The phrase “buffalo tongue” could be a non-starter for all but the most adventurous diner.
But Joseph Tabor, chef at Taxman Brewing Co.’s gastropub, 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 squash fry bread and squash pesto.
“It’s a unique twist on a summer favorite, and also has strong ties to Native American culture. I myself being Choctaw, have always had a desire to find a way to include my heritage in this dish,” Tabor said. “I really want to be able to showcase the vast amount of diverse flavors that Indiana has to offer to a large crowd that is going to be appreciative.”
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 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.
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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.
“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.
“By bringing together the best chefs in Indiana and allowing them to create something that highlights Indiana farmers and local business, it shows that we are really trying to support one another and really make food go from farm to table,” Tabor said.
Columbus-based Simmons Farm contributed to Spice Box’s summer watermelon lassi, a savory and cooling beverage made with yogurt. The slow roasted pork in Cobblestone Grill chef Omar Guzman Ulloa’s cochinita pibil came from northern Indiana’s Gunthorp Farms.
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.”
Greenwood eatery Revery will be taking part in the Taste of Indiana for the first time this year. Since opening in 2014, the restaurant has been dedicated to implementing local food whenever possible in their dishes.
That philosophical symmetry with the festival made for a natural pairing, chef Mark Henrichs said.
“I am a firm believer in using Indiana products as much as possible, and that’s what (Taste of Indiana) represents,” he said. “We’re very honored to be a part of it and happy to open a restaurant like Revery that helps support the local food and farming community as much as possible.”
Revery will be offering plates of its liquid nitrogen popcorn. The salty, chilled kernels offer a unique taste experience, something Henrichs strives for with all of the restaurant’s dishes.
They’ll be using a popcorn called “Pink Blossom,” which gives off a pinkish hue once popped. The variety is grown by Riehle Farms in Sunman, one of Revery’s primary suppliers.
“Since Indiana is one of the leading producers of popcorn, we felt that we should showcase it,” Henrichs said.
While the food steals the spotlight at Taste of Indiana, area brewers and wineries will also be showcasing their talents throughout the festival. Bargersville’s Taxman Brewing Co. is one of 14 companies that will be on hand offering their beer.
The 21-and-older crowd can sample drafts that rarely make it to central Indiana, such as Hammond’s 18th Street Brewery and Mad Anthony Brewing out of Fort Wayne.
Pints will also be available for an additional cost, so you can bring along a glass of Taxman’s Gold Standard or some other brew to pair with your food.
“We wanted to show that it’s fine to buy your Bud or your Coors, but there’s also good options here with local farmers, local brewers, local wineries. You can buy all of that stuff from Indiana,” Gaston said.
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.
Chef: Eric Swanson
Dish: Savory corn ice cream with blue cheese
240sweet S’more Mobile
Chef: Alexa Lemley
Dish: Peaches and (marshmallow) cream
Chef: Mark Henrichs
Dish: Nitrogen-frozen popcorn
Taxman Brewing Co.
Chef: Joseph Tabor
Dish: Bison tongue misickquatash and fry bread
Chef: Alexa Lemley
Dish: Cantonese duck taco
Chef: Kirsten Serrano
Dish: Blueberry corn salad with optional pancetta
Monon Food Company
Where: Broad Ripple
Chef: Sam Nunery
Dish: Golden beet taco with goat cheese sauce
Chef: Braedon Kellner
Dish: Tomato-watermelon gazpacho with corn and basil
J. Ford’s Black Angus
Where: Terre Haute
Chefs: Kelly and Jeff Ford
Dish: Slow-braised Indiana pork bahn mi
Chef: Alan Sternberg
Dish: The Swanson — bacon-wrapped pork belly
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.