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It may sound French, but Pot d’Huile’s promise of a gourmet high is pure San Francisco.

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Cannabis-infused olive oil promises to make your next dinner party that much more entertaining.

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Photo: Grace Sager Photography

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Yannick Crespo isn’t really a pot guy. Though he cops to smoking up every once in a while (“when I feel uneasy at night”), he’s more of a wine connoisseur, the kind who makes vineyard pilgrimages to South Africa and Argentina. But he’s also a millennial San Franciscan with roommates, and two years ago, Crespo and one such roommate, John Bradbury, started brainstorming.

“John is an avid cannabis enthusiast, and I’m an avid foodie,” says Crespo, who at the time worked in finance. “And we were talking about how the cannabis space in San Francisco is peculiar: There’s a huge cannabis culture and food culture here, and yet the cannabis edibles market is extremely lacking.” Crespo and Bradbury stayed up late into the night, mulling a solution to the problem, until it finally dawned on them: olive oil. Or, more specifically, an odorless, neutrally flavored, precisely dosed cannabis-infused olive oil that would appeal to the very specific market of adventurous home cooks who want to know exactly how much magic they’re getting in their brownies, so to speak. Thus inspired, the pair began experimenting, eventually joining forces with Allison Comiso Bordsen, a biochemist who figured out how to give the oil a consistent, specific dosage. And finally, late last year, Pot d’Huile was born.

When it hits the shelves of local dispensaries in late January, Pot d’Huile, which retails at $30 for 100 milliliters, will join a burgeoning class of edibles designed to cater to more discerning palates. And thanks to the passage of Proposition 64, it will do so at a pivotal time for the cannabis industry, with private supper clubs hosting multicourse joint-pairing dinners, a small but very merry band of chefs proselytizing a brand of elevated cannabis cuisine, and higher-end dispensaries like SPARC and Harvest sprouting from SoMa to the Richmond. 

There has, in other words, been no better time in history for Crespo to announce, with no hint of irony, that he and his business partners “see ourselves as a lifestyle brand.” Pot d’Huile, he explains, is “about enjoying the dish’s flavor benefits along with reaping the benefits afterwards. It’s the holistic experience we’re after.” Of course, the holistic experience of being a cannabis entrepreneur these days is a somewhat more fraught affair. “A lot of people, whether they want to run a dispensary or edibles company, do napkin calculations and think it’s profitable,” says SPARC founder Erich Pearson. “Then they discover it’s not the easy ticket they thought it was. There’s real competition and real science out there.”

Plenty of small companies, Pearson says, won’t be able to comply with state regulations that legalization will impose on the industry. He hasn’t tried Pot d’Huile, but with so many would-be edibles manufacturers now entering the market, he thinks that its creators’ understanding of olive oil “is going to be a lot more valuable than their knowledge of cannabis.”

On that front, at least, Crespo’s is a legitimately premium olive oil. First of all, there’s the olives, a blend of hojiblancas and arbequinas grown at two small farms in Northern California. Then there’s the mild flavor, which bears none of the trademark funk of most edibles: A process of pure-alcohol extraction, Crespo explains, distills out the cannabis plant’s chlorophyll, which in turn removes the flavor of THC and allows the olive oil to keep its natural hue. On the weed front, there’s the oil’s one-to-one dosing ratio—one milliliter of olive oil delivers one milligram of THC—which Crespo claims is unique to his product. There’s also the fact that, unlike some edibles, it’s made not with trim but with whole flowers, where the desirable cannabinoids are most highly concentrated. Most of all, Crespo likes to tout the oil’s versatility. He’s engaged a few local chefs, including Lolo’s Jorge Martinez, to create recipes for the oil, which he says can be used for sautéeing, finishing, and baking. Martinez, who has made octopus carpaccio and crab tostadas with it, praises its consistency, along with its “relaxing sensation.”

Crespo has been courting more chefs, but he acknowledges that cannabis olive oil has met with “some pushback” from certain well-known individuals who don’t want to compromise their professional reputations. Still, he’s convinced that he is part of the next iteration of the food movement, and that time (and legality) will continue to open minds. “I’m never going to have a Michelin star,” he says. “But maybe one day I can produce a product that will be served in a Michelin-starred restaurant.”

 

Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco 

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