Best Thing We Ate

What a $225 Sit-Down Dinner Looks Like at Coachella

By Lesley Balla  |  April 14, 2014

With more than 170 performers on the bill, art installations and 90,000 people to move around, the last thing you really expect to do at Coachella is sit down for a four-course dinner and sip wine. But this year, Outstanding in the Field brought its roving culinary adventure to the Empire Polo Field in Indio, CA and set up its restaurant without walls while a thumping base pulsates from the nearest stage. As part of the new food options at the three-day festival - LA restaurants, chefs and food artisans offering everything form fancy marshmallows to strong cold-brew coffee, pad Thai, sushi and handrolls - six different chefs prepare two dinners in the Rose Garden VIP area, a respite from the madness if there ever was one. It's a far cry from battling lines for Spicy Pie, corndogs and crab fries, that's for sure.

For those already with wristbands for the weekend, the dinners are $225 per person. But for those without tickets, dinner and VIP passes for Coachella were made available after the weekend event was already sold out - a boon for anyone who didn't get tickets before, with the bonus of a four-course meal along with access to all the music, art and VIP areas. We checked out the dinner with Sotto's Steve Samson on Saturday, and we had both groups at our table - young music lovers who found a way into Coachella when they thought it was sold out and people who were already going but decided to tack on the OITF dinner for fun. Here's a look at everything we ate and drank, which was delicious even with 25-mile winds and a typical Coachella sand storm. Oh, and PS: tickets for the dinner and festival for second weekend are still available via Outstanding in the Field

  • A super refreshing cocktail was handed to us as soon as we walked in. Made with Jameson, hand-crafted ginger beer and homemade bitters, it totally hit the spot.

  • Credit: Lesley balla

    The long table snaked through a grassy lawn in the Rose Garden, surroudned by roses, palm trees and sunshine. Also wind and a lot of sand, at least on Saturday.

  • Table settings are usually non-existent at Coachella, but Oustanding in the Field brings the entire restaurant experience to you, whether it's a farm, beach, mountaintop or concert weekend. We're pretty sure they're used to the elements, like wind gusts and sand that covered the table. When you eat outside in nature, you just have to roll with it.

  • Big eye tuna crudo with smoked eggplant, marinated zucchini and caponata. A delicious start from Samson. 

  • Wines included this fantastic Montelpuciano, which went perfect with the duck ragu. 

  • The crowd was a mixed bag: music lovers who found an in to the sold-out Coachella weekend and others who tacked the new dining experience on to their VIP passes. There were a lot of younger people you wouldn't expect to be there - girls with flowers in their hair, dudes with tank tops and tattoos - but they all sat and dined like they would at a restaurant. It was a nice respite from the chaos on the field and in the tents, they said. "But I'll probably leave to make it to MGMT," added one guy. 

  • This is paccheri, a big tubular pasta with duck ragu. Handmade pastas are a specialty of Samson and Sotto, and this, served in a Heath bowl no less, was spectacular. As long as you ate it faster than the sand could get on it.

  • A celebration of spring: roast lamb shoulder, spring vegetables, Coleman Family Farms' bitter greens, and Calabrian pecorino. We hope Samson has this on the menu at Sotto right now; we want more.

  • A nice barolo to go with the lamb, served in real glasses with refills. You don't get that in the regular Coachella beer gardens.

  • Some of these woman had kids at Coachella over the weekend, so they treated themselves with dinner in the Rose Garden. They really enjoyed themselves, even if the music pulsating from the dance tent next door wasn't exactly their speed. 

  • The sand storm took its toll on our wine. A little extra sediment never hurt anyone...

  • If we could've taken extra pieces of this amazing olive oil cake, we would have. Made with California olive oil, sweet Gioia ricotta, candied almonds and Polito Family Farms blood orange.