- Nina Starner
Every year, the culinary and creative arts scenes in Philadelphia join forces to throw the Audi Feastival, which celebrated its sixth and biggest year yet in 2015. We visited to see what Philly’s biggest night is all about.
Philadelphia’s Feastival celebration is a one-of-a-kind event that melds great food, experimental performances, incredible music, and Philadelphia’s elite, who put aside one night a year to support FringeArts. The three cohosts are titans of the Philadelphia restaurant scene: Stephen Starr, whose restaurant empire of over 30 eateries has expanded from its origin in Philadelphia to New York City, Atlantic City and Miami; Michael Solomonov, chef of nationally ranked restaurants like Federal Donuts and Zahav; and Audrey Claire Taichman, owner of Audrey Claire, COOK, and Twenty Manning Grill. Thanks to these three restauranteurs, Feastival is supported by over 70 of the city’s best restaurants and bars, from Starr restaurants like Parc and El Vez to Jose Garces’ Volver to Top Chef alums like Nick Elmi’s Laurel and Kevin Sbraga’s eponymous Sbraga. The Culture Trip had the amazing opportunity to visit the 2015 Audi Feastival, and we were thrilled to be a part of this incredible Philadelphia event.
Though Feastival is still a newer tradition, its sixth year was met with excitement from its planners and attendees, who were excited to be a part of the evening to support FringeArts. Resa Mueller, a project manager at the Governor’s Woods Foundation and major planner of Feastival, said, “Feastival is a celebration of the things that make Philly so special – performing arts and excellent food,” while Lily Cope, of Audrey Claire Taichman’s COOK, told us that Feastival is “the greatest coming together of food and the performing arts in the city. Bar none.”
Jesse Rendell, Feastival co-chair, head of Rendell Management & Consulting, and son of former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, was passionate about the current effects and future legacy of Feastival: “Feastival is the marquee cross-pollination of the arts and culture scene and the culinary arts, two vibrant realms of life in our city that increasingly go hand in hand.”
Perhaps the most exciting element of Feastival was to see the amazing energy of its planners and guests, who so strongly believe in FringeArts and Feastival and are elated to bring this great event to Philadelphia.
The tents at Feastival were a smorgasbord of Philly’s best food; forget about cheesesteaks and pretzels, because in the last ten years, Philadelphia has seen an incredible culinary renaissance featuring some of the best chefs and restaurants in the country. The selection at Feastival was as varied as it was delicious, and included both brand new and classic menu items from the absