High Country: Red Belly Honey wowed the crowd at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
Founder Joline Rivera reflects on her CBD-infused superfood’s big debut
Two years ago, High Country formed an official content partnership with one of the pioneers of the cannabis cuisine scene, Kitchen Toke magazine. Not only was I inspired by its founder Joline Rivera, who had the foresight and courage to create a print publication about what was (and still is) a largely taboo subject when it debuted on newsstands in 2018, but also by what I was reading in Kitchen Toke’s pages each quarter.
When I entered the tents during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen last Friday for the first Grand Tasting, I beelined it straight to the Red Belly Honey table where I met Rivera in person for the first time. Not only is she a woman in a male-dominated industry at the helm of the first-ever media company dedicated to teaching people about culinary cannabis for health and wellness, but also the founder of her own CBD-based product line — only one of three cannabis brands to be accepted into the mainstream event (more on that next week).
Launched in 2020 in partnership with PhytoPharma International, Red Belly Honey is the world’s only whole- plant hemp honey made by bees — in addition to collecting nectar from wildflowers and plants, they do the infusing, too, by dining on a ruby-red patented hemp nectar that utilizes full-spectrum, whole plant hemp. Seeing Rivera in action, alongside two “Chopped 420” cheftestants (Derek Simcik and Emily Oyer) she enlisted to assist her throughout the weekend, I exclaimed that it must have felt like a full-circle moment for her to be presenting Red Belly Honey at what is arguably the most prestigious stage for the culinary industry.
“It’s been very rewarding for both myself and the brand,” Rivera agreed. “As a person who’s been in food media for nearly 20 years, it’s pretty incredible to create my first CPG brand and have it recognized at this level. As with any startup, you make a lot of sacrifices … there are a lot of ups and downs. Being involved with and recognized by Food & Wine is something that validates all of our hard work — we know we’re on the right track.”
Rivera’s vision for her inaugural appearance in Aspen — one she’s been planning for the better part of the past year — included Red Belly Honey jars stacked high with custom floral arrangements featuring beautiful cannabis buds created by local Heather Listermann and Snap Pack swag.
Over the course of five Grand Tasting sessions, Simcik and Oyer served up two inventive dishes: venison lemongrass skewers with a Red Belly Honey nuoc cham emulsion and corvina ceviche topped with coconut Red Belly Honey snow.
“During the festival, we had hundreds of people seek us out after reading about us in The Aspen Times. I think over the next few weeks we’ll continue to see how effective the event was for our brand,” Rivera added. “And because Red Belly Honey is infused with CBD, we’re not able to promote our brand on social media (due to advertising restrictions around the plant), so this was an incredible opportunity for us to tell our story and see people’s reactions first hand. I loved seeing their faces light up — it’s so rewarding!”
As a toast to the Kitchen Toke team, and as we’ve done with every change of season since 2019, here is a Red Belly Honey recipe from the just-released fall issue for you to try at home. If you weren’t lucky enough to snag a Snap Pack sample during the Classic, you can order a box online ($19.95) or a full jar ($80) at redbellyhoney.com.
Autumn Joy Sweet Potato Toast
- 4 slices sourdough bread or gluten-free option, grilled or toasted
- ¼ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 Japanese sweet potato, roasted, peeled, cut into ¼-inch cubes
- ½ cup coarsely chopped radicchio
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
- ¼ cup Red Belly Honey
- Spread toasted or grilled bread with ricotta.
- Top with sweet potato, radicchio, walnuts and drizzled Red Belly Honey.
- Makes 4 servings.
Kitchen Toke’s fall issue cover. | Courtesy Kitchen Toke