An entrepreneurial friend of mine runs a catered dinner party project called Bistro Escondido. It's like flashmobbing meets geocaching, but for food instead of trinkets. This is how it works: The head honcho blasts her email list with a time, date, menu and secretish location somewhere in the desert, preferably but not always entirely legal.*
The blastees show up at said secretish location armed with a spoon, bowl, and small donation. Last night P. and I found the Bistro Escondido kitchen hidden in an alcove of rocks somewhere out in the desert. As promised, it included a cauldron of fresh seafood purchased on the coast the day before.
Since last fall's feast was such a success they made cioppino (pronounced chi-PEEN-o) again, a San Franciscan seafood stew that calls for copious amounts of fresh fennel, dill, parsley and garlic. YUM.
Early wildflowers sprouted from the rocks all around us in rainbowed tuffets of desert bells, birdsfoot trefoil and stickweed. Unruly desert bouquets perfect for the occasion of friends and strangers coming together to do what P. and I do best: EAT AROUND A CAMPFIRE.
Some people brought firewood. Others brought blankets. Someone brought their half-blind terrier that had spent 14 months in shelters, and that now, it seemed, was the happiest dog in the desert.
Twenty-five people showed up. By the time darkness settled in the cioppino was ready and the guitars had come out. The rocks glowed. The strangers shared beer and bonded over containers of discarded shells.
People gave $20 donations to help Sunny buy a new car. Sunny, whose van broke down in Joshua Tree, but who decided to stay. Sunny, who wields a shell-smashing mallet like a mythical blacksmith. Sunny, who makes a MEAN cioppino.
To get on the Bistro Escondido secret dinner-in-the-desert email list, stop by their blog. Maybe, just maybe, it's enough to entice you to come see what all the fuss is about.
* If you haven't picked up on the theme of trespassing as central to bigBANG, now you know. It plays a key role in many desert activities.