Sensi Magazine

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Parties for the People: The Challenges and Rewards of Covid Era Catering

By Robyn Griggs Lawrence
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PARTIES-FOR-PEOPLE-FEAT

COVID-19 makes serving cannabis dinners a little more challenging and a lot more meaningful.

February was an incredible month for my young business, Cannabis Kitchen Events, which provides private cannabis-infused dinners and cooking classes at people’s homes and short-term rentals in Denver. We catered our first wedding on Febraury 22, and our upcoming calendar was packed with bachelorette and birthday parties well into the summer. We were ready. It was go time.

And then, as we all know too well, it wasn’t. When we suspended operations in mid-March and postponed all events until further notice, I had no idea if we would ever serve Canna-Mango Mules again. Would anyone be willing to invite possible COVID-19 carriers into their homes or to gather around tables to share meals? who would get on an airplane or rent an Airbnb?

We held out hope, taking the pause as an opportunity to refine and improve some of CK Events’ systems and develop stringent COVID-19 safety practices based on everything we could learn from Dr. Fauci, the City of Denver, and the State of Colorado (the most trusted sources we could find). Food service is all about food safety, so we were already well-versed in handwashing and disinfecting, and we had plenty of boxes of gloves in our inventory. Adding masks to the equation was easy enough.

In June, as Colorado began to open back up, we had our first rescheduled event, a birthday party for 10 that was held on the patio of a private home. Soon we had another, and then another, as Colorado continued to flatten and decelerate the curve. Turns out a lot of people are more willing to eat a meal prepared for them in the safety of their own home than they are to venture out into a restaurant. By July, we were back to where we started—and then some.

People were ready to party. In a July 3 New York Times article, Harvard Medical School infectious disease epidemiologist Julia Marcus summed up how all of us were feeling when she said: “Why can’t the message be: ‘We understand you want to gather with friends. There are ways to do this safely.’ We’re just telling them not to gather. That doesn’t recognize basic human behavior and basic human needs.

DEEP RESPONSIBILITY 

Catering has never been an easy business. Nurturing happy clients takes some physical and mental heavy lifting. But it’s worth every minute of the labor and stress when we get to watch diners sigh with pleasure as they enjoy a delicious, perfectly dosed meal and share some deep laughs with their favorite people. We get to help people create occasions they’ll never forget, experiences they may never have again. We take that responsibility seriously.

We sell our clients a lot more than a cannabis-infused meal. We sell them safety. When they sit down to dig into Grilled Colorado Tri-tip with Cannabis Chimichurri, they can be certain they will consume just the right amount of cannabis, never too much. We’re vigilant about this. And now, we’re just as vigilant about making sure none of our clients get COVID-19. Has it made things more difficult? For Sure. We have to constantly monitor the staff for any symptoms or potential contacts with the virus and train everyone in the new COVID-19 protocol. We have to be happy and never whine about cooking in masks (it’s harder for some of us than others). Preppings and events take longer than they used to because of all the extra cleaning, and the exact ingredients we want aren’t always available. Be we always make it work.

In the end, it makes us a better company. We communicate more than we did before, and we’re all genuinely concerned about each other’s health. We’ve learned to be more creative in the kitchen and with our menu planning. Sometimes the substitutions we make for impossible-to-find ingredients are better than the original. Most of all, after weeks off and facing the potential of never cooking for people again, we have a lot more appreciation for just getting to do what we do—make people happy. The pandemic may have driven us into isolation, but cannabis is bringing us back together.

SAFETY DANCE 

Throw a dinner party without becoming a super spreader by following these guidelines.

  • If possible, hold your dinner outside. Indoor spaces have less ventilation, and it can be harder to keep people socially distanced.
  • Have one designated server handle all serving utensils.
  • Keep food covered when it’s not being served. Bring back those old-school cloches, the dome-shaped ceramic or glass covers for your serving dishes— easy to find at thrift stores.
  • Give everyone their own straw that they can slip under their masks to sip.
  • Keep the music down so people don’t have to shout, which expels more respiratory droplets.
  • Serve beverages in open tubs of ice and segregate them by type so people don’t have to go rooting around for the bottle or can they want.
  • Set up hand-washing stations for guests and staff.
  • Disinfect all surfaces, including serving areas and guest tables, before, during, and after the event.
  • Require all food preparers and servers to wear masks and gloves at all times and to change gloves frequently.
  • How you handle mask wearing in the privacy of your home is up to you, but make sure all your guests are on the same page. For guests with underlying conditions, it’s just as important to know if masks won’t be required as it to know if they will.

Canna-Mango Mule

Makes 1 mocktail

INFORMATION 

Made with freshly squeezed citrus, the best ginger beer you can find (it’s worth spending a little extra), and water-soluble THC or CBD, Canna-Mango Mules were the runaway hit of Summer 2020 and promise to remain CK Events’ most popular mocktail for the rest of the year.

INGREDIENTS 

2 ounces mango nectar

½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (preferably key limes)

½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 ounces ginger beer

1 packet Stillwater Ripple or other water-soluble THC or CBD product

1 lime wheel, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS 

  • Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Add mango nectar, lime juice, and Ripple.
  • Shake well. Strain into ice-filled glass or cup.
  • Pour ginger beer to fill cup.
  • Garnish with lime.