Marijuana-infused foods may be all the rage these days, but until recently Iâ€™d sworn them off. The high tended to come on too strong and left me feeling foggy. And lest we forget, recreational pot use is still illegal in Illinois. Plus, most of the brownies and gummies I tried tasted conspicuously like, well, pot. But now thereâ€™s a new breed of consumables containing cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive sister compound of THC, which is the component of marijuana that gets you stoned. Advocates say CBD, typically available as an oil, can still help ease anxiety, alleviate pain, and prevent insomnia, and its taste is easier to mask in culinary products. Itâ€™s also completely legal in Illinois. That was enough for me: I decided to sample the wares of a few local entrepreneurs.
It isnâ€™t the most creative business name, but this one-woman operation (cbdinfusededibles.net) makes baked goodsâ€”sold prepackaged at more than a dozen local natural-foods storesâ€”that are flat-out delicious. The owner, Stella Bulshteyn, comes from a family of bakers and spent months trying different recipes to find a formula that masked CBD oilâ€™s intensely grassy taste. I tried a double chocolate chip cookie and a brownie; both were cakey, with a nice coarse crumb, and packed with decadent chocolate chunksâ€”and not a hint of pot flavor. Even better is the coconut chocolate chip cookie: Itâ€™s just sweet enough, with a bit of chew and a sprinkle of coconut flakes. The effect? A double chocolate chip cookie, which contained 10 milligrams of CBD, took care of a nasty headache better than a couple of Advil, and polishing off a stronger brownie before bed yielded a rarity for me: seven hours of uninterrupted sleep.
The three Chicago locations of the specialty store (cbdkratomshops.com) sell dozens of kinds of CBD edibles: chocolate bars, gummies, lollipops, fruity snacks, you name it. Some of the products on the shelves contain high doses of CBDâ€”some packages of frog gummies from Green Roads, for example, have 100 milligramsâ€”but I recommend the lower-potency edibles like the CBD Chocolate milk chocolate bar (20 milligrams), which tastes remarkably like a Hersheyâ€™s, or lower doses of the aforementioned gummies (25 milligrams), which have an off-putting metallic taste but performed the remarkable feat of making me feel at peace with the world during an epic train delay on a crowded CTA platform.
Last year, chef Manny Mendoza, who hails from the South Side, started this cannabis supper club (herbalnotes.co) and began hosting pop-up multicourse meals in Chicago and other cities, serving cocktails and savory dishes made with CBD oil. Think roasted sweet potatoes in a CBD-infused Mexican milk sauce or a seared rib eye with CBD-infused green garlic grits. Mendoza uses the oil sparingly, meaning youâ€™ll finish the meal feeling satisfied and deeply relaxed, but not ready to nod off.