Marijuana lovers should have high hopes for the future, thanks in part to Chicago-based pastry chef Mindy Segal.
Segal isn’t afraid to push the boundaries – that’s probably why she won the highly acclaimed James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Pastry Chef” Award in 2012 (after being nominated five times previously). The owner of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Wicker Park and author of “Cookie Love” has concocted delicious hot chocolate, cookies, cakes and ice cream over her career. Now, she makes edibles.
That’s right. In 2016, after 30 years of experience in the pastry industry, Segal decided to partner with one of Illinois’ leading cannabis cultivators, Cresco Labs, after they approached her about starting her own line of cannabis-infused sweets. Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2013 and decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug in 2016, but has yet to give the go-ahead on recreational use, sale and cultivation. So for now, medical marijuana dispensaries are the only place you’ll be able to buy Segal’s product line, dubbed Mindy’s Artisanal Edibles.
On the menu:
Apricot peach hard candies
Key lime hard candies
Dark chocolate almond toffee
Chocolate sea salt caramels
Citrus dreamsicle caramels
PB & J caramels
Lisa Kamerad, edibles general manager for Cresco, says the company is trying to “break away from some of the stigma surrounding that ‘bad brownie’ experience, and the most professional way to do that was to align with an expert.”
So forget about that nasty, burned pot brownie mess you just took out of your oven – Segal crafts high-end, artisanal products like chocolate brittle, caramels and hard candies infused with Cresco’s flavorless, odorless cannabis extract. Because of her pastry chef background, Segal says her line of edibles is very focused on flavor and quality, and it incorporates ingredients like Belgian chocolate and real vanilla bean.
“It’s a chef-driven product,” Segal says. “So it’s using my knowledge of being a chef and a pastry chef and bringing that to the marijuana culture.”
Cooking with cannabis isn’t that different from cooking normally, says Matthew Rowbotham, the head facility chef at Cresco who helps bring Segal’s ideas to life.
“The main difference is introducing a unique flavor and also ensuring homogenization between the cannabis and the food,” Rowbotham says. “You need to balance and pair the flavors of cannabis and the other ingredients in the treat.”
Kamerad says Segal has been an integral part of the process every step of the way, from designing the kitchen where the edibles are made to developing the mouth-watering recipes.
According to Cresco’s press release from December 2015, Segal wanted to give back to people suffering from chronic pain by “reinventing the marijuana-infused sweets industry.” And if you have a medical marijuana card for one of the 40+ preexisting conditions covered under Illinois state law, you don’t need to venture far to get Segal’s innovative creations. Pharmacannis, the licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Evanston at the corner of Maple Avenue and Clark Street, sells Mindy’s Artisanal Edibles just steps away from Northwestern’s campus.
For under $10, medical patients can purchase a tasty caramel, hard candy or piece of chocolate brittle containing 10 to 25 milligrams of THC, or they can grab a whole box of goodies for between $40 and $80, depending on the potency. However, Cresco’s advice for its customers is to “start low and go slow” when it comes to edibles for pain relief because it takes longer to feel their effects.
Segal is hopeful for the future of Mindy’s Artisanal Edibles, as she continues to work with Cresco to develop and perfect her line of products and expand to other recreational states by the end of this year.
“The future depends almost entirely on the law,” Kamerad says. “But we are on the path to frame edibles as both palatable medicine and great-tasting treats. In a legalized and recreational market, the industry has the potential to reinvent dining experience.”