Cooking with cannabis-infused oils has never been more popular, but “Hawaii” Mike Salman’s “Dinner Is Dope” series is about more than just getting high. Along with his wife, Stephanie, Salman has been offering the monthly meals for just over a year, and sees them as a hybrid speakeasy-slash-Tupperware party where the food and the company are just as important as the THC.
“We look at cannabis as a very communal thing,” he says. “So is food. That’s why those worlds collide and mix so well. One of the things we try to do with ‘Dinner Is Dope’ is to provide a very unique experience where everybody is in the same place, doing the same thing.”
When the Salmans first moved from San Francisco to New York in the early 1990s, they began experimenting with traditional cannabis-infusions like candies, caramels, and gummies. “Dinner Is Dope” was born out of their desire to showcase the products they were making and, ultimately, has become a test kitchen of sorts, a place where select invitees can sample the Salmans’ offerings and meet like-minded folks.
“It’s all word-of-mouth,” Mike says of how guests come to attend a “Dinner Is Dope” event. “The address isn’t sent to guests until the day of the event. We also switch the venues up a lot. That gives it the air of a speakeasy.”
Unlike a speakeasy, the main feature of a “Dinner Is Dope” event is not bootlegged booze, but delectable meals. The menu for the two events the Salmans held in San Francisco in mid-November consisted of fried mac-and-cheese balls, twice-fried chicken wings, ahi poke salad, and banana pudding. Each item is infused with cannabis through sesame oil, honey, olive oil, or butter, and great pains are taken to ensure guests don’t over-medicate.
One trick the Salmans have come up with is to kick off the meal with a cannabis-infused cocktail.
“The timing is a big thing,” he says. “We joke that we use alcohol as a gateway drug. For people that aren’t very familiar with cannabis, there can be a lot of nervous anticipation, especially with edibles. With alcohol, as soon as you take a shot, you feel it, so we use that to get our guests into the moment.”
Lest anyone worry that they might not get enough medication, there are also communal smoke breaks built into the meal. For the San Francisco events, the Salmans partnered with Ganja Gold, who provided both honey oil for cooking and Tarantula pre-rolls for in between dishes. “Hawaii” Mike emphasizes that for his events, he always tries to source locally in every regard.
While “Dinner Is Dope” has mainly been relegated to New York City, the recent spate of legalized recreational use of marijuana has allowed the Salmans to take their venture on the road. (I’m speaking with them while they’re in Las Vegas, discussing possible avenues for expansion.)
For one, the Salmans want to get their products — which include cannabis-infused habanero honey, salted caramels, and granola — onto shelves in legalized states. There is also Chef for Higher, their catering company, and plans for a cookbook.
“With the cookbook, we can share the recipes that we’ve had at our past dinners. It’s a way to empower the community and show them how to be able to do infusions the way that we do, whether it’s for a small gathering or larger groups. We’ll also want to expand into merchandise and other things like that.”
As the Salmans work on the bigger picture, they are also currently enjoying the fact that their “Dinner Is Dope” parties are helping to foster community and bring people together. Mike says that it’s not unusual for strangers at one event to return as friends at the next one.
While limited space for each meal is available online, Mike says that the events are mostly filled with people from the Salmans’ extended network, be they friends, family, influencers, or entrepreneurs. He says that each “Dinner Is Dope” event welcomes guests from all walks of life, making them singular, temporary communities that hopefully last beyond the evening.
“It’s definitely a place where everybody is open and outgoing,” he says. “We want it to be a place where everybody is comfortable and can just be themselves.”