Should We Care if America Thinks Colorado Has the Munchies?
This is what the rest of the country thinks Denver looks like all the time.
On Wednesday the New York Times online Cooking blog featured Thanksgiving recipes from across the nation, with the stated goal to "evoke each of the 50 states." While some of the recipes seemed either invented on the spot or dug up from a dusty Ladies Auxiliary cookbook, regional ingredients and cultural traditions at least threaded their way through as themes. There was a Carribean-influenced mojo turkey from Florida, a salmon pie from Alaska and sourdough stuffing from California. Potatoes, of course, represented Idaho and lobster mac and cheese was Maine's contribution. Even ingredients with little recognition outside the region (did you know that persimmons grow wild in Indiana?) and family recipes based on local pastimes (one family in Kentucky created hand-sized dressing buns that hunters can slip into their pockets) made the list.
So what was Colorado's contribution to the national holiday board: something with peaches, elk, lamb, green chile or even a beer-based soup or sauce? Nope. It's stoner food, in the savory-sweet form of pecan pie bites meant to be dunked in leftover turkey gravy, a recipe from Alexander Figura of Lower48 Kitchen.
Imagine these Hopdoddy burgers double-stacked.
The Times leads with this premise: "It's difficult to assess exactly how much the legalization of marijuana in Colorado may have changed the Thanksgiving menu."
Difficult, indeed, if you don't live in Colorado or visit often enough to realize we're not just a bunch of zonked-out zombies stumbling through the streets in search of snacking treats that Figura thinks should be "very savory or very sweet, or both at the same time."
Ultimately, what's more annoying is that Colorado cuisine and ingredients rank so low in the minds of East Coasters that bongs and those evil edibles represent our state to them more than even a half-hearted Jell-O salad or a standard turkey with some concocted regional spice rub. But rather than deny the reality that legal weed is fueling a surge in Denver tourism, it's far less ire-inducing to embrace our newest state product.
To be offended by the notion that marijuana is now a regional specialty is to bury our heads in the sand and deny that Colorado is on the forefront of consumer rights and individual freedom. While there's no shortage of tasty treats around town to satisfy the munchies, some restaurants are intentionally marketing to pot culture and hoping to lure the cotton-mouthed masses with clever names and ingredient combinations.
Hopdoddy, the Texas burger chain that just opened next to Union Station less than a month ago, is already rolling out a Colorado-only offer called the Dispensary Double Stack, and since it will only be on the menu until November 30, it could almost be considered a Thanksgiving special. After a few tokes, there's definitely an appeal to two patties -- with the onions in the beef (whoa, how did they do that!?) -- with Swiss and Cheddar cheese, chipotle ketchup and something called Sassy Sauce.
A little to the west in sleepy Oldtown Arvada, Manneken Frites has upped the ante on it's already stoner-worthy mitraillette sandwich by naming it the 420 and adding an all-beef Vienna hot dog to the existing pile of roast beef (or pastrami -- your choice), aged gourmet cheese (gruyere, white cheddar, gouda or provalone), frites (yes, in the sandwich) and one of over 20 dipping sauces. All those choices may seem a little mind-boggling for the foggy-headed, but owner Chris Stromberg is happy to make recommendations.
Earlier this year, Boulder-based Hapa Sushi launched a "happy legalization" advertising campaign and a menu pairing various Indica and Sativa suggestions with Japanese-style dishes. While it's still illegal for restaurants to serve or sell cannabis in any form, the message is clear: There's no longer a stigma attached to getting high.
Whether you're frustrated because your family back East thinks we're all sitting around in our pajama pants rolling joints or you're disgusted by the national media's fixation with legalized recreational marijuana and their subsequent push to make us a one-note joke, why get all uptight about it? We voted for this and so far, the gateway -- the one that leads to harder drugs, prostitution and perhaps even sleeping late -- has not been opened.
Rest easy knowing that the chefs and kitchens of Colorado have your back and are designing food specifically to go with a good high; let's just see a little more home-state spirit when it comes to showcasing stoner-food ingredients in the national spotlight. Now where did I put that elk jerky?
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