Monday, August 27, 2012

Dig In 2012

I tweeted a lot about this year’s Dig In, so I am going to keep my post fairly brief and just talk about a few of my favorite dishes from this year (in no particular order) (and I didn’t get to try every single item, although I did try a lot of them).

Goose the Market’s “walking taco”

You can always count on something interesting from Chris Ely of Goose the Market and Smoking Goose and this year was no exception.  (You can also count on some of the longest lines there). You got a little paper bag full of tender goat meat and some crunchy cracklins on the bottom—the “tacos” had a bit of seasoning in the form of some chopped onions, but mainly you got to add toppings yourself.  There was tomatillo salsa, a creamy sauce, corn pico de gallo, cilantro, cabbage slaw (the things I remember off the top of my head).  I put a little bit of most of the things on and really enjoyed it.  And I am sure goat is certainly a meat that a lot of Indy people might not have had before.

Brad Gates Catering Bison Succotash
This dish included a decent portion of slow cooked bison shoulder with lots of great local (and crispy fresh) veggies—corn, cabbage, green beans and tomatoes.  I thought this was one of the dishes that had the most varied flavors and the meat was also super tender.  As it turned out, it was one that had quite a line later in the day as well.

Late Harvest Corn Salad

I loved Late Harvest’s corn, walnut, goat cheese, and housemade pancetta salad.  The pancetta was nice and salty and I really enjoyed that this dish also had a bit of acid to it—there was a lot of rich food to eat at Dig In, and this one stuck out to me because it was different and was a really nice combination of flavors.  I may have to try and recreate this one at home.

Chef JJ’s Sweet Cheeks

This was a dish that was somewhat similar to Brad Gates’ dish, but made with pork—and I loved the crunchy bits of falafel on top.  Few dishes could really give a good crunch under these circumstances and this one was really good.

Duos (Food Truck) Goat Cheese Quesadilla

This was probably my favorite vegetarian option and I really enjoyed that it was also something totally different from pretty much everything else. It was a potato, mustard green and goat cheese quesadilla.  You definitely need to like goat cheese to like this one, but I love goat cheese and thought it was really good.  I liked that there were veggies being used that weren’t the corn, tomato and green beans that were in a lot of dishes (and I love all of those things as well, don’t get me wrong).

I got to go as a VIP (I was given 2 tickets for my work as a gastronaut), which meant we got in the gates at 11:00 and didn’t have to wait in line for much of anything, which was really nice.  Overall, our impression was that the food has continued to improve over the course of the 3 years that Dig In has been around. My general observations about the food this year--tacos and chilled soups were the most popular dish and many people tried to come up with novel ways to serve the food that didn't require a spoon or fork, which was nice since you are walking and eating. (Which reminds me, the little tortilla filled with pork and seasoning from Indiana Downs was also really good--see pic below.)

The good news is they ended up selling out all the available tickets, which was a goal I know they wanted to achieve and it makes me happy that so many people were excited to eat local Indiana food. The downside, from what I saw and have been hearing, is that the lines got really long shortly after 12 and remained that way for most of the afternoon.  Apparently several chefs also ran out of food by 3:00 or so.  I am not sure what the solution is, but hopefully they will get it all worked out by next year (although there will always be lines I think).  I know I really enjoyed my day and nearly everything I ate.

So what were your favorites? And what was your experience like?

Dig In
A Taste of Indiana


  1. I was really disappointed that I didn't get to try the walking taco from Goose the Market! When we got in line, we were forewarned that they likely wouldn't have any left by the time we got up there, so we moved on.

    My top favorites were: (1) Cerulean's pork belly, with that delicious dressing and hazelnut salad (2)Farm's chilled golden summer soup. (3) Indigo Duck's blueberry bbq.

    The chilled soups were always a nice, light break for me. I love tacos, but could have done with more variety and less of them.

  2. My wife and I went to the event for the first time this year. We were not VIPs and got there around 1:15 pm. Lines were bad everywhere, but we got to try about 15 items. A few of our favorites were the pulled pork from the place in Muncie, the corn chowder from Circle City Soups, the bison bratwurst, and the cookies from Just Rennies. I also liked the reuben sandwich.

