorated with meats, herbs and vegetables. They can be made individual-sized or large and then cut into slices.  A sandwich cake is most definitely a dish that can go horribly wrong and depends entirely on the quality of your ingredients.  We have a large network of local farmers that we work with, and wanted to highlight their peak summer produce in the “cakes.”

For the first, we did a riff on the most classic of all tea sandwiches- the cucumber sandwich.  We layered Acme Bread’s herb focaccia with herbed crème fraîche, sliced Armenian, Japanese and Lemon cucumbers, julienned watermelon radish, and herbs.  We “frosted” it with whipped mascarpone cheese and garnished with nasturtiums and wild fennel flowers that we foraged in Russian Hill.  The garden where the party was held also happened to have a gorgeous flowering cilantro plant with green coriander seeds that we picked and sprinkled on at the last second because cucumber and green coriander are a flavor match made in heaven.

The second sandwich cake was all about tomatoes- how could we not in mid-July?!  We made a three-basil pesto (Genovese, lemon and bush basils) and spread it onto Acme herb slabs, layered with heirloom tomatoes and wild fennel pollen that we foraged in Berkeley.  The little cakes were covered with whipped Laura Chenel goat cheese and decorated with Sungold and Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, purple basil blossoms and more wild fennel pollen.

For the third sandwich cake we took inspiration from one of our favorite New York sandwiches- the bagel with lox. We sliced everything bagels super thin and layered them with dill cream cheese, wild salmon lox and scallions. The sandwich cakes were really fun to make and decorate, and definitely brought the element of whimsy and surprise we were looking for!  They looked like sweet little confections, but we anchored them with familiar savory flavors.

We wanted to take dessert as an opportunity to showcase our Jams again, in a sweet that is both classically served with tea and made with jam- the Victoria sponge.  We had just gotten a lovely batch of ‘Alpha Blue’ ice water hash made by French Laundry Fine Concentrates in Mendocino, so we gently dosed the Victoria sponge cake with that.  We punched out little cakes and layered them with our Cherry and Peach Jams, clouds of whipped Straus cream and fresh mint.

To finish out the tea party, we of course had to make an Unbirthday Cake of sorts.  While we were gathering the nasturtiums and wild fennel we came across a patch of wild blackberries, so of course I wanted to highlight those. Inspired by the stripes of the Cheshire Cat, I decided to make a wild blackberry mousse and a raspberry mousse to layer between dozens of crêpes for a very psychedelic mille-crêpe cake.  We topped it all off with some ‘Alpha Blue’ hash-infused sponge cake crumbs.

For the grand finale, Allie rolled a few CBD-rich Hepburns Deluxes, made with Mendobreath Flowers & ACDC Solventless, Redwood Herbal, Sonoma County, which provided a perfect balancing at the end of the festivities.  The floral, heady Mendobreath flowers paired beautifully with the berry mousses in the crêpe cake and the CBD helped bring everyone back to reality after a trip down the rabbit hole.

LOVE AND MARIJ:  WHAT WAS THE OVERALL RESPONSE AND TAKEAWAY?

STEPHANY:  We put weeks of work into the event, and are so happy to have had the opportunity to put on a gathering like this.  We sold out of tickets and had a full house and every one of the guests had a fantastic time- a few people even told us it was the best party they had ever been to!  Everyone loved the food, our products and of course, the cannabis.  What really resonated with us is how beautiful it was to have a safe space for patients to medicate and interact socially, and how necessary it is to create these types of environments.  Since it’s prohibition, cannabis has very much been behind closed doors. Even with medical and recreational legalization in many states now, there are few social spaces that encourage- or even allow- cannabis use. Another thing that really struck me is how different the entire feel and flow of the party was in contrast to fêtes that revolve around alcohol. The whole time the energy was lively yet serene, full of connection, community and positivity.

We were very lucky to have legendary hash maker Frenchy Cannoli attend the party as our guest of honor, and everyone had a great time listening to his tales of travels and trichomes.  We have so much to learn from each other in the cannabis world, and it’s high time to create situations where this can happen.  It is a really amazing opportunity to pull together like-minded producers and patients and really support each other.  We hope to host many more events like this, in California and beyond.  The Mad High Tea Party was such a hit that we are going to have to make it an annual gathering- I would love to take it to other cities one day!  Currently, I’m working on fleshing out a few ideas for events in the spring and summer with a few other local producers…a brunch, a picnic and a barbecue are in the works.