Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

What do you eat and drink on the playa? Share ideas, recipes and advice here.
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Chowski
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Chowski » Fri Dec 04, 2015 10:59 am

What follows is the story of ONE meal, prepared for sixty planned guests, and wonderful randos who dropped in - the total served was likely around 100. A Wedding Feast in the desert! I hope it answers the question of "what worked" from a different perspective. You should know I am usually a no-cooking, no cooler burner. This was a radical departure for me.

So I got married this year, and my husband and I spent a long time considering our dinner options. Knowing how the weather works, we knew that we had to keep it simple enough that it could theoretically be prepared in a howling dust storm, but we really wanted it to be elevated. We wanted to have a meal like nothing we or any of our friends had ever tasted out there. We also knew we had to feed approximately 60 guests (all in white bridal gowns), and that there was no way we could do that "seated", so we came up with a four-course menu, and enlisted our closest friends to help prepare and serve it buffet style.

Almost everything was cooked at home, frozen hard and stored in dry ice from Thursday (early entry) through Tuesday, except for the salad which was packed and brought out by a friend who arrived Monday. On the day of the feast, we swapped out the frozen foods into smaller coolers to thaw a bit, and packed the huge ice chest with champagne.

The reception started at 3:00PM on Tuesday, one of the few days with mild, sunny weather. Our staffed champagne bar dispensed 60 bottles of bubbly, 10 quarts of mixer and two gallons of grapefruit juice from our own tree in defaultia in under three hours. The hors d'oeuvres course was chilled pickled eggs in three varieties: tangy garlic dill, spicy jalapeno, and sweet beet. 8 dozen eggs, sliced in half, were demolished in moments.

The second course was an organic salad (prepared by a friend who works for the natural foods co-op) which was dressed in a light vinaigrette and bore bleu cheese, apples and walnuts. I mean really, a fresh crispy salad at Burning Man? Divine.

The main course was the topper - back in default, my husband prepared beef bourguignon from 17 pounds of beef, 7 pounds of mushrooms, and multiple bottles of red wine. We bagged it into gallon sous-vide bags and froze it hard, let it thaw on the day then warmed it all to serve it on a bed of mashed potatoes (instant from a box, but filled with multiple sticks of butter and thawed whipping cream - shhhh, don't tell - nobody knew). What made the dish so special was the time spent cooking it before the burn. Bourguignon is a long-prep dish requiring multiple steps - browning bacon, removing the fat, working in onions and wine and eventually beef. The flavors are deep and complex, and it was, by far, the most flavor-developed meal I have ever eaten on Playa.

Of course, since it was our wedding, we had hoped to serve cake. We toyed with the idea of ice cream cake, but ultimately landed on a chocolate cake shot. They are made with equal parts citrus vodka and amaretto. You first suck a lemon wedge drenched in sugar, then take the shot. Upon exhaling, the flavors perfectly and magically mimic chocolate cake.

So then we walked out onto the playa out back of 7:45 and got married and lived happily ever after. A few other details about logistics. We knew we had to deal with plates - that not everyone would have a plate or fork, so we opted for paper plates (one for each of the two plated courses) and plastic forks. I know, I know. We burned all the plates and took home the plastic utensils. For the champagne, we had white plastic handled mugs made with our names, the date and custom logo which was near in appearance to the Man, but not so near as to draw legal notice. We then mounted each mug with a heart-shaped carabiner clip so our guests could re-use them during the ceremony and keep them as a memento.

Thank you for reading my little story. I am so proud of that meal. We really did spend months zeroing in on what we COULD do, and trying to avoid ANY possibility that any element of it would be destroyed or would fail. All that planning really paid off, and we were able to produce a beautiful meal for all our friends, old and made on that day. We did it all with a couple coolers and a few gas burners. No electricity, no refrigeration. Complex meals CAN be done. They just require a ton of prep and thought.

Oh, and for anyone who has hosted a wedding dinner, here's an estimate of the financials. I can promise you, it was cheaper than your caterer.

Champagne $400
Mixers $50
Appetizer course (pickled eggs) $50
Salad course $100
Beef Course $250
Cake Shot $60
Custom mugs and carabiners $250
Plates/forks/napkins $40
Ice and Dry Ice $50

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by lucky420 » Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:31 pm

sounds lovely...

salud :mrgreen:
Oh my god, it's HUGE!

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by asr9754 » Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:34 pm

Screw-top half and half (or any dairy product) is a requirement for my cooler buddies!
Leaky dairy in cooler is a nightmare. Buy the carton with the screw-on cap!
Offendingly packaged items are evicted from my cooler.

