Making his debut from Muncie’s farm-themed gastropub Barn Brasserie was chef/owner Matt Burns, who earned his stripes at Craig Baker’s The Local Eatery & Pub and longtime Muncie standard Vera Mae’s Bistro. Working with Gunthorp Farms pork, Burns spent five days preparing for the event, marinating, braising, and chopping cabbage. But other than the hard work, Burns praised the organization of the event, which he said went off without a hitch. “In the restaurant, you don’t often have to chop cabbage for several thousand portions,” Burns said, but by midafternoon, when a few chefs had already closed down their tents, Burns was still offering bowls of rich and tender pulled pork with a creamy, lightly sweet corn aioli and a generous pile of that crunchy marinated cabbage.
Also new to Dig IN this year were Fort Wayne’s 800 Degrees, featuring wood-fired pizzas made on the grounds, as well as Bargersville’s Taxman Brewing Co., which in just a few short months has been signing contracts all over Central Indiana to make its brews, such as the piney, citrusy “la maison” French farmhouse ale, available to Hoosier beer fans.
Festival-goers also praised the event for the ease of negotiating the lines at the entrance and the layout of the tents, which were spread evenly around the grounds along White River State Park. Avid gourmand Phil Westphal, who had attended a few years ago, noted how much shorter his wait was this year. “The entrance to the festival really worked a lot better, and I was impressed at how so many of the tents were placed all over the park, so the lines didn’t get all tangled up.” Chefs and participants also noted how, at a mature five years, the festival went as smoothly as ever. “It’s been relaxing,” said Baker of The Local and the late-May opener Plow & Anchor. “The lines have been moving steadily all afternoon.”
Despite all the planning that went into this year’s event, a few perennial favorites did draw some pretty long lines, such as chef Aaron Butts’s Wagyu brisket empanadas from Joseph Decuis in Roanoke. Desserts were especially popular, with Cindy Hawkins’s Indiana fruit streusel tart running out by midday and Nicey Treat’s adorable mini popsicle samples garnering one of the steadiest crowds of the afternoon. But given the strides Indiana chefs and restaurants, not to mention Hoosier breweries and wineries, have made at offering the best of the state’s farmstead bounty, it’s no wonder festival-goers were willing to stand in line to get a taste.