Festival Food Fiesta

Once upon a time, funnel cakes, cotton candy and burgers were the highlights at a festival. However, these days the types of food savored during an event are nothing short of a gourmet experience. Food booths serve everything from vegan and vegetarian to ethnic to wild game. Food trucks abound and can be found at events from Reno to Tahoe.

Starkey’s truck rolls up with sushi, the Red Truck prepares Indian fusion and vegan’s can delight in meals made by the Electric Blue Elephant — these are just a few of the local food trucks rolling around at festivals and events in the Tahoe Sierra.

During the summer months there are numerous food festivals. Some focus on barbecue and beer while others feature Basque food, Greek food, chicken wings and farm-to-table dinners with locally sourced food. And if it’s beer you crave, there are a quite a few beer festivals serving local brews. For wine lovers, there a number of wine festivals bringing the best of what our region has to offer. There’s even a garlic festival.

If you are in Tahoe this summer, there is a bounty of festivals to attend and whatever culinary desires are calling to you, may you be satiated with the bounty of delicious creative foods available.

Music is an important component to the Tahoe lifestyle — no matter what genre draws you, there is probably an annual festival to support it.

Festival food has clearly evolved with some unique foods being served. Those Fabulous Frickle Brothers are frying up pickles and they are pretty popular: the sour, crunchy, fried deliciousness is a High Sierra Music Festival favorite. The festival’s funnel cakes are light, deep-fried batters of puffy goodness topped with powdered sugar — definitely nostalgic. Barnett English, one of the organizers of the Joshua Tree Music Festival and now a partner with Cisco Grove’s annual Guitarfish Festival, owns JavaGogo Coffee Company and serves up some of the best festival coffee drinks around — incredibly important when you need a festival pick-me-up.

Check out the summer season’s best music & food festivals in the Tahoe Music & Festivals guide in this edition.

Oysters, paella, crepes and gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches that are gooey, cheesy concoctions are only some of the more decadent foods that can be sampled at local events. Wanderlust Yoga Festival caters to the health minded with organic fare, curry bowls, fresh super-food smoothies, kombucha, vegetable-based dishes and organic brownies and cookies. Uncommon Kitchen from Tahoe City and Nourish from Kings Beach serve up healthy cuisine at Wanderlust.

Many weeklong festivals allow participants to bring their own food. Whether you want to pack your own coolers, cook or just reheat your meals, it is important to get it right when keeping food cold and safe. It could mean the difference between eating food that’s delicious or potentially sickening. Some festival veterans keep it simple by bringing jerky and ramen while others bring a camp stove and prepare bacon and eggs for breakfast and chicken coconut curry with peanut sauce and rice noodles for dinner.

Fruits and vegetables are always a good idea, but soft fruits tend to go bad quicker so choose produce that has staying power. Bring one cooler for food and one for beverages. The food cooler should be opened only when absolutely necessary. Bring reusable water bottles, drink cups and coffee mugs to reduce waste. Many festivals charge less for the beverage when you bring your own cup.

If you are one of the thousands traveling to Burning Man this year, you need to plan carefully in order to prepare and store meals for a week in the desert. Freezing burritos, making smoothies and bringing food that can survive the elements are definite musts. Many camps at the festival serve food as their gift to participants. One camp serves organic, fresh-cut vegetables on a hot day and it is truly a gift. Unique foods abound throughout the playa and people’s creativity preparing food in the middle of the desert is mind boggling: waffles, snow cones, brick-oven pizza and pie are some of the more interesting ones. Traveling around and finding some of the more interesting foods being offered in Black Rock City is an experience all its own.

If you are in Tahoe this summer, there is a bounty of festivals to attend and whatever culinary desires are calling to you, may you be satiated with the bounty of delicious creative foods available.


Priya Hutner
Priya is a writer, personal chef and meditation teacher. Having moved to the mountains from Sebastian, Fla., she embraces the Tahoe lifestyle and loves to ski, hike, paddle and swim. Priya is the owner of The Seasoned Sage, a business that prepares organic meals and facilitates workshops that promote a health-conscious lifestyle. Priya writes feature articles about music, art, food and recreation. She loves to immerse in story. Whether jumping from a plane, eating obscure foods or hitting the Tahoe-Reno music scene, she is always up for adventure and experience. She is currently writing a memoir about her experience living on an ashram and working on a series of cookbooks.