What it’s like to attend a Moveable Cannabis Feast in the Desert – Mass Roots

Original Post: https://www.massroots.com/news/moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-tree

I arrived at Moonlit Moveable Feast just as the sun slid behind a boulder-covered hill on the far horizon of a vast desert landscape—turning the sky cotton-candy pink and bathing the rust-red terrain all around me in a truly glorious quality of light. Such celestial splendor and near psychedelic plays of perspective have been drawing artists, prophets and spiritual seekers to Joshua Tree for many thousands of years, typically in pursuit of some deeper connection to themselves or a higher state of consciousness.

After a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, however, I’d shown up with the far more more humble goal of experiencing what promised to be a next-level milestone in the lately booming world of cannabis-infused fine dining. The location was certainly both remote and majestic—right at the edge of the 800,000 acre national park in Southern California. And the weather couldn’t have been finer—not too hot, with the gusting winds that had made the trek out something of an adventure abating just in time for a postcard perfect evening.

moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-tree(EPK Vision photos/Provided to MassRoots)


But still, I strived to lower my expectations. These events have a tendency to underwhelm. Don’t get me wrong, as a dedicated cannabis journalist since 2002, I’m thrilled that such a thing as pot-infused fine dining can even exist, and all the more so when I’m lucky enough to hop along for the ride. My roots in this scene stretch deep enough that I remember when upscale society uniformly looked down on cannabis culture, and almost every story I wrote was about a heart-breaking drug bust, the latest government propaganda against medical cannabis, or parents losing their kids over a minor marijuana bust.

All of which still goes on, of course—all too often, and in far too much of the world.

The War on Weed, no doubt, was busy tearing a hole in someone’s life at the very moment I cued up for a what proved to be an extremely pleasant evening of sun-grown organic cannabis tastings and locavore-inspired THC-infused gourmet delights. All thoroughly enjoyed amid the convivial company of a few dozen fellow herbal enthusiasts lucky enough to live in the land of legalization. The upshot being that while it’s easy to feel a little weird about partaking in a high-end weed event—largely attended by energetic young entrepreneurs striving to build their own pot brands—while our brothers and sisters rot in prisons around the world for growing or distributing the very same plant, I also think it’s important and encouraging to see this culture flourish in unexplored directions and reach many new influential people. Just so long as we remain inclusive, and retain our shared values.

Without naming any names, certain disappointing weed dinners in the past have missed the mark in two key ways:

One, by condescendingly presuming that so long as guests get to smoke pot freely, a shoddy presentation will be overlooked by those who don’t know any better than Cool Ranch Doritos scarfed in a friend’s basement.

Secondly, by striving so hard to avoid “tired old stereotypes” that a weed dinner becomes something stilted and unimaginative. Or worse still, making guests sit through long “sponsor presentations” that turn a meal into an inescapable weed infomercial.

moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-tree(EPK Vision photos/Provided to MassRoots)


Gratefully, my misgivings about this particular event dissipated almost immediately upon arrival, largely because of the obvious thought, care and attention-to-detail provided by organizers Mary Jane University, as part of their High Dining Series. And also due to the inherently groovy vibe emanating from every hidden corner of the venue—an artist’s studio, gallery and creative retreat center run by pedigreed local weirdo Bobby Furst.

moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-treeBobby Furst (EPK Vision photo/Provided to MassRoots)


Full of “found objects” transformed under Furst’s able hand into site-specific art installations, the desert compound brought the creativity-enhancing powers of cannabis to the forefront, making us all feel like properly freaky Bohemians, and offered endless small treasures to discover while wandering the grounds. A journey that began with a welcome cocktail—a refreshingly understated mint julep made with cannabis-infused rye, mint-infused simple syrup, and a splash of seltzer. The rye was infused by steeping buds in the booze for ten days while refrigerated, a method that produces little psychoactivity while still providing the medicinal benefits of THC in its acidic form (THC-A).

And oh yeah, out in the dryness of that desert, it tasted like sipping on a cold whisky-laced oasis.

moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-tree(EPK Vision photo/Provided to MassRoots)


Guest arrival was planned to allow a generous couple of hours to mingle before dinner, so event organizer Barbie Sommars lead me on a tour of the premises, pointing out everything from an organized cannabis tasting, to a performance space (where Divasonic emitted live flute and chanting that paired well with the landscape and the moment), a hookah lounge, an airstream with Tarot card readings, tea service, and a strange kind of telescope that makes sounds out of the light of the stars and the moon (more on that later).

moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-treeDivasonic (EPK Vision photo/Provided to MassRoots)


“I have a strong impulse to connect people with the cannabis plant in a deeper way than just buying it in a baggie or a plastic jar at a dispensary,” Sommars, who lives nearby in Joshua Tree, explained. “For this event, I wanted to create a sort of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ experience where you can interact with some of the incredible artists and innovators that call this place home, and also experience activations from the top cannabis brands in California.”

