High Country: Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar goes from hemp farm to table in new CBD-infused dinner series
Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar is known throughout the Roaring Fork Valley for an unwavering commitment to using locally sourced, fresh-from-the-soil ingredients in its inspired seasonal menus. But now husband-and-wife owners Robin and Steve Humble — along with executive chef Chris Krowicki — are making their farm-to-table movement higher.
In March the trio, who originally came together while working at the Roaring Fork Club, became the first restaurant in the valley to host a CBD-infused dinner. It was so successful they spent the off-season developing the idea further to formalize it into what’s slated to be a monthly series. It kicks off on Saturday, June 8, in partnership with Basalt Mountain Hemp Co.
Free Range’s “clean food” concept stemmed from how the Humbles were forced to start eating, drinking and living when Robin was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. Now in remission, she says, “We just didn’t think anything like cancer was going to touch us. You think you’re too busy to deal with a lot of things, but when cancer strikes, you’re stopped in your tracks.”
Twelve days after her diagnosis she underwent double mastectomy surgery followed by chemotherapy, but also took the extra step to completely eliminate any potential toxins from her home and diet: “Hormone-free … antibiotic-free, those became non-negotiable for me. Although I traveled along the very standard cancer treatment path, I felt like I was irresponsible if I didn’t clean out everything else. You do anything and everything to make sure you are still around for your kids. So that’s where my mentality started.”
Toward the end of her treatment, Robin even declined the commonly-prescribed drug Tamoxifen, which she calls “a known carcinogen, pumped full of estrogen.” Her research during this decision-making process resulted in the discovery of CBD — well before it became the wonder wellness supplement it’s touted as today (as a reminder, CBD is the less-psychoactive compound extracted from the cannabis plant that’s widely purported to relieve anxiety and stress, aid sleep and promote an overall sense of calm).
“I mean, you have to be careful what you read, but I came across a report in the U.S. National Library of Medicine that credited CBD as killing breast cancer cells and reducing tumor sizes,” she explains. “We fighters and survivors get very leery of pharmaceuticals … I thought, ‘What’s the down side? It’s not toxic, it’s not a carcinogen, it’s a plant!’”
She found instant comfort in her usage and has stayed on a steady, daily CBD regimen ever since. But it was only once Krowicki, a longtime cannabis connoisseur, joined the Free Range team that they started talking about on-plate CBD in their restaurant.
While CBD (and THC)-infused dinners have taken off in other legalized states in the past couple of years — the trend has even made its way into the James Beard House — there’s still a long way to go locally. It took the Free Range team more than a year to implement their idea, which Robin fully credits to Krowicki.
“As long as it doesn’t alienate people, you know?” Steve says. “I don’t want to be known as the ‘pot restaurant’ … because for some people that’s really cool, for others it’s not. So for that reason, I was slightly hesitant, but was 100% supportive in Chris wanting to go for it.”
Krowicki, who started to experiment with cannabis in the kitchen during his days studying at the Culinary Institute of America, says, “People still just don’t understand the differentiation between the two (THC and CBD). There is still a stigma and fear, but it’s more about this lack of education.”
Working with Basalt Mountain Hemp’s just-launched line of products including raw CBD-only flower, hemp seeds and a tincture, Krowicki’s menu features four courses ($55) which will include an ahi tuna tataki with terpene-infused yuzu kosho, lotus root, cucumber and CBD tamari; hemp seed falafel with yogurt-marinated beets, orange, herbs and CBD harissa; seared scallops with green hemp curry, coconut rice and papaya mango slaw; and chocolate avocado mousse with CBD passionfruit gel and a hemp macaron. The meal overall will contain 30 milligrams of CBD, which is slightly higher than the industry-standard of a single dose (20-25 milligrams).
Krowicki adds: “When you think of cannabis and hemp as an ingredient or as an aromatic or herb like thyme or lavender or rosemary, most people have never tried it before. So getting our guests in front of this new flavor profile is definitely exciting for us because it has been around for centuries. We’re seeing this birth of cannabis in the culinary industry — and obviously not just to get high anymore — and it’s going to change our American food culture.”
Katie Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.