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DINING: When boy meets soy at Indiana State Fair

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Dining - A&E

It’s the Year of Soybeans at the Indiana State Fair, a theme that carries over into the so-called “signature” food. And while the little wonder certainly contributes mightily to our regional economy, the mention of it doesn’t exactly send the salivary glands into manufacturing mode.

Still, as they do each year, organizers staged a signature food competition in conjunction with The Indianapolis Star. The top five dishes are available for purchase during the fair from their respective creators. Here’s what I found as I made the rounds to each of them:

For an appetizer, I started with the Deep-fried Tofu with Dip ($3) from Ulrich Concession inside the Ball State University Ag/Hort Building. But maybe I wrote that wrong. Is there a singular for tofu? Because all I could stomach was one of the oddly textured foursome skewered on my plate. The formerly healthful non-meat—made from tofu, of course—was deep-fried in soy oil to a crunch-free consistency. The spicy dressing provided to dip couldn’t mask the fact that this is, well, tofu.
 

Dining You can trust the American Dairy Association to create a simple, delicious grilled cheese sandwich. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Also in the skewered department, Barto’s Catering and Concessions concocted a delicious Honey Sweet Chili Garlic Soy Marinated Beef on a Stick with Sesame

Ginger Soy-infused Sauce. I just wish the guy in charge weren’t so rude about the whole thing, stating that the announced $2-per-stick price was only on Tuesdays and refusing to give the promised dipping sauce.

The American Dairy Association and the Indiana Pork Producers both strutted their stuff successfully. I was concerned when the Pepper Jack Sandwich on Sour Dough ($3) was handed to me so quickly from a warming tray at the Dairy Barn. But what I was so casually served turned out to be an ideally toasted (crunchy but not dark) sandwich of spicy melted-and-still-warm cheesiness. The soy connection is a bit of a stretch—the cheese is made with the milk of soy-fed cows—but that’s OK. Oh, and extra points for the pricing. No grilled cheese sandwich anywhere should cost more than $3.

The pork producers offer what they call a Bacon-Flavored & Fabulous Pork Burger ($5). Again, the soy-relation is tenuous—this time, the process began with soy-fed pigs. But the result, while not quite “fabulous,” is remarkably smooth, subtly (for State Fair food) flavored, and made all the better by tangy, thin barbecue sauce from Shoup’s Country Foods in Frankfort.

I almost skipped dessert, since I lean toward the non-chain offerings at the State Fair. But the powers that be awarded Baskin-Robbins a place in the pantheon for its Deep-fried Ice Cream ($5). It’s hard to argue with a dish of ice cream on a hot day at the fairgrounds, but here the crunch (fried in soy oil) and character were lacking. Perhaps I should have gone for the not-in-competition Deep-Fried Fruit instead.•

Lou Harry

__________

Next week, we return to this month’s series of reviews of new arts district eateries.

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  1. In reality, Lilly is maintaining profit by cutting costs such as Indiana/US citizen IT workers by a significant amount with their Tata Indian consulting connection, increasing Indian H1B's at Lillys Indiana locations significantly and offshoring to India high paying Indiana jobs to cut costs and increase profit at the expense of U.S. workers.

  2. I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.

  3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.

  4. downtown in the same area as O'malia's. 350 E New York. Not sure that another one could survive. I agree a Target is needed d'town. Downtown Philly even had a 3 story Kmart for its downtown residents.

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