We tracked down Thomas England, director of Taste of Indiana and one of the organizers of the single best food festival in the state. You'll get full way before you fill up your passport, so he's giving us the insider secrets that will help you make the best of your ticket. Make sure you come ready to wait in line for the regular admission, and then make great haste to these tents when you get through the gate.
Who ran out first last year, and what they'll be serving this year
Oakley's: Red chile braised duck with a scallion masa pancake and lime cilantro crema.
Oakley's ran out first last year, and it seems they're poised to do it again this year with a little Mexican treatment on a farm-fresh duck. It's going to be spicy, citrusy and amazing.
Circle City Sweets: Grilled peach shortcake with Wildflower Ridge honey lavender creme.
Well, Cindy Hawkins is definitely planning on doubling down on last year's numbers. I'll probably be hitting this up right after Joseph Decuis, because oh my god read the description back to yourself. There's no better thing to do with fresh summer peaches than get a little char on them and serve them with sweetened cream.
Severin Bar (Omni): Stone ground grit bar.
We have no idea what this is going to be, but we're stoked and willing to try it.
Most talked about
Nicey Treat: Last year's 90 degree day made Nicey Treat a crowd favorite, which is no surprise given their gift for infusing frozen treats with layers upon layers of delicious flavors, like basil, chili-chocolate and sour cherry cola. Make sure you stop by to get reacquainted with this cooling dessert that started as a humble food cart.
Spice Box: Festival-goers loved Spice Box's lamb dish last year, and this year they're coming back with something they're calling "Chicken Panache," which has no established recipe that we can find, which makes it all the more intriguing.
Joseph Decuis: Wagyu Manga Meatball Bahn Mi.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Aaron Butts is the Degas of beef, and wagyu is the purest expression of bovine perfection. Exceptionally marbled, this is the most flavorful, juicy beef you'll ever eat, I promise you. Joseph Decuis always blows it out on the tent decoration front, and even provided shade for their (always long) line. Go here first.
The Local: Chicken and Its Lunch: cured, braised and grilled chicken drumettes, corn meal, bacon root vegetable gravy.
Matt Stum recently took over the kitchen at this Craig Baker-owned joint famous for unbelievable farm-to-table, dressed-down food. Listen, it's always good, and Stum is taking the opportunity to show off his chops. Did you read that? Cured, braised, and grilled chicken drumettes. You know that's going to taste amazing.
Gates Catering: Sweet corn gnocchi with grilled Fischer Farms pork belly, blistered Anaheim peppers and Traders Point Fleur de la Terre.
Two of the most perfect foods on earth are sweet corn and pork belly, and Brad Gates is putting them together in the form of pillowy-soft sweet corn gnocchi. Pair that with some Trader's Point cheese and roasted peppers and you've got my vote for a must-try.
Bee Coffee Roasters: Crimson Coffee Soda.
I beg your pardon, Bee Coffee Roasters? You combined my two favorite things into one delicious, caffeinated, fizzy cup of perfection? I can't wait to get this in my cup and try it, then maybe try to replicate it at home.
Cobblestone Grill: Pork carnitas with avocado mousse, sweet corn relish and cilantro green tomatillo salsa.
Carnitas are big at this year's Dig IN, and I'm really excited to try Omar Guzman's version from Cobblestone Grill. He's knocked it out of the park using flavors from his childhood, and I have no doubt he's going to do it again at this event.
Goose the Market and The Smoking Goose: Smoked beef sammy.
I'm intrigued by this because it's so nondescript. If I know anything about Chris Eley, it's that he has a habit of underselling his product. I imagine that this "smoked beef sammy" is going to be flavor-packed and perfectly cooked with some kind of pickle. We'll be there on the way in.
Making the most of Dig IN
1. Get a beer right away. This may seem obvious, but once in a while someone gets a wild hare that they should get food first and quench later. But the sun in the park is brutal, and you'll be thirsty about 10 seconds after your first bite. Lines get long at the beer tent, too, so you may want to embrace that mead and cider life.
2. Stay out of the sun as much as possible. The hotter you get, the less you can eat, and this is a marathon of dining. I'll be bringing an umbrella. I'm that serious.
3. Drink way more water than you think you need. There's nothing worse than being accidentally way too day drunk at a food festival. Make sure you're upping your water-to-beer ratio from 1:1 to 2:1 when you're drinking outside in the sun.
Dig IN: A Taste of Indiana
Then: Aug. 30, noon-5 p.m.
Where: White River State Park, 801 W. Washington St.