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| June 6, 2016 | Food & Drink
From restaurants to retail, Aspen gives marijuana a modish makeover.
High-ron Chef: Randy Placeres specializes in “high-end” cannabis cuisine, such as this seared Japanese hamachi crudo with warm coconut-and ginger-infused sativa oil, and a sauce of diakon and white soy.
It came as no surprise when, immediately following the enactment of Amendment 64—the Colorado ballot measure that legalized the personal use of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older—on January 1, 2014, dispensaries began to pop up all over town like wildflowers in a high-country meadow. And while the blossoming industry in Aspen has certainly seen its share of minimalist storefronts serving countless varieties of mary jane intended for rolling, packing in a pipe, or munching in pot brownies and gummy bears, two local business owners want to give the commonly lowbrow cannabis culture a highbrow spin.
“It was our goal from the outset to change the perception of cannabis and to help educate and enlighten both consumers and the general public,” says Jordan Lewis, owner of Aspen’s Silverpeak Apothecary and the organic marijuana grow facility High Mountain Farms in Basalt. “In order to overcome the natural apprehension of first-time customers, we set out to create an environment that is both disarming and inviting.” The bright new store was renovated last year to reflect a more upscale sensibility. The products are beautifully lit and artfully displayed; the space is more reminiscent of one of Aspen’s myriad jewelry shops than a pot dispensary. “One of the wonderful attributes of being located in the Roaring Fork Valley is that we live in a community of people who appreciate the sustainability of production and local provenance of their cannabis,” Lewis adds, likening his seed-to-sensation marijuana experience to the farm-to-table restaurant movement. “There is an existing cultural awareness of where we get our food and how we utilize our natural resources.”
Silverpeak’s heritage strains are displayed in “smell jars.”
But it’s not just smoked marijuana that’s getting the haute treatment. Longtime Aspen personal chef and caterer Randy Placeres, of Aspen Culinary Solutions, is pioneering town’s cannabis fine-dining scene with private events targeting the health-conscious yet adventurous diner. Think yellowtail crudo served with a warm ginger-coconut sativa oil or togarashi-seared ahi served with dehydrated cannabis and a tabbouleh salad topped with medicated caper berries. “I cook real food with flavors that complement the taste and smell of cannabis,” Placeres says. “This is Aspen, and people expect more than just cookies and brownies.” He adds that the intimate gatherings he arranges for lawyers, doctors, bank presidents, and others—both locals and tourists—are akin to wine-pairing dinners. “It’s a great way to showcase my progressive, clean food. Now I just can’t wait until they let me open a restaurant.” Silverpeak Apothercary, 520 E. Cooper Ave., 970-925-4372. Aspen Culinary Solutions, 305 Aspen Airport Business Center, 970-948-2511
Photography by Sigurd Fandango; Michael Brands