February isn’t merely reminding us to be in the mood for love. And honestly, I’m pretty sure a single day isn’t the be all and end all to romance. This month, life reminds us to find the romanticism within, including coloring your world with emotionally stirring tones, visual revelries, and a sense of humor.
This issue is an opportunity for you to discover who you are, how to ditch the pressures of singledom, couplehood, and consumer-inspired love and instead embrace the love of self—or least have some wild fun learning about dating websites. Through art shows and gallery exhibitions, wellness retreats, new female-led brands, gourmet edibles, and a chef whose desire to be present and ditch the stigma of bipolar disorder allowed him to find the healing properties of cannabis, we want to encourage you to find your happy.
It’s safe to say that 2019 was a strange and awkward journey for most everyone, but the promise of 2020 is more than seeing clearer; it’s a year to reclaim the life you’ve always dreamed of. Singer, songwriter Billie Eilish said, “Words are more powerful than some noises. Noises won’t last long. Lyrics are so important, and people don’t realize that.” While she may be referring to the powerful lyrics of her songs, it’s also a cue to listen to the words we tell ourselves. Be kind to yourself this month.
In this issue, fun and light-heartedness is all the rage and that even includes welcoming back the 1990s in a way that encourages self-expression. No matter what you do this month, while you flip through the pages of Sensi, take a break from the daily stressors, dance, paint, eat, inhale, exhale, laugh, and give in to your inner creative. You’re worth it.
Answer the call of creativity and celebrate diversity.
This month the worlds of art, culture, music, and cannabis invite you to stir your soul, feed your belly, and open your mind.
The Magic and Flair of Mary Blair
Now through March 7 Hilbert Museum of California Art, City of Orange hilbertmuseum.org
México Quiero Conocerte: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide and Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Now through March 15 Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego mcasd.org Featuring the works of two of Latin America’s most celebrated photographers, Iturbide and Bravo, this exhibition captures the essence of Mexico through intimate imagery. Inviting viewers to remove their societal lens through which they have perceived the nation and the people, Quiero Conocerte (meaning “I want to meet you”) is an opportunity to see Mexico in a more romantic light through black and white photography.
San Diego Museum Month
Feb. 1–29 San Diego County 50 percent off admission sandiegomuseumcouncil.org San Diego is home to some of the most intriguing museums in Southern California. This month, more than 40 of those museums are offering 50 percent discounts on admission (some with free admission). Pick up a monthly museum pass at any participating library in San Diego County.
Feb. 1–May 29 Japanese Friendship Garden, San Diego $12 niwa.org The tradition of the Japanese kimono dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Sewn with precision using the straight-line cutting method, kimonos (Japanese for “things to wear”) were made as daily wear, and their fabrics would vary based on occasion. To date, this tradition is still thriving, though it is primarily reserved for special occasions.
Feb. 6, 11:30 a.m. Zov’s Bistro, Tustin $75 zovs.com Learn the art of sensual cooking by understanding which ingredients get the sexual feelings moving. Cook aphrodisiac-awakening desserts such as fresh strawberry and chocolate mousse tarts to invoke a little ooh la la.
Super Bowl Sunday
Feb. 7, 3:30 p.m. Stag Bar + Kitchen, Newport Beach stagbar.com Get your game face on and watch the 54th Super Bowl on one of 16 big-screen televisions. Open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Feb. 12, 9 p.m. Aqua Lounge, Newport Beach aqualoungenb.com Celebrate New Orleans Mardi Gras seaside in Newport Beach, kicking off with a surprise “party gras” cocktail. The cost is $25 per person or $239 per night for hotel packages.
Valentine’s Day Sunset Cruises
Feb. 12–14 Golden Lantern, Dana Point danawharf.com It’s that time of year when lovers celebrate, and Dana Point is the perfect place to cuddle up and head out on a romantic sunset cruise. Each cruise features complimentary champagne, and some include a sparkling wine tasting, bottomless bubbles, and decadent chocolate on a refined catamaran. Depending on how active the sea life is, you may even catch a glimpse of a whale or two playing out in the big blue. Prices start at $29 per person.
The Heart of Hip Hop
Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m. Honda Center, Anaheim hondacenter.com If you grew up in the 1980s, you were privy to the birth of hip-hop. The music industry has since soared because of this genre, and kids and adults alike have sung lyrics, danced their booties off, and celebrated the music that has changed our lives. This month, revisit some of the bands that changed the hip-hop game in the 1990s and 2000s, such as Ashanti, Ja Rule, and DMX. Tickets start at $49.
“Every minute, 50 acres of rainforest are lost forever. Rainforests are the life-support system of our planet…but climate change, species extinctions, and deforestation threaten all life on Earth,” says the nonprofit Rainforest Trust on its website.
The fires and destruction happening in the rainforests of the world are leaving a horrid taste in every environmentalist’s mouth, and rightfully so. But with the outbreak of recent fires started by an onslaught of logging and cattle farming, the smoke being released into the air we are breathing is harming the planet and our species.
For one night, celebrities, advocates, and gamers came out to raise money to save the Amazon from being destroyed. The evening took place at Avalon Hollywood, and the space was transformed into a rainforest. PUBG Mobile, the official mobile version of the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds video game series, along with actors and humanitarians Megan Fox and her husband, Brian Austin Green, came out to Hollywood for the #Fight4TheAmazon charity event. The funds raised during this campaign benefitted Global Green, a world-renowned nonprofit with local partners on the ground in Brazil who are working to help put out the fires and plant thousands of new trees in the Amazon Rainforest.
Former pro wrestler Nikki Bella, hip-hop dancer Stephen “tWitch” Boss, and PUBG Mobile influencer Pickles played on Fox’s team, while dancers Allison Holker Boss and Artem Chigvintsev as well as PUBG Mobile influencer McCoffee played for Green’s team. TV host and recording artist Kimberly Caldwell and her husband, Major League Soccer star Jordan Harvey, co-hosted a trivia contest where partygoers competed for special #Fight4TheAmazon backpacks made from 100 percent recycled water bottles while Fox and Green competed.
“Nothing is more important to us than protecting the planet from the potential devastation of climate change,” says Green. “The Amazon is a critical component of that, so this was a great opportunity for us to help make a positive impact for our kids and future generations.”
Fox echoed Green’s sentiment: “We are so proud and honored to have been involved in PUBG Mobile’s #Fight4TheAmazon campaign. And while this is just the beginning and there is so much work left to be done, we know that if we all come together, we can make a huge difference.” Funds raised from the #Fight4TheAmazon campaign will help restore the Amazon. “In 2020, we will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, which is a reminder that the world needs to come together for the future of our planet,” says William Bridge, COO of Global Green.
PUBG donated $100,000 to Global Green to ensure that a minimum of 50,000 healthy saplings will be planted in the Amazon rainforest.
Meeting that special someone is no longer an organic process. Rarely do you find your person through a party or a chance meeting in a bar or grocery store. Thanks to technology and overzealous web developers, we’ve streamlined dating to pre-process and check off all our wants and needs to ensure we find the mate who really fits the bill—or who can at least foot the bill at the end of dinner. This has led to some bizarre, niche dating websites.
