Whew! What a day. Jon and I had such a good time at Dig IN on Sunday. Though it was hot, we managed to take small breaks in the shade to cool down and rehydrate.
I was awarded 2 VIP passes for being selected as a Gastronaut, which means we got into the event an hour early. If you take anything away from this post, let it be this: Pay the extra $20 for the VIP pass. Since this was our first time at the event, we had no idea what a madhouse it would become. During the first hour, before the general public arrived, we were able to walk right up to the food booths without waiting in line. We tried about 8 dishes, while we probably tried only 8 more the remaining 5 hours. At noon, a flood of people came through the gates, and the flood continued all afternoon.
Shortly after 1pm, the lines for more popular dishes were 20-30 minutes long. Because of this, I didn’t get to try the dish that most were raving about: the walking Tacos from Goose the Market. If we hadn’t had that first hour to try anything we wanted, I probably would have been pretty cranky. I am not sure what can be done in the years to come, but I heard many people complaining about the lines. Another unfortunate side effect of the popularity of this event: some of the restaurants ran out of food with 2 hours left to go. Each was told to prepare for 3,500, while many brought enough for 5,000. The event sold out, though I don’t know the ticket count.
All those blips aside, Dig IN will go down as one of my favorite summer events. It’s not often I get the opportunity to sample quality locally sourced food. Another perk: White River State Park is a lovely space, with a beautiful view of the Indy skyline.
But of course, the highlight is the food, so let me walk you through our day.
I am not usually a coffee drinker, but this Iced Coffee from Bjava is superb. Infused with Indiana flower from Eden Farms in Lebanon, lemongrass, and bee balm, it had layers and layers of flavor: first coffee, then floral, then lemongrass. Extremely refreshing and light. Jon liked it so much, he went back for more later in the day.
It’s a tie between this dish and two others for my favorite of the day. This Potato, Greens & Goat Cheese Quesadilla from Duos Food Truck was both comforting and spicy. The salsa verde was especially tangy and flavorful. Since we visited Duos early in the day, there was no line and we had a chance to chat with the owners. They’ve been in the restaurant business over 40 years and warned that owning a food truck is hard work. But we will not be deterred! Someday, there will be a Ginger Kitchen Food Truck rolling around the Fort.
The Big Green Bistro’s Sweet Cheeks contains smoked pork cheeks and pork belly with fresh veggies, falafel and goat cheese. The veggie mixture had a splendid zest and paired well with the crunch of the falafel and the deep smoky flavor of the pork cheeks and belly.
The Waygu Tongue & Cheek Tacos from Joseph Decuis is the dish I was most looking forward to and it did not disappoint. Tender, juicy beef, mixed with slaw, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeños and lime. Delish! The corn tortillas from George’s International in Fort Wayne were simply perfect- toasted till slightly crispy, they complemented the flavor explosions in the taco well. I had a chance to chat with Aaron briefly. He had quite the ensemble of staff there to help him (the largest of any other restaurant), and purchased over 250 lbs of beef! Throughout most of the day, the line to sample the tacos was one of the longest. And when we left the event at 4:45, he was still whipping these up.
After the spicy jalapeños on the Waygu Tacos, the refreshing simplicity of this dish from Napolese was a welcome reprieve. And it tastes as good as it looks: a juicy, fresh tomato, topped with whipped goat cheese and a basil leaf. Incredibly complex in its simplicity.
This dish wasn’t really on my radar coming into the event, but it ranks up there with the Quesadillas from Duos and the Waygu Tacos from Joseph Decuis. Brad Gates’ Braised bison shoulder with succotash, savoy cabbage, and horsera creme fraiche create a surprisingly tangy, savory combination. I was expecting it to be a cold dish and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was warm. Perhaps the best flavor was the horseradish in the horsera creme fraiche. It complemented the other flavors well and catapulted this dish into my top 3 for the day.
This dish from Indiana Downs was one of the most interesting appearance-wise at the event, but the taste left something to be desired. A Fried Tortilla cup stuffed with pork, avocado mousse, corn, and spicy salsa verde, the dish was more spice than anything else and lacked any complex flavors.
Jon absolutely loved this dish: The Indigo Duck’s Sun King Braised Duck Fried Pie, Blueberry BBQ sauce and Charred Sweet Corn Salad. The fried pies, also called empanadas, were warm and savory. Pairing them with the sweet blueberry BBQ is genius. Though many of the dishes contained corn, this simple charred sweet corn salad was a refreshing match for the duck pie.
