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Taste of the Gardens offers great sampling of local food

ELKHART — The pretty flowers, the work of local artists and a gorgeous late summer day help draw a crowd to Taste of the Gardens.

But the food is the reason people went out Saturday, Aug. 22, to Wellfield Botanic Gardens

“It’s not Arts in the Gardens. It’s Taste of the Gardens,” said Brian Housand, chairman of this year’s fundraiser for the gardens at 1011 N. Main St., Elkhart. 

Seventeen restaurants, including four new ones and several from Goshen, Mishawaka and South Bend, served small plates of delicious food. Most of them prepared sandwiches, tacos, salads or gelato and served a hungry crowd.

The menu was as diverse as ever at the event, which is in its seventh year. Antonio’s served pizza and a chicken sausage slider. Artisan had sauteed shrimp with pickled potato, Fresno chiles and garlic. The most prominent dessert was gelato, which was offered by at least three different vendors. 

Cam Snyder, owner of Chubby Trout and Flippin’ Cow in Elkhart, has participated in the event since its inception. He said it’s good exposure, but there are bigger reasons to be a part of it.

“It’s good to see Elkhart come together,” he said. “Everybody here eating. Created for Elkhart, by Elkhart.” 

Corndance Tavern and Evil Czech Brewery had booths at Taste for the first time. Chef Drew Sachau of Evil Czech said he was impressed with the turnout. 

It’s difficult to know how to navigate more than 50 dishes being offered, but the servings are small and it’s easy to share items with friends.

Kathleen Bowers, of Elkhart, called the honey lavender gelato from Corndance “special.” She’s right. Chef Nicholas Ruse said the lavender is from Kruse Farms in Bristol, the honey from Unity Gardens in South Bend, the honeycomb from Dutch Country Honey in Middlebury. The gelato was sweet but light. 

I had three other favorites from the event that I’ll be looking forward to eating at the restaurants that served them:

  • Ham Hock cupcake from Corndance Tavern. Cornbread baked in a muffin tin with pork from the 3 ½ pound-ham hocks the restaurant is known for. It’s topped with a sweet corn butter sauce that has jalapeño, honey and smoked mozzarella. It’s a lovely mix of savory and sweet and is served as an appetizer at the restaurant. Hat tip to Ralph Bradley for the encouragement to try it. 
  • Whitefish ceviche from Chubby Trout. The fish cooked with lime juice was refreshing as it was served on a tostada. I love ceviche and am glad to know Chubby Trout serves a version weekly. 
  • Turkey kibbeh lettuce wrap from Iechyd Da Brewing. The turkey was moist and flavorful because of the spices and a bit of apricot. The tzatziki sauce was nicely prepared. 

The event is open until 6 p.m. Saturday. 

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