Chefs announced for Spring Dinner Series; tickets on sale now 

 Chefs announced for Spring Dinner Series; tickets on sale now 

Happy springtime! For all of us here at Culinary Crossroads, it means it’s almost time for our Spring Dinner Series, and tickets are now on sale.

This will be our third year for our series of collaborative chef dinners at Highland Golf & Country Club in Indianapolis. They’ll take place on four Monday evenings, April 10 – May 1, and each week will feature three of Indy’s top chefs from restaurants all over town. Those chefs work together to create a menu that includes a variety of passed appetizers and then a three-course meal, with each course paired with wines. And the pre-dinner reception includes a complimentary signature cocktail, Sun King beer and a sparkling wine as well.

Here are the dates and the lineup of our chef teams:

April 10: Erin Kem, of The Chalet and Small Victories Hospitality; Tracey Couillard of Ash & Elm Cider Co.; and Kathy Jones of Big Woods.

April 17: Esteban Rosas of Milktooth and Julieta Tacos; Ricky Hatfield of The Prewitt; and Allen Smith of Meridian Restaurant & Bar.

April 24: Carlos Salazar of Lil Dumplings and Mash House; Abbi Merriss of Bluebeard and The Brasserie; and Dean Sample of Foxgardin.

May 1: Jonathan Brooks of Beholder and Milktooth; Conor Shepherd of Beholder; and Glenn Brown of the Flatiron @ The Point on Penn.

Tickets are $195 each ($390 for two or a table of six for $1080) and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Proceeds from ticket sales go to compensate the chefs, cover their food costs and to support the Greg Hardesty Scholarship Fund at Ivy Tech Community College. Greg, who passed away in June 2021, participated in our first dinner series that year and was one of Indy’s most influential chefs, mentoring many in the local restaurant community. Culinary Crossroads is proud to work with Ivy Tech to create a scholarship to honor his legacy with the first awards to be made for the 2023-24 academic year.

Discover global ingredients at international grocery

Discover global ingredients at international grocery

Foodies, international ex-pats and creative home cooks all got a much-anticipated holiday present when Saraga International Grocery opened in Indianapolis just before Christmas. And since then, they’ve flocked to the massive grocery, located in a former Target at 8448 Center Run Drive in Castleton.

Since 2005, when brothers John and Bong Sung opened Indy’s westside Saraga, the supermarket has been the go-to grocery for just about any international ingredient a cook might need, from pierogies to pandan leaves. But this new store, which also features an impressive food court, offers 100,000 square feet of fresh produce, meats and seafood, packaged and canned goods, frozen items and household goods (with a wine department to come).

Even if you’re not looking for a hard-to-find ingredient, Saraga is worth a visit just to explore. The produce area alone offers a world of fresh foods, from tiny baby bok choy to massive giant jackfruit. Wander the aisles and discover new snacks and candies, sauces and mixes and an impressive frozen food section.

While not the whimsical “foodieland” that is Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati, Saraga certainly impresses with the breadth and depth of its global offerings, especially in its Asian aisles and food court. The French-inspired Korean-based bakery Tous les Jours (which has more than 1,600 stores around the world) has a location just inside the doors at Saraga, wowing visitors with cases of beautiful breads and patisserie. Another vendor, Korn’s, features those super-popular Korean corndogs, including crunchy potato dogs and ramen dogs. Other vendors offer sushi and Mexican fare.

Saraga launched originally in Bloomington; while that store has since closed, the location on the westside of Indianapolis in the International Marketplace neighborhood remains open on Commercial Drive after an extensive remodeling. There is also a Greenwood location, as well as one in Columbus, Ohio. For more info, check out

Tenderloin Guy Rick Garrett dishes on Indiana’s favorite sandwich

Tenderloin Guy Rick Garrett dishes on Indiana’s favorite sandwich

Comedian, musician and storyteller Rick Garrett is The Tenderloin Connoisseur and has a popular blog with a to-the-point title: “All tenderloins, all the time.” A 2015 Hoosier Comedy Award winner, Rick travels all over the Midwest, telling jokes, sharing stories and playing music with his wife, Holly – and trying tenderloins, of course. Nearly a lifelong Hoosier, Rick believes that the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich is a true piece of the Hoosier identity.

When did you start the blog and how many sandwiches have you tried over the years?

I started about 10 years ago and have reviewed about 250 sandwiches or so, from Kansas City to Dayton, Ohio, and lots of places in between. The bulk of my reviews come from Indiana. I don’t write about them all, and if I revisit a restaurant, I don’t write about it unless ownership has changed or there has been some other significant change.

Though the bill died in committee last month, Gov. Holcomb pushed for an official designation of the tenderloin as Indiana’s state sandwich — do you think it should be?

Oh, absolutely! It’s the one food we can lay serious claim to – we invented it (at NIck’s Kitchen in Huntington). It’s as much a part of our culture as basketball or the 500, in my mind.

What is it about the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich that makes it special? How would you describe the perfect tenderloin sandwich?