While this chilled soup was a welcome break from the heavier dishes we were sampling, I think the most notable aspect of this experience was learning about Second Helpings, an Indy-based non-profit that rescues prepared and perishable food from groceries, wholesalers, restaurants, and individuals. They transform the food into nutritious meals and distribute them, free of charge, to over 65 social service organizations that feed the hungry. I’ve been talking about this very idea for a long time and look forward to talking to them more to learn the ins and outs of their operation.
Cerulean is one of my favorite restaurants and it came through with this pork belly dish served with may apple jam, hazelnut, and goldwood garden greens. I’ve never had pork belly like this before. Though a bit fatty, the meat was so tender and flavorful. I loved that it was paired with sweet jam and hazelnut and bitter greens.
This Great Organic Garden Gazpacho from The Loft was good, though not outstanding. I liked the crunchy cheese crumbles on top, but otherwise, I found it to be a bit oily.
R Bistro’s chilled peach soup with smoked duck salad was a delectable treat. The peach flavor was intense and paired nicely with the smoky duck flavor. I also liked the addition of radish- many conflicting flavors coming together to create a new, intense flavor. I will add R Bistro to my list of must-trys in the Indy area because of this dish.
My second food truck experience of the day, Spice Box offered up a traditional Indian dish, Channa Masala aka Chicken & Garbanzo beans. Jon and I love Indian food and were satisfied with this dish, though it was a bit light on spices; it could have been ramped up considerably.
Jon didn’t care for this dish from OAKLEYS very much, but I liked it. Though I didn’t taste the adobo, the combination of the slow roasted lamb and stinky cheese was good. Generally, I am a fan of lettuce wraps. I like the cool crisp lettuce with the warm fillings, and this one was right on par with others I’ve tried.
I am not a big candy eater, but Jon liked all three of these offerings from Circle City Sweets, especially the Pate de Fruit, which was a honey meringue, cherry/apricot, and roasted pistachio mixture. Unfortunately, because it was so hot, the candy was extremely melty, making it difficult to eat.
I love marshmallows, but I’ve never seen anything like these artisan marshmallows from 240Sweet. Jon and I sampled the vanilla bean and coconut and were thoroughly impressed. Other flavors include triple berry, elephant ear and salty caramel. Check out the full flavors list, which includes some odd ones like pomegranate rose and thai chili.
By 1:45, it was getting hot and this peach lavender smoothie from Natural Born Juicers was the perfect thing to cool us down, even if only momentarily. The peach tasted natural and fresh, and the smoothie finished off with a slight floral hint of lavender. Perfection! We will be ordering more flavors from them!
I took a break from the action from 2-2:45 p.m. to chill in the social media tent with Sara Croft and Ryan Puckett, so Jon brought this fun and creative dish from Zest! to me to try. House-made ricotta with peach and white corn puree, finished with Twisted Sistaz Popcorn (made exclusively for this dish by Just Pop In), combining sweet and salty, soft and crunchy. What a fun idea.
After I finished my shift at the social media tent around 3 p.m., the lines were getting out of control and a few restaurants had run out of food. I really wanted to try this dish from Albatross Grille, so we waited about 10 minutes, but it was worth it. Duck prosciutto with honey ricotta and persimmon peach gastrique, atop a small piece of toast and topped with bitter greens: a light and creamy treat!
We ended our long day in the sun with the Black Swan Signature Reuben. This dish was not on my radar heading into the event, but I am glad we had a chance to sample it. The cheese melted on top was actually done with a blow torch! What a fun way to end the day.
Exhausted, sunburned, and completely full, we made our way back to our car and back to Fort Wayne, but we can’t wait to do it again next year.
- Bring sunscreen. There is little shade available at the event.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will do a lot of walking.
- Splurge for the VIP pass. The extra hour is worth it.
- Scope out your must-try dishes before you arrive so you can create a game plan to fit them all in.
- Stay hydrated. The Chill tent offered free water. Take advantage of it.
- Take a stroll across the bridge. It’s scenic and breezy, offering a bit of a reprieve from the heat.
- Be patient. The lines will get long and people will get cranky. Remember to smile.
- Buy the Dig IN beer pint for $6. The first fill is free and each refill is only $5.
- Check out the artisan area. We didn’t have time to make it over there with the exception of hitting the marshmallow tent on the way back from the bathroom, but the products on display are phenomenal.
- Pace yourself. If you are attending with someone else, share each dish, versus getting your own. You will be able to try more dishes this way.
- HAVE FUN!