While the Coachella experience has centered around music and art, this year's festival is raising the bar for the festival food experience. From small plates and curated cocktails to a four-course meal in the Rose Garden with beer or wine pairings, foodies can get their fix while enjoying their favorite artists.
“Festivals like Coachella are more than just great music festivals, they're really at the core of bringing people together,” said Babette Pepaj, founder and CEO of BakeSpace.com, a popular food social network and cookbook app publishing platform. “Music brings people together and great food brings people together. When you combine the two of them it makes a delicious experience, and it's a reflection on how our tastes have changed.”
Past years have featured food trucks and a beer garden, but this year well-known Los Angeles-based restaurants such as Baco Mercat and Night + Market will be showcasing some of their finest fare at the newly expanded Terrace.
“I personally believe on these next two weekends, Coachella is not just going to just be the center of music, it's going to be the center for food and fashion and culture,” Pepaj said. “It really is the hub. It provides a taste of Southern California. Nowhere can you go and be able to sample a little bit of this and a little bit of that in a small area and try all these different types of foods. It's a great accomplishment for our area and showcases the L.A. area as a foodie hub. They've curated the best restaurants to not just highlight our region, but show what our chefs are able to do.”
Coachella kicks off festival season with a tantalizing lineup of food and drink with special attention paid to restricted diets. Vegan, raw vegan, gluten-free and kosher food vendors will be grouped together in the Terrace for easy access. Vegetarian options also will be provided throughout the festival.
In addition, festivalgoers can enjoy a four-course meal with beer or wine pairings in the Coachella Rose Garden cooked by celebrated chefs from the roving dining organization Outstanding in the Field.
“This is our first year partnering with Coachella and our first year partnering with a music festival,” said Shaina Anderson, director of private events with OITF. “We're excited to partner with their team to bring a heightened food and wine experience to Coachella. This is a year where they're truly making a targeted effort for food and wine, and we're so flattered and so excited to be a part of that with them.”
The meal includes a complimentary cocktail, beer or wine. Attendees can add the sit-down dinner experience to their existing festival pass for $225 during Weekend 1 or Weekend 2. OITF is offering 12 seatings for the six days with two seatings a night at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
“Not only is it a chance for campers and guests to sit down and have a nice meal while they're in Indio for the weekends, but its a chance to experience a new chef from the L.A. area and learn about the L.A. area and Southern California farms and the incredible products that are coming out of those farms,” Anderson said.
Foodies who are also music lovers won't have to worry about missing their favorite band either, as meals are timed to last less than two hours, “just enough time to eat a really wonderful meal, but still have time to head back out and hear the music,” Anderson added.
“Anyone looking for access can gain access and also a really wonderful meal at the same time,” Anderson said. “It's an incredible experience for guests to reconnect with the land, sit at the site where their food comes and connect with their fellow diners in a special way. It's a visual experience, sitting at the long table, and it's also an educational experience where you learn about where it comes from, who grows it, and who makes it.”
A full list of chefs and farms can be viewed online.
The festival's pop-up restaurants also have a variety of foods to fit every person's diet. Craft beers and specialty cocktails will be available at air-conditioned bars.
“When the weather is perfect, the fashion is amazing, and there are so many interesting people to look at, nothing tops it off better than having a delicious cocktail in your hand that you can share with your friends,” Pepaj said. “It's a natural fit: great food with great drink.”
This is the first year Crossroads Kitchen, a plant-based L.A. restaurant, will serve food at Coachella.
“Everything we use is locally sourced and as organic as possible,” said Crossroads Kitchen executive chef Scot Jones. “How we chose the menu was picking the house favorites and providing a great presentation for the people out there at Coachella. You get a hearty plate of food and the presentation always looks stunning. It's not just a piece of food on a dish and it's not your typical festival food.”
Crossroads Kitchen will serve items priced $12-$20 such as house-made pastas and a kale salad.
“This is a changing society and I think more young adults are more apt to go plant-based and start utilizing plant-based foods as a staple in their lifestyle,” Jones said. “Our food will speak for itself when they have it. The offerings are unique themselves and different from festival food, like pizza and burritos. I think this will go great with what's going on out there. It's not heavy food, it's light food, so they can take it and enjoy it and not feel like they have to go take a nap after.”
With the trend for higher quality food options, Pepaj said she's seen an increase of California-based chefs opening restaurants in cities like Chicago and Austin, Texas, where other large music festivals take place.
“The food truck phenomenon and pop-up restaurants are really taking off, so I think that chefs are really interested in this experiment,” said Pepaj. “A lot of restaurants in this area are opening in other areas. The crowd that goes to a music festival is exactly the kind of crowd they're looking to feed. Each festival watches what the other ones do and how they're successful.”
Pepaj said the offerings at Coachella have piqued her interest and thinks the food scene at Coachella will do the same for others as it continues to expand and evolve to match the tastes of festivalgoers.
“I'm really proud of this festival,” said Pepaj, who attended Coachella for the first time in 2008. “I've seen it grow and every year they try to outdo themselves. They're ripe with ideas and really creating unique experiences for their attendees. I love that they're doing this. I think they curated a broad spectrum of experiences — and foods and flavors — that I think there really is something for everyone.”