Sayegh has taken his culinary training (including under chef Josiah Citrin at Michelin-starred Mélisse) and applied them to creating cannabis meals that can stand on their own, while also harnessing the addition of CBD and/or THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. The upcoming Nostalgia is a culinary take on foods from the 1970s up to the early 2000s. “A blast from the past, but more modernized,” says Sayegh when describing the food and drinks. Initially Nostalgia will be more of a lounge-y hangout, with plans to develop into a full service restaurant over time.
When it opens in either December 2021 or January 2022, Nostalgia will have a fairly short food menu. That might mean a caviar-topped lobster roll or branzino fish and chips. Sayegh will serve dips and vegetables that change by season, while dessert features an ice cream push pop, a nod to the childhood treat. The food will not contain any CBD or other cannabis.
Sayegh will, however, utilize CBD and terpenes in the drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. CBD and terpenes contain the non-psychoactive element of cannabis. Bartenders will adjust old fashioneds according to the season, using summer peach or winter melon. There’s also boozy versions of childhood drinks, including one that tastes like Otter Pops and another similar to Capri Sun. Readers might recall that CBD cocktails were essentially banned in 2018. Recently, California Assembly Bill 45, which passed in October 2021, made it legal to serve them again.
Over the last decade, the Herbal Chef owner Chris Sayegh has developed a following by preparing cannabis dinners throughout Southern California. Because of their success and popularity, Sayegh is now gearing up to open his first bar, lounge, and restaurant in Santa Monica called Nostalgia. The arrival not only gives Sayegh a permanent home, it reopens the discussion of cannabis consumption lounges across greater Los Angeles.
Despite Proposition 64 legalizing recreational use of cannabis in 2016, it’s unclear whether it’s fully legal to serve cannabis-infused prepared meals, in even private settings. While AB 45 allowed the serving of CBD cocktails in public establishments, cannabis-infused food is still off the table. For years, chefs in the LA area have been preparing private cannabis dinners with murky legal grounds. Savegh plans to host hosting private, members-only dinners at Nostalgia at a cost of about $295 per person. In comparison, West Hollywood’s currently-closed Original Cannabis Cafe allows on-site cannabis consumption without a membership fee in the form of smoking, vaping, or drinking (though the food itself does not contain cannabis).
A wall of fame in the café (an update on framed deli and dry-cleaning tributes to famous customers) will feature Cyrus, David Bowie, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Bruce and other “evangelists of cannabis,” says Black, including pioneers of the medical marijuana dispensaries in the ‘90s, advocates for legalization and the OGs of weed (81-year-old Tommy Chong and Snoop Dogg, who respectively peddle the brands Chong’s Choice and Leafs by Snoop).
Lowell Herb Co.’s latest innovation, the cannabis café, has been underway for three years, Black tells The Hollywood Reporter. (Smart foresight in the booming $10.4 billion U.S. cannabis market, projected by industry experts to rise to $80 billion by 2030, given federal legalization.) An integral part of the team is renowned cannabis chef and activist Andrea Drummer, who counts Handler, Wiz Khalifa, Miguel and companies such as Spotify as private dinner party clients. Drummer has also created a CBD-infused in-room dining menu for The James NoMad Hotel in New York and appeared on Netflix’s Cooking High and Chelsea Does.
A main push of the café is the educational experience for experts, newbies and tourists alike. That translates to a “cannoisseur” or “budtender” (a weed version of a sommelier) who can advise on the nuances of various cannabis strains or get down to the 101s of rolling. If one chooses to smoke, an array of high-end accessories are presented, such as ceramic bongs and pipes by L.A. company Miwak Junior or San Francisco-based Summerland, and luxe vape pens that can be tested before dropping down hundreds of dollars for a purchase.
In a multitude of savvy, social media-friendly marketing moves, Lowell Herb Co. launched a $55 smokable cannabis flower crown at Coachella in 2017, a $400 Valentine’s Day bouquet (one ounce of bud mixed discreetly with wildflowers and eucalyptus leaves), and a $300 holiday “tasting flight.” The brand has set up “canna-bars” for musical sister trio Haim’s Planned Parenthood charity party hosted by Emma Stone last December and singer Miguel’s wedding to Nazanin Mandi last November, complete with a custom N/M Blend.
America’s first cannabis cafe (complete with ‘budtenders’) is slated to open in L.A.’s West Hollywood neighborhood in August.