For average bakers looking to move their pot brownie operations into the recreational cannabis market, the largest leap is the transition from cooking at home to renting a commercial kitchen.
While living "everywhere but Portland" for 17 years, born-and-bred Oregonian Miranda Weigler had been quietly experimenting with caramel recipes, extraction ratios and business management. A few years ago, her mother died suddenly, bringing her back home at the cusp of legalization—and about eight blocks from the home of her future business, Little House Foods.
"I've been thinking about Little House for a long time," says Weigler. "The stigmas around cannabis are shifting dramatically, the same way we saw society's standards about gay marriage change from one side to the other—not to mention the enormous economic opportunities for Oregon."
The latest tenant in a renovated Victorian house at 1902 NW 24th Ave., Little House Foods follows a culinary legacy in that space, starting with famed 1980s caterer Nancy Briggs, who transformed the first floor into a commercial kitchen and launched one of Portland's first esoteric gourmet institutions, Briggs & Crampton.
Since then, the address has been home to restaurants like Bone and Broth and Cookie Monkey. Little House represents the next phase of modern dining in more ways than one—Weigler and her team have made their own updates to the house, working with kitchen manager Megon Dee-Cave to set up an oil-processing system.
"I know it's cheesy, but we're like the next generation of Portland food," says Weigler.
Little House officially opened in 2016 following recreational legalization. Dee-Cave was her first hire, a dream candidate who relocated her family from Baltimore to find a place where her passion for baking and conviction of the medical potential of cannabis could earn her a living. She landed a job establishing edibles production at Chalice Farms before seeking a more culinary-focused recreational kitchen.
"When Chalice was bought by a Canadian entity, things just started to change," says Dee-Cave, "which is fine. That's a part of the journey."
After meeting Weigler, they began developing a caramel candy called the CaraMellower and a drizzle-friendly lemon curd. They have since released an infused olive oil and ghee butter, so customers can take the making of edibles into their own hands.
"The hope with the 'Cook Your Own Cannabis' line is that we're taking the hard, complicated stuff out," says Dee-Cave, "and people can just start with the fun part of cooking with cannabis."
Little House's products have found enough traction to be carried by 55 shops across Oregon, but Weigler has her sights set on the upcoming tourist season. With new consumers within Oregon's borders, there is broader economic opportunity than the checkout counters at dispensaries.
"When people think about social consumption, they think of the NW Cannabis Club—smoking lounges. But there's a lot of ways that can happen," says Weigler. She notes how social consumption is too narrowly perceived, and that the next task is getting people to understand that the Indoor Clean Air Act doesn't stand in the way of spas that use cannabis topicals, outdoor smoking patios or infused dinners.
They have outfitted and separated the fenced backyard of the house so that it can be a legally viable space for consumption events. Weigler's efforts to help more ideas succeed in the industry is part of Little House's mission, rooted in the philosophy of the former culinary trailblazers in that old Victorian who cooked the way they wanted, for the sake of culinary adventure.
"The name comes from my love for Laura Ingalls Wilder," says Weigler, referring to the author of the Little House on the Prairie books. "Being pioneers, being self-sufficient, plus the Oregon Trail connection—it just made sense to me."
GO: Find Little House Foods online at littlehousefoods.com