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Rib-eye steak and brisket sandwich
GIVE IT A PURPLE RIBBON! Note the overflowing rib-eye steak sitting between two bun halves. Mouth-watering brisket is peeking out from under the rib-eye.

IBCA delivers with Cattlemen’s Choice sandwich

Fair Find: Feeding hungry people at the Indiana State Fair is a full-time job.

If you’re going to charge $10 for a sandwich, it better be a good one. The Indiana Beef Cattlemen’s Association charged $10 for its Cattlemen’s Choice sandwich at the Indiana State Fair this year. Based on my taste buds, it was worth every penny.

Rib-eye steaks have long been a favorite at the state fair and many county fairs. It’s the signature sandwich that groups supporting cattlemen’s groups have promoted for years. And midway through the Indiana State Fair, it was still the No. 1 best-selling sandwich on the IBCA menu, according to insiders.

However, brisket has gained in popularity recently, especially as an entree served in barbecue fashion. It’s found its way onto more restaurant menus and catering offerings in the past couple of years.

“Someone had the idea to put the two together, so that’s what we did for our special sandwich for the year of food at the state fair,” says Joe Moore, executive director for IBCA, referring to the 2017 state fair theme, “The Wonderful World of Food.”

“We took a regular rib-eye steak and piled on brisket, too,” he says.

ALL HANDS ON DECK: Indiana Beef Cattlemen’s Association President Tim Schwab, Batesville, manned the grill himself during part of the Indiana State Fair.   

IBCA also offered a straight brisket sandwich to fairgoers. On $2 Tuesdays, where fairgoers get in for $2 and many vendors offer a $2 food item, IBCA sold brisket sliders for $2 each. I can attest to the fact that the brisket melted in your mouth. Both in the slider and Cattlemen’s Choice sandwich, the brisket flavor and freshness would have been difficult to top.

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One day as I passed by the IBCA booth near the cattle barn, which was hard to do without stopping and ordering — I had just eaten lunch, however — the president of IBCA himself had donned an apron and was cooking and serving beef sandwiches.

Tim Schwab, Batesville, is the current president of IBCA. He was all smiles as the line backed up, each one waiting for a beef treat.  

IBCA is the only remaining commodity group that still mans its own booths at the state fair. Other commodity groups contract for people to cook the food and staff the tents at the fair. IBCA uses various groups, primarily ag-related, to help man their tents for the entire week. However, it’s not unusual to find a cattleman or family member either cooking or working behind the counter, serving sandwiches and other items to consumers. 

And, yes, I added barbecue sauce to my Cattleman’s Choice sandwich. I would have opted for steak sauce, but after hearing this story, I left it off.

“I was eating at the cattlemen’s restaurant near the old stockyards in Oklahoma City,” a cattleman recalled. “The waiter was serving a table next to ours. They looked like city folks. You could see the waiter cringe when they ordered their steaks well done. When he came with steaks and they asked for steak sauce, his eyes rolled back in his head. Purists think sauce covers up that real beef flavor.”

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