Elevating the edible

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Baked goods sold a decade ago at dispensaries in Oregon were clichés of contraband cookies. Consumers couldn’t mistake the key ingredient overwhelming those medical marijuana edibles, often homemade and packaged in plastic baggies.

Convinced that cannabis consumers hungered for something better, Laurie Wolf — a classically trained chef, cookbook author and longtime recipe developer — knew she could satisfy the collective appetite. Retailers’ cannabis edibles, she says, “completely sucked” before culinary experts like her stepped onto the scene.

“There are dreadful cookies out there,” says Wolf. “I hate edibles that taste like weed.”

With a dozen books to her credit, four of them manuals for cooking with cannabis, Wolf had hundreds of recipes and decades of experience on which to draw. Two years after Wolf and her daughter-in-law, Mary Wolf, founded Laurie + MaryJane in Portland, the company touts a dozen cannabis and hemp treats, the former stocked in more than 200 dispensaries around Oregon, the latter at the state’s New Seasons stores.

“We’ve tried to raise the bar,” says Wolf, who was dubbed “the Martha Stewart of marijuana edibles” in a 2017 article in The New Yorker.

Indeed, “elevating the edible” is Laurie + MaryJane’s business motto. Shoppers accustomed to the ubiquitous pot brownies and Rice Krispies Treats instead encounter Wolf’s sophisticated “almond cake bites,” “brownie truffle bites,” browned-butter cookies and ginger-molasses cookies. There are even chocolate cookies for vegans and cheese crisp crackers for anyone who favors savory snacks.

“I love how it sort of sneaks up on you,” says Wolf of dosing with edibles. The “full-bodied” high is just one benefit of using cannabis for a range of ailments and chronic conditions, she says, explaining that her epilepsy has subsided over the past five years of daily cannabis use.

“There is a cannabis product for like every body part now,” says Wolf, whose forthcoming book, “Apothecary,” delves into the pharmacopeia of cannabis and hemp remedies, including suppositories. It’s due out in fall 2020.

“This plant is a fucking miracle,” says Wolf. “I know tons of people who don’t take Ambien anymore,” she says, adding that eating one of her almond cake bites at bedtime induces the best night’s sleep some customers have had in 30 years.

But Wolf, a 65-year-old New York native, didn’t set out to disseminate the doctrine of cannabis. She left studies at New York University in her early 20s to train at Culinary Institute of America. Developing recipes as a consultant to New York restaurants, the young chef met Bruce Wolf, a photographer who encouraged her to try food styling. As husband and wife, the Wolfs have since worked on numerous projects together and relocated to Oregon in 2008.

Magazine work has been Wolf’s bread and butter for decades. She served for nearly 20 years as the food editor for Child and briefly for Mademoiselle before management realized that “nobody who read the magazine actually ate anything.” But demand from periodicals kept growing as Wolf developed recipes exclusively for their pages, including such cannabis-industry publications as Culture, High Times and Dope Magazine, as well as The Oregonian and San Francisco Chronicle.

The key ingredient in so many of Wolf’s recipes is full-spectrum, organic coconut oil. Laurie + MaryJane sells 4-ounce portions infused with hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD, which has potent pain-relieving properties with none of the mind-altering effects of cannabis’ tetrahydrocannabinol — THC. Granola toasted with CBD-infused oil is another Laurie + MaryJane specialty.

For its THC-containing edibles, Laurie + MaryJane steeps cannabis, sun-grown in Southern Oregon, directly in coconut oil. The absence of solvents retains the plant’s full range of chemical compounds, such as terpenes, cannabinoids and flavonoids, says Wolf. The process differs dramatically from preparing edibles with isolates and distillates that extract only cannabis’ THC, she says. Incorporating all of the plant’s compounds, including essential oils, ensures they all work together, each magnifying the therapeutic benefits of the others, which has been termed “the entourage effect.”

“That’s really our main focus … to have the effects of the terpenes,” says Wolf, referring to the numerous organic compounds in cannabis that play a role in flavor, aroma and physiological response.

The old cannabis classifications of indica and sativa play a much smaller role in Laurie + MaryJane’s selection, says Wolf, explaining that cross-breeding has made the terms all but irrelevant. So she chooses strains that complement the food ingredients’ flavors, as well as how they work on body and mind.

Supplying those strains, East Fork Cultivars in Takilma has been at the forefront of sustainable, organic, craft production of cannabis and hemp since 2014. Farm co-founder Nathan Howard credits Laurie + MaryJane with helping to “normalize” cannabis.

“They’re certainly innovators.”

Although state laws keep Wolf’s “world class” products “locked” inside Oregon, Howard, citing recent legislative progress, says he sees the potential for interstate commerce in the adult-use market by 2021. Howard has served on various political and environmental campaigns, councils and committees, and his company’s Portland office adjoins Laurie + MaryJane.

“We recognized they were our people,” he says.

The demographic responding to Laurie + MaryJane products, however, defies stereotypes. Popular with “soccer moms,” says Wolf, are her line of “low-dose cookies,” containing 10 milligrams of THC and billed as a starting point for newcomers to cannabis edibles. They also come in entirely biodegradable packaging, a selling point for environmentally conscious shoppers.

Yet for all the satisfied customers relaxing with their tasty treats, there are still plenty who want to get as high as they can at the lowest price, says Wolf. So she created a line of THC fudge, dubbed “Go Fudge Yourself,” that’s been selling like hotcakes, particularly in Southern Oregon.

“There’s still a lot of stoners out there.”

Find Laurie + MaryJane at more than 20 Southern Oregon retailers, available on the map of dispensaries at www.laurieandmaryjane.com.

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

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