Festival Feast

A lineup of VIP chefs makes for meals that rock at Desert Trip.

Lori Cohen-Sanford Restaurants

A feast before rocking out at Outstanding in the Field at Desert Trip Music Festival, Weekend One. The three-night experience will be offered again over Weekend Two.

You needn’t stand in line for typical festival food and drink at Desert Trip.

Outstanding in the Field is a culinary VIP experience served up at both Desert Trip weekends thanks to a collaboration of 30 nationally celebrated chefs cooking for groups of guests seated side by side at long tables. Table groupings are randomly assigned to a cluster of chefs, who create a menu reflecting their collective culinary perspective.

As an ardent follower of the culinary scene, I found the lure of Outstanding in the Field as irresistibly strong as the lineup of musicians. Call me a gastronomic groupie, but when I saw the chance to interact with some of the top culinary talent in the country, it was my idea of the ultimate concert experience.

As guests took their chosen seats at long tables set under tall, white sun shades and umbrellas Oct. 8, we received custom menus as the first glasses of wines were poured — a 2015 Brooks Pinot Blanc, from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

If food were set to music, the autumn-inspired menu, custom cocktails, white tablecloths, and wine pairings might accompany “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young.

Our chefs for the evening were Michael Voltaggio of ink, Los Angeles; Tal Ronnen of Crossroads Kitchen, Los Angeles; Duff Goldman, Celebrity Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, and Coachella Valley Chef David Retsky of County Line Harvest in Thermal.

As we dined, we could watch the chefs working in open tents and on outdoor grills. We mingled and meandered to peruse the chefly delights with whetted appetites.

Their hot naan arrived with smoky grill marks to accompany a chopped salad as the opening course at our table. Food was served family style, in keeping with the communal-spirit of the evening.

Soon, golden plates of chickpea fritters arrived, and the second wine pairing was poured — 2015 Salem Wine Co. Pinot Noir, also from the Willamette Valley.

Celebrated Chef Trio: Michael Voltaggio, Tal Ronnen, and Duff Goldman break out the liquid nitrogen to create coconut-date ice cream to the delight of dinner guests.

A chickpea flour batter was deep-fried to create fritters that were golden and crispy, calling to mind a gourmet version of funnel cakes from county fairs. The maple glaze and pomegranate seeds were seasonal touches. Chopped Marcona almonds added a salty, crunch.

Dry-aged, Flannery beef was grilled to medium-rare and devoured by our hungry band of foodies.

After an hour of cocktails and two glasses poured to pair, our server warned us that our next course was “substantial.” Bring it!

Bowls of what our menu described as “assorted banchan” were served, which we collectively determined were Korean side dishes with rice. We passed and plated and waited. We were not disappointed, as platters of perfectly blackened swordfish and pink-center slices of beef arrived to complete the entree course.

Desert Trip preceded by an outdoor feast served against the backdrop of a setting sun was the perfect introduction to the music to come. I couldn’t imagine it getting any better. But then … pie. Three kinds — pumpkin, shoofly date, and blueberry. From the cake chef himself, Duff Goldman. Oh, and there was the ice cream we had watched being made with what might as well have been fog-machines suitable for center stage.

Visit for more information and tickets on the Outstanding in the Field experience.

The entree was a surf ‘n’ turf dish with a Korean-Southern twist. Small “banchan” (side dishes) accompanied grilled swordfish and Carolina rice porridge with avocado.

Pumpkin, shoofly date, or blueberry — pie is always a fine conclusion to a feast.

Lori Cohen-Sanford is a private/personal chef, cooking class instructor and owner of Nourishfoods Organic Meal Services — Follow her on Twitter: @nourishfoodsps.