Monday, August 30, 2010

Dig*In 2010

Yesterday, hubby and I attended the first Dig*IN event at White River State Park. Dig*IN was an event featuring growers and chefs from Indiana (mainly from Indianapolis, but there were some exceptions). There was also live music, discussion panels, cooking demonstrations, and wine and beer tastings. The chefs all prepared small dishes highlighting Indiana meat and produce and with the price of your admission, you could eat what you liked (a la Zoobilation if you have been, although there was much more focus at Dig*IN on local producers).

For an inaugural event, it seems like this event was quite a success. The crowds were large and the weather was great (if not a little too hot, but who's complaining?). People seemed very excited about the event and the enthusiasm showed. We couldn't stay for more than a couple hours, and of course, I mainly hit on the food part of the event (go figure), so I am just going to comment on a few of my favorite things I ate. There was so much to taste, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind (and I didn't get to try every single thing as a few booths ran out of food while we were there, or else the lines were just too long). If you were there, and partook of more of the other parts of the event (speakers, etc) I would love to hear your feedback. I would also love to hear your favorite food items as well (like I said, I missed a few!).

Some of my favorite things:

Peach smoked pork shoulder with peaches and blueberries on a crispy fried wonton from the Indiana Downs Restaurant (pictured with the little mini burger from Joseph Decuis. We'll get to that one in a minute.): The lady who was handing this out, said, "it's peach smoked pork, honey!" when asked what was being served. I have to say, this was one that took me by surprise coming from a local horse racing track. The pork was so tender it practically melted in your mouth and the sweetness from the fruit was great with it. And the wonton stayed crispy the entire time adding nice texture. I have now added this place to my list for sure. And I have never bet on horses, who knows, maybe it will be fun too!

Mini Wagyu beef burgers from Joseph Decuis: This place has been on my list already for awhile and now I know, for good reason. What a yummy little morsel--super tender grilled Wagyu beef burgers with goat cheese mousse and a spicy ketchup. Just the smell of these things grilling was a huge lure.

Tamale from Chef Steven Unrue of Tasting-A Wine Experience: These little rounds of tamales had a great corn flavor (surprised not to see more corn at this event) with spicy salsa and sour cream. This dish was different from most of the other things, and was quite well done. Again, another restaurant I have not yet been to that has moved up the list.

Lamb Sausage from Chef JJ's Backyard: This was a yummy piece of lamb sausage that were marinated in Indiana beer and then smoked on the Big Green Egg. The sausage had a great smoky flavor and was topped with a yogurt sauce. I enjoyed the tangy sauce combined with the rich, smoky meat. (Check out all that sausage cooking on the egg!)

Tomato/Goat Cheese from Chef Thom England and Ivy Tech Culinary School: This was simple but had a great combo of super fresh flavors. It was one slice of tomato, a dollop of soft goat cheese, slivers of basil and, the thing that made it shine, smoked salt from Hickoryworks. The smoky salt added just a bit of crunch and the nice salty edge that tomatoes love so much.

Watermelon Jalapeno Ice from H2O: What a great refresher on such a hot day. Tasted like pure frozen watermelon with just a hint of spice from the jalapeno. It hit the spot.

I could go on and on, and as I said, I didn't get to try everything, but these were my highlights. I think this event was a great way to showcase the amazing bounty Indiana offers and I hope to attend many more in the coming years. And don't forget, if you were there, tell me what you liked, or didn't, and what were your overall thoughts on the event. I would love to know.

A Taste of Indiana


  1. Dig-IN was wonderful! And if you haven't tried Tastings, A wine experience - you most certainly should! Chef Unrue (the delicious tamale) whips up some delicious food pairings with wine on their Wednesday Night Tasting they have each week. My husband and I try to go to as many of those as possible! Call to reserve a spot though, they fill up quickly!

