Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dig In 2011

This past Sunday hubby and I attended the 2nd annual Dig In at White River State Park.  I’m excited that we have gotten to go to Dig In since its inception last year (here’s my post from last year).  I now have a goal of collecting a nice set of Dig In glasses from each year.
I was very impressed to see that the organizers certainly paid attention to how things went last year and made some great improvements.  First of all, last year the food booths were all lined up next to each other and as people walked in, they just started going to the booths in order causing a giant line going out the front entrance.  This year they set up separate little groupings of tents that had 6-9 providers (food and beer/wine samples).  Then if you wanted to purchase a glass or bottle of anything to drink, you went to a central tent to do that.  Last year the beer and wine were sort of crammed into one tent, making it hard to get to some of them.  I was amazed how much better the access to everything was this year (although when it got busy, there were some long lines).  You also got a passport so that you were only supposed to sample things once (with a few bonus samples in case you wanted 2 of something really good).  This was a good way from preventing the same people from repeating certain items too much I guess.  The way the booths were set up, the lines sort of spiraled out from each area too so that two lines didn’t back into each other so much.  They also made a nice attempt to be more eco-friendly using compostable plates and having recycling bins scattered throughout (too bad no one was paying attention to how the bins were labeled). Also, the weather was perfect.  
There were several new chefs preparing food this year, but I was sad to see several that were there last year were not there this year. But I ate a ton of stuff (who needed dinner after all that?) but did not hit everything, so please let me know what I missed if you think there was a standout that I didn’t talk about.  Here were some of my highlights in no particular order:
The crispy pulled pork with braised beans, rendered bacon and pork jus, hickory syrup and pork flavored foam from JW Mariott chef Brendon Cheney.  All of these things were layered and served in a little shot glass.  The pork was tender, but I liked all the other elements mixed in there too (sorry, I already started eating when I thought to take a picture).
The smoked turkey and ginger sausage with blueberry mostarda and root veggie kraut on a bun from Smoking Goose/Goose the Market chef Chris Eley.  I loved the flavor of the sausage although the casing was so firm you couldn’t really bite through it.  We sort of squeezed out the inside and it tasted great.  I also liked the way they wrapped the little bites in a paper wrapper making carrying around a plate or anything else with unnecessary.
The duck and goat cheese dumplings with sweet and sour peach sauce from Brad Gates Catering chef Brad Gates.  The dumpling was tender and the somewhat sweet sauce was great with the goat cheese. There was a nice crunch from some cabbage in there as well.
The “My Dad’s Sweet Corn” chowder from Circle City Sweets chef Roger Hawkins.  I have talked about this soup before and really enjoyed it, but I loved the way they added texture to it by adding some fresh corn kernels and bacon on top (which is exactly what I did last time I bought a quart at the Farmer’s Market—added fresh corn and some crispy prosciutto).
The Gunthrop Farms pork tacos with all the fixins’ from Restaurant Tallent chef Dave Tallent.  The tortillas were grilled, the pork had a nice amount of seasoning and I liked that they let you add as much corn and tomato relish, hot sauce and slaw as you wanted.  It was a tasty little taco.
The Sun King braised duck with arugula, roasted corn poblano and goat cheese crème fraiche with heirloom tomato hot pepper sauce served on flatbread from Indigo Duck chef Joseph Hewett.  I appreciated that even in an outdoor event, the restaurant took the effort to put together a somewhat complicated dish.  The duck was tender and I liked getting a little bit of greens.
The bread pudding with caramel sauce and a bit of whipped cream from Keltie’s Restaurant chef Keltie Sullivan Domina.  Just when I thought I was full, my lovely husband brought me the bread pudding.  The bread was warm and soft and the caramel sauce thick and sweet.  A perfect way to end the food portion of the day.
So these are just a few highlights. I know I personally ate much more this year and I really enjoyed myself—and I think the attendance was up substantially from last year. I even managed to find some Indiana wine that wasn’t too bad (I usually find it too sweet on the whole).  I think the event improved by leaps and bounds from its first year to its second, and I look forward to seeing how it goes next year.  If they were asking my advice, here are a few improvements I would suggest:  Make water available, even if it is for sale.  There was only one place to get water that we could find and it was in the very front of the event near the entrance.  I was with someone who brought her children and finding bottles of water was a bit of a challenge.  Also, because parking near the entrance filled up in the first hour or so, it would be great if they had people checking people in/handing out over 21 bracelets near the zoo bridge entrance as well.  Finally, if they are serious about recycling, they need more of those special recycling bins with the tops that only fit bottles and cans (there were some there I noticed).  Anyhow, those are my 2 cents.

