Cannabidiol blooming in hotel food and beverage options

One night last month at the James New York Nomad hotel, I ordered a room service meal of meatballs, Tater Tots, butter lettuce pear salad, olive tapenade and ice cream topped with caramel.

I then enjoyed a really deep sleep. That might have been due to the James' very comfortable bed. But it also could have been because all the things I ate had been prepared with cannabidiol (CBD).

One of many cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis, CBD is considered by many to be a remedy for pain, anxiety and insomnia as well as a means to promote general relaxation. Unlike its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) counterpart, it does not produce psychoactive effects and is therefore legal to consume in all 50 states.

As a result, CBD-infused products are flourishing, and hospitality food and beverage has been an early adopter. In California, where cannabis is legal, West Hollywood hotel Petit Ermitage has hosted pop-up CBD dinners. The Calistoga Motor Lodge near Napa offers a Brownies 'n' Bake spa and chocolate package, with both the massage and food infused with CBD.

The Standard, East Village’s No Bar serves the Matcha Haze, a cocktail made with gin, mezcal, green tea, egg white, lemon and a half-dropper of CBD tincture produced at a local smoke shop.
The Standard, East Village’s No Bar serves the Matcha Haze, a cocktail made with gin, mezcal, green tea, egg white, lemon and a half-dropper of CBD tincture produced at a local smoke shop.

CBD gummies and chocolate bars are showing up in hotel minibars nationwide, even in conservative Texas, where San Antonio's Hotel Havana offers CBD sea salt caramels.

Even in this realm, the James' room service "CBD tasting menu" might well be an industry first. It was created by Andrea Drummer, Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and author of "Cannabis Cuisine." James LaRusso, senior director of communications for Denihan Hospitality, said James executives were impressed by Drummer's preparation of a meal using cannabis for Chelsea Handler in her Netflix series, "Chelsea Does."

"We knew we had to work with her to create an experience like this for [our guests]," LaRusso said. "Rather than grabbing your Xanax, we think it's a great option to order those meatballs to your room for the same benefit."

Because CBD oil is tasteless, it is easy to add it to food without impacting the taste. Drummer developed a menu that she found fitting for lounging in a hotel room, such as meatballs.

"If you're in a beautiful room at the James and relaxing, you want that down-home kind of meaty deliciousness," she said. "I love a good meatball."

The CBD tasting menu at the James New York Nomad hotel includes meatballs.
The CBD tasting menu at the James New York Nomad hotel includes meatballs. Photo Credit: Johanna Jainchill

The CBD tasting menu is offered along with a list of CBD-infused products including lotions, lip balms, granola and dog treats (the James is pet-friendly.)

LaRusso said the menu is "overwhelmingly popular," not only with out-of-town guests but New Yorkers doing staycations just to try it. Right now the Nomad location is the only James with the CBD menu, but the brand plans to expand it to its newest hotel, the James Washington D.C., set to open in 2020.

Farther downtown, I stopped in at the No Bar at the Standard, East Village to check out their CBD-infused cocktail, the Matcha Haze. Made with gin, mezcal, green tea, egg white, lemon and a half-dropper of CBD tincture produced at a local smoke shop.

Simone Goldberg, head bartender for the Standard, said that matcha was used to add a caffeine kick to the cocktail, since the combo of CBD and alcohol could prove very relaxing.

The drink was deliciously balanced and refreshing. It happens to be very popular, in part due to the beautiful cannabis leaf made with matcha powder sprinkled on the egg white foam, which gives it a very social media-friendly quality. Starting this year, No Bar will offer $5 squirts of CBD as an add-on to any cocktail.

The Standard Hotels have already been stocking their minibars with CBD-infused gummies made for the brand by Lord Jones, in flavors such as blood orange and Sigurberry, crafted in partnership with the Icelandic band Sigur Ros.

The future of CBD in food and beverage, however, is up in the air. Earlier this month, New York City's Department of Health ordered restaurants not to sell food products containing CBD.

It all adds up to what Brent Bauer, director of the Mayo Clinic's Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program calls "the schizophrenic realm" in which the U.S. currently find itself with regard to cannabis. Owing to its different classifications at federal and state levels, no meaningful clinical studies on CBD are being done.

"That explains why it's very hard to get a clear-cut answer on: Is CBD good? Is it safe? Does it work?" he said. "If we could get past all of this legal hoopla and find some funding to do big studies, we'd have a much more directed way of saying use it or don't use it."

Anecdotally, Bauer said, many of his patients do find that CBD and hemp oil products are helpful with pain and anxiety.

"But we can't make endorsements based on anecdotes," he said.

Update: This report was updated on Feb. 28 to reflect the recently changed name of the bar at the Standard, East Village. It is now called No Bar.

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