For me, food is almost as much about texture as about taste. The perfect tenderloin has a mix of textures that work well together – a soft, fresh bun, crisp breading and firm meat. I think the perfect sandwich would have all those textures, PLUS the right amount of pounding out. I’m personally not a fan of those hubcap-sized tenderloins. When the meat is pounded out too thin, you lose that part of the texture. Also, it should be fried golden brown. There seems to be a bit of an art about that. You’ve got to get the sandwich done without burning the edges. Luckily, most places do just that!

If someone wanted to get a real taste of Indiana tenderloins, which three places would you recommend?

I only get to choose three? Okay, I’ll go one north, one central, one south. North, NIck’s Kitchen in Huntington, because that’s where it all began. Although, honestly, it’s not my favorite sandwich, it’s still good and certainly worth a visit for the history. Central, CR Hero’s in Fishers. It’s a lovely sandwich. South, Rails Craft Brewery in Seymour. GREAT sandwich. One of the best in the state.

You can find Rick’s blog here or follow him on Instagram @thetenderloinguy or on Facebook @thedulcimerguy.

Brunch fest returns to Indy for fifth year

Brunch fest returns to Indy for fifth year

Indianapolis entrepreneur Ashley Brooks, of A. Rose Hospitality, knows her way around a brunch menu. In 2014, she co-founded the popular Indianapolis restaurant Milktooth, which gained national recognition for its creative breakfast and lunch fare. In 2017, she launched Baby Got Brunch, a food fest that she puts on with Bridgit Davis, of Bridgit Davis Events. Though the fest isn’t until August, tickets go on sale soon and will likely sell out. We caught up with Ashley to chat about the food fest, how it started and where it’s going.

How did you choose “Baby Got Brunch” as the name of the festival?

The theme is ‘90s music, hip hop, and of course, there’s “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-lot, and we decided Baby Got Brunch was cute.

What was the goal?

The intention was to highlight local chefs, bring people together around food and drink, have hip-hop music, a fun festival and continue my journey with brunch; it was right after I left Milktooth. But I wanted it to be a benefit. I wanted to have some intention behind it, more than just throwing a party. The mission was to address childhood food insecurity in our city. So we donated to the Patachou Foundation the first three years, and then we opened it up last year and donated to the Milk Bank.

Did you worry if a brunch fest would be a success?

Up until the night before, you’re just like, I don’t know what’s going to happen! But the first year we actually won best new food festival from Indianapolis Monthly. It was really well received; people loved it. And every year I feel like we’ve just improved upon the experience.

But then there was the pandemic. How did you deal with that?

We took two years off during the pandemic, and when we were talking about bringing it back, I was like, how do you have a food festival after a pandemic? We had to rethink the entire concept.

How did you settle on Victory Field, a baseball park, as the new location?

We needed a location that felt safe and open, but that was still indoor/outdoor and people could spread out. The pavilion at Pan Am Plaza was closing so we knew we had to leave anyway, so we were researching places. Do we close down the Circle? Rent a bunch of tents in Garfield Park? We went over a bunch of options, and Victory Field was just the perfect combination of all the things we needed and wanted.

Any changes for the fifth year?

We’re going to do a second bar. We’re going to do some non-alcoholic cocktails. That’s something people are really excited about right now. And we want to utilize more of the space, have more food trucks. We want to do more non-food, more artists. So you’ll see more of that.

Will you ever take Baby Got Brunch on the road?

We’d like to. I think Miami will be our first stop. I’ve got some chef friends down there, and they want us to bring it when we’re ready. And I would love to do New Orleans.
For ticket information, go to

Small-town Indiana restaurant honored with James Beard award

Small-town Indiana restaurant honored with James Beard award

A restaurant in the small Southern Indiana town of Oldenburg got a big surprise recently. When the owner of Wagner’s Village Inn, well known for its fried chicken, began receiving congratulatory phone calls about a very prestigious award, he thought it was a prank.

But Daniel Saccomando, whose grandparents opened the restaurant in 1968, soon realized it was true: The restaurant had been honored with an America’s Classics award from the James Beard Foundation. The awards, say the foundation’s website, are “given to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.”

The town of Oldenburg has a population of about 700 and is known for its German heritage and historic churches, but Wagner’s Village Inn draws diners from around the state who come for the restaurant’s cast-iron skillet fried chicken.

“The elements of the fried chicken at Wagner’s are as unpretentious as the wood-paneled dining room: chicken, salt, pepper, flour, lard. There is no recipe,” reported the James Beard Foundation in announcing the award. “But, as in other southeastern Indiana kitchens, the cooks are heavy-handed with the coarse-ground pepper, adding so much that the chicken could almost be called au poivre.”

That might make Wagner’s chicken sound a bit fancy, but it’s really just an authentic, well-seasoned, down-home dinner, as the James Beard Foundation noted. “The gentle heat of the pepper pairs well with the farmhouse fixings that make up a family-style dinner: coleslaw, green beans, and mashed potatoes with gravy.”

The James Beard Foundation has honored restaurants with America’s Classics awards since 1998. The award is given to a restaurant in each of six regional areas; Indiana is in the Great Lakes region, which also includes Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis received an America’s Classics award in 2012.