    I also noticed that shops were running out at 3pm, which doesn't seem acceptable. I talked with Matt @ Scratch Truck and he said that they were instructed to bring 3500 pieces of what they were giving out. Assuming everyone else got to 1/3 to 1/2 of the stores, that means they sold at least 7-10k tickets, since they were controlling access to the various tents by way of the paper. Had I gotten there later, I would have been pretty irritated if everyone was out of food.

  3. Great summary, Erin!

    I thought that the bison succotash and Chef JJ's dish were also two of my favorites. The sweet corn chowder at Circle City Soups was a huge hit with my kids!

    I think my biggest disappointment was Zest's booth. I know that Val was getting super creative here, but the flavors just didn't work for me.

    Lines at some of the more popular booths are a food festival of this size that doesn't deal with that issue? In fact, go to RibAmerica next weekend, and see how long the lines are at the bigger BBQ booths. We arrived at noon, and didn't leave until 4pm, and I think the longest line was clearly Goose the Market, but that was probably because you had to dress your own walking taco. Every other line we stood in went very fast. My two 5th graders didn't complain once about standing in any line.

    I honestly don't know how they can control the fact that some chefs ran out of food. They all had to source their ingredients days ahead of time, based on the projected number of people. The event was REALLY promoted well socially and in the local media, and the turnout was probably larger than most expected. It shouldn't be any secret that some chefs and restaurants were in a position to plan for 5,000 people, and some clearly didn't have the resources. Maybe next year, they could discount the tickets sold after 3pm or so, with the understanding that there's a chance of some booths being sold out.

    Personally, we decided that we will gladly pay the VIP premium in advance next year, just so we have an opportunity to hit the more popular booths before the main crowd hits.

    Overall, it was a huge success and I'm very proud of our local chefs and farmers. I think it will only continue to grow, and I'm sure that some of these growing pains will work themselves out.

  4. It was my first year going. I didn't mind that some stations ran out. It seems impossible to sample everything, and why should there be excess food that would go to waste? That said, I think the expectation should be clearly set that it is all "while supplies last".

    My favorites were the Goose, Brad Gates, and Black Swan's offerings. Scratchtruck was good, too. Sampled about a dozen things and was satisfied.

    Many of the chilled soups were strikingly similar to Natural Born Juicers' smoothie, guess I'm just not into chilled soup. You can call it soup, but to me it is just cold puree in a cup. Meh.

    I literally spit out the Oceanaire's fish taco, as it was overwhelmingly fishy. No one in my group liked it. Zest's creation with the popcorn on top wins for strangest of the day.

    With long lines, it was kind of hard to tell what you were waiting to eat. Wish that would have been boldly marked on the tents. When you're juggling food and beer already, it's hard to shuffle through the booklet to find out what's being served.

    Overall, a good event that I will put in my yearly rotation.

  5. My faovrite was the little tortilla filled with pork and seasoning from Indiana Downs.

    Overall food was better than last year and we were able to arrinve around 11:30 and got about 45 minutes before the lines started getting really long.

    Also I know for a fact that the tickets were limited to 5,000.

  6. One additional note: I noticed that most of the food trucks were NOT marking off your passports, which is really the only way they had of controlling the portions to the overall headcount.

  7. thanks for all your feedback everyone--always fun to see what everyone's favorite dishes were (I didn't get to try some of them). Love the chilled soup debate. I know they are refreshing on a hot day, but I tend to agree with Sarah--in general they aren't my favorite either and there were a few too many of them.

    I know that it is possible to not run out of food because many of the chefs don't year after year (even some of the very popular ones). I am interested to know which ones did.

    Kent- I agree that VIP is the way to go, although it is probably one of the reasons that people ran out as well because you didn't have to have your card stamped with a VIP pass--meaning you could sample things as many times as you wanted.

    I know that not everyone will give away the full 5000 items, but maybe certain popular booths should just plan on serving 5000. I am sure many of the chefs have a good idea by now how many patrons they tend to have. But again, every year things get improved with more knowledge.