  2. Very informative review, and looking forward to trying some decent cuisine close to home! I was not able to attend Dig-IN but admit that I'm a "food snob" and "big city snob." I'll make the effort to go to Chicago just to have lunch for the day or fly to NYC for a weekend centered around food. Now don't laugh (okay, go ahead), but in reference to your mention of good eats at Indiana Downs, I have a similar rec for Hoosier Park Racing and Casino. I absolutely had no interest in going to Anderson, of all places, for food/recreation, but a friend dragged me there for a few hours. Anyway, I was surprised that the Prime Harvest Buffet had some of the best fried chicken I've had locally! I know this sounds somewhat absurd, but many of the other items also tasted completely fresh and homemade. And I usually loathe buffets and tourist attraction restaurants. (I do laugh at the "fried chicken craze" in NYC because Midwesterners were raised on homemade comfort cuisine:

  3. My favorites were Chef Unrue's tamale from Tastings (and I agree with RMatthea - go on Wednesday nights, it is amazing!), the caprese salad from Ivy Tech (smoked sea salt?! Yum) and the wagyu burger from J.Decuis (amazing!) There was a lot of goat cheese and I was surprised with all of the lamb or duck options. Can't wait for DigIN again next year (crossing fingers!)

  4. As a vegetarian I was disappointed at how difficult it was to eat with the way this event was organized. Each booth had a sign showing the restaurant and chef, but no mention of the item being served. The lines were really long and trying to get up to the table to peek at the food to make a quick on-the-fly assessment about whether it was veggie-friendly or not was very difficult to do, and even when I could see the item I had to assess the risk by looks alone of waiting in line for what could possibly be a meat item.

    I totally accept that as a vegetarian I've made a choice that often makes dining difficult and limits my options, however, just a little more help in the way of signage would have meant A LOT better experience for *anyone* who restricts their diet in some way.

    Other than this issue, it was a good event and a good value. The lines were long but I'm happy to take that as a sign that times are a changin' and Hoosiers are becoming more food-aware, which is a good thing!

  5. Oh a few more things: SO agreed about the peachy pork from IN Downs, and I overheard other people saying this was their favorite item as well.

    I would like to see more participation from IN breweries next year. There was a REALLY stellar line up of chefs/restaurants, but not the same comprehensive level of participation from breweries for whatever reason.

    And finally, why can no one in Indiana make a dry wine??

  6. Erin, that is so funny. I was saying to hubby the exact same thing about the wine. I think my exact words were "it must be impossible to make dry wine in Indiana." Must have something to do with the climate...

  7. Jolene KetzenbergerAugust 31, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Winemakers and sellers say that Midwesterners (and Southerners) have a sweet palate. They also say that even though people *say* they like dry wine, they really drink sweet -- funny.

  8. Re: Midwesterners having a sweet palate - How true. Ditto their preference for heavily salted food.

    When I first relocated here (from NJ) I had great difficulty with eating out as everything seemed extremely salty and/or sweet, so much so that I couldn't taste anything else besides the salt and/or sugar at times and actually could not eat some dishes I was served. Alas, with time my palate has changed towards this highly salty side although the sweet side still repels me (perhaps because I have never eaten much in the way of desserts or cakes or sweet things to start with and still don't)

    Ditto the heavy emphasis and craving for large amounts of cheese on stuff.

    One of my former colleagues (in NJ) once told me about a fellow worker of hers who grew up in Indiana who always had his "sugar water flavored with coffee" (4-5 teaspoons per cup was his norm) in the morning, and about the Cheese (with a little mac) that he often brought for lunch, or his fear/aversion of fish/seafood. He wasn't the only one, other Midwesterners in her circle exhibited not dissimilar preferences.

    We were discussing how it could be that once upon a time people in the Midwest might be engaged in heavy physical labor as (all that farming, dairy and crops) so needed big doses of calories (cheese, meat, whatnot) while preservation of meat and food might have been an issue (little refrigeration then) so heavy salting might have played a part... Similarly, distance from the oceans meant little seafood [although the Great Lakes regions would have provided fish].. etc etc.


