With his cannabis-infused pop-up series, Chicago native Manny Mendoza is cultivating a seriously elevated fine dining experience.
Pop-up dining series Herbal Notes combines community-building with cannabis-infused fine cuisine (Photo: Sergey Kolivayko/Field Guide)
In a greenery-filled Pilsen loft, aromas of brown butter and blood orange juice waft from the sunlit kitchen. Chef Manny Mendoza adds fresh herbs to a sizzling frying pan before searing salmon in a citrus glaze, while in the next room guests sip cocktails while browsing bespoke art. It could be any of a dozen trendy pop-up culinary scenes in the city. The difference? From cocktails to each of its multiple courses, this fine dining experience is infused with cannabis.
Called Herbal Notes, the haute culinary series was established by Chicago native Mendoza, a Culinary Institute of America grad who spent years working under prominent chefs at Senza and Owen & Engine before moving to herb-friendly San Diego to bring the concept to life in February of 2017. “I started playing around with the idea of melding sense, sound, flavor and aroma,” he says of his inspiration for the multisensory experience, which features a DJ-spun soundtrack to match each course. Past events have been held at galleries, private homes and even on sailboats; after hosting 11 successful local pop-up dinners, this summer Mendoza debuts a Chicago series aimed at the local medical card-carrying community.
Mendoza’s ultimate goal? To hit culinary heights, of course, but also to build a sense of connection between guests, one intimate seating of up to 30 at a time. “I’m trying to hone in on something that brings us all back to humble ground, that common denominator,” says the chef, “and that idea has really resonated.” $100