Cannabis Pairing Dinner by Lego Optimo

Gives new meaning to “Haute Cuisine”

by Wendy Lemlin

   As anyone who has ever enjoyed partaking in cannabis knows, effects include not only increased appetite, but also a heightened sensory experience of taste. Subtleties of flavor come alive and food becomes deliciously, even sensually, satisfying.

Like fine wine, every cannabis strain has its own terroir, flavor, aroma, and characteristics. And like wine, cannabis can enhance the appreciation of the foods with which it is paired. Now that adult use, i.e. recreational, marijuana consumption is legal in California, the pairing of different strains with particular foods is destined to become a culinary trend in our foodie-obsessed culture.

With this in mind, Lego Optimo, a cannabis-centric fine dining and entertainment event company, will present the first-of-its-kind, fully legal, four course cannabis pairing dinner on January 25, from 6-9 pm. Created in collaboration with renowned chefs Benito Molina and Flor Franco, and Urbn Leaf Golden Hill—a state licensed cannabis retail dispensary— the event is envisioned as an intimate, sophisticated fine dining experience for the cannabis connoisseur and epicurean food lover.

The evening’s schedule is as follows:

  • After arriving at Urbn Leaf Golden Hill (Lego Optimo is providing a 50% discount on Uber rides to Urbn Leaf and then home from the dinner), guests will begin the evening with a private tour of one of San Diego’s most premier recreational cannabis retail shops.
  • At Urbn Leaf, each guest will receive a cannabis goody bag, valued at $75, containing generous samples of the four strains to be paired at the dinner, as well as various other products and accoutrements.
  • Guests will then be transported by limo to an undisclosed location for a four course, locally sourced gourmet dinner created by Flor Franco of Franco on Fifth, and Benito Molina, Mexican celebrity chef and one of the three judges for MasterChef Latino on the Telemundo network.
  • The 4 courses will be paired with 4 strains of cannabis, chosen by a cannabis sommelier in collaboration with the chefs. This is NOT an infused dinner and cannabis consumption is optional.
  • The unforgettable evening will also include cannabis education from local cannabis growers and vendors, and music and entertainment from local artists.

Tickets for the prix fixe 4 Course/4 Cannabis Strain dinner are $125 for the vegetarian/vegan menu and $150 for a menu featuring meat and seafood. This INCLUDES the cannabis goody bag valued at $75 and the 50% Uber discount, and so, it is a great value!

Notes Carolyn Kates, Lego Optimo co-creator, “We’re doing everything by the book. Everything is completely legal. It is an upscale, refined—yet fun, of course—event, NOT a “stoner” party— with an educational learning experience, as well. Think of it as ‘Everything You Want to Know About Cannabis, But Were Afraid To Ask’. It will also be a great introduction in an intimate, friendly setting for someone who has not previously used cannabis, but is curious. Guests can opt-out of the cannabis for any course, and just enjoy the sublime food that will be served.”

This will be the first of a series of six monthly dinners, with each providing a completely unique experience with cuisine created by Flor Franco and six different well-known chefs. They include Javier Plascencia, Hanis Cavin, Steve Brown and others TBD. The cannabis strains paired with each dinner will reflect a broad range of growing styles, locales, flavors and effects. All dinners will include a private dispensary tour, local music and education on a wide range of cannabis topics.

   With a mission to educate San Diegans about cannabis and how to responsibly incorporate it into their lives, Lego Optima offers spirited cannabis culinary experiences and access to educational information.

   Urbn Leaf, Golden Hill is California’s must-see retail cannabis boutique featuring a high-end, comfortable atmosphere and professional attitude that invites inquiry, discovery and conversation.

   Culinary director Flor Franco is known for her passion in connecting farmers, chefs and artisans from both sides of the border. Her intimate familiarity with her local products and her vast knowledge of international cuisine will take your palate on a multi-level journey of discovery.

   Benito Molina’s world famous Ensenada restaurant, Manzanilla, was named one of Latin America’s 50 Best. The celebrity chef is currently a judge on Master Chef Latino. His collaboration with Flor Franco will be a culinary event to remember and one you will not want to miss.

To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit the event website at or contact the organizers at 619-846-9886. Tickets are extremely limited—no more than 20 will be sold!

*Lego Optima does not sell or distribute cannabis during any of their events. A licensed distributor sells all cannabis consumed during each dinner.

LegoDinner#1 price fix copy

Baja Bash to Benefit WILDCOAST

by Wendy Lemlin

baja bash

Having fun and conserving our coastlines on both sides of the border..

These days, everyone loves Baja, especially her beaches and coastal areas.  In fact, people love Baja so much, that much of her once mostly-deserted 1900 miles of coastlines have fallen under targeted assault from increased development and industrial growth. Coral reefs and mangrove forests teeming with fish and sealife, pristine beaches where endangered sea turtles nest, and bays that are the birthing areas for gentle California grey whales—all are in danger of disappearing, and the marine species and other fauna that depend on these fragile ecosystems are also in peril.