For example, the website purrsonals.com is where you can “meet others in the world who understand the unique ‘purrsonality’ that cats possess and why we share the love of cats.” So yeah, there’s that.
Sure, this month may be one where love is thrust upon us with the brute force of consumerism, but that may make you feel more self-assured, especially when you realize how many options you have.
The Food Sets the Mood
Refrigerdating.com is “a service that helps you find love based on the contents of your fridge.” Based on the items you have, Refrigerdating will “hook you up with a variation of fridges of different tastes.” That’s one way to avoid sending embarrassing “sexy” pics—unless organized food containers do it for you.
Hotsaucepassions.com is “a social network for people who think food is bland if it’s not spicy enough to make their forehead sweat.” The site poses the question: “Why risk hearing ‘I don’t like spicy food’ on a first date, when you know that would be a deal breaker?”
Glutenfreesingles.com describes itself as “a welcoming place where people can find gluten-free dating partners, friends, and activity groups.” If you don’t meet your true anti-glute on this site, at least you’ll find some great recipes.
Singleswithfoodallergies.com offers folks prone to breaking out in hives on a restaurant date a chance to avoid the ER. As the site’s founder explains, “I wondered how I’d find a guy who would be comfortable in my dairy-free, shellfish-free, and nut-free household… I knew similar men and women were searching, too.”
My420mate.com is a dating site and app for the cannabis advocate who doesn’t want to be shamed for partaking. Meet your cannabis-friendly single here. Or be too stoned to care who you meet.
Someone for Everyone
Feeld.co is for “Polysexual, Pansexual, Bisexual + 20 more” alternative sexual preferences. A prize will be given to whoever can name the other 20.
Furrymates.com is for those who love pretending to be anthropomorphic animals. If you are particularly hirsute, you might qualify.
Zombiepassions.com is a website “for zombies, zombie lovers, and people who have been working in a dead-end job for too long.” So what if their cover page shows a face dripping in blood?
If zombies don’t turn you on, maybe vampires will. Vampirepassions.com lets you “find members based on whether they are into sanguine vampirism or psychic vampirism. Meet other vampires, vampire lovers, and even amateur vampire hunters.”
For the macabre-curious, consider Dead Meet Dating (thechickandthedead.com/dead-meet-dating), intended for those who work in the death industry—grave diggers, morticians, funeral directors, and autopsy experts.
Diapermates.com is for—you guessed it—adults who wear diapers, not out of need but out of desire.
People who have a thing for clowns have the privilege of choosing from two dating sites: clowndating.com and clownpassions.com. If you’re into it, now you can just don a red nose and goofy outfit and call it a night.
Seacaptaindate.comclaims to be the number one dating site for masters and commanders. Climb aboard? Man the helm? This is for a finite group of Captain Stubing types.
Stachepassions.com, much like Magnum P.I., is all about the moustache. If you love women who sport the hairy lip—that’s another site.
In a similar vein, the sitemulletpassions.com exists. You thought mullets went out of style? Not according to this group.
Randal Dario Mendoza Brooks is a private chef based in Venice Beach, California, whose love of food began when he was a young kid living in New Jersey. He grew up in a family of amateur and professional cooks, and helping out in his uncle’s seafood restaurant spurred his passion for being in the kitchen.
“I loved the pace of the kitchen, all the different tastes and textures, and the possibility of making something with your hands right in front of you. Cooking with my family showed me how much food made people happy. That’s a big part of showing love,” Brooks says.
This love led him to the French Culinary Institute in New York, where he studied and graduated, immediately beginning his career working in various restaurants throughout the city. “I worked under a lot of really incredible chefs who taught me not only cooking skills but about personality and how that can translate to a plate,” Brooks says. “I began to see my own style forming, which I would describe as seasonal avant-garde. I love bright colors and playing with texture, but I was still cooking other peoples’ food.”
During this time, Brooks was struggling with bipolar disorder and the medication the doctors prescribed. It was interfering with his ability to feel creative in the kitchen, and ultimately it left him hospitalized. “I didn’t feel like myself in the kitchen; all my creativity was gone,” he says. “I gained a lot of weight and just felt like absolute crap.” Brooks started reading about other possible treatment options, including cannabis.
It turns out 2.3 million Americans are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Brooks turned to cannabis when he made the decision to get off bipolar medication. “I was desperate to get off of the medication. I started smoking weed every day. It gave me my mojo back. I felt great for the first time in a long time,” Brooks says. “My head was spinning with ideas about food, and I was genuinely excited to get back in the kitchen. I realized that cannabis was really integral to my health and happiness, and I started thinking about how many other people like me could be helped by the same medicine.”
During that time, he was invited to do a pop-up at a friend’s restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen. It was such a success, he started doing more underground pop-ups, developing his own style, each time coming more and more into his own as a chef. He invested in and opened his own midtown Manhattan restaurant, Venisalvi (now closed). “I finally had the freedom to express my creativity and make food that really represented me. And man, it felt good. But if my cooking was really going to represent me, my heritage, and my personality, I felt as though it needed to include cannabis.”
The journey he was on was one of conviction, and the decision to cook with cannabis wouldn’t be possible if he stayed in New York where cannabis is still illegal. “Cannabis had changed my entire outlook, improved my way of life, and greatly affected my personality. It was an integral part of my personal journey, and I truly believed it could improve the lives of so many others like me. I was such a strong advocate for cannabis that I knew no matter how much creative freedom I had in the kitchen, without it, I’d be missing a key ingredient. I also knew that I would never be able to pull off infused cuisine if I stayed there, so in November of 2018, I packed up my life and moved to Los Angeles.”
Here in Southern California, Brooks’s culinary career has taken flight with innovative and experimental cuisine. “The first thing I ever infused were bulgogi beef tacos. I think fatty proteins like lamb and duck also pair really well with cannabis oil,” says Brooks, whose menu has evolved to include infused salad and crudo vinaigrettes. “Anything that cooks in oil or butter can be infused, so the possibilities are pretty much endless,” he says.
“I moved to California to pursue cannabis cooking in an environment where I didn’t have to hide. I’ve done 13 dinners since then, and each one is different. For private dinners, it all depends on the client, their guests, and any requests or dietary restrictions they may have. We work together to plan a menu within their budget. When it’s a dinner that I’m hosting, every menu is different. I try to stick to what’s seasonal and really just enjoy cooking things that I like to eat. That’s what makes it fun.”
Brooks and his team—many of whom have struggled with mental health issues and were helped by cannabis—work together to provide multicourse events. His company OCD (Obsessive Cooking Disorder) was named as a way to take the stigma away from mental health issues and normalize the use of cannabis.
“The goal is to have an infused restaurant not too far down the line, but for now I’m just out here doing what I do—cooking my food and spreading the word that cannabis is truly the best medicine.”
