Although an hour drive to Lyons is a stretch for most Denverites, a shuttle was arranged to make the trip up to the secluded location. And against the odds, it was well worth the ride. First stop? To the Headquarters dispensary in Longmont to pick up our "gift bags," consisting of a Headquarters candle, notebook, potted succulent, lighter, papers — and four different strains of cannabis numbered to pair with each course of the meal. Just precious.
When we arrived at the Shupe Homestead (the rural venue hosting the dinner), guests were taken aback by the beauty of the space. The sun was slicing through the trees and reflecting off the lake in the center of the property, next to a long table with sixty seats. Since tickets were $150 each, I wasn't sure what demographic to expect in the diners, but they were all relatively young, established, thirty-somethings who either had a connection to the cannabis industry, Blackbelly in Boulder, or Headquarters, who invited its entire staff along for the evening.
We grabbed name tags and tried the first of several well-conceived drinks prepared by Crystal Sagan, owner of Three Chicks Bartending. All of the cocktails set the mood perfectly, but my favorite was called A Wise Man, which mixed CapRock organic gin with lemon, fresh sage and a wedge of grapefruit.
The second drink was called Rose's Thorn, made with CapRock organic vodka, ginger, lemon, and fresh cucumber lining the glass, plus a flower as garnish — attached with a roach clip meant for later use. These drinks tasted in sync with the entire, glowing ambiance of the dinner, one that continued with a killer wine selection, including a 2014 Triennes Rose from France, a 2012 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, and finally for dessert, Leopold Brothers orange liqueur to add to coffee. The Three Chicks are brilliant.
The touches that Norris put on the dinner were elegant, including flower arrangements with cannabis leaves in the center and mason jars filled with little lights reminiscent of fireflies. Norris brought Rheingold's vision to life, and it seemed as though the team had everything planned down to the last detail, including the beautiful sunset. A folk band played banjo, upright bass,plucking all night along with the cheery conversation being had. If I didn't know any better, I would have pinched myself.
The most attention of all was given to pairing the food and cocktails with certain cannabis strains. The Headquarters and Blackbelly team of Rheingold and Rosenberg spent plenty of man-hours perfecting what strains go best with their fresh farm to table menu items. Rosenberg joked, "We had spent all this time experimenting, we sat down, tried some strains with some meals I had cooked up, found great ones, and then by the next day, we forgot." It took some restraint to finally settle on these purposeful pairings. For the menu: A salad of local roots, haystack mountain chevre, mustard greens, and sunflower seeds paired with the Lambsbreath, a subtly sweet Jamaican sativa with a pleasant, cerebral high. The second course was of course a locally sourced flatiron steak, what Rosenberg saw as a nod to the Flatirons and the beautiful location, with Cure Farm potatoes and squash, charred Munson corn and an herb sauce. This family style entree was paired with two cannabis strains, each diner's choice of either The White or Matanuska Tundra. The White is a 60% indica hybrid, said to be related to a famed cannabis strain called Triangle Kush that hails only from a small area in Florida. It had a spicy, earthy flavor, one that I loved with the steak and the fresh vegetables offered. The Matanuska Tundra was the heaviest indica strain we indulged in and was described as slightly floral, chocolaty and minty,and lead to a full body buzz.
Finally, the Matanuska Tundra or the Harlequin were the two recommended strains to go with dessert, Rosenberg's take on s'mores with homemade marshmallows, chocolate sauce, graham crackers, peach, blackberries, and cilantro. The Harlequin was the strongest sativa strain of the night, producing an alert and clear-headed feeling, with a sour tang in flavor.
There were workers from Headquarters whose sole job it was to circle the table with a pipe containing the strain meant for each course, carefully explaining the properties and what the flavor was meant to bring out in the food. The diners had their own goodie bags with one pre-rolled joint and three labeled mason jars containing about a gram of each strain.The table was also equipped with one-hitters in flower jars.
A dinner like this was my version of heaven, where I'm passed amazing plates of food and joint after joint for eternity. The farm-to-table focus of Blackbelly was felt in each course, with earthy beets and fresh goat cheese in the salad and the family-style main course served in giant bowls brimming with fresh red and yellow squash, sweet corn, potatoes, and skirt steak.
It's a joy to live in a state where an evening like this is even possible. The cops didn't come and nothing stopped the night in its tracks; the only interruptions were the toasts to those who organized such a wonderful dinner. One couple even flew in from Alaska to be a part of the event. When asked if it was worth the trek, without hesitation, they stated, "It was. It was worth everything, and more." See more photos from the beautiful Harvest Dinner below.