Luckily, 16 years ago WILDCOAST (aka COSTASALVAJE in Spanish) began working to watchdog and protect the marine ecosystems and wildlife on Baja’s coasts, as well as coastal areas in San Diego and in other Mexican and Latin American regions. Continue reading

A Berry Good Undertaking


By Wendy Lemlin

Photos by Bradley Schweit

Berry IMG_7225

Some have called Berry Good Night, now in its sixth year, the most sought-after foodie invitation in San Diego, with an A-list roster of top chefs, farmers, ranchers, artisans, food activists, winemakers and mixologists from both sides of the border contributing to the Berry IMG_7539invitation-only feast. Also in attendance at this year’s event on June 13 will be guests from a wide variety of food-related disciplines, including science and medicine, agriculture, government and public policy, hospitality, education and media. The evening’s format is designed to promote discussion, connection and collaboration, creating long-lasting relationships and partnerships. Continue reading

Fairwell to Zarco

by Wendy Lemlin


   I still dream about the Tiradito de la Casa that I relished on my first trip to Zarco, Cocina de Baja in Chula Vista. The tender slices of hamachi crudo, the smokey chunks of grilled octopus, the delicate citrus of the yuzu sauce combined with just a hint of bite from two separate peppers— all had the unmistakable signature of Chef Flor Franco’s creative palette and totally appealed to my own particular palate. I’m not much of a wine connoisseur, (I know that may seem odd for a food writer), but it seemed to me that the wine list, carefully curated by Fernando Gaxiola of Baja Wine +Food, perfectly represented why wines from the Valle de Guadalupe are such a hot commodity these days.

Today Chef Franco and Gaxiola announced that they were no longer involved with Zarco.

In a statement, the pair said “We’re so grateful for the support and love we’ve received since opening Zarco this past September. Unfortunately, due to fundamental differences with our partners about how the restaurant should be managed, we’ve decided to discontinue our involvement with the project. It is important to mention that we do believe in the concept, and in the idea of bringing Baja and its culinary treasures to the US. Chef Flor Franco will continue focusing on her projects in Mexico and San Diego.”

Franco went on to elaborate, “Zarco was a passion project for me: the intersection of soulful Baja-style food, wine and bountiful ingredients and products from the region. I am grateful for the purveyors and other people we met while building the concept and I will continue to focus my energy on projects on both sides of the border, including Indulge Contemporary Catering, Baja Wine + Food, and Convivia at Encuentro in the Valle de Guadalupe. As always, my deeper creative compass is spinning within me, so I’ll keep you updated on what I’m working on.”

Personally, I can’t wait to see what comes next!


Chef Flor Franco

Chef Flor Franco

Gourmet Dining With Farmers, Friends & A Fisherman

By Wendy Lemlin

Ok, I admit it.  Life can taste pretty sweet when you’re a food writer.  It’s especially enjoyable when gourmet dining amidst great conviviality with the growers, harvesters, and curators of the delicacies on the plates in front of me.

This was the case last night (January 15) at San Diego’s Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar for the Baja edition of their Farmers, Friends & Fisherman Dinner series, which proved so popular that seating spilled over into The Wellington Steak and Martini Lounge, Red Door’s adjoining sister restaurant. The seasonal series showcases area farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and wine or spirit makers who personify Red Door’s sustainable, local and organic credo. Continue reading

Food Without Borders: Culinary Battles at Tijuana Innovadora Conference

By Wendy Lemlin

TI cover

Come October 18 and 19, there will be some cross-border battles raging in Tijuana— but don’t be alarmed; it’s a very good thing!  In fact you could say a delicious thing, as some of the finest chefs from San Diego and Tijuana compete in three separate Iron Chef-style competitions, or Batallas Culinarias, as part of the biennial Tijuana Innovadora Conference, which showcases innovation in technology, industry and culture. Continue reading

Bravo for Zarco

By Wendy Lemlin


I’d be willing to wager that for most of you reading this, downtown Chula Vista is not the first place you’d think of—or at all— when deciding where to go for a fantastic dinner and amazing wine selection. Yeah, me neither—that is, until my recent visit to Zarco, Cocina De Baja, in the heart of Chula Vista’s 3rd Avenue shopping district. There, among shops whose windows display the most colorful of flouncy quinceanera dresses, Chef Flor Franco has converted the commercial kitchen of her highly successful Indulge Contemporary Catering company into a first rate showcase for her take on the much acclaimed cuisine and wines of Baja California. Continue reading

Chef Showdown Competition to Raise Funds and Awareness for Center for Community Solutions Programs

by Wendy Lemlin

Chef Showdown_n

Ingrid Croce and Bernard Guillas will once again judge the culinary creations of competitors in the 10th Annual Chef Showdown.

To see “whose cuisine will reign supreme”, be sure to mark your calendar for the 10th annual Chef Showdown on Thursday, September 18th, when two teams of San Diego’s top chefs and mixologists will once again compete in an Iron Chef-style culinary battle, while an expected 5-600 guests will enjoy delectable tastings from 45 restaurants and specialty food and beverage vendors.  This one-of-a-kind fast paced, intense, and yet friendly competition will benefit the programs and services of Center for Community Solutions, a San Diego nonprofit that provides advocacy, legal support, healing and prevention services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse. Continue reading