Pumpkin Ale Braised Short Ribs
With Mushrooms and Polenta / Serves 2–4
Courtesy of @ocdla__
4 tablespoons butter, divided 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided 2 cups flour, divided Salt and pepper 2½–3 pounds short ribs 16 ounces pumpkin ale 12 ounces sliced mushrooms 15 ounces beef consommé Polenta prepared to package instructions
Heat oven to 275°F
In a Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter into 2 tablespoons olive oil
Add 1 1/2 cups flour to a bowl and generously add salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Coat ribs in 1/4 cup flour. Brown in Dutch oven in batches, 2–3 minutes each side.
Deglaze pan by pouring beer into pan and scraping up brown bits.
Return meat to pan, cover, and transfer to oven for 3–4 hours.
Remove meat from pan and shred from bones. Set aside.
In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt remaining butter and olive oil.
Add mushrooms and stir to coat. Let sit a few minutes, then stir periodically until tender.
Sprinkle mushrooms with remaining ¼ cup flour. Stir for about one minute.
Add consommé. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until thickened.
Add meat and any cooking liquid back into pan and cook until heated through.
Serve over polenta and garnish with parsley.
Blueberry Kush Ice Cream
Blueberry ice cream with infused whipped cream (also called Bhang) / Recipe by Chef Randal Brooks
Loneliness is a killer, more dangerous than obesity and smoking. Studies have found it leads to heart disease, stroke, and immune system problems, and it could even impair cancer recovery. A researcher at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark found loneliness a strong predictor of premature death, declining mental health, and lower quality of life in cardiovascular patients, and a Brigham Young University professor’s meta-analysis of studies from around the world found that socially isolated adults have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from any cause than people who have community.
That’s sobering, especially when you consider that 40 percent of American adults suffer from loneliness, according to an AARP study. And it’s one reason coliving—a new form of housing in which residents with similar interests, values, or intentions share living space, costs, and amenities—is exploding.
Coliving situations run a spectrum, from the resident-driven model to small homes with a half-dozen or so people to massive corporate complexes like The Collective tower with 550 beds in London. Residents, who stay anywhere from a few days to several years and usually don’t have to sign a lease or pay a security deposit, sleep in their own small private rooms (sometimes with bathrooms) and share common spaces such as large kitchens and dining areas, gardens, and work areas. They’re encouraged to interact with one another, often through organized happy hours and brunches. Ollie, which operates coliving spaces in New York and other cities, advertises that “friends are included.”
“Coliving is different than just having roommates, who may be people you found on Craigslist and just happen to share [your] living space. It’s done with more intention,” says Christine McDannell, who lived in unincorporated coliving houses for years before she launched Kindred Quarters, a coliving operator with homes in San Diego and Los Angeles, in 2017.
Author of The Coliving Code: How to Find Your Tribe, Share Resources, and Design Your Life, McDannell also runs Kndrd, a software company for coliving managers and residents, and she hosts the weekly Coliving Code Show every Wednesday on YouTube, iTunes, Soundcloud, and coliving.tv. She has watched—and helped—the industry grow up, and she’s amazed at how few, if any, horror stories she hears. That’s largely because millennials—by far the largest demographic among colivers—are accustomed to sharing and being held accountable through online reviews, she adds.
“You just don’t hear the crazy stories about roommating with strangers in an unfamiliar city,” she says. “When people write bad reviews, it’s usually about the Wi-Fi.”
As companies fat with funding expand into cities across the globe, coliving is newly corporatized—but it’s hardly a novel concept. Boarding houses provided rooms and shared meals for single men and women in the 19th and early 20th centuries; one of the most famous, the Barbizon Hotel in New York, was a “club residence for professional women” from 1927 until the 1980s.
People lived communally throughout most of history until industrialization facilitated privatization of family life and housing throughout the 20th century—with a few disruptions. In Israel, people have been living in communal villages called kibbutzim for more than 100 years. In the US, hippies attempted to create communes in the 1960s, but they were destroyed by free love, drugs, and egos (which did a lot to discourage coliving, even today).
At the same time in Denmark, however, cohousing (an earlier iteration of coliving) was emerging as a way to share childcare. Today, more than 700 communities thrive in Denmark. In Sweden, the government provides cohousing facilities.
A handful of cohousing communities following the Danish model have been established in the US, and hacker houses are common in tech capitals like Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, but the concept has been slow to catch on until recently.
As it becomes increasingly impossible for mere mortals to afford skyrocketing rents in desirable cities, Americans are coming around to coliving and finding creative solutions to all sorts of social issues. Older women are shacking up together following the Golden Girls model. Coabode.org matches single moms who want to raise kids together. At Hope Meadows in Chicago, retirees live with foster kids.
The opportunity to pay lower rent (in many but not all cases) and share expenses makes all the difference in places like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles. When New York–based coliving operator Common opened a development with 24 furnished spaces in Los Angeles for between $1,300 and $1,800 a month, more than 9,000 people applied.
McDannell says coliving is exploding because it solves important challenges that plague modern society. “People are signing away their paychecks on rent and feeling increasingly isolated,” she wrote in “Why We’re Building a CoLiving Community Ecosystem” on LinkedIn. “It is due time that HaaS (Housing as a Service) disrupts the antiquated industry of property management and real estate.”
Our editor-in-chief’s hottest hits of the month. Read
Chuck Lorre to receive the Art Directors Guild award for cinematic imagery. Read
Party Like It’s 1999
Old school becomes new again.
With the nostalgia of the ’90s revival including the comeback of scrunchies, old school hip-hop parties, cartoon reboots, grunge fashion, army pants, vinyl records, and the Friends craze ever present, why not celebrate like it’s Y2K?
The ’90s were the era when grunge was born; punk rock got a resurgence; indie music fests took off; personal style was nonconformist; music was insanely good, angsty, dance-worthy, and impactful (Nirvana, Beastie Boys, Tupac, N.W.A., Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, and so many more); and the teens and twentysomethings finally felt like their voices were being heard.
That Does it
This & That is artist John Millei’s first solo exhibition in 10 years.
Southern California native John Millei is a self-taught artist and former professor at ArtCenter College of Design whose work has appeared throughout galleries in Los Angeles. His recent work, inspired by his daughter and son, depicts a series of framed edges and comical shapes emphasized by gestalt images and beautifully understated color palettes.
“A series of four paintings of his daughter show sweeps of hair, blue-green ovals for eyes, and a flopping bow on top of the subject’s head. In a painting of his son, the formal problems of painting are more prominent. A dark background is framed on all sides by brushstrokes at the edges, two simple circles near the middle of the picture become eyes, and a slightly curved mark at the base becomes a smile,” reads the descriptions of pieces in Millei’s exhibition, titled This & That, on the Lowell Ryan Projects website. “Wielding cartoon-like reduction and using sumptuous application of oil and Flashe paint, the paintings play with our mind’s evolutionary imperative to find patterns and meaning, such as perceiving faces and expressions in a collection of shapes and lines.”
