Monday, August 26, 2013

Dig IN - 2013

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).
VIP

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! 

Dig IN
A Taste of Indiana
www.digindiana.org 


8 comments:

  1. Thanks for being part of the event. It was a wonderful day to enjoy and learn about so much great local food. Looking forward to next year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks to all of you who put in so much hard work! I am looking forward to next year as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would have to say my favorite thing of the day was not food. The Plum Buzz Iced Coffee from Bee Coffee Indy was divine. I drink a lot of kombucha, so this was a nice similar style of drink that I now need to learn how to make.

    ReplyDelete
  4. We had a great time! I was so happy that they made it a smaller crowd this year. This was our third year going. Last year the lines were bordering on unreasonable, and I often felt pressure to get in another line instead of relaxing and enjoying the food. This year was perfect! All of the lines were very fast. We only ran into two booths that were out of food (Scratch truck and Mesh, both out by 3:30, which seems like poor planning).


    The bacon and white cheddar grits from Valley and the faux noodle pho from Meridian tied for my favorite dishes. I was not expecting to like the grits- I'm not a grits person in general, and the grits from Lemley's Catering definitely did not change my mind (what was the deal with the marshmallow in there??). But these were perfect, and that bacon....well, we will probably make a trek out to Valley Kitchen and Bar now. We also loved the Duos soup- it had a really complex and deep flavor. But I do question the decision to make a hot soup in August (although I appreciated that it wasn't another gazpacho). Also the rabbit sloppy joe from Indigo Duck was wonderful. I would love to eat that again.


    I appreciated that there was such variety this year. There were way too many tacos last year. I think my only critique this year was that some of the restaurants had too large of portion sizes. I know that sounds like a silly thing to complain about, but when you're trying to many things, you can only eat so much. I felt terrible wasting, like the Fermenti Artisani bison shoulder and kraut. It was so delicious! I was very impressed. But there was so much of it, I couldn't finish it. I really appreciated that they added so many more water stands! This is the first year I didn't become dehydrated at DigIN :)


    I have to say....I'm a little disappointed to hear about the extra dishes in the VIP tent. Why no Libertine or Recess or Bluebeard for the rest of us?? Those are some of Indy's very best restaurants, and I think it's too bad they weren't represented for the general admission folks.


    Overall, we had a fabulous time and will definitely go again next year. It's a wonderful event and represents so much of what I love about Indy.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is only my second year attending, so I don't have as much to compare with, but this year's Dig IN felt a lot more enjoyable than last year. Last year I felt like everyone had something to gripe about, both during and after the event. It seemed like the committee listened and improved things, and the vibe during the event this year felt happier. I would second the complaints about the line process and the need for more trash cans. I had a VIP ticket at will call, and was shuffled in between lines. After picking up my ticket I had no direction and ended up in the event without the lanyard that would get me into the VIP tent or a glass for sampling. Definitely a small complaint, though, and one that is easy to fix.

    I felt like the focus was much stronger on the farm to fork aspect of the event, and I enjoyed seeing so much attention paid to the farms where the protein was sourced. The grits and white cheddar were definitely my favorite and I was so pleased to see the standout dish of the event come from a restaurant I was unfamiliar with. I hope it sends a lot of people out their way. I also really enjoyed the heirloom tomato sandwich from Napolese and the sweet corn popsicle from Nicey treat. Maybe I'm a weenie, but I had to pitch a few dishes (the one from Chef JJ's stands out) because they were spicy beyond the point of enjoyment. But hey, that just meant I needed to sample more beer to sooth my tastebuds!

    ReplyDelete
  6. While I read just about everything there was to read and follow social media, this was my first experience attending Dig IN. I did the option for early admittance and was please, but I think I could go either way in the future.

    It would have been nice to have been able to pick up the "passport" while waiting in line. I understand that becomes your ticket, but it would have been nice to review prior. While I am not vegetarian, I am not much of a meat eater, so I would have enjoyed more vegetarian options. When I think of farm to table, so many more locally grown produce options could be utilized. Plus, I have a sweet tooth and aside from the cookie option and sweet corn pop, there were not many other "sweet" options. I would have liked to see some of the local bakeries shine. The breweries and wineries shined well!

    My favorites were the Roasted Sweet Corn Popsicle, Indiana Berry Shrub, Chicken on a Grit Cake, Chicken Kofta Ball, and the Bacon Cured Tomatoes with Fair Oaks Cheddar Salad. I enjoyed numerous other dishes, but these stood out.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Emily @ Perfection Isn't HappyAugust 27, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    I really liked the caprese sandwich from Napolese, and the beer from Brugge. I wasn't a fan of the pork fritter/watermelon shooter -- I ended up throwing it away :/.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I will add, I saw where several places that ran out of food by 3 pm. I anticipated this by reading previous years feedback, but I was disappointed nonetheless. While somewhat relaxing, the time flew by and I missed out on a handful of things I wanted to try. I agree that the water stations were great.

    ReplyDelete