>> PHOTOS: View scenes from the day at Dig-IN 2012.
Cool summer soups, slow-braised meats, and plenty of Hoosier tomatoes and corn headlined the samples served up by Indiana chefs, restaurateurs, culinary schools, and local food producers at the third annual Dig-IN festival Sunday at White River State Park. This year also marked the first year that food trucks joined in the celebration of the Hoosier state’s diverse and growing culinary scene. Spice Box, ScratchTruck, and Duos, the latter offering veggie-friendly quesadillas with a tangy mix of potatoes, mustard greens, and Capriole goat cheese, were some of the food trucks that set up camp on the old Washington Street bridge to broaden the selections at this year’s fest. Expanded options were essential, as long lines snaked around the festival grounds and gourmets and gourmands alike waited for lamb adobo lettuce wraps (from Oakleys Bistro), barbacoa walking tacos (from Smoking Goose), and cold-smoked goat and Indiana ambrosia (from The Local Eatery & Pub)—all of which ran out well before the end of the day.
Despite these glitches, there was no denying that the third installation of this colorful event was a success. Tickets sold out before the 5 p.m. close of day, and moods were high despite temperatures climbing into the 90s. Samples from 10 breweries, including Fort Wayne’s Mad Anthony and Crown Point’s Crown Brewing, as well as wines from seven in-state wineries, helped to buoy spirits against the heat. Live music and panel discussions on such topics such as Indy’s need for bees and connecting Hoosier farmers and consumers rounded out the day’s entertainment. But it was the food that drew nearly 5,000 attendees to the event, and this year’s offerings seemed even tastier and more thoughtful than in the festival’s first two years. Chefs ladling up chilled soups included R Bistro’s Regina Mehallick with a refreshing peach soup topped with a rich duck salad, Meridian’s Layton Roberts with a cantaloupe-and-cucumber soup drizzled with basil-infused creme fraiche and a hint of cayenne, and The Loft at Traders Point Creamery’s Brandon Caulfield with organic gazpacho topped with the creamery’s own Fleur de la Terre cheese crumbles.
Tyler Herald of Napolese checked in with perhaps the simplest but most apt Caprese salad with luscious slices of heirloom tomatoes. The Oceanaire’s Mark Marlar also took a light touch with his pristine perch tacos. As in past years, Aaron Butts from Roanoke’s Joseph Decuis drew one of the longest lines for his Wagyu beef tongue-and-cheek taco, definitely a highlight of the day. Along with tasting dishes from longstanding culinary institutions, festival goers could also try out pork belly with may apple jam and hazelnuts from newcomer Cerulean, soon to open at its second location in Virginia Avenue’s CityWay complex. Though no stranger to the event, Chef Ryan Nelson was on hand to highlight some house-smoked pancetta with a tasty corn salad from his independent effort Late Harvest Kitchen. Even with the “Sold Out” signs on several tables and booths, almost no one went home hungry—or unconvinced about Indiana’s vibrant gastronomic culture.