With the awards season in full gear, it’s also a time for some fun new releases in film and TV. On the big screen, the enamoring world of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn gives new meaning to female prowess with Birds of Prey: The Emancipation of Harley Quinn opening February 7. This long-awaited female-led film will throw you into a seductive, violent tailspin that will feed your need for a strong badass movie, welcoming you back into the DC Comics universe. Releasing that same day is a dark and bloody indie horror flick starring Elijah Wood called Come to Daddy. In the vein of reviving the past, the film Fantasy Island (inspired by the 1970s TV show) will release on Valentine’s Day, and it’s anything but campy. Guests are invited to the most seemingly perfect island to live out their fantasies, but what they’ve asked for is dark and twisted and will push them to their limits. Keep your eyes peeled for the long-awaited remake of The Invisible Man, written and directed by Leigh Whannell. Opening February 28, the film stars Elizabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
Netflix releases Locke and Key on February 7, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You on February 12, and Season 2 of Narcos: Mexico on February 13. Hulu releases the premiere of High Fidelity on February 14, Starz releases the long-awaited Season 5 of Outlander on February 16, and AMC releases Season 5 of Better Call Saul on February 23.
Building a Legacy
San Diego’s newest hotel and wellness resort.
This month, the San Diego hospitality scene gets a new addition with the grand opening of Legacy Resort Hotel and Spa. The hotel and spa is designed for a luxurious experience from the moment you step inside. The spa offers an on-site pampering menu designed to encourage mental well-being, decrease muscle tension and stress, and incorporate spiritual connectivity. Guests will find anti-aging treatments, vegan products, and more. This 126-room hotel also has an outdoor pool, concierge services, casual dining at Theresa’s, and is within walking distance of the 4-D History Dome Theater, international market, and formal gardens. The hotel officially opens February 1.
1. Primary Focus A New Hampshire law requires the Granite State to be the first presidential primary in the nation. This election cycle, that goes down on February 11, after which my home state becomes irrelevant for another four years.
2. Leap of Faith While the calendar year is 365 days, it takes the Earth 365.24 days to orbit the sun. Every four years, we add an extra day to the month of February because without it, the calendar would be misaligned with the seasons by 25 days after just 100 years.
3. Born This Way The odds of being a “leapling”—a person born on a leap day—is 1 in 1,461.
4. Right On On February 29, some places celebrate Bachelor’s Day or Sadie Hawkins Day—both a nod to the old Irish tradition that gave women the right to propose marriage to a man on leap day. If he declined, he was required by law to pay a penalty, often in the form of gloves so she could hide the shame of her bare ring finger.
5. Modern Love Since we’re not all Irish, but we are all feminists (because we all believe in the equality of the sexes, of course), any of us can propose to whomever our heart desires whenever we want. Except Valentine’s Day. There’s no law prohibiting it but, sweetie, pay-as-you-go forced romance is anything but romantic.
6. PETA Violation The origins of the canned-love holiday are as cruel as a red rose delivery in February is clichéd. According to NPR, V-day traces back to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a brutal fete during which naked men sacrificed dogs and goats—and whipped women with the animal hides. Stop, in the name of love.
Born to Entertain
Chuck Lorre to receive the Art Directors Guild award for cinematic imagery.
If you’ve watched TV in the last couple of decades, it is likely you have seen the name Chuck Lorre in the opening credits. Creator of highly successful television shows, including The Big Bang Theory (the longest running multi-camera comedy in television history), Two and a Half Men, Mom, and Disjointed, as well as the recently acclaimed The Kominsky Method, Lorre has had an impressive career. The Art Directors Guild agrees wholeheartedly, and on February 1, Lorre will be presented with the 2020 ADG Award for Cinematic Imagery.
“Chuck Lorre is one of television’s most prolific and successful writers/directors/producers,” says ADG President Nelson Coates. “[His] storytelling prowess as a showrunner is amplified by the significance he places on production design in the creation of the worlds his fascinating characters navigate.”
The ADG’s Cinematic Imagery Award is given to those whose body of work in the film and television industry has richly enhanced the visual aspects of the viewer’s experience. In addition to being one of the few showrunners keeping the multi-camera sitcom alive, Lorre also established The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation in 2015, focusing on supporting innovative and compassionate organizations in the areas of education, health, and the arts.
The ADG was established in 1937 and represents 2,700 members who work in film, television, and theater as production designers, art directors, set designers, model makers, illustrators, and matte artists. To learn more, visit adg.org.
Upon meeting entrepreneur sisters Krystal and Chelsea Kitahara, and their fellow Yummi Karma founder Alysia Sofios, one is overwhelmed with the passion that this all-female team has for helping people of all ages find the perfect healing remedies for both mind and body. Handcrafting each of their products with a loved one or fellow friend in mind is the key to the success of their cannabis business.
The young and driven trio began their cannabis business journey at the height of a male-dominated time in the industry. Early in their cannabis careers, they attended conferences or events only to be met with eye rolls and mistaken “promo girl” shout-outs from fellow industry members.
To the dismay of their rivals, the unwelcomed discouragement only propelled the Yummi Karma team forward to solidify their place in the cannabis industry. “We had something to prove. We have a voice, and we are going to do it the right way,” Sofios says. The Yummi Karma team has come a long way since those early days, making a name for themselves in a burgeoning field.
Like so many women in the industry, the women of Yummi Karma were underestimated by their industry peers.
After years of waiting for legalization, the Kitahara sisters and Sofios passed numerous tests, making Yummi Karma among the first licensed cannabis companies in Orange County, California. The privately funded, start-up company now boasts hundreds of safe products that have been developed with top quality ingredients. “Everyone in the cannabis game has the same goal,” Sofios says. “To create safe and effective products.”
Yummi Karma is run by a group of women who believe in the products they produce. They are all hands-on—pumping, mixing, and testing the products themselves. While recognizing the accomplishments of companies who have gone corporate, Yummi Karma wants to stay small, more in the spirit of cannabis. “There is something about products that are made in small batches that sets them above the rest,” Chelsea says.
Devoted to being a positive presence in the space, Yummi Karma has set out to custom develop products that tell a story and target a wide range of cannabis needs. The company currently sells “drops” (tinctures with no alcohol), cremes, and other topicals designed with women in mind. The beautiful packaging may look feminine, but many men have also found the company’s products to be beneficial.
“When starting out, we would go to collectives and look at the shelves and find nothing for women. Only Ziploc bags or paper bags with twist ties. We did not want that,” Sofios says.
The client base at Yummi Karma falls into five categories motivating their purchase patterns: abnormal sleep, PMS symptoms, anxiety, pain, or lifestyle. Lifestyle refers primarily to recreational use, which many are finding to be a good alternative to alcohol.
Cannabis products are heavily tested before being authorized to sell, and Yummi Karma passes all the tests with flying colors. The approval process for cannabis products is much more critical than that of food or beauty lines. “In fact, many products in the beauty industry, such as clay masks would not pass the cannabis product test due to the copious amounts of lead and other minerals found in the clay,” Sofios says. “Cannabis products are heavily vetted to ensure they are clean and safe for all to use.”
The company’s most popular product, Drift Away, was originally developed with the Kitahara sisters’ mom in mind. Their mom had been having issues sleeping for many years and was prescribed medication, but she was less than happy with the next-day groggy hangover-like effects. After working with an herbalist, the Yummi Karma team created a drop blend of herbs with varying levels of THC. Now, the Drift Away blend has replaced their mom’s sleep prescription medicine allowing her to enjoy a far better night’s sleep and giving her reason to enjoy the days.
