As a certifiable wine blogger (having attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008 and 2009!) and as an experienced Burner (12x since 1992!), I take seriously my responsibility of advising you, my dear reader, about how to prepare, what to do, where to camp, and now, what to eat, and what to drink while at Burning Man deep in Nevada in the Black Rock desert. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I want to bring to eat and drink out there, and what I should suggest to you.
While there is no shortage of cocktail parties on the playa, there’s been a serious dearth of good wine–and wine tasting too. With an emphasis at Burning Man on art, and artistic and sensual experiences, it’s time to bring the art of wine to Black Rock City!
I invite you to come to the Art Predator camp at 515 DNA in Kidsville at 5:15 for Wine Wednesday.
You know I will have some wine worth sharing! My nickname isn’t Wine Predator for nothing!
Here’s the first tip: you’re not going to eat as much as you think you will. Believe me, you’re going to be too busy running around and it’s going to be too hot to want to eat much. And you’re not going to want to do too much cooking, no matter how much you typically enjoy it.
Think BIG breakfast. There’s no wind, no dust storms, it’s not hot, and there’s not much going on.
Think snacks. Think quick. Think easy. Think satisfying. Think filling. Think digestible.
Think about what you can prepare at home in advance and freeze. Think about what you can consume completely, down to the last scrap.
Remember to bring an empty onion bag to keep your compost/vegie scraps and egg shells. Hang it and they’ll dry out and be less yucky to haul home.
Here are some of our menu ideas:
Chicken Stirfry: BBQ a chicken at home, completely bone it, then freeze it. On playa, throw it into a stir fry with precooked and frozen rice, and some vegies like quick cooking sugar peas and zuccini and/or use it on crackers.
Shrimp stirfry: Marinate shelled shrimp in some wasabi salad dressing, freeze; stir fry them with some vegies.
Portabello Salad: Stirfry portabellas in olive oil and some port, toss on some prewashed arugula, feta, and pine nuts, and maybe some crumbled bacon, some good balsamic.
Caprese Salad: presliced buffalo mozzarella, sliced tomato, pine nuts, basil snips on prewashed arugula, good olive oil and balsamic.
Spinach Salad: spinach lasts longer out there; I like mine with bacon, shrimp, and avocado with a chicken salad dressing or a soy-rice vinegar spritz.
Bolognese and Penne: Frozen sauce from our favorite Italian restaurant with already cooked and frozen penne pasta.
Pesto and Tortellinis: Cook at home, mix with homemade pesto, sundried tomatoes, olives, freeze.
BACON: Fry at home (no grease to deal with), crumble, freeze. We’ll also cook some out there and use the bacon grease to cook other food items.
EGGS: Hardboil a dozen eggs in advance. Leave shells on.
DRINKS: Make protein shakes and smoothies; freeze them. Freeze small batches of coffee.
I think you get the picture: prepare food in advance at home and freeze it. Eat the food that’s defrosted first first.
What wine should you bring out to Black Rock City? What are some Playa-licious wines that would go well with the meals above?
For my palate, I say forget about those ordinary and heavy handed reds like a cab or a Bordeaux blend. Save that for when you’re home and you’ve got a big steak on the grill, and it’s not so hot. Although you might be tempted to make an exception for Grateful Palate’s Evil for the name and classy label alone, on playa you’d be better off with their Bitch grenache.
So instead of that basic cab, reach for a lighter well balanced GSM with some fruit, some body, some acid ready to drink NOW– for example, a grenache/syrah/mourvedre like Twisted Oak’s “WTF” aka Potty Mouth red from Calaveras County, one of my favorites, which is actually an MSG according to El Jefe since it’s more mourvedre then syrah and grenache. You can find it from $20-25 or order it from them on-line (or become one of the Twisted Few!) Everyone around is going to want to take a picture of the bottle!
I love the RJS Theologicum from Australia. If you can find it, I think it would be awesome paired with playa dust: it’s an incredibly satisfying blend of grenache, the saint, with mourvedre, the sinner. My last bottle, a 2001, unfortunately was dropped recently by a friend on its way to the cellar! I bought mine at the Grateful Palate warehouse sale for $12, and I think you can still order some. Chris Ringland’s Strong Arms Shiraz is a good wine for a good value as well–about $10.
Bonny Doon’s Le Cigare Volante is another great Rhone style blend. The wine is terrific alone, with a meal or appetizers, and you don’t have to fumble for an opener because its screwtop (complete with alien) makes it perfect for playa travel. Plus you can feel good about it: it’s biodynamic and if you’re traveling from the Bay Area, it’s got a smaller footprint because it’s locally grown and made. The bottle here is a kick as well.
Trader Joe’s offers an interesting choice in a French Rhone: it’s in a 1 liter plastic bottle with a screwtop. And it’s actually drinkable for around $6. When it’s gone, use the bottle to carry water around–it’ll fit into most bike cages! If you come across a thirsty soul, you can gift it.
What’s great about the first three wines is they won’t deflate as soon as they’re open and exposed to the conditions of the playa. The last one won’t hang as long but certainly be fine for a quick evening amongst a few friends.
Other reds? Well, how can I not mention zinfandels from Sonoma County? Their brambly goodness would surely be welcome on the playa. Here’s a post with reviews of some of my favorites.
And if you’re a pinot person, I’m rooting for Michel-Schlumberger’s from Dry Creek Valley ($32 from the winery). It impressed me so much when I was up there for the Wine Bloggers Conference that I bought a few bottles!
Since you’re likely to be enjoying a big mid-morning brunch, why not go all out and have some bubbly with that? But why go traditional? See if you can find a sparkling shiraz to go with that bacon. Grateful Palate imports a few: Paringa is just fine and it’s under $10, but if your budget allows, go for one by Trevor Jones or for the earthy Majella (my favorite in this category).
For a white wine, you can’t go wrong with anything from Bonny Doon as far as I’m concerned. I love their Albarino or their Cigare Volant, a roussanne/grenache blanc blend; both would be great with the food we’re bringing. We also like Twisted Oak’s Rueben’s Blend which would be a nice afternoon wine with or without dinner.
I’m definitely bringing a few bottles of Michel-Sclumberger’s Pinot Blanc ($21). It’s super refreshing, lively, and friendly–kinda like life on the playa! M-S has some great sustainable practices so it’s guilt free. While I’d love to be sipping this Pinot Blanc on the playa with some oysters, until I have better refrigeration, that’s not going to happen any time soon! If you bring the oysters, I’ll open the bottle for you! We will probably have this with our shrimp stirfry…and we will definitely be sharing some tastes of it for Wine Wednesday if you come by our camp at 5:15 DNA at 5:15!
The honeyed tones of the Bonny Doon Vinferno. Need I say more? (I mean, hello, this is Burning Man we’re talking about!) Myself, I’m bringing a bottle of this for after the Burn.
If you’re inclined toward port, I can testify that Twisted Oak’s Pig Stai is top-notch. For something possibly easier to find and on the budget, but still quite tasty especially on ice, Trevor Jones port runs about $10. I’ve got a bottle of this already packed!
What wines are you taking? What are some of your favorite meals for the playa?