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by forty_eight » Fri Dec 04, 2015 3:59 pm

Wow, Chowski ... that sounds epic!
asr9754 wrote:Screw-top half and half (or any dairy product) is a requirement for my cooler buddies!
Leaky dairy in cooler is a nightmare. Buy the carton with the screw-on cap!
Offendingly packaged items are evicted from my cooler.
Yeah man, screw top dairy is such a blessing. In a pinch, a metal water bottle (or rough corollary) can be used to store dairy, too.

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Ratty » Fri Dec 04, 2015 4:36 pm

Screw top YES. I had some of those individual creamers escape in 2014. I can still smell it if I close my eyes. OH...and while we are on the screw top subject....anything related to bodily functions can't be trusted to snap on lids.
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by jcliff » Sun Dec 06, 2015 3:09 pm

This was my first year bringing homemade treats and all 3 were great. I took 2 loaves of banana blueberry bread baked the week I left and frozen. They went into my cooler of frozen stuff and I busted them out the night before Monday and Tuesday mornings....they were so good and the early morning crew in my village loved them. Coconut macaroons were awesome all week! They went into Tupperware at normal temp, and they were just as good on Friday as they were the Friday before. Caramel Chex Mix was great all week. One other addition....bacon bourbon jam! I've taken this for the last 4 years and it's beyond words. I think I found the recipe on this thread, or some other Eplaya thread.

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by pretty_monster » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:08 pm

Ugly Dougly wrote:This one's for Ygmir.

[media]
*takes and runs away*

must find lunch and dinner review!

UPDATE: found part 2. i'm now up an hour past my bedtime and i do not regret it one bit. (note to self - collect a variety of MREs to try next burn.)
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Molotov » Fri Dec 11, 2015 7:15 am

I had a few MRE components at The 'Burbs and I had a hard time giving them away. Perhaps we have more sophisticated palates. I guess vegetarian cheese tortellini didn't sound good eaten cold...

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Krokodyle » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:26 pm

Something that stands out for me was a last-minute impulse buy at Whole Foods Reno: pre-brewed cold coffee. I can't remember the brand (it *may* have been Califa but I can't say for sure...and I think it was concentrated) but wow...this was one item that I wish I had brought more of. I do love hot coffee but this stuff was damn refreshing when mixed with some water. That, some organic half & half (screw-top container), and ice? Freakin' awesome. I think I even poured it on a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch at one point because I'm an adult and I can eat whatever I want for breakfast dammit :D

It was the one snack/treat that I didn't share with anyone.
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by danibel » Wed Aug 03, 2016 7:04 pm

Chowski wrote:What follows is the story of ONE meal, prepared for sixty planned guests, and wonderful randos who dropped in - the total served was likely around 100. A Wedding Feast in the desert! I hope it answers the question of "what worked" from a different perspective. You should know I am usually a no-cooking, no cooler burner. This was a radical departure for me.
I bounced back into this thread today because I recommended it to a virgin and got to this amazing wedding feast post. How fantastic. Congrats on your wedding!!!

I love this thread. Thanks to all that have contributed. Great tips and ideas in here. XO
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by BBadger » Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:59 pm

Krokodyle wrote:Something that stands out for me was a last-minute impulse buy at Whole Foods Reno: pre-brewed cold coffee. I can't remember the brand (it *may* have been Califa but I can't say for sure...and I think it was concentrated) but wow...this was one item that I wish I had brought more of. I do love hot coffee but this stuff was damn refreshing when mixed with some water. That, some organic half & half (screw-top container), and ice? Freakin' awesome. I think I even poured it on a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch at one point because I'm an adult and I can eat whatever I want for breakfast dammit :D
Instant cold coffee is great stuff! You don't have to go to Whole Foods either, as you can find it at any grocery store. Also, if you want to sweeten your cold coffee drink, you should make some simple syrup. Great for iced teas too.
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by C.f.M. » Thu Aug 04, 2016 10:04 pm

I got these back in May for Euphoria, and would consider them again (if I didn't still have so many). They're the best of this sort of thing I've had, yet. They're supposed to be 2 serving, but yeah right. So they're a little bit more than 5 bucks a meal and pretty healthy.

https://www.amazon.com/Alpine-Aire-Food ... luten+free

On a whim in 2013 I got these - I'm not a sugar coffee drink person, but I love Thai tea. They're really good in coffee, they add some creaminess and the awesome Thai tea flavor. I drink it more than way than mixed with water.

https://www.amazon.com/Instant-Thai-Cre ... s=thai+tea

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Krokodyle » Fri Aug 05, 2016 7:27 am

