By JESSICA YADEGARAN | | Bay Area News Group

In an effort to shed its stuffy image and push the boundaries of food service during SIP, the restaurant at the Claremont Club & Spa is taking food pairings to new highs, literally.

On March 5, the Limewood Bar & Restaurant is offering its first-ever food-and-weed pairing, a four-course dinner that promises “mind-blowing deliciousness” with a stellar high to match. To start, an amuse bouche of crispy Hemp Honey Gougeres.

According to executive chef Joseph Paire, who knows a little something about cooking with cannabis, the lamb loin and other dishes on the menu are smoked to enhance their weed-friendliness. Smoking harmonizes the flavors with the citrus, herbal and other aromas in the pot. You’ll also be smoking, not eating, the pot.

“We’re pairing to the notes in the strains,” explains Paire, who came up with idea for the take-home Enlightened Dinner Series. The first one is March 5, and you can sign up here.

Cannabis food experiences are not new in the Bay Area. Correen Carroll’s Cannaisseur dinners took underground San Francisco warehouses by storm as early as 2015. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a mixologist that hasn’t experimented with CBD-infused cocktails. But a weed dinner with a mainstream restaurant, let alone one owned by a luxury hotel chain, is less common.

Paire’s meal, which starts at $150 for two (food only), comes with a weed connoisseur who will teach Zoom participants how to identify the organoleptic properties of the cannabis, which will no doubt come to life when paired with the main course, a lamb loin with endive, exotic citrus and smoked lamb belly ragout.

The dessert, a chocolate bar with fermented banana and salted caramel, will also come with a strain for smoking. Sure beats greasy pizza or what Paire calls “morning-after gluttonous guilt.”

To clarify, the Claremont is not growing or selling the weed. Participants have to go to The Apothecarium, a Berkeley dispensary, to buy the expertly-picked strains for this dinner ($34-$36 for two grams; $110-$116 for two eighths).

“We’re not a dispensary but we’re cannabis-friendly,” Paire says.

The Enlightened Dinner series is one of several ways the Claremont has tried to broaden its appeal, beginning before the pandemic began. The first was hiring Paire, a Washington, D.C.-bred chef with roots in Southern cooking. Since he came on board, the Limewood has doubled its bungalow or outdoor seating and expanded its menu to include comfort food, like chicken and waffles.

“We want people to feel that this is a relaxed environment,” he says. “We’re shedding new light on a property that’s been here for over 100 years.”

Jessica Yadegaran is a writer and editor for the Bay Area News Group’s Eat Drink Play section, which is devoted to all things food, wine, cocktails, and travel. She also spent two years in the Pacific Northwest as the food and dining editor for Seattle magazine. Yadegaran has a degree in journalism from San Diego State University and has been with the Bay Area News Group for more than