Joining a small group already seated at the weed smoking station, I started with an immersive study of the evening’s featured strains, provided by Hummingbird Medicinals, Humboldt Brothers, and Redwood Roots—three of Northern California’s premiere craft cannabis farms. Set up as a blind tasting, and organized by cannabis lifestyle brand The Emerald Exchange, I assessed each offering on taste, smell, finish, and effect, then tried to guess the varietal. The winner (not me) got free tickets to the next Emerald Exchange event in Malibu, while the growers got some invaluable objective feed-back. And we all worked up a healthy appetite.

(EPK Vision photo/Provided to MassRoots)


Dinner was served outdoors at a long communal table just as the full moon appeared on the horizon. Sommars noted the infusions in the food were meant to enhance more than intoxicate.

“I like to keep the edible doses low, and then make sure we provide plenty of flowers for those with higher tolerance.” She said. “Otherwise people can easily eat too much, especially those who are new to all this and really need to have a positive first experience.”

Wise words for anyone planning a similar soirée, or even just throwing a weed-friendly dinner party at home.

moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-tree(EPK Vision photo/Provided to MassRoots)


Chef Eduardo Pineda began the meal with a “hibiscus high desert salad,” featuring arugula, organic Medjool dates, pickled shallots, goat cheese, cannabis leaves, and hemp seeds dressed in a lemon hibiscus vinaigrette infused with Awaken Topicals raw cannabis tincture. Followed by a pasta course of rabbit ragu (or mushroom ragu) with fresh cannabis and basil leaf fettuccine infused with Can O’ Budder ghee. Cleaning both plates meant ingesting approximately 6-8 milligrams of THC, a very pleasant dosage I usually liken to having 1 and 1/2 glasses of wine—definitely enough to feel a mild buzz, but not so high as to send someone wandering off into the desert, lost and alone.

moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-tree(Puff Puff Pass Co photo/Provided to MassRoots)


After dinner I allowed that recommended dosage to take hold while taking in a performance from local musicians The Blank Tapes. Asked to provide a slightly trippy instrumental soundtrack for the festivities, they tapped directly into the funky compound-in-the-desert’s essence. And in a lovely bit of synergy, the performance space also housed the dessert bar, where I obtained a freshly scraped prickly pear granita with candied Buddha’s hands and pickled tamarind infused with Guild Extracts crystalline CBD. Then I chased it with a couple of high-end confections from To Whom It May, makers of hand-crafted cannabis-infused truffles and bonbons.

moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-treeThe Blank Tapes (Puff Puff Pass Co photo/Provided to MassRoots)


Last stop, trying to figure out what’s going on with that giant telescope looking device.

A small crowd had gathered around to listen to the sounds of the cosmos, which oscillated from high-pitched, to screechy, to downright ethereal. I sidled up and asked the machine’s inventor to tell me how it works.

moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-tree(EPK Vision photo/Provided to MassRoots)


“The piece is called the Sirens, based of the sirens from the Odyssey,” explained inventor Kyle Simon. “It takes in light from the moon, or planets, or stars, and through set of oscillators that make it audible for us.

At which point, the evening blissfully hit peak weird.



moonlit-moveable-feast-joshua-tree(EPK Vision photos/Provided to MassRoots)
David Bienenstock

David Bienenstock is the author of How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High (Penguin / Random House – 2016), and Legalized It!. Previously, he served as Head of Content at HIGH TIMES and was a columnist, frequent contributor, and video host/producer at VICE Media, where he co-produced the series Bong Appetit, including viral episodes like A Gourmet Weed Dinner at Hunter S. Thompson’s House and Marijuana Nonna. A contributor to VICE, GQ, Motherboard, Salon, Munchies, the Guardian, and other publications, he has been profiled by The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, LA Weekly, Food & Wine, Slate, and elsewhere, while making frequent media appearances, including on CNN, NPR, MSNBC, HBO and Fox News.

*All High Dining events are 21+

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