BBadger wrote:
Krokodyle wrote:Something that stands out for me was a last-minute impulse buy at Whole Foods Reno: pre-brewed cold coffee. I can't remember the brand (it *may* have been Califa but I can't say for sure...and I think it was concentrated) but wow...this was one item that I wish I had brought more of. I do love hot coffee but this stuff was damn refreshing when mixed with some water. That, some organic half & half (screw-top container), and ice? Freakin' awesome. I think I even poured it on a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch at one point because I'm an adult and I can eat whatever I want for breakfast dammit :D
Instant cold coffee is great stuff! You don't have to go to Whole Foods either, as you can find it at any grocery store. Also, if you want to sweeten your cold coffee drink, you should make some simple syrup. Great for iced teas too.
OOOooooh! Simple syrup! Great idea. And usable for coffee AND at the bar for mixed drinks! :)
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Strata » Sun Aug 07, 2016 11:10 am

Saw several posts further upstream about wind being a problem for their heat source. Bring some folded tinfoil in your kitchen kit, a long enough piece to make a tall ring a couple of inches away around the burner of your stove. Wind becomes much less of a problem!
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by SquirrelHead » Tue Aug 16, 2016 10:14 pm

VultureChow wrote:Asparagus kept well into 6 days, and were delicious grilled. I will bring more next year.
Brisket was amazing, easy to prepare and popular. I will bring more next year.
I discovered I HATE cooking eggs out there, and that one can overdo it on the bacon. Breakfast sausage instead of all bacon next year.
Cinnamon buns yes, biscuits no.
Way less snack food.
Dolmas - OMG yes. Sun dried tomatoes- Yes. Roasted peppers - meh.
Oh the delicious brisket!!! You may encounter me lurking around your camp. :D
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Oldguy » Sat Aug 27, 2016 12:33 am

KFC in Fernly across from Walmart. Two buckets lasted a week. I like cold chicken.
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Kodiak McStompin-Boots » Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:23 am

Food that worked: Twinkies, fiberOne breakfast bars, canned peaches, mandarin oranges, caprisun, hard candy, instant chai, pickles, bacon jerky, San Pellegrino juices, pocket shots, fruit snacks, white cheddar cheesits, SPAM.

What didn't work: avocados, big almond milks, anything I couldn't cook over a burn barrel. Anything the sparkle ponies found while I was working a grave shift.

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Strata » Sat Feb 11, 2017 6:32 am

What worked:
  • Making snack bags of dried fruit-- Costco dried tart cherries & blueberries, Trader Joe's mixed raisins, California dried apricots
    Little cans of pringles-- so salty and good, yet small cans keep fresh and don't temp one into excess; just right to share with a friend, or get the lunch snack packs for one
    Canned dolmas were a tasty treat to bring to meet-and-greets or parties, and have the bonus of usually being vegan-friendly amongst a sea of bacon
    Gatorade instant packets for me, bulky coconut water for my campmate
    Tuna-n-cracker packs-- portable, quick carb and protein boost, packs back into small cardboard carton for easy disposal at camp; chicken-salad-n-cracker packs ditto
    Instant mac n cheese cups, for those days when you can manage hot water or a camp microwave but not much else
    Instant oatmeal packs for breakfast; bring some pecans or toasted almonds to liven them up
    Starbucks doubleshot cans had the added advantage of no need for milk/half-n-half or to wait for the giant camp coffeepot to be finally ready
    Laughing Cow cheese wedges are shelf-stable and don't need to go in the cooler; they make a great snack
    If you have cooler space, snack bags of pre-cut cheese are great; babybels are nice too, as long as you demoop the red wrapper before putting in the cooler (also those wrappers are hell on playa brain to get unwrapped....)
    Pineapple spears in snack ziplocs inside a bigger bag in the cooler; omg, great hot day snack and they stay firm not turn to mush
    Empty 1.5 and 2 liter plastic bottles of ice teas and tisanes as cooler ice; being solid blocks they melt slower, and they were wonderful to drink as the week went by; could also re-use for sun tea
    Bringing a softsider cooler and putting drinks into it in the morning-- night-chilled drinks stay cool well into the afternoon if the softsider cooler is in the shade
    Pudding cups, especially if you put them in the cooler, om nom nom for that quick pick me up
    Indian pre-cooked pouch meals, great for reheating on the hood of the car when you miss camp lunch or if you need to travel for lunch; bring a big ziploc for the messy pouch afterward
What didn't work:
  • "Dang" brand coconut chips; seemed like a perfect playa snack but they just didn't get eaten
    Frozen strawberries in ziplocs; turned to cooler mush, but thankfully our camp had a blender so we had a great smoothie
    Watermelon spears in ziplocs: ditto
    Frozen grapes in ziplocs: folks said they were great for adding to drinks without diluting them, but we ended up never using ours, it was easier to just keep drink bottles in coolers
    Tamari rice crackers-- went stale too fast and didn't appeal, too dry I guess
    Beef jerky-- got eaten on the long ride to the event, but wasn't really touched on playa
We had a camp meal plan, really a meal rotation where each camp group signed up to cook a meal and serve it from the camp kitchen. So we didn't bring much in the way of real meal stuff, just personal food and things to eat if we missed a meal and/or got stuck in line. Oh yeah, put some of your snack and meal stuff in a bag in the car where you can REACH it without getting out and digging, for entrance and exodus lines. Frustrating knowing you'd really really love xyz snack but you'd have to partly unload to get it and the line might move right exactly then...
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Ratty » Fri May 19, 2017 5:52 pm

