In early April, Amsterdam Falafelshop rolled out its first-ever pairing menu. Each menu special has a counterpart, based on flavor notes and tastes. But rather than pairing with wine, beer, or other spirit, the pita combos are intended to be paired with marijuana.
“The idea to actually do the pot-pairing menu came about at a dinner party because my husband and all of his friends are wine buffs,” says cofounder and CEO Arianne Bennett. “And someone said … you guys should do a pot pairing because pot is like the new wine. It's now socially acceptable, or at least in D.C. and a couple of other states.”
Bennett and her husband/cofounder Scott toyed with the idea and ultimately created a menu comprised of five special falafel pitas: Lemon Haze, OG Kush, Afghani, Cabbage Patch, and Cactus. The descriptions read like wine pairings at a fine-dining establishment. For example, the root vegetables and tahini of the OG Kush—filled with baba ganoush, beets, pickled turnips, and coleslaw—is said to complement “the earthy pine scent and woodsy undertones of the OG Kush strain,” and the pairing could “induce sharpened sensory awareness.” In addition to the special flavors, sandwiches will cost $4.20 on April 20.
In November, D.C. overwhelming voted to legalize marijuana, and for once, Bennett says, Congress was unable to block the vote. Although it is still illegal to buy or sell marijuana or to smoke it in public, D.C. residents are free to use it in their private homes.
The original Amsterdam Falafelshop is located in the neighborhood of Adams Morgan, where the D.C. Cannabis Campaign recently hosted a seed giveaway at the bar Libertine. Bennett saw many of her regular customers at the event and knew that a playful pairing menu would resonate with that consumer base, given the excitement around legalization.
“When you're in a community that's a little bit more risqué, a little bit more edgy, a little bit more fun and loose and free about stuff, it's really easy to figure out how to do it, and we're careful,” she says.
While the brand is inspired by Amsterdam, the Netherlands—known the world over for its “coffeehouses”—Bennett says any reference to marijuana in Amsterdam Falafelshop is discreet and sensitive to its customers, which include families with young children.
She and her husband are also respectful of franchisees’ right to choose whether they participate in the pot-pairing promotion. The Annapolis, Maryland and Boston franchisees elected not to participate, and the special is not being pushed at the L’Enfant Plaza location, which is part of a food court that caters more to businesses.
“We work very closely in partnership with our franchisees in terms of figuring out what promotions work best for them,” Bennett says. “We suspect as the franchisor that their community is a little bit more conservative and … their validation of that … really helps us make that choice with them.”
The buzz around legalization imbues the pot-pairing menu with a certain timeliness, but Bennett expects the novelty will fade somewhat. She doubts a pot-pairing menu in a year or two would garner the same enthusiasm as it does now.
“We just happened to be positioned to tag onto this and have a good time with it,” she says. “ And we love to do sassy, fun things.”
By Nicole Duncan