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts about the event as well as what your favorite things to eat were (or what you thought of the other activities like the speakers).  Did you go last year? Did you see improvements? Come on, let’s hear your thoughts.
Dig In
A Taste of Indiana



  1. I agree with the recycling. I hate to see that much plastic go into the trash. I also think that there needs to be more non-alcoholic choices for drinks. Not enough water and other options besides beer or wine. A tent or two (maybe one in the front and one towards the back) that could sell it for a couple dollars would be a great addition!

  2. I agree with everything you said about the recycling and water too. We didn't think to bring a bag to carry some of the handouts in the tents but Yelp had them available if you signed up for their e-newsletter. I would have liked to see more bags available maybe. The food lines all went very quickly. The wine and beer tasting speakers were very interesting. Got us out of the sun for a while! Very nice and well planned event!

  3. We definitely ate enough that we skipped dinner! Wonderful event, though we didn't get there until about 2:30 due to our daughter's nap schedule and we were sad some stations were already out of food/beer by that point (particularly Brad Gates and Tony Hanslit's brewing).

    We noted that it seemed wasteful that every station was giving us a disposable plate and a fork but I didn't notice anything about recycling. I agree that it should be made more clear that there are recycling options.

  4. There was so much food left over, the food pantry should be notified to pick up left overs. Leigh

  5. I was curious about what happened at Brad's. The handout listed a different dish than what we received so I wasn't sure if he just ran out or changed it last minute. Plus, I was a bit disappointed with it - definitely not his best.

    The MIA beer companies disturbed me as well. We ran into Neal on our way out and he told us that they only had X number of tastes and after that you had to go to the beer tent to purchase but would increase that amount next year.

    I "secretly" think that people were getting several beer samples just because there was not easily accessible water.

    I totally agree with all your food choices. I also really enjoyed the bison "tostada" with cantaloupe from the Local Eatery.

  6. Did anyone else try Fermenti Artisan's dish with the bacon, goat cheese, and beets?

    Maybe I'm just seriously unenlightened about the delights of beets, but that was, in my opinion, the only true misfire of the day.

    I can't imagine how anyone could have possibly sampled everything, then gone back for seconds (especially if they were washing it all down with any beer or wine). We made it through about 20 samples (around 2/3 of what was available?) in 2 1/2 hours and then had to give up. The Natural Born Juicers booth had a nice selection, but at $5 per blended juice drink, they knew they had the non-alcohol market cornered.

  7. Thanks for all your feedback everyone. Interesting to read. Leigh, great idea on the food pantry thought.

    Jina, yes, I was curious about some of the MIA places as well. I ate Brad Gates' food in the very beginning--sounds like that was a good plan.

    Wayne, I didn't have that dish, so I can't really speak to it. I agree, I think it would be pretty much impossible to eat everything.

  8. I loved Dig In, having just heard about it this year. My mom and I had too much fun, wandering and me getting tipped in the middle of the afternoon. My biggest rant- WTF was up with the parking? Of course it's the middle of the summer and all the attractions are open, the White River State Park lot is going to be full. But Victory Field's lot was blocked off for no reason (not a game day) and the Goverment Centre's lot was only open for employees- really, on a Sunday? If we had better alternative transportation this wouldn't be an issue, or even offsite parking with shuttles.