Optimize Life Through Food, Cannabis Pairings

Cannabis “sommelier” says social justice the path to legalization

Philip Wolf of Cultivating Spirits (photo by A. Richmond)

Despite the fact that his March 11 SXSW panel was only about a third full, Philip Wolf was cheerful and undaunted, with enviable long, tawny hair, as he helped us learn to optimize our lives through consumption of food and cannabis.

Born in Houston, Wolf is driven to propel and sell the legal cannabis movement to what he called a previously untapped market: “soccer moms.” It was at a wine tasting dinner that it dawned on him, this is the perfect venue to start selling cannabis to the people who may have never considered using it, due to the stigma and its status in the United State as illegal. So he added a bowl and a lighter (they look cute and allow for the freshest taste) to an elegant place setting and founded Cultivating Spirits, or weed dinners.

Wolf benefits from being born into the business, and by being white. He shared that he’s gotten excellent press, for free. Time magazine covered his legal cannabis resort. In 2016, Bloomberg called him the “pot sommelier,” a nickname he happily took for a while. It helped reduce the stigma around weed, and with those soccer moms. He says he no longer embraces the nickname, preferring to call himself a host, a master of hospitality. And one might say, of legal cannabis commerce. But now he wants to emphasize terroir, the land, even though cannabis can be grown hydroponically, organically, or via a hybrid of those methods.

Wolf talked terpenes, a lot. He said his mother called him from Abilene asking when Texas might legalize it, and that she has since died before getting to see that day. He said when Texas joins the other 21 states and legalizes recreational cannabis he’ll open a store named for his mom in Abilene, with rocking chairs on the porch. When asked when he thinks Texas will legalize cannabis, he mentioned the for-profit prison-industrial system (America jails more people than any other country, and Texas jails more people than any other state), and how the social justice route may be the path.

And Wolf said he hoped the direction the cannabis market goes toward is more like how coffee and teas are sold, rather than what happened to tobacco. Wolf said tobacco was “a sacred plant, until the white man started cultivating it,” and hopes that, in the same way we see “lemon zinger” or chamomile tea, we will see cannabis labeled “Limoleen-Linalool.” And he isn’t too into the terms “indica” or “sativa” anymore, preferring to look at terpene type and percentage, and his senses of smell and taste. However, traditional indicas will pair better with red meat, and sativas with fish.

The Art of Cannabis and Food Pairings

Cannabis Track

Sat 11, 4pm, Austin Convention Center

Catch up with all of The Austin Chronicle's SXSW 2023 coverage.

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