Rarely do you come across a single occasion that does so well at illuminating and celebrating a state's food, drink and agriculture as is seen at DigIN's A Taste of Indiana
. The event, now in its seventh year, is the brain-child of a few of Indiana's dining scene's most prominent figures who, in the winter of 2008 came together with a single, but magnanimous mission, to demonstrate to the people of this state and beyond that investment in Indiana food and agriculture, through education, experiences and conversation, will benefit our community and economy.
What began as a small event that attracted a minuscule group of our populace is now one of the largest local events every summer and this year looks to be bigger than ever before. Featuring 40 different chefs from around the state creating artful, locally-sourced bites of food for all attendees to taste and refreshing high-quality libations from local brewers and vintners the event will truly showcase much of the top-notch cuisine our state has to offer.
When I ask Rob Gaston, Director of Operations for DigIN, what makes this event important for our state, he references a report by Ken Meter titled Hoosier Farmer.
The report shows that "farm income is down and the small producer oftentimes cannot make a living based on farming alone. [It] also talks about how much of our agricultural production from Indiana is exported out of state and how much money is spent bringing food back in to feed ourselves." Gaston says he is excited that farm-to-table is getting more and more popular. "However," he concedes, "there is still a lot of work to be done. Both farms and restaurants are ready to sell to more customers than they currently have. Consumers are still learning what grows in this state, and learning how to eat items that are seasonally available. Taste of Indiana stands for all of these things and tries to educate people one delicious bite at a time."
While their will certainly be offerings from past favorites like The Northside Social and Recess, we will also be tasting bites from new participants including Revery of Greenwood, Ted’s Market of Fort Wayne, Vida and Plat 99 of Indianapolis, and the S’more Mobile of Columbus. The full line-up is available on DigIN's website.
A few of the offerings have already been announced and there is much more to come. One of the most intriguing options comes from Chef Joseph Tabor from Taxman Brewing
(a place known for both it's beer and food). He will be making a dish featuring Bison tongue, if you've never had tongue, it's time to try it, it's similar to an extremely tender steak. Chef Tabor is part of a new aspect of the festival, a group of restaurants that was selected to make their dish 100 percent Indiana sourced. He says, "The dish itself has a great deal of meaning to me and Indiana. I feel choosing a Native American style dish really plays into my heritage and it gives me an opportunity to really be creative. Bison is something that is really underappreciated and I want to help be a part of a driving force to get it noticed on a larger scale. Indiana has a strong link to Native Americans, so linking everything we are doing really makes it special to me."
Another, lighter option and a must for vegetarian festival attendees, Tinker Street's, Chef Braedon Kellner
will be creating a tomato-watermelon gazpacho with corn and basil, a refreshing taste, especially if it's a hot day.
This year the festival will be taking over Downtown's historic Military Park, offering more space and more shade than in past years. This year is also set to be more vegetarian friendly, though vegans will most likely still have a hard time finding many dishes for them to enjoy; there is always beer and wine.
Gaston knows just how much this event takes to put together, but at the end of the day it's all worth it. "My favorite part is the energy and the community spirit," he says. "Once the guests arrive and the restaurants get in a flow serving their food, everyone seems happy. Chefs are networking with each other and talking to farmers. Brewers connect with customers and each other. Festivalgoers realize some great ciders and wines that they didn’t know were made here in Indiana. Everyone is there to learn about and support local; you have consumers, chefs, farmers and product makers all in one place. People really come to understand local and how it impacts the community."
The event is great for consumers and chefs alike, as Chef Tabor points out, "DigIN [A Taste of Indiana] is such a great opportunity for chefs, farmers, and the consumer. As a chef we get see how other chefs see food, we get to present local Indiana food that we feel is a great representation of how much we love it; being able to provide such a fun experience that brings so many people together is awesome."
Join the awesomeness, tickets are still available for all levels, whether you want general admission, early entry, or the VIP treatment
(VIP gets special tastes from Abbi Merris, Aaron Butts, Carlos Salazar and Greg Hardesty and specialty wine and beer tastings).