Last month I went to Boston’s new cannabis pop up, Dinner at Mary’s, an elevated cannabis soiree.
A sexy cocktail hour, finger foods, chic drinks all while grooving to sick beats and a little bit of a buzzzzzzz.
Not mad about it.
These pop ups are becoming V trendy, not just around Boston, but around the country, providing a place for cannabis users to consume in a relax, fun filled environment surrounded by friends, music and of course, food.
I got a chance to speak with Dinner at Mary’s Founder and successful events industry vet, Sam Kanter, about this new wave of dining, her vision for the company and how she brought it to life.
For the readers who haven’t met you before, tell me a little bit about your background and how you got started in events.
I am a Massachusetts girl. From the cape originally (Barnstable). I came to Boston for school (Northeastern) and never wanted to leave. Sometimes I’m sad I haven’t lived anywhere else for an extended period of time, but every time I travel, I want to come back. Boston is where I’m supposed to be. I was asked to interview for the events and marketing position at the restaurant I was working at many years ago. I took the job on. Only doing it on weekends, then turned into days and now the rest is history. I have almost ten years of event planning experience under my belt and I started hosting cannabis events in August of last year and then launched Dinner at Mary’s on my own in January of this year with my first event in March.
Tell us about the concept of Dinner at Mary’s and about your vision.
Dinner at Mary’s is, first and foremost, an experience. There’s definitely an agenda behind it though. Dinner at Mary’s is here to bring cannabis to the people; it’s designed to make cannabis accessible and easy. A lot of people get intimidated by cannabis, and are scared based on past experiences with it. Everyone has a college pot brownie story, we’re hoping to write a new story. We really cater to all comfort levels. I, for example, am a micro-dose queen. Just because I have a lot of experience with cannabis, doesn’t mean I can or want to ingest a lot of it. There are a lot of factors that affect in what way and how aggressively cannabis will affect you. We educate consumers so they feel confident in their ability to make decisions about their intake and then offer every item at the event with options for no infusion, CBD only, or low dose THC infusion. The events are designed to be enjoyable with or without the inclusion of cannabis, it’s used as an enhancement. We hope that when guests leave, they leave happy, relaxed and informed, regardless of the items they consumed or participated in.
What does it take to host an event of this size?
A love of risk and experience. There are plenty of rules and steps I take when planning an event, all based on things that have gone wrong in the past. There’s no foolproof answer. The ability to handle stress well is a prerequisite.
Why the name Dinner at Mary’s?
The name has quite a bit of reasoning behind it. It is a tongue and cheek play on “Mary Jane” to gently suggest its marijuana inclusion, however, Mary is also my mother’s name. Her consistent and inspired cooking motivated me to join the food world.
How does Dinner at Mary’s differ from its competitors?
Our cocktail style format is definitely a factor, we host larger mix and mingle events that allow guests to truly interact with others at the event. You can really create your own adventure with the different food and beverage stations. We will be hosting seated dinners, yoga events and different styles in the future. We also differentiate by creating events that are designed for all levels of cannabis experience and including an educational aspect. Our focus on hospitality, ambiance and the high standards of the products we produce and offer set us apart by putting us in the upper echelon – we want to create the best experience available.
What appealed to you most about hosting cannabis events?
As a cannabis user, I want others to experience it in the way it’s meant to be experienced, and to break the lazy, negative stigma that surrounds it.
What are the woes of hosting a cannabis event?
The most difficult struggle with Dinner at Mary’s is navigating the ever-changing cannabis landscape. Legality tops the list, along with the difficulty of reaching the right consumer without traditional marketing methods.
How do you decide on a location and theme?
Locations are based on a lot of factors. They need to have certain resources, be accessible, be economical and have a pro-cannabis owner. The theme is typically designed around the venue and its resources.
I’ve noticed most of the food has been Italian or Asian themed. Is there a reason for this or do you and the Chef decide on foods that can be best eaten in smaller bites and by hand?
Essentially any cuisine can be formatted to be easily eaten in this style of event. Our first event was more international, while our upcoming event will be Asian themed. These themes are designed to be accessible. Everyone has eaten Asian food before, but we’re going to bring cannabis in to create an entirely new way to experience it. Then we throw some unique twists in to really make it ours. Keep a lookout for an Italian Sunday Supper, Taco Party and Seafood Ballout. We want to offer things that consumers recognize, so they can focus on the way cannabis changes and enhances their experience.
Why do you think normalizing cannabis use is so important?
Interestingly enough, the longer I’m in this industry, the more I realize how normal it already is. Normalizing is really about bringing it out into the open so it’s no longer everyone’s dirty little secret. With normalization comes access and education, so everyone can truly understand its properties and use it to their best benefit. I’m not sure if medical advances falls into the “normalization” category, but it’s certainly a positive factor that comes with cannabis’ progress. Now not only is cannabis becoming an option to treat so many ailments, it’s also more socially acceptable to choose it as an option.
Are you a cannabis user? If so, what’s your poison?
I am. I smoke and use edibles pretty consistently but in different amounts and in different ways depending if I’m trying to be productive, exercise or relax. Cannabis is a major contributor to my work and my yoga practice, helping to me to motivate and focus while keeping stress levels low – or as low as they can be.
If you could invite 3 people of your choice, dead or alive to D@M who would it be and why?
Obama: would love his thoughts from a legislation standpoint and I think he’d have a good time.
My grandmother; who is no longer with us. I think she would be proud of what I’m putting together and she really liked to push the envelope. I think cannabis could have been a real benefit to her. I’m still working on my grandfather…he’s still fighting me on the risks, I already won a bet over it with him…progress.
Anthony Bourdain: I think he’d just think it was cool. Maybe if he switched up some of his demons for cannabis, he’d still be here hanging out with us.
What’s next for the company and its future?
We are in the process of planning our monthly events through the fall and adding other types along with them like yoga events, cooking classes and CBD focused events. We also offer private events and are focusing on event planning in the cannabis industry for dispensaries, product launches and cannabis company outings
For more on Dinner at Mary’s and their epic upcoming 4/20 event visit Dinner at Mary’s!