Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending my 4th consecutive Dig IN at White River State Park. I luckily had early entry (thanks to Dig IN for giving me free tickets in exchange for being a gastronaut). One thing I decided after the last couple of years, is getting in that extra hour is key to beat the crowds.
However, even if you came with regular entry tickets this year, I don’t think the crowds were as bad. In fact, I think this was probably the best Dig IN yet for several reasons. This year they actually intentionally sold fewer tickets (like 1000 fewer!) and it made all the difference. There were lines, but not like I have seen in the past. And while a few places ran out of food before the end of the day, I haven’t heard of it being a big issue (as I have in the past). There were a lot of people, but it wasn’t so overwhelming.
|A few of my faves|
Also, I really think the food was overall the best of any year. There were no dishes that seemed repeated too much and there were very few things that I didn’t enjoy. This was a particularly hard year for me to pick favorites because so many things were good (and I ate SO much). A couple of the highlights for me were the pork torchon with pickled vegetables and micro herbs from Craig Baker of the Local, the little berry bruschetta that came alongside the pho from Chef Roberts of Meridian, and the bacon and white cheddar grits from Chef Muro of Valley Kitchen & Bar. That little crisp, thick piece of bacon was amazing. I also really enjoyed the chanterelle vegetable bisque for Duos food truck. It was a hot day to eat hot soup, but it was worth it. I appreciated cooling off after that with the nearby “My Dad’s” Sweet corn popsicle from Nicey Treats.
The VIP tent had some extra special plates of goodness from Bluebeard, The Libertine, Recess, and Cerulean. Hubby and I particularly enjoyed the duck rillettes bun with pickled watermelon, shallots and aioli from Bluebeard. What a great little flavor combo. All of the food in that area makes buying a VIP ticket completely worth it though—it was all really good (not to mention the cool, larger portable bathrooms).
Several of you mentioned your favorites to me on twitter and instagram (and I didn’t get to try all of them, but I did get most of them). From the word on the street (or the social media) the favorites I picked up on were the pulled pork fritter and watermelon shooter from Chef Russo of the Severin Bar and the meatballs from Chef Davey of Courses Restaurant (at Ivy Tech). Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong! I can’t wait to hear what your favorites were (and hope I didn’t miss too much).
One of the things that I really like about Dig IN is that year after year, they figure out what worked and what didn’t and make improvements. I think they are pretty golden on the set up of the food and drink tents. Last year, there were shortages of water and this year, I thought that was perfected with big icy barrels of water bottles scattered throughout. I also loved that they were making a real effort to recycle and compost everything (even though it was a little complicated making sure you got everything in the right container, I made a real effort and even had a volunteer thank me for doing it exactly right). One complaint I heard quite a bit though was that there just weren’t enough of the trashcans. That's easily solved for next year though.
As far as other improvements, the only other thing I saw (and experienced) was problems with the lines for checking in/will call etc. The lines were not clearly marked and many people (including me) were shuffled into several lines before getting to the place they needed to be. I think that’s an easy fix though, and even with the confusion, only cost me about 10 minutes.
All in all, I am very impressed to see the way Dig IN has grown and matured, but has maintained a desire to stay at a manageable, personal size. The crowd was big, but yet seemed friendlier at its slightly smaller size—I know I ran into a lot more people that I knew this year. It just seemed more social somehow. I appreciate that Dig IN maintains its famer-based, hyper local food focus and that every person has the opportunity to personally interact with chefs and producers. I think that’s the point of Dig IN and I hope it continues that way.
The food was better than it has ever been, the weather was great as usual, and I even enjoyed several beers—I particularly liked the Special K Kolsch from the Bier Brewery. Another thing you have to credit Dig IN with—getting me to try more beer. Somehow, the weather always inspires me to drink beer.
I would love to hear from you all to hear about your favorite bites and drinks…was this your first year, or are you a veteran like me? Let’s hear your thoughts!
A Taste of Indiana