The team recently worked with a group of veterans who experience PTSD. Their product, High Spirits is high in CBD, low in THC, and taps into the entourage effect (the interactive synergy between cannabis compounds). The company is looking to launch a line of “entourage” products soon. Another popular product for daytime use is Stay Lifted, which is used primarily for anxiety, pain, or inflammation. The product is ideal for people with low THC tolerance levels because it includes additional energizing ingredients such as B12 and green tea. This combination creates an awake, uplifted feeling and has a hybrid cannabis stream that helps create calmness.
Being mindful that everyone responds to THC differently, the Yummi Karma team has developed products for those who are canna-curious as well as experts. Yummi Karma develops products based on people the founders have met or were introduced to who needed something specific for their symptoms. They continue to update and refresh their product lines based on customer feedback. They read and discuss every email that comes in because they want their customers to feel like this is their personal brand of cannabis. “We listen and that’s effective,” Sofios says.
Yummy Karma is proud to be in 200 licensed stores across the state of California. That said, the team at Yummi Karma urges patrons to always make sure they are heading to fully licensed and legal dispensaries and cannabis retail locations. “What some don’t understand is that by not doing their due diligence, if a customer unknowingly enters an illegally operated dispensary or cannabis retail store, they run the risk of getting arrested in the event of a raid. Always look for their cannabis retail license,” Sofios says. “Illegal shops are a major problem right now. Their products are not tested, they are unsafe, and shops are being shut down every day as a result.”
“Our mission still brings us to work each day. What keeps us going are the emails and calls we get every day from our customers. The rewarding feedback makes everything worth it,” Sofios says. “[It] keeps us going.”
As founders of a start-up, they’re doing things the way they want and wouldn’t have it any other way. While other companies are looking to grow fast, Yummi Karma is growing slow and steady and in a smart way. They have an entrepreneurial vibe and plan to stay true to their roots because that’s what made them who they are.
Humans have used color to express ideas and emotion for thousands of years, according to color specialist and trend forecaster Leatrice Eisman. As executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, Eisman is the world’s leading authority on the topic of color, authoring many books on the subject. In The Complete Color Harmony, Eisman describes how even the most subtle nuances in color can result in shades that excite or calm, pacify or energize, and even suggest strength or vulnerability. “They can nurture you with their warmth, soothe you with their quiet coolness, and heighten your awareness of the world around you. Color enriches our universe and our perception of it,” she writes.
According to her research, we all respond to color at a very visceral level, associating specific hues with another time or place. “Color invariably conveys moods that attach themselves to human feelings or reactions,” she notes. “Part of our psychic development, color is tied to our emotions as well as our intellect. Every color has meaning that we either inherently sense or have learned by association and/or conditioning, which enables us to recognize the messages and meanings delivered.”
It’s with all this in mind that she and a team of experts choose the Pantone Color of the Year, which the institute has named annually for more than two decades, gaining more attention and having more impact with each passing declaration. So this year, expect to see a lot of blue. The 2020 Pantone Color of the Year is known as Classic Blue.
Describing the shade as “evocative of the nighttime sky,” Eisman explains the choice: “We are living in a time that requires trust and faith It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on.”
She contends that Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious, expand our thinking, open the flow of communication. Her comments are rooted in color theory, which says that a good part of the emotions that colors evoke is tied to natural phenomena. Classic Blue is the color of outer space (look beyond), of the celestial sky (look beyond), of the deep ocean (open the flow).
One of the earliest formal explorations of color theory came from German poet and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His 1820 book Theory of Colours explored the psychological impact of colors on mood and emotion. Yellow, Goethe wrote, is the color nearest the light, yet when applied to dull, coarse surfaces, it is no longer filled with its signature energy. “By a slight and scarcely perceptible change, the beautiful impression of fire and gold is transformed into one not undeserving the epithet foul; and the colour of honour and joy reversed to that of ignominy and aversion.”
Of red: “All that we have said of yellow is applicable here, in a higher degree.” Goethe’s theories continue to intrigue, possibly because of the lyrical prose rather than its scientific facts.
Today, it’s generally accepted that shades of blue are associated with steady dependability, calm, and serenity. Yellow evokes the color of the sun, associated with warmth and joy. Green connects with nature, health, and revival. White stands for simplicity; black for sophistication.
A 1970s study on the body’s physiological responses to colors revealed that warm hues (red, orange, yellow—the colors of the sun) aroused people troubled with depression and increased muscle tone or blood pressure in hypertensive folks. Cool colors (green, blue, violet) elicited the reverse, but the important finding was that all colors produced clinically tangible results.
It’s not woo-woo science; humans have been using color as medicine, a practice known as chromotherapy, since ancient Egypt. In fact, chromotherapy is as tested a practice as any other alternative medicine—Ayurveda, acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology. While it is widely accepted that color affects one’s health—physically, mentally, emotionally—more studies are needed to determine the full scope of impact as well as its potential to help heal.
This isn’t a new theory, either. In the late 1800s, rays of color/light were shown to affect the blood stream. Later research found color to be “a complete therapeutic system for 123 major illnesses,” according to a critical analysis of chromotherapy published in 2005 by Oxford University Press. Today, bright white, full-spectrum light is being used in the treatment of cancers, seasonal affective disorder, anorexia, bulimia, insomnia, jet lag, alcohol and drug addiction, and more. Blue light is used to help treat rheumatoid arthritis. Red light helps with cancer and constipation. And that’s just the beginning.
On the Bright Side
When your physical landscape is devoid of bright, vibrant hues, your emotional one is affected as well. That’s where color therapy comes in. It has a deep effect on physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of our lives, and it comes in many forms: light sessions that include color wheels. Colored crystal lights. Breathing in colors through meditation. Infrared saunas with chromotherapy add-ons.
There are actually many ways of adjusting the color in your life, and not all of them require a trip to see a specialist. Unlike trying to self-administer acupuncture (don’t do that), techniques can be as simple as putting on colorful attire or getting some bright throw pillows or plants. You can never have too many plants. And you should eat more plants, too, filling your plate with healthful fruits, vegetables, and spices from every part of the spectrum.
If a lack of sunlight has you feeling a lack of joy, paint your home or office—warm, vibrant yellows and oranges showcase excitement and warmth; browns and neutrals decidedly do not. Choose wisely. Painting not an option? Consider temporary wallpaper or hanging large artworks. On a budget? Head to the thrift shop and repurpose an old canvas by painting it white and then adding whatever hues you are vibing with this winter. If it doesn’t turn out well, cover it up with more white paint and start again.
Have fun with it, consider it art therapy.
There are also an array of therapeutic options popping up as add-ons, as wellness studios, spas, and alternative medicine practices incorporate chromotherapy treatments into their offerings. Many infrared saunas are starting to offer chromotherapy benefits, and the combination of the full-light spectrum and the heat effectively tricks the brain into thinking it spent a full day basking in the sun, causing it to release those sweet endorphins that flood your body when the warm rays of spring hit your face when you step outside. It feels good and really, that is everything. Color is everything.
