What’s the best ________ (fill in the blank with a food product) Indiana has to offer? Whether your pleasure is locally-made peppermint marshmallows or hot pepper jam, handmade pierogi or port wine, you’re going to find it at this weekend’s Indiana Artisan Marketplace.
You will want to imbibe whole jugs of artisanal Brown County poplar bark syrup, crunch handfuls of artisanal Vermillion County coffee toffee, snarf several Lawrence County artisanal persimmon puddings and meet the people who crafted them.
Like a statewide farmer’s market on steroids, the Indiana Artisan Marketplace is a showcase for what must be the dreamiest government initiative in our state’s history. Indiana’s departments of agriculture, tourism development and community and rural affairs joining forces with the Indiana Arts Commission to support and market Indiana’s best food producers? Best idea ever.
Eric Freeman, project manager for Indiana Artisan, credits Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman with the impetus in 2008: “To help food and art artisans statewide expand their businesses, and to leverage their work as the foundation of a new [Hoosier] brand that exemplifies high-quality art and food products.”
Over the last three years, 177 artisans in 52 counties have been anointed as Indiana Artisans. “That reflects less than 20 percent of the total number of applications,” notes Freeman. “The bar is high.”
Italian Pastries by way of Indiana
The latest edible art to clear the bar and earn the Artisan seal this year is crostata di ricotta (Italian cheesecake) made by Brian Strain and Joe Albano of Molti Gusti (“many flavors” in Italian). Strain and Albano spent months experimenting with recreations and reinterpretations of the cheesecake Albano remembered from growing up in Greenwich Village, New York. The result? A cheesecake that’s not brick-like, gelatinous or gaggy-sweet, but soft as a pillow with a fluffy filling dotted with candied citrus rind, a chewy, buttery latticed crust and the chic surprise of pine nuts.
Borrowing the brick oven from a local pizzeria in the wee hours the night, Strain turns out the crostata di ricotta; brownies; biscotti ai tre colori, bite-sized almond cakes with filling the colors of the Italian flag; and Black & Whites, a New York tradition of cushiony cookie, half covered with a frosty vanilla glaze and the other half with dark chocolate.
Business is taking off. Molti Gusti goodies are now available at the Indie Lounge at Keystone Arts Cinema and at the Yats College Ave. locale. “Indy’s food scene has become more sophisticated,” says Albano, who’s zealous about sharing the Italian pastry tradition. “It’s nice to be able to contribute to that and share something that might be new to people.”
At the Indiana Artisan Marketplace, Molti Gusti’s crostata di ricotta and the most lovingly-crafted yummies in the state will be in full array. Look for pretzels, cheese crisps, many wines, chocolates, candies, breads and much more among the 175 booths at the Marketplace, which will also include products from Kentucky’s artisanal food program, plus Indiana & Kentucky pottery, fiber arts, woodwork and painting — all for sale.
The Indiana Artisan program seeks to define our heritage through the knowledge of craft and attention to detail embodied in the work of a woodworker, beekeeper, confectioner or weaver. We foodies are happy to have our history written in sorghum.