    Looking forward to next year.

  8. We got in right at 12 and most places we're fine, but we left at 2:45 and Goose was already gone, which was disappointing. The guy from Served count be bothered to show up on time, but he's flaky anyway, so that's no surprise. Before we left, I saw at least 3 people (not together) holding four or five passports and comparing what was left that they could go eat. I'm not sure how they got their hands on them, but that behavior might help explain why places ran out. We also witnessed two men (I believe from Thr Chef's Academy, but I won't swear to it) fighting with, cursing at, and threatening each other with restraining orders. Classy. We loved the event; I think it was done as well as it could be for the size.

    1. Don't know much about The guy from Served personally, but I do know he didn't get power until about an hour into the festivities.

  9. I got tired of all the corn. After the first three dishes, I didn't want to see any more corn.

    Something should be done about portion sizes. Some were a proper tasting size where you could experience the different flavors. Others were just a bite. Some chefs thought outside the box and came up with creative ideas while others just put stuff in a small cup.

  10. Glad to read your review, Erin! I wished I'd made it more of the booths, simply ran out of space in my stomach!

    Just blogged about what I ate if you'd like to compare notes -


  11. I've been all three years. Was SO pleased with some of the improvements this year - namely the food symbols on the tent. As a vegetarian there was just no way to make the event work well in the past - one would have to somehow weed through the line to see the offering, somehow guess whether it was veg-friendly by sight, in order to determine if a wait in line was worth it. I wouldn't have gone back this year if I hadn't heard they were improving the format in this way!

    I think it's KEY to get there right at noon. I sampled all the vegetarian offerings and had a beer by 1pm. Probably partly because people there early were focusing on the popular meat offerings, leaving nonmeat stuff even more accessible.

    Regarding stuff running out - 5 hours might be too long for this fest? An early section and a late section, with programs indicating sections accordingly? It's unfortutate to read that VIPs got unlimited samples, that's gonna make it harder to estimate and I would hate to see waste by overestimating.

    My (vegetarian) picks:

    3rd Fermenti Artisan's kraut with Capriole's Old KY Tomme & Cypress Grove Purple Haze - well paired, and that is some fancy expensive cheese to be giving out! Good balance of acid & buttery creamy delicious fat

    2nd Napolese caprese salad - never would've thought such a standard item could rate so well, but they absolutely nailed it

    1st Natural Born Juicers - sadly no description in the passport of the very first item I tasted - I know it had lavender in it and the flavors were pure art

  12. Great review. Hope you got to try the corn chowder from Circle City Soup. It was killer. Also, the lines were unreal, and it was too much for it being soo hot, but with the long lines means one thing....It means Indy and Indiana as a whole are making HUGE strides to making the food scene here top shelf. Thats what people are missing. Yes, it was packed and sold out but too few are saying it was awesome to see this state making leaps and bounds food wise.

  13. That was definitely the case with Served. There was an issue with power outlets that delayed starting on time.

  14. This was my 3rd year at DigIN. Each year they have done things a bit differently and, for the most part, it's an improvement.

    This year I think the heat with the longer lines didn't help anyone enjoy the event more. It was disappointing that several of the vendors were out of food halfway through the event (3 tables ran out of food while I was in line for them!).

    I think my biggest beef about this year is that I spent the entire time in line. There wasn't much opportunity to enjoy the day, the experience and leisurely wander from place to place. Instead, we got our tastes from one place and immediately went to stand in the next line. There wasn't any opportunity to actually talk with the chefs who created these delicious items (which for me is a big draw for the event). Plus, the cost for a ticket increased this year.

    It sounds like VIP is the way to go, but it seems like that's what most people want to do next year -- will they limit the VIP tickets?

    As for the food, I'm still thinking about that incredible taco from Oakley's Bistro, the corn chowder from Circle City Soups and the little cup of goodness from Indiana Downs, just to name a few.

    I love the event and hope that it continues to be successful, but balances that success with an excellent experience.