Feelz By Chloe
Written for Research and Writing I, taught by Robin Pogrebin at SVA.
On April 20th earlier this year—International Weed Day—a special, vegan, Cannabidiol (CBD) infused brownie, cleverly titled “The Daily Hit,” sold out within hours at Sweets By Chloe locations across the city.
This success inspired the popular vegan chain to create a range of twenty-five CBD infused desserts —from classics like cupcakes and cookies to quirky options like popcorn and bubble tea—all promising to give the eater “magical, vibey feelz.”
The brownie that started it all is now rechristened “CHOCOLATEY LEAFY BROWNEY” ($4.50). Everything is named in a similar cutesy way, capitalising on marijuana-culture cliches, with kooky spellings that are confusing enough to read even without the ‘70s style rainbow-coloured font they are written in. It takes some squinting to make out “RAINBOWEY OOEY GOOEY CINNAMONEY ROLL” and “SUGA CINNAMONEY ESPRESSOEEY COOKEY” written out on little black labels, items which look as glitterey and sparkley as their names suggest.
If you’re eating these treats just to feel some ‘feelz’, you may be disappointed. A massive hit of sugar is probably the most powerful hit you will get. The amount of CBD oil, supplied by the medical marijuana startup ‘Toast,’ vary amongst the items, in the range of 2.5 milligrams to 7 milligrams. This means that you’d probably need to eat more than one “SALTY PEANUTTY BUTTERY PIE” to get the full effect of its calming properties. But with the amount of sugar packed into everything, that’s a tall order.
Take the classic brownie. A large, sparkly fondant cannabis leaf sits on top of a dollop of chocolate ganache, making it more leaf than brownie. And while the cake itself is moist, and dark cacao nibs provide some relief, a couple of bites in the cloying sweetness can get overwhelming.
Like the cannabis leaf topped brownie, everything at the “Feelz by Chloe” pop-up is designed for maximum Instagram impact. Its South Seaport and Greenwich Village locations have been given drastic makeovers for the pop-up. Replacing their familiar millennial-chic aesthetic of monochromatic design accentuated with pops of colour is what they describe as “the glam den of your dreams.” This description does not do justice to the visual shock of walking through gold lame fringe into a store decked from top to bottom with more fringe, the extraordinary shimmer of which is caused in part by the gold lame fabric-covered dessert case reflecting off of it.
But the glam, and the assorted kitschy seventies memorabilia—lava lamps, vintage board games, a Magic 8-Ball—displayed casually around the store make for great photo-ops. A young woman holding a bright pink bubble tea, posing for a photo, exclaimed “This is awesome!” By Chloe certainly knows its audience.
Taking a note from its surroundings, the “SPARKLEY TIE DYE CUPCAKEY” ($5) is bathed in glitter. The cake has sprinkles folded into it, which lend a sugary, chalky aftertaste to a cupcake whose sole redeeming feature is its balanced frosting-to-cake ratio. There are four kinds of cookies, each competing with the other with the most eye-catching toppings. The “RAINBOWEY CHOCOLATEY COOKEY” ($4.50) is the most modest one, with only a small smattering of rainbow coloured sugar balls on its surface. It is a fairly basic chocolate cookie, pleasant enough if you can appreciate or ignore the interfering crunch of the sugar balls in each bite.
To eat what millennials eat is the true test of how successful the range is. The “RAINBOWEY TREATEY”, ($7) a millennial favourite, is a push pop ice-cream that intentionally tastes like the leftover milk from Fruity Pebbles cereal. It too has an elaborate topper—a piece of an unnaturally pink rice krispy treat—making the entire ice-cream a strangely chewy, sugar-laced, nostalgia trip.
Unlike on 4/20, people don’t seem to be lining up for the Feelz by Chloe desserts to mellow down with. The amount of glitter, shimmer, sprinkles and sugar in the store and the desserts overpower any calming effect they’re intended to have.
This raises some pressing questions: why eat a subpar By Chloe cupcake just for the barely-there CBD, if you can eat a New York classic Magnolia bakery cupcake and actually enjoy the taste? Why are vegans so in need of delightfully colourful, calming, anti-inflammatory sweet treats? How badly is By Chloe trying to take a bite out of the $1 billion CBD market?
Perhaps the point is to simply be a haven for stressed-out vegans with a sweet-tooth looking for anxiety relief. Luckily, any calm they feel would help to distract them from the massive amount of sugar they just ate.