Gluten-Free at Coachella (Part 1)

Last weekend I attended the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California. This was the first time I had traveled away from home since being diagnosed. I was rather apprehensive about whether I would find enough gluten free food options there even though the festival website touts, "Vegetarians, Vegan and Gluten-free attendees have all their needs covered."  Sounds great, but is it true or just a marketing ploy? Whether it was or not, I was going prepared. Once a girl scout, always a girl scout.

Before my friend and I hit the road, we made sure to stock up on all things gluten-free at our local Whole Foods Market. I had a shopping bag full of gluten-free snacks: protein bars, chips, pretzels, cookies, etc. We then had a second insulated bag with cold packs for our gluten-free muffins, scones, bread, hot dog buns and hamburger buns. Our jumbo cooler was packed with proteins: eggs, sausage, hot dogs, salmon and turkey burger patties, and other necessities for our meals. My plan was simple, prepare the majority of our meals so I did not have to rely on the festival vendors for food. Even with all the food we took with us, I still bought three meals while I was there. It was a good thing I was prepared, because they did not have very many gluten-free options.

The festival gluten-free options are relegated to one cafe on the camp grounds. The kicker is...that the cafe is open for limited hours for breakfast and dinner only. If you sleep in and miss breakfast, or are out on the concert grounds during dinner time, you are S.O.L. (so out of luck). And what is a girl to do for lunch? What about all the concert attendees that are not camping? What do they do? There is supposedly another cafe on the concert grounds, but I never found it.

The food vendors on the concert grounds are not required to have gluten-free options and NONE of the taco stands had corn tortillas. What?! So I went vendor to vendor in the food court area which is called the "Terrace", reading menus and asking questions. So here are your gluten-free vendor options: Ribs & Chicken (or is it Chicken & Ribs?) located on the far southeast corner closest to the ATM machines, directly next door is a Corn on the Cob & Baked Potato vendor, across the Terrace (looking west) you will find a vegan stand that sells salads with or without tofu, and an Indian food stand (again vegan options only), and that's it! There are other stands that sell drinks, ice cream and Italian ice, but for real sustenance you do not have very many options.

Now the Ribs & Chicken stand is a barbeque vendor and they do not put sauces on their meats. What little seasonings they do have on their meat does not contain gluten. Most of their food is served on a bun, but all you have to do is let them know you are gluten intolerant and ask for no bread...they will put it in a cup for you. Do not confuse this vendor with the other barbeque vendors on the Terrace. All the other barbeque vendors told me they use regular beers in their sauce blends or their dry rubs have flour blended in.

So here's what I ate: Friday for lunch I got a burger wrapped in wax paper, which had chopped lettuce, a tomato slice and pickles. I wouldn't recommend eating the burgers, because I didn't feel so well afterwards. I have a hunch that they toast the buns on the grill and I got a bit of cross contamination. Friday's dinner I enjoyed the Tri-tip meat (from the Ribs & Chicken stand), a baked potato, and corn on the cob.  Saturday was very cold so for dinner I got the Red Lentil Daal on Curry Rice, with a cup of hot green tea.

Red Lentil Daal with Curry Rice and Green Tea
All my other meals I prepared myself. Sunday morning we cooked up the last of the protein in the cooler. Anything that we didn't eat that morning we put in plastic ziploc bags and threw them back into the cooler. So Sunday's lunch/dinner (linner) was some already grilled, cold hotdogs and any other snacks I could find.

If you are going to the second weekend of Coachella, here is a great article to let you know what you should take with you, "Going to Coachella? Bring This Gear or You're Effed!" Besides what the author of the article recommends, I would also suggest taking...

  • Jacket(s) - A sweatshirt is great, but sometimes you really need to layer in the desert. Last Saturday night it got down to 40 degrees!
  • Jeans - Don't forget to cover your legs too. 
  • Ear plugs - Because your neighbors may be noisy when you want to sleep.
  • Shower sandals - I forgot mine and contracted a fungus, and brought it home with me. Blech!
  • TOILET PAPER!! I know the article mentions toilet paper, but I cannot stress enough how important this one is. The porta-potties were out of T.P. the first day and were only refilled once a day, so they were empty MOST of the time. 
  • Baby wipes or wet wipes - You'll need them to wash your hands, your face, and other body parts when it's too cold to run to the portable sink near the outhouses.
  • Garbage bags - To dump your garbage in, you can also pile your dirty clothes in one, and they can also double as a poncho when needed.

All-in-all, I had a great time due in part to my preparedness. I also met some wonderful people. Two of these individuals were my camping neighbors, who are also gluten intolerant. What are the odds of that? We had a great time sharing stories and gluten-free food with one another.(Sidenote: One of my gluten-free neighbors also tried the burger and had the same reaction. No bueno!)

For photos and videos of the bands I saw, check out my upcoming post "Gluten-Free at Coachella (Part 2). To those of you who are going to Coachella this weekend, "be prepared" for anything, be safe, and have a fabulous time!

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