Dig IN: A Taste of Indiana celebrated its sixth year at White River State Park on Sunday afternoon, and it marked the occasion in style with swiftly moving lines and some of the festival’s most creative offerings yet. Nearly 50 chefs from Indiana restaurants, caterers, and bakeries partnered with Hoosier farmers to serve up some of the best local meats and produce available to an estimated 5,000 food-lovers who shook off the late August heat to sink their teeth into Wagyu meatballs, roasted elk, and pickled shrimp. Sixteen breweries and a dozen wineries showcased their pale ales, pilsners, meads, and persimmon wine.
A host of new participants helped to highlight just how much the farm-to-fork movement has spread not just in the Indianapolis dining scene but throughout the state as well. New entries this year included South Bend’s award-winning LaSalle Grill, featuring braised and chilled Maple Leaf Farms duck breast, as well as offerings from Tinker Street, Union 50, and Nourish’s Eli Laidlaw, who also used Maple Leaf Farms duck in his spin on chilaquiles. Bloomington’s Bea’s Soda Bar showed up in its darling vintage trailer to pour Jackie Howard’s refreshingly herbal and crisp take on root beer, as well as honey creme and lavender sodas.
Many of the festival’s pioneers returned, offering up some of their heartiest, innovative dishes yet. Festival favorite Joseph Decuis from Roanoke served chef Aaron Butts’s delectable Wagyu beef meatball banh mi with tangy pickled carrots, Mangalitsa pork pate, and spicy fermented cabbage. Ryan Nelson of Late Harvest Kitchen delivered an outstanding rabbit sausage from Meat the Rabbit, and Craig Baker of The Local Eatery and Pub in Westfield and Bent Rail Brewery grilled up generous chicken legs paired with a tasty root-vegetable gravy of “etouffee.” Additional highlights included chef Jeff Ford’s beef-brisket steamed buns from Terre Haute’s J. Ford Black Angus, a smoked-beef sandwich from Goose the Market, and corn pound cake with mango and lime from Cerulean’s Pete Schmutte and Alan Sternberg.
“It’s definitely one of the best days we’ve had for the festival,” said Dig IN board member and White River State Park executive director Bob Whitt, who seemed especially relaxed as he strolled the festival grounds. Pioneering vegetarian chef and local food advocate Becky Hostetter beamed from the open door of her Duos Indy truck, stationed on the old Washington Street bridge, as participants lined up to get her dainty but flavorful potato and house pickle topped with tangy raclette from Schnabeltier Cheesery and Winery in Rochester. “We’re really proud of our offering this year. It’s really something special.”