The first annual Munch Madness competition was held this week at the Rathskeller’s Athenaeum Theater and I have to say, it was even better than I had envisioned. Full disclaimer, I am a proud board member of Dig IN, which is the organization that created and hosted the event. Dig IN is best known for the Taste of Indiana event held every August and features some of the best food Indiana has to offer. Expandable pants, enthusiasm, and a creative palate are required. Shameless plug: you can buy your tickets here.
I have been a Dig IN groupie/bandaid for the last seven years. Dig IN was created when I was an intern at the State Department of Agriculture in 2009 and the rest is history. It has been amazing to see the event grow every year and I’ve always been that girl that tweets like crazy, strategizes which vendors to hit up first, and holds onto their Taste of Indiana passport with a death grip. Fast forward to 2016 and I am officially a board member. We have an incredibly talented board this year full of go-getters, food enthusiasts, and varied skill sets.
One of my goals as a board member is to educate Hoosiers about the overarching mission of Dig IN. While we’re known for that August food festival held on the hottest day of every year, Dig IN is so much more. It’s educating the community about agriculture, experiencing everything Indiana has to offer, creating conversation about local food and the economic benefits agriculture has on the state. We are no longer a state known for corn dogs (although, they are delicious), but instead we have places like Rook, Bluebeard, Patachou, Union 50, Cerulean, and countless others. Food and Wine and Bon Appetit both recently wrote about the food culture in Indiana. If Rook is good enough for Mick Jagger, it’s good enough for me.
Nothing makes me happier than to showcase Indianapolis (and the state as a whole) in a positive light and Dig IN has provided an opportunity for me to do that. Now when I think of Indiana, I think of really good cheese (oh hey Tulip Tree and Trader’s Point Creamery!), amazing beer (Sunking, Bier, Flat 12, Daredevil), and bacon (Smoking Goose is what dreams are made of).
Now that I have adequately rambled about my love for all things Dig IN, I’ll get back to the actual event. Munch Madness featured four of Indy’s best chefs from Rook, Bluebeard, Delicia, and Meridian. The chefs battled it out for the glorious Munch Madness title during three rounds: best pork tenderloin, best soup, and best pie. Each round was thirty minutes and as expected, there was a twist during each round. Potato chips instead of panko for the pork tenderloin. Toy hammers and rocks to tenderize the pork. Popcorn had to be added to the corn chowder and easy bake ovens for the pies because who doesn’t want to see a chef attempt to make pie crust and bake a pie using a light bulb in under thirty minutes? The winner was Chef Abbi Merriss of Bluebeard, but all four chefs did an incredible job. It was similar to watching a live, local version of a Top Chef throwdown and I loved every minute of it.
My favorite dish of the night was the sandwich from Wildwood Market. If you have not been, you’re missing out. It used to be an old gas station in Fountain Square and has been transformed into an adorable little market of locally produced pantry items, produce, and lunch offerings. They have a sandwich and salad of the day and I have never had a bad meal there. The sandwich they made for the VIPers at Munch Madness had Smoking Goose turkey (we’re talking Thanksgiving style turkey, but better), goat cheese, roasted red peppers, arugula, and pesto. If there were ever a Libby sandwich, this is it! All of my favorite things tucked inside a herby basil focaccia bread. I could have eaten several, but it was best that I didn’t and stuck to sampling as much as I could with a few sips of the local beer offerings in between bites. Dig IN always inspires me to experiment with new flavors, so Munch Madness was a great excuse to visit Smoking Goose and re-create the Wildwood Market sandwich. See below for the end result!
Attendees were greeted with Sunking, Broadripple Chip Co., and Just Pop In popcorn. The Bloody Mary and beer cheese popcorns are my favorite.
Vegetarian offerings from Dig IN’s very own Rob Easton including mint pesto and egg salad.
The Wildwood Market sandwich – AMAZING.
Pork taco from Batch No. 2!
Tulip Tree Creamery cheese with a kick!
Board members Tony Hahn, me, Brian Cardinal, and Ali. Food enthusiast Joel too. My dress had pineapples and pockets! Fun fact: pineapples are called ananas in almost every country except the U.S.
All the spices!
The pantry backstage
Pork tenderloins coming in hot!
Chef Abbi Merriss from Bluebeard’s egg topped pork tenderloin – mind blown.
$200 bid for the four leftover pork tenderloins? Yep!
Round two: soups!
Chefs Ricky and Dean tied together. Getting cozy in the kitchen.
Making easy bake oven pies.
Chef Abbi Merriss whisks it up!
I suddenly really wanted an easy bake oven, but am relieved I never had one as a child. Danger zone.
My version of the sandwich is hot since I have a panini maker and who doesn’t want melted cheese on their sandwich? I roasted the red peppers in the oven first, but you can buy them already roasted in a jar. I used herb goat cheese because Trader Joe’s is fancy like that. I totally eyeballed my pesto ingredients, so I recommend adding olive oil until it is the right consistency. I made mine more like paste since I wanted it to stay in my sandwich. I used a flatbread wrap and added a ton of arugula. If you want to go all out, do yourself a favor and make a pit stop at Smoking Goose for the turkey.
WHAT YOU NEED:
turkey, bread, goat cheese, arugula, roasted red peppers, and pesto
Pesto = handfuls of basil, olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts (I used walnuts since the Marsh on Mass Ave did not have any pine nuts and I was pretty happy with the end result. I could eat a vat of pesto.)