Home-grown Hoosier tastes focus of Indianapolis event

The phrase “buffalo tongue” could be a non-starter for all but the most adventurous diner.

But Joseph Tabor, chef at Taxman Brewing Company’s gastropub in Bargersville, knows how delicate and delicious the dish could be. So he has a plan — mix it in with a succotash-like blend of Indiana beans, tomatoes and corn, then serve it with an authentic hunk of fry bread.

Tabor’s creation is one of the unique dishes being served up in Indiana’s most daring and delicious festival. Like kids running downstairs on Christmas morning, foodies will pack into downtown Indianapolis this weekend for the annual celebration of Indiana food. The annual Dig IN: Taste of Indiana blends the state’s top chefs with farmers and producers to showcase not only culinary prowess but the power of local food.

Nowhere else can people sample corn-flavored ice cream studded with blue cheese, Latin shrimp and grits and tomato-watermelon gazpacho, all in one sitting.

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“We have Indiana-raised shrimp, duck, lamb. Sometimes we have goat. We wanted to have people try things they wouldn’t normally try,” said Rob Gaston, director of operations for Dig IN. “We want people to try as much as they possibly can.”

Nearly 40 chefs and restaurants will take part in Taste of Indiana, from all areas of the state. Each will prepare small plates or sample cups with their creation inside it.

Participants are free to serve whatever they dream up, as long as the dish prominently features Indiana ingredients from a list of options.

“Being a sampling event, there is so much variety,” Gaston said. “You can get nachos made with Indiana chicken, and at the same time, you can have something totally different. One year, we had a guy who had handmade lamb sausage with a house mustard garnished with cotton candy he spun on site.”

Columbus-based Simmons Farm contributed to Spice Box’s summer watermelon lassi, a savory and cooling beverage made with yogurt.

Artisan Foodworks, a specialty caterer located in Taylorsville, will feature a Cantonese duck taco using Milford-raised meat. Their companion entry, for their 240sweet S’more Mobile, is a frozen peach drink topped with marshmallow fluff and graham cracker.

“(Dig IN) gives us incentive and inspiration to create new dishes. We hadn’t thought to make a frozen drink with fresh Indiana peaches until we saw them listed as an ingredient option,” said Samantha Aulick, who operates the two companies with chef Alexa Lemley. “Another reason we love it is that we get to meet new people and introduce them to our foods. Since we don’t have a restaurant, our catering business is primarily comprised of word-of-mouth referrals.”

The festival is the signature event for Dig IN, a nonprofit organization founded to promote and educate about food production in Indiana. The group was formed to spotlight both the diverse agriculture and culinary scenes, bringing the two entities together in the hope of fostering economic development.

Once the people who make the food have these quality Indiana ingredients in their hands, they have a better understanding of what makes local food superior.

“When it started, local was not as popular at that point. You did have a few farm-to-fork restaurants, or local-sourced food. But it’s definitely grown a lot since then,” Gaston said. “The founders of the event saw a really big need to promote all of the restaurants that are using local.”

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What to try at Dig IN: Taste of Indiana

At Indiana’s premier food festival, the problem isn’t finding something you like. Rather, it’s saving enough room to hit all of the chefs and restaurants you want to try.

Tasting everything being offered would be impossible with nearly 40 dishes available. So the key is to pace yourself, know what you’re looking for and mixing up items you know you like with more daring dishes.

Here are a sampling of some of the most intriguing items being offered.

Story Inn

Where: Nashville

Chef: Eric Swanson

Dish: Savory corn ice cream with blue cheese

240sweet S’more Mobile

Where: Taylorsville

Chef: Alexa Lemley

Dish: Peaches and (marshmallow) cream

Taxman Brewing Co.

Where: Bargersville

Chef: Joseph Tabor

Dish: Bison tongue misickquatash and fry bread

Artisan Foodworks

Where: Taylorsville

Chef: Alexa Lemley

Dish: Cantonese duck taco

Tinker Street

Where: Indianapolis

Chef: Braedon Kellner

Dish: Tomato-watermelon gazpacho with corn and basil

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Dig IN: Taste of Indiana

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 28

Where: Military Park, 601 W. New York St., Indianapolis

What: A festival of food and farmers, with local chefs and Indiana producers teaming up to create signature dishes to sample. The food is included in the price of admission.

Tickets: $40 general admission; $60 early entry; $120 for VIP entry; $10 for children 5 to 10; free for children 4 and under.

Information: digindiana.org