If you’ve ever wanted to sample food from the best local restaurants across Indiana in a single afternoon, get yourself to Dig IN, a farm-to-fork festival (with an adorably punny name) that is held annually in late August in Indianapolis. Dishes from three dozen invited chefs, all highlighting locally grown ingredients, are included with admission. It’s a food lover’s dream, and as someone who’s relatively new to the area, I was very excited to attend the 2016 edition of the festival and stuff my face while simultaneously learning more about our local food and agriculture scene.
I came hungry, and was very glad I did. Although I’ve heard of food festivals with stingy portions, that wasn’t the case at Dig IN at all. In fact, many samples, like the steak tacos from Shoefly Public House, were similar to what you’d get as an appetizer at a restaurant – unless you have superhuman eating ability, there’s no way you’re going to leave here hungry.
I knew Indiana is one of the top pork-producing states in the US, so I wasn’t surprised to see many dishes featuring pork. What I didn’t know until I attended Dig IN is that the Hoosier State is the country’s number one producer of ducks! My favorite of the many duck offerings was “Duck, Duck, Mousse Three Ways” (confit, smoked and pate on grilled flatbread) from 5280 Bistro.
As a West Lafayette resident, I was excited to see one of my favorite local restaurants, Restauration, representing our area with a delicious blueberry, corn, blue cheese and walnut salad. The Lafayette area has a bit of a reputation as the land of chain restaurants, and while that isn’t entirely undeserved, we do have some really excellent local places too, and I was thrilled to see Restauration getting the word out about what our community has to offer.
Revery easily won the award for most creative presentation, with their liquid nitrogen popcorn.
While the organizers had planned just about everything to perfection, the one thing they couldn’t control was the weather. It was a scorcher that day even by the standards of Indiana in August, so I was very appreciative of the many vendors offering cold drinks or soups, including Tinker Street‘s tomato-watermelon gazpacho with corn and basil and Spice Box‘s incredible watermelon lassi.
I can’t possibly recap all the dishes that were offered (or even all the ones I tried), but here are my top five favorites!
#5: Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese from The Northside Social
Creamy macaroni and cheese, topped with tender and perfectly seasoned pulled pork and crumbled queso – what could be better?
#4: Peaches and Marshmallow Cream from S’more Mobile
There were several food trucks sharing their dishes, and this peaches (and marshmallow) cream, topped with graham cracker crumbs in a nod to the traditional s’more, really hit the spot.
#3: Savory Corn Ice Cream with Blue Cheese from Story Inn
I couldn’t really taste much blue cheese, but I loved this savory sweet corn ice cream, and the presentation in a miniature cone couldn’t have been any cuter. It was also the perfect treat for the hot weather.
#2: Beet Taco with Goat Cheese Sauce and Candied Walnuts from Monon Food Company
“Beets” and “delicious” aren’t two words I normally associate and goat cheese isn’t usually a favorite of mine either, so I was completely blown away by how much I loved this taco. Something about the combination just worked. One of the great things about an all-inclusive festival like this is that you can try things you wouldn’t ordinarily choose and you may end up being very pleasantly surprised.
#1: Griddled Corn Cake with Peach-Blueberry Compote and Husk Cream from Vida
From talking to others at the festival and looking at social media, it seems like this was the runaway favorite of just about everyone in attendance. I knew as soon as I saw the list of dishes that this was going to be a favorite of mine, because corn and blueberries are two of my favorite foods, but I couldn’t possibly have imagined just how good it would actually be. Luckily for all of us, this dessert is on the menu at Vida in Indianapolis, and as soon as I got home from Dig IN, I made a reservation for dinner there. I can’t wait to have this dish again and am looking forward to trying the rest of their menu as well.
A number of breweries and wineries were also offering tastings that were included with admission to the festival. I didn’t sample too much – given that I wasn’t even able to get through all the food I didn’t want to waste valuable stomach space, plus I had to drive home – but it’s a great idea that seemed to be a hit with many attendees. Best of all, admission to DigIN includes a small souvenir glass that is perfect for the tastings!
In addition to all the food and drink, there were also chef competitions and live music to enjoy, and free gifts from various sponsors, including beautiful sunflowers from JP Parker Flowers.
I came home with a happy belly and a long list of new restaurants to try, and I’m already looking forward to Dig IN ’17!
Disclosure: Thanks to Dig IN for providing me with two early entry tickets to the festival. As always, my opinions are entirely my own.