Refresh your memory of what was great and what was unsuccessful.
Those aren't buttermilk biscuits I'm lying on Savannah

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by AntiM » Wed May 24, 2017 7:13 am

A few go-gurts were great, a lot of go-gurts were not.

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Ratty » Wed May 24, 2017 8:30 am

The only electrolytes I drink out there are made from a big container of Gatorade. I bought some little 'single serving' envelopes at Target yesterday. I love the idea of them.
Those aren't buttermilk biscuits I'm lying on Savannah

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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Elorrum » Wed May 24, 2017 12:01 pm

Sun dried tomatoes added to chicken noodle soup, or rice a roni, or Knorr's noodle pouch mixes.
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Jordancc » Sun Aug 06, 2017 10:17 pm

For a fancy on-playa dinner party I premade dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon ( I think they might be called 'devils on horeseback'). I slightly undercooked the bacon, vacuum-sealed and froze the completed hors d'oeuvres, and then on playa toasted these up in a hot pan for a minute. Served with a balsamic reduction (sounds fancy - pour a cheap bottle of balsamic vinegar into a pan and simmer until it's a little thick. Voila). They were gone in seconds.
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Re: Food/Drink: What worked - what didnt

Post by Skyote » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:17 pm

Since I'm making my menu and shopping list right now I thought I'd add to this. Last burn (2014) we really found our groove with food. Meals were all made or bought in advance then vacuum sealed (best purchase!). I'm definitely one who doesn't want to go to much effort out there, but I'm also not willing to eat canned food and energy bars all week. The cooked food takes an evening, the burritos take a good half day, not including cooking the carnitas and verde beef in the slow cooker.

Successful dinners:
-Indian (chicken thigh chunks salted/peppered, pan fried in coconut oil, add chopped cauliflower and peas, simmer in storebought sauce) served with pita and tzatziki
-teriyaki chicken (similar to above: marinated chicken thighs, pan-fried in coco oil w/onions and peppers, add pineapple chunks and more sauce before sealing) served over rice (Trader Joe's frozen rice packs are the best)
-Delivery Thai: so easy, so delicious, bf requested at least two nights this year, or three :lol: Order your fav stuff, vac seal, serve with more TJ's rice (which I quickly reheat in a pan, virtually no cleanup)
-bbq brisket from Costco (impulse buy) with packaged shredded slaw on pretzel rolls. Successful but I won't bring again - ended up being really good for teardown, but never sounded appetizing for some reason.

BURRITOS. These changed everything. I made 48 breakfast burritos, half with egg, awesome local sausage, and cheddar, half with bacon (side note: the bacon I used was actually too good - the intense flavor had leeched into the eggs and it was overwhelming!). Fried up in a pan at home and vac-sealed. After crawling out of our tent in the mornings, always starving and sometimes hungover, a breakfast burrito was UHMAZING. Even decent cold if you can't wait. I also made 48 non-breakfast burritos. Half carnitas, half verde beef. Those were also the best thing ever. Verde beef with TJ's Cowboy Salsa (corn, black beans, spicy and delish) and cheese was by far my fav. Super yummy any time of day, perfect for when having a real meal is too much of a hassle (also the only cooked lunch option we planned).

I cannot recommend enough making a huge batch of breakfast burritos. A friend wandered into our camp one morning, still coming down off of a night of...astral adventures...so we plopped him in a comfy chair, fed him two warm burritos and a chilled Starbucks Doubleshot (which are also awesome out there) and he STILL talks about how magically restorative it was :)

Edit: forgot to add what wasn't successful. Honestly, fresh veggies. I brought hearty salad greens, shredded kale, homemade dressing, prepped raw veggies in containers...we ate almost none of it. Some camp mates helped with the crudites after a few days. I forced myself to eat a big kale/shredded carrot salad one day, something I'd devour at home quite happily, and I wasn't inspired to do it again. So we don't eat a ton of fresh veggies for a week, eh, we all survived.

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