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Arroyo Seco Weekend: Craft Cocktails, Local Chefs Add to Festival’s Mellow Mood

Yes, it was basically Coachella for a more seasoned crowd, but there were plenty of happy discoveries for everyone on Saturday at the Arroyo Seco Weekend music festival in Pasadena, Calif.

The Brookside golf course behind the Rose Bowl was a spacious and verdant setting for the second year of the two-day festival aimed at families and heritage rock fans. Plenty of millennials turned out too, as acts like Neil Young and Jack White proved to transcend generations. “Belle and Sebastian were my favorite band in high school!,” exclaimed a festival worker as he munched on pizza during his meal break.

After Coachella upped its food game a few years ago with an array of well-known chefs, more festivals have stepped up their game to make sure patrons who spend upwards of $250 for the weekend have more than hot dogs and weak beer to choose from.

L.A. restaurants brought their best outdoor-eating offerings this year: Freedman’s Deli from Silver Lake married a Taco Bell-style crunchwrap to spicy house-cured pastrami, while Cal Mare brought Italian-style sloppy sausage sandwiches and crispy “Jagged Little Potatoes” in honor of Alanis Morissette, who performs Sunday. El Monte’s popular Burritos La Palma drew a long line for the signature burritos, while Jon & Vinny’s pizza quickly sold out of several varieties.

Along with pulled pork sandwiches from Barrel & Ashes and burgers from L.A. classic Cassell’s, there were plenty of vegan choices from restaurants including Sage, Donna Jean and Van Leeuwen’s Ice Cream.

In the VIP area, Koreatown’s Beer Belly served up duck fat fries with raspberry sauce. Owner Jimmy Han, who takes his carefully-curated craft beer selection to Coachella, said “hot wings and fries” are the most popular with festival crowds. Han was looking forward to catching Kamasi Washington and Jack White on Saturday.

There was no shortage of biodynamic wine, locally-brewed beer from Craftsman, Eagle Rock Brewing and Smog City, kombucha, craft sodas and creative mixology on tap. Liquor brands including Flor de Cana rum, Hendrick’s Gin and Glenfiddich set up booths with custom cocktails.

Glenfiddich’s blissfully air conditioned flavor dome offered the chance to sniff the vapor of three different experimental whiskies like the India Pale Ale cask whisky, along with three cocktail choices. Glenfiddich travels to numerous music and food festivals, a rep said, aiming to make the spirit more accessible for younger drinkers and show them how well scotch whisky works in mixed drinks.

For really young music fans, the two-day fest offered free admission for those under 10 along with crafts and activities, and all ages checked out the NASA demonstration dome from JPL and the see-saw phone chargers. With no need to drive three hours or camp overnight, Arroyo Seco Festival is an exceedingly civilized way to enjoy both current and vintage acts, whether from the comfort of a blanket and beach chairs or dancing hard up front to the Specials’ still-surprisingly fresh sound.

(pictured: Kamasi Washington)

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