coachella – party in the desert or haven for food lovers?

I just returned from a weeklong trip to Southern California that included the Coachella music festival, Joshua Tree National Park, the Salton Sea and Orange County. Whew, I’m beat!

I’ve wanted to experience Coachella for a long while. The three-day party in the desert intrigued me because of the top-notch bands, camping aspect and desert heat. The festival always sells out in two hours, and you have to be persistent to get your hands on tickets. Lucky for me, my husband loves a challenge and set aside a few hours on the morning tickets went on sale back in February. Alas, I finally made it to Coachella. 

Most people aren’t at Coachella for the culinary aspect, it’s about the music and the party. I had already resigned myself to paying too much money for a piece of pizza and soggy fries. However, when I started doing a bit of research during the days prior to heading south, I learned that this year was the first time festival organizers were making a concerted effort to offer good food. We stayed in a teepee onsite at the festival, so we were able to bring our own provisions (see previous post), but no food or drink is allowed in the actual festival itself, which means if you get hungry or thirsty and don’t want to walk back to the teepee area and risk missing a band, then you have to eat and drink within the festival gates.

The first day we did a lot of reconnaissance, and ended up returning to the craft beer barn for our festival dinner. The area featured 40 taps that rotated each day of the festival, and three food vendors, all of which are well known LA restaurants. I gravitated toward the Mohawk Bend booth because of a large sign for Buffalo-style cauliflower. Yes, I was craving cauliflower at Coachella. The description of cauliflower prepared like Buffalo chicken wings with vegan bleu cheese dressing sounded right up my alley. A bowl of technicolor orange cauliflower came my way. The Buffalo sauce had the right amount of tangy and spiciness to it and complemented the al dente cauliflower. The first bite of sauce-drenched cauliflower dipped in a remarkable bleu cheese sauce that tasted anything but vegan, made me feel like I was dining at a trendy LA gastropub rather than a 100+ degree music festival. I liked the cauliflower so much, I came back for round two on Sunday. I am determined to recreate the dish and convert my naysayer “I hate vegan food” friends. Stay tuned.

Buffalo cauliflower served to me by a  friendly Mohawk Bend employee.

Although most of the notable Coachella food vendors were from the LA area, two of my Portland favorites represented. Stumptown Coffee and Salt & Straw were slinging coffee and ice cream. My first morning at Coachella started with a glass of Stumptown cold brew coffee and my Friday night dessert was a $7 (gasp!) scoop of honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper. It was a Portland in the Southern California desert experience.

I had prepared to dine on greasy pizza and now am obsessing over Buffalo cauliflower with vegan bleu cheese dressing. Not the Coachella experience I expected.




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