Quick Bites: More festivals coming up, Indiana whiskey, food memories and new items at Kelly Jae's
The Elkhart County 4-H Fair is over, but upcoming festivals will offer a chance for more great food and drink.
First, there’s Celebrate Elkhart. The Elkhart Truth is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a block party Saturday, Aug. 9. In addition, Iechyd Da brewed a special beer called Truth Serum that will be tapped at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the brewpub. On Saturday, restaurants on the south end of Elkhart’s Main Street will be offering carry-out specials. I look forward to seeing what New Paradigm Brewing, Cubby Bear Pizza and 523 Tap & Grill do.
Taste of the Gardens is planned for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23. We’ll get more details in the coming weeks on which restaurants will be involved, but I know the event is a showcase of some of the best Elkhart restaurants.
Over Labor Day weekend, a new event is being planned that includes a barbecue competition, according to reporting by Tori Fater. I don’t know if the results can be served to the public, but it’s cool that a barbecue cook-off and fun fest hosted by the Elkhart community improvement group My Hood Needz Me will happen Aug. 31, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.
The cook-off is open to Elkhart residents older than 18. There is a $25 entry fee. Chicken quarters and full-slab pork ribs will be provided for the cooks, but competitors should bring their own cooking equipment. Sauce can be used at the contestant’s discretion.
The fest will run 2 to 8 p.m. Aug. 31 in Historic Roosevelt Center Park and will include a 3-on-3 basketball tournament as well as local food vendors.
My Hood Needz Me is an organization founded by Elkhart pastor Jermaine Sanders, which he "designed to unify people to see their own personal value and use it to improve the condition of their community/city." Barbecue competitors can register online or mail their registration to My Hood Needz Me at 3521 E. Jackson Blvd., Elkhart.
• A story last week on The Daily Beast got the attention of people who love whiskey.
It turns out, a factory in southern Indiana is a source of a lot of the stuff. As the drink has risen in popularity, young companies buy the spirit from MGP Ingredients and then market it as their own.
The Daily Beast reports that MGP Ingredients, a factory distillery in Lawrenceburg (southeast of Indianapolis, near Cincinnati) is the source of beverage-grade alcohol for some small distilleries who want to bottle their own brand but don’t distill the product themselves.
The exception is local distillers like Indiana Whiskey Co. in South Bend and Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Mich. As Tori Fater wrote on Flavor 574, “Hint: if they’re offering distillery tours and posting Facebook photos geeking out over a new still, it’s safe to say they’re legit.”
“Food ingredient producer” MGP Ingredients sells bulk vodka, gin and whiskey produced at the factory to small distilleries across the country, Daily Beast reports.
One way to tell that a whiskey doesn’t actually come from that micro-distiller? If it’s been aged longer than the distiller has been in business.
Try not to judge too harshly, though. Some small businesses buy older whiskey from MGP to build up their brand, according to the Daily Beast. That helps them fund their own production and builds name recognition.
The Daily Beast has more on specific brands that use MGP whiskey. Jay Fields of Indiana Wholesale Wine & Liquor predicted more turbulence in the industry. “They won't be able to keep up with demand. You will start to see some of the smaller labels getting whiskey from them start to fold. Especially when the big companies need that juice to keep big brands going. The little guys making their own rye like Mississippi River Distilling and Journeyman will be in even better shape when that happens,” he wrote in a Facebook comment.
• We’ve started a Flavor 574 series called “Savoring Home“ in which people write about food memories and, if they live elsewhere, the foods they miss.
Jessica Hardy, a delightful comedian and actress who now lives in Los Angeles, wrote the latest one. It has some great writing about how she misses Amish food and explains the religious group where she lives:
“Das Dutchman Essenhaus. Go there. Sit down. Order a slice — I take that back — an entire Old Fashioned Cream pie. I remember during special occasions this was the pie my mom would drive out to Middlebury to get.
Every time someone hears I’m from Indiana, they ask about the Amish people. You know, they’ve seen Amish Mafia and that’s the extent of it. I’m sensitive about the question because I find our perceptions of different parts of the country, the world, can be so skewed by television. I was on a TV show in LA once where they asked me to dress midwestern. The instructions were “wear plaid and jeans. look trashy.” You just have to laugh.
When people ask about the Amish I tell them to imagine being in yoga and experiencing quiet. The Amish have that. Then I tell them to open their eyes to the possibility that not every community is homogenous — they aren’t just all robots in a field hanging clothes on a clothesline.
But what I love the most is that they sit down and eat together. They don’t watch TV. And they unapologetically cook with real butter.“
If you have one you want to share, email editor Gwen Ragno at email@example.com.
• Kelly Jae’s Cafe has had a busy summer, according to co-owner Elaine Laux, and a few new items on the menu are of note.
The list of specials pull in some of the great summer ingredients, including grilled peaches in a salad with warm goat cheese and roasted red onion ($8). An heirloom tomato bruschetta and sauteed corn with poblano peppers was also on the special list one night last week.
The menu now has Ginger Soy Roasted Chicken, made using Miller’s organic chicken and served with red peppers and szechwan green beans ($20). My plate didn’t have jalapenos pickled in black vinegar that were listed on the menu, but the chicken was lovely, with crisp skin and tender, juicy flesh.
But the best thing I tasted at the dinner and what I can’t wait to go back for are pork belly sliders ($7). A house-made steamed bun is filled with tender pork belly and served with lightly pickled cucumbers, hoisin and sriracha. It’s a great dish.
The restaurant and bar are at 133/135 S. Main St., Goshen. It’s worth calling ahead for a reservation or to assure that the place isn’t closed for a special event. And on weeknights, the restaurant closes at 8 p.m.