Female entrepreneurs and consumers are leading the charge in the wellness space with heavy ties to the cannabis industry, and that has extended into the culinary space as well. San Diego–born Rachel King, founder and culinary director of Kaneh Co. has launched a line of gourmet cannabis-infused edibles. Named one of the best new pastry chefs by Food & Wine in 2013, King took her passion for cooking and created Kaneh Co. in 2016.
Kaneh’s gourmet edibles include offerings such as Triple Berry White Chocolates, The Quintessential Brownie, Chocolate Paleo Bites, and PB&J Blondies. The line also features Mango Chili gummies. “The Quintessential Brownie with the cocoa and cannabis pairing is a rich little bite that can’t be beat.” King says. “Since we started, however, it’s the Best of Both Worlds Brownie that’s our bestseller. It’s a delicious taste of brownie and chocolate chip cookie
With or without the cannabis infusion, these treats all stand on their own and could easily be on shelves in any of LA’s gourmet culinary shops. Items are infused with five or 10 mg of cannabis extract made from California-grown marijuana plants and are available in 200 dispensary locations throughout California, with the majority being in the San Diego area.
“Quality and consistency are the main pillars of our brand,” King says. “Our products taste good with or without cannabis, though ultimately, we want to align ourselves with those who are like-minded in cannabis, and continue multi-state expansion. We also want to continue growing our staff and infrastructure.” Kaneh Co. employs 65 people, predominantly women in the industry, and sells approximately 100,000 units of product per month.
As the pressure of the holidays mounts, depression, anxiety, and stress rear their ugly heads. It’s important to remember there is no need to strive for perfection or even the appearance of perfection. That’s too much pressure for anyone to endure. Instead, let us focus on a sense of calm to ward off the less jovial feelings that can accompany this time of year.
According to an article by healthstatus.com, changing your approach to the holidays is a great start to lowering the risk of sadness. “There is nothing wrong with you when you feel depressed during the holidays. All that celebration, joy, and good will can actually get to be a little much,” the article says. “You might believe that you are out of step with the rest of the world, but statistics say that over 40 percent of the population just feels exhausted and inadequate.”
Journalist John Riddle looked into holiday stress and depression for psycom.net. “[People often] suffer from what I call HAT days—long periods of feeling Horrible, Awful, Terrible from November 1 through early January,” he says. Riddle talked to Julie Potiker, mindfulness expert and author; Bradley Nelson, holistic physician and author; and Sherry Amatenstein, psycom.net contributing editor, therapist, and social worker, to formulate a list of ways to avoid excessive holiday spending and other stress triggers.
Their topline expert advice: “Shift your perspective; make a list [of gifts to purchase and decorating tasks] to put your mind at ease; bury the past; make time to move [exercise]; discover and release emotional baggage; be flexible; don’t sweat the small stuff; find humor in the madness; and experience the spirituality of the season in whatever way it resonates with you.” Following that advice can make all the difference.
“Embrace the many positive aspects of the season,” says Riddle. “The simple act of making someone else happy…is just about the best way I know of to make yourself feel better, too.” No matter what you do this time of year, be kind to yourself.
This year has been a whirlwind .So much happened in 2019. It’s one of those years that’s hard to catalog, let alone summarize. If I were pressed, I’d say this has been a year of awareness, growth, chaos, beauty, community, and change.
This month signifies a rebirth of Sensi, as we share our brand-new redesign. It is a labor of love we are beyond proud of. Our creative team outdid themselves, and we hope you love it as much as we do.
As I look back on all the issues we’ve put together this year, the breadth of stories and the continual shifts in our industry, I’m in awe of those who continue to fight for social choice, those who fight for the betterment of people in need, those seeking natural wellness, and those protecting planet Earth by making conscious decisions about packaging, growing, and cultivation. The dialogue in the cannabis space has also extended well beyond recreational use and has spilled into the luxe, beauty, longevity, fashion, and mental well-being spaces. And it’s something to celebrate.
In that same vein, this final issue of 2019 takes us through stories of industry leaders, change-makers, creative artisans, and cultural beauty, including exploring festive holiday lights and welcoming in the new year in style.
Hal Borland said, “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” Those words are instrumental in shifting the conversation from being others-focused to looking inward. May this transition into a new year encourage self-discovery and offer insight when you look back, and may it provide ferocity as you move forward.
Enjoy every moment of December, from the crisp chill in the winter air to the joy emanating from a stranger’s smile as you take in the festive holiday-lit streets throughout Southern California.
I drink badly, and I have a lot of fun doing it (when I remember). That’s a lethal combination, and when you throw in my unfortunate discovery of White Claw—I can drink as many as I want and never feel full!—I flamed out with alcohol last winter.
On February 1, just as everyone else was celebrating the end of Dry January and just ahead of the Summer of the Claw, I swore off the seltzer. I figured I’d give myself one month (note: the year’s shortest) to reset. It wasn’t an easy 28 days, but when March 1 rolled around, I felt better than I’d felt in years. The chronic inflammation I had attributed to everything from gluten sensitivity to genetics was clearing. I saw the light, and there was no going back.
I thought sobriety would be lonely, that every Saturday night would be Netflix. I forgot the Brett Kavanaugh generation isn’t in charge of culture anymore (thank God).
Millennials and Gen Xers aren’t interested in swilling beer until they black out like we did in the ’80s. Sober is sexy—or, as hipsobriety.com sees it, “sobriety is the new black.”
On Instagram, there are influencers such as @stylishlysober, @thesoberglow, and the darker @fucking_sober and hashtags like #soberliving, #soberAF, and #sobercurious. Millie Gooch, who posts as @sobergirlsociety, encourages her nearly 60,000 followers with inspirational messages like “Mocks not cocks” and “Sobriety: a surefire way to improve your wellbeing and your Uber rating.”
Just like that, I’m a cool kid—with a huge range of new options on Saturday night (and beyond). I’m exploring elixirs made with raw cacao, maca, and horny goat weed at Tonic Herban Lounge just a few blocks from my home in downtown Boulder (I can walk home after imbibing, and it amuses me that I don’t need to). I can do yoga and shake it before dawn at a Daybreaker dance party (daybreaker.com) in Denver, one of 27 cities where the alcohol-free early morning rave pops up and invites people to “sweat, dance, and connect with ourselves in community.”
I’m surely not alone in this realization that life is better without booze. Worldwide, alcohol consumption fell by 1.6 percent last year. Led by young people, heavy-hitting countries like Russia, Canada, Japan, and the UK are seeing drinking rates as well as tolerance toward intoxication decline. An international survey found that about a third of people wanted to reduce their alcohol intake because of everything from sexual regret and embarrassment to physical health. A 2018 survey found that nearly 40 percent of global consumers want to drink less for health reasons.
