The Clever Root Brings Cannabis Cuisine to Arizona Cocktail Week

Spot the pot? Most people wouldn't. The Clever Root's editorial staff tries to celebrate cannabis as a versatile ingredient for any kitchen.
Spot the pot? Most people wouldn't. The Clever Root's editorial staff tries to celebrate cannabis as a versatile ingredient for any kitchen.
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
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Suppose you find a copy of The Clever Root on a coffee table. You've never heard of this magazine. You flip through the pages, you scan some headlines, and you admire the colorful photos. But something is off about it. What it is?

Then you realize: This is a magazine about cooking with marijuana.

"The cannabis industry is ready to grow up," says Rachel Burkons, associate publisher of The Clever Root, published in Encino, California. "I think we're elevating the conversation."

Burkons is coming to Phoenix next month for Cocktail Week, but she won't just here to talk about mixology. She'll be moderating a seminar called "Beyond the Smoke: Understanding Cannabis in Food & Beverage," on Saturday, February 18. The presentation will feature Holden Jagger, an acclaimed chef and cannabis advocate, among others. (Jagger also happens to be Burkons' brother.)

The Clever Root staff have a mission: to treat cannabis as a versatile, edible plant. Cannabis has a distinct aroma and flavor, and Burkons feels that it can contribute to a lot to fine dining.

"We wanted to explore what people can do legally," Burkons explains. "There is a way to taste cannabis, just like a spirit or a wine. There is a way to pair cannabis. It's not always about what's going to get you high. You can bring cannabis into your life in a manageable and responsible way."

Burkons grew up in Los Angeles, but her parents were born and raised in Scottsdale, and she considers the Valley her second home. Burkons has attended Cocktail Week for several years, and she is eager to bring this groundbreaking new cuisine to Arizona — even if the edibles on-hand have to be "virgin" approximations, to keep them legal. (In California, pot is legal; here, it's only medical marijuana.)

"I think Arizona has made great inroads for accepting cannabis," says Burkons. "When I leave California, I feel like the rest of the world is catching up faster than we think. I've talked to a lot of people about cannabis [in other places], and I think people are ready to learn about it. They don't think of cannabis as just for loser, stoner dropouts anymore."

So if cannabis can be a regular cooking ingredient, what can you do with it? Practically anything, it turns out.

One extreme example is Humboldt Distillery's "Cannabis Sativa-Infused Vodka." Humboldt notes on its website that the cannabis is more like hemp than dank chronic, and it contains too little THC to get a tippler stoned.

You can even extract cannabis sugars and make a simple syrup. This doesn't take a chemistry set; most people can do it in their own homes.

"First and foremost, we want to educate people on a very basic level what cannabis is," says Burkons. "We want to explore how people can use things like this sativa vodka and create a dialogue around it."

"Beyond the Smoke" takes place Saturday, February 18, at Hotel Valley Ho, Scottsdale. The event starts at 11 a.m. Tickets are $40. For more information, visit the Cocktail Week website.

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