  9. Well, I hate to overgeneralize about midwesterners, but I will say that growing up in Indiana, I was not exposed to much seafood and much of what you did get was either deep fried or just plain bad. It was when I moved to the coast, that I started enjoying seafood as much as I do now. (And if I had to choose one protein source amongst all others now, it would probably be shellfish). BUT, with that being said, it is now possible in our current day and age to get impeccably fresh seafood in Indiana at some restaurants and shops (including amazing Great Lakes fish)--so the challenge is just getting people to try things again when they may have given up on them a long time ago. Of course, it is still quite possible to get horrible seafood at many restaurants and shops today as well, so you have to be picky about where you get it. If there isn't going to be turnover, don't order it. (For example if you want mussels, go to Brugge, not a random Italian retaurant.)

    I buy most of my fish and shellfish for home consumption at Kona Jack's and Goose the Market pretty exclusively, or I am almost always disappointed.

    Just my 2 cents.

  10. Rmatthea, oh-so-Fabuloso, Angie
    Thanks for all the kind words about Dig-IN. I am glad that you found new foods and new chefs from Indiana. That was the the rue meaning of the event. hundreds of people came together to make this happen and I am proud of everyone to produce an incredible event.

    The Hickory Smoked Sea Salt really brought the Ivy Tech dish together. You can buy the salt at Goose or at the Wednesday Market at City Market.

    Chef Thom England

  11. Erin,
    Thank you for your suggestion for different signage. we are going to be meeting with the key people and making notes to improve for next year over the next couple of weeks. How about something that is more banner like above the tent with the information we had on the other signs along with if it is vegitarian and if so what level?

    Others, what other suggestions would you have for improvement?

    Chef Thom England

  12. I like that you are all talking about regional differences in food. In the Upper New England region they use much more sweetners instead of salt. This is because of the maple syrup being a main ingredient in settler foods.
    In Florida the food is mainly seafood that is prefared simply with fruity, bright flavors.
    In New Orleans we think of the mixture of French, Caribean, African and Spanish flavors.

    What do you think Indiana is or should be known for and what exhibits those flavors the best.

  13. Fabuloso, thanks for another yummy sounding fried chicken rec too! I will add it to the list!

  14. ChefThom: Here's my suggestion for improvement. For about the first hour and a half, people lined up straight in from the entrance and down the first row of booths, causing a huge traffic jam. The other booths somehow started out right away with lines coming directly out perpendicular from the tables which works much better. People in that first long line waited forever for things because if one table got backed up (had to re-load the food etc) everyone just stopped (while at some tables the food was just sitting there becuase the line wasn't moving). Finally, after watching this for the first hour and a half or so, I actually went to a staff member and helped her move the lines myself (mostly for selfish reasons because I wanted to try things but also because it was so frustrating to watch). Somehow it needs to be made clear for people just to line up behind the table they want to try.

    Also, if you can figure out what booths are going to have the longest lines, try not to put those booths directly across from each other because then the lines hit each other.

  15. Agreed on the alignment of the lines early on and the need for more prominent signage on what the chefs were offering. Another area that could use some reworking, IMO, was the beer area. That was the least sampled area for me. The wine tables were spread out enough to walk up and try a couple of samples with minimimal waits. But with only a couple tables for all the breweries, I found the lines so long I didn't even mess with them. It could have been the 95F temps, the heart of the event, etc, but I think the layout of that portion of the event could be reworked to more efficiently move people through. Overall, excellent value for the attendees and a great event for Indianapolis. Thanks for making it happen Dig-IN.

  16. Erin, this is a great post recapping the 2010 Dig-IN. So perfect to share with all of our friends that weren't able to attend last year and want to get the details of what it is like. Great job capturing the essence and feeling of Dig-IN. Now, I've got to run and retweet this link!

    See you Sunday!