In the US, CNBC reports, 52 percent of adults are trying to lower their alcohol intake, and underage drinking has steadily declined in the last 10 years. But only 21 percent of US adults in a CivicScience poll said they had any interest in drinking less or not at all, and most of those were 21- to 34-year-old, vegan-leaning flexitarians who practice yoga and consume cannabis daily. Women, especially those in their 30s and 40s, are drinking more than ever.
Booze still rules for most Americans, and “increased stress and demoralization” is actually pushing more women, minorities, and poor people to the bottle, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The national Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 17 million adults in the US are alcohol dependent, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six binge drink—defined as drinking four or more drinks over two hours or until blood alcohol reaches 0.08—nearly once a week. For this White Claw guzzler, that definition is, well, sobering. I called that happy hour.
Giving up alcohol isn’t a hashtag for a lot of people. It’s not even a choice. As Sean Paul Mahoney writes on The Fix, a website about addiction and recovery, “I didn’t get sober to be cool. I just got sober to stop dying.”
A Little Bit Addicted?
“Sober curious” became a thing after HarperCollins released Ruby Warrington’s Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol in 2018. Warrington also has a podcast, runs Club SÖda NYC (featuring sober events like Kundalini Disco), and stages events (“Sober Curious: Choosing Sobriety for Focus, Presence, and Deep Connection” is February 14–16, 2020, at Massachusetts’ renowned wellness retreat center Kripalu). Her take is that a lot of Americans might not have a “problem” with alcohol but see it as getting in the way of their healthy lifestyles. “We eat well. We exercise. We meditate,” the press release for Sober Curious states. “So, why do we…still drink?”
Warrington wants to know why the only people who don’t drink are the ones who can’t and asks, “What if I am just…a little bit addicted?”
Call me old school, but a little bit addicted sounds a lot like a little bit pregnant. I worry that people who shouldn’t will take the advice of John Costa, who writes on twentytwowords.comthat being sober curious is like being bi-curious—you don’t always hook up with people of the same sex, and you don’t have to cut out drinking forever. “Be sober half the time,” he writes, “and sauced the other half.” He’s joking, but those are dangerous words for me. That’s the life I was living: sober by day + tanked by night = balance.
Like all disorders (and pretty much everything in our culture), alcohol use runs on a spectrum. I was at the end that spent hours upon hours researching whether drinking while on this antibiotic would really make me projectile vomit and scoffed at friends as they struggled through Dry January, Dry July, Sober September, and Sober October. I wasn’t interested in giving up drinking for any reason or any amount of time, until I had to give it up for life.
Warrington, who sees reducing alcohol intake as another step in the wellness revolution, is at the other end of the spectrum—and she is aware of the difference between recovering from alcohol addiction and feeling better during yoga. I hope all of her followers are, too, because the last thing most drinkers need is a loophole.
I want to believe the trend Warrington is leading toward spirits-free activities and thoughtfulness about alcohol’s role in our culture—where every ritual, celebration, loss, entertainment, and even sporting event is cause for a drink—is not a trend but a movement. That we’ll look back at “mommyjuice” like we shake our heads at “mother’s little helper” pills from the ’60s and ’70s. The infrastructure to support sobriety is being built, and public opinion is turning. After centuries of going hard, America is getting woke, not wasted.
At the end of October, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Cannabis Open Houses Are Putting the High in High-End Real Estate.” The trend piece by author Katherine Clarke revealed the emerging discovery being used by developers and real-estate agents to move luxe properties in communities where recreational cannabis is not just legal but widely accepted.
It’s not unlike Los Angeles, where the rising industry is being hailed as an untapped source for buyers of high-priced homes. Throwing cannabis-related events—everything from elaborate seven-course pairing dinners with vapes in lieu of vino to live trimming classes—at multimillion-dollar properties on the market is garnering attention, building social buzz, and attracting buyers with money earned in, around, or on cannabis.
Not everyone sees the genius behind the trend, however. Clarke spoke to one agent in New York, where recreational cannabis is still a pipe dream and old tropes live on about munchie-motivated stoners. “When I think about cannabis, I don’t think about buying an expensive house,” says Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber. “It’s not a call for action as much as a call for Doritos.”
Someone should tell him friends don’t let friends make tired stoner jokes anymore. Especially ones implying cannabis consumers indulge their munchies with mindless consumption of unhealthy snacks when the reality is cannabis appeals to what The Economist dubs the “health-conscious inebriate,” citing a poll that 72 percent of American consumers thought cannabis was safer than alcohol. A 2018 The New Yorker headline declared cannabis to be a wellness industry in California where, in fact, a cannabinoid cousin of THC and CBD is starting to garner a whole lot of buzz. Instead of stimulating appetites, THCV may suppress those hunger pangs. When 2021 is declared the year of THCV, you can say you heard it here first.
Consumption and consumerism
Cannabis has moved so far beyond the clichés of yore. Tie-dye tees, bell-bottom cords, dancing bear patches, plastic bongs, Ziploc baggies: these tired trends are so out of style, some have already circled back and left again. (Looking at you, tie-dye.) The stoner kids of yesterday are the cannabis entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs of today. And as they’ve aged, their tastes in cannabis aged with them, like the fine wine they can now afford. Cannabis consumers have money to burn.
And since we live in a capitalist society (an unjust one where people remain locked up for nonviolent drug charges in states that earn taxes off now-legal cannabis sales—that’s a whole layered story for a different day), money makes things happen. And what’s happening now is the emergence of a cannabis experience elevated to a higher level.
If you were paying attention to the pop-culture cues over the decades, you would have seen the high-end highs coming. When cannabis prohibition began its slow-and-steady march to its forthcoming end, it emerged from the black market with an established following of consumers—loyal cannabis consumers with no brand loyalty, because cannabis brands didn’t exist. Dealers did, growers did, activists, advocates, and believers, too. But the concept of cannabis brands was all brand-new.
With strict laws surrounding where the substance can be marketed, sold, advertised, distributed, and more, establishing customer loyalty in this industry is more difficult than it would seem on the surface. What differentiates one edible brand from another, one vape pen from the next is complicated to discern for those who aren’t well versed in the modern verbiage or its meaning. (Full-spectrum distillate, live resin, 2:1 ratios, oh my!)
This is where marketing and branding comes into play. And with marketing and branding comes the emergence of new market segments, including the ultra-luxury category. It is from within that category that future trends are likely to emerge. That’s how trends play out, as Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep) explained to her new assistant in one iconic scene of The Devil Wears Prada. (If you haven’t seen it in a while, a quick refresher: “The color of the shirt you are wearing right now was determined years ago by high-end designers preparing their collections for fashion week runways.”)
Trickle-down trends are a hierarchical process whereby individuals with high status establish fashion trends, only to be imitated by lower-status individuals wearing cheaper versions of the same styles.
“It’s always been a thing,” says Karyn Wagner, CEO of Paradigm Cannabis Group, a women-owned extraction company specializing in pre-rolls and extracts made from small-batch sun-grown flower. “There’s always been those products that are better than others. But now, with adult use, we have to be more brand-conscious. With that, how do you distinguish yourself from someone else? Why is this better? What makes it better?”
Some like it haute
With any luxury good, consumers want the assurance of quality and efficacy, Wagner says. But you can never underestimate the prestige that comes with a high price tag. “The moneyed class always loves expensive items,” she says. “This normalizes it in their world. It brings in folks who didn’t normally have the desire. It made it OK in their class. Expensive breeds expensive things. You wouldn’t have expensive cannabis if you didn’t have people who wanted to buy expensive cannabis.”
Jenny Le Coq, president of Le Coq & Associates, a marketing and communications firm in San Francisco that represents Kikoko cannabis-infused botanical mints, points out that most people typically don’t seek out a cheap bottle of wine, but look for something fine, trustworthy, and familiar. They want to know the winery, its reputation, who recommends the vintage. “People are looking at wines today with a more discerning eye—how their grapes are grown, for example,” Le Coq says. “People are looking at cannabis in the same way: with a discerning eye.”
“Discerning” can add up to big money, for sure. Anecdotal stories abound in national media outlets, suggesting couples in Colorado will drop several bills on “cannagars” and other high-end party favors to celebrate weddings and anniversaries. At The High End, Barneys New York’s luxury cannabis lifestyle shop in Beverly Hills, shoppers can splurge on a $1,475 sterling silver bud grinder or a $950 water pipe. New York fashion brand Alice + Olivia partnered with luxury cannabis brand Kush Queen to debut a CBD wellness line earlier this year—bath bomb, body lotion, bubble bath with lavender. Alice + Olivia packaging features CEO Stacey Bendet’s signature “StaceFace” motif, with big sunglasses and a bold red lip. A timeless statement-making style that trendsetters of every era make their own while trendy types try to emulate the overall aesthetic. That’s just the way things work.
To be fair, luxury doesn’t have to mean $$$$. What it must indicate, however, is quality. “Luxury is an assigned label. It is typically assigned by marketers,” Le Coq says. “So, what do you want cannabis to be? As a consumer, how do you perceive luxury? The concept is really defined differently by every person. We want people to experience something that is luxurious. Not only the packaging is beautiful, the taste is beautiful, the place you are put into mentally is a nice, beautiful place.”
Walk down any city street, and you’ll likely see an opportunistic mushroom growing somewhere. They pepper the lawns of suburban America and turn out in droves on millions of woodland acres all over the globe. They’re tenacious yet fragile—and often misunderstood. As plentiful as they are, the study of mushrooms is a relatively young science.
Master herbalist Nathan Searles, who harvests, dries, and sells mushrooms through his company, Forgotten Traditions in Tilton, New Hampshire, says about 1.4 million different types of mushroom species exist. Mycologists, scientists who study fungi, have identified about 80,000 of them, with only 2,000 deemed to be edible.
Ethnobotanists believe mushrooms have been part of the human diet since early humans. The Greek playwright, Euripides, made the first known reference to eating fungi around 450 BC. In the early 1700s, mushroom studies erroneously grouped fungi with plant life, and it wasn’t until nearly 100 years later that the term “mycology” was coined. Mushrooms have been studied in-depth for only about 70 years.
Mushrooms are curious organisms. They differ widely in size, shape, color, texture, nutritional value, and toxicity. Up to 60 percent of their genetics are similar to humans, and it takes two genetically similar spores, or eggs, to create a new organism.
Patterns of Consciousness and a Will to Be Harvested
Before you forage for mushrooms in the wild, learn from a professional how to determine what’s safe to consume. Searles warns that hunting in New England has its own set of risks. “There are look-alikes that can be very dangerous,” he cautions. Many mushroom species are similar in appearance but vary greatly in their compounds, depending on the type, season, region, substrate, and climate. The prized morel, for example, has a look-alike called a “false morel.” The difference is obvious to experts, but enthusiastic foragers can make dangerous mistakes.
All mushrooms are not edible. Mushrooms fall into four basic categories: edible, nonedible, toxic, and poisonous. Not all toxic mushrooms are poisonous, but all poisonous ones are toxic. “Some of the world’s most deadly mushrooms are in Massachusetts,” says Doug Sparks, editor-in-chief of Merrimack Valley Magazine and an amateur forager.
New England is home to some interesting species. “Hen of the woods, chaga, reishi, and turkey tail are powerful medicinal mushrooms,” says Sparks, who hunts for 25 species and can identify between 60 and 70. “Then there’s the black trumpet, absolutely delicious, and chanterelles, one of the tastiest out there.” (Searles, the herbalist, keeps the savory, rich, slightly smoky black trumpet—difficult to spot on the forest floor—exclusively for his family.)
Mushrooms “want to be harvested,” Sparks says. “It’s like they line the pathways for people to find them. It’s how they reproduce. When you pick them, thousands of spores are released. They want to be disturbed. They seem to show patterns of consciousness. Mycelium is part of a network, like trees that communicate underground.”
Mycologist Paul Stamets, the go-to guy in fungi, insists that mushrooms call to him and communicate with him through intuition and imagination. Sparks agrees. “Sometimes you just feel it, and you have an impulse, and it guides you,” he says.
Nutritious and Flavorful
Mushrooms are perceived very differently around the world. Cultures are mycophilic or mycophobic depending on how plentiful wild mushrooms are to the region. Italians, Asians, and Eastern Europeans grow up around mushrooms and use them in traditional dishes, while the Irish and English approach them with more caution.
In Asian cultures, matsutake mushrooms sell for up to $5,000 per pound, Searles says, because they cannot be cultivated and must be foraged in the wild near pine trees. Shiitake mushrooms are also considered a delicacy and are as widely cultivated as white button mushrooms in the US. Oyster mushrooms, the new darlings in the Western world, broadened the playing field because they’re easy to cultivate and grow on almost any substrate, as long as it’s sufficiently inoculated with spores.
Most mushrooms contain an impressive but varying amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals and are 20 to 30 percent water. The nutritional makeup of any mushroom depends largely on the substrate—the more nutrient dense it is, the more nutritional value contained in the mushroom, Searles explains. Some species are notably high in vitamin B-12, which is difficult to maintain in the body. Searles and Sparks agree, however, you cannot survive on mushrooms alone. Their dense fiber content makes them difficult to digest, and too many mushrooms will make you sick.
When it comes to flavor, mushrooms are a core food for achieving “umami,” a word that means savoriness in Japanese and has joined the ranks of the familiar tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Unusually rich and satisfying, umami is equated with the intense flavor of aged, dried, and fermented foods. Dried shiitake mushrooms are umami, offering a dense base and a hearty broth when rehydrated. Umami stems from the presence of glutamate—the same glutamate you’ll find in popular flavor enhancer MSG.
As veganism grows in popularity, mushrooms have become a go-to meat alternative, delicious in soups and sauces and now graduating to become the main dish at the dinner table. Keith Pooler, head chef and owner of Bergamot in Somerville, creates some remarkable flavor combinations with fungi, including Madeira Mushroom Cream, which combines earthy morels with a rich cream sauce and full-bodied Portuguese wine.
No matter how you slice them, mushrooms are becoming a staple food in the American diet. As our understanding of these remarkable fungi expands, so will our discovery of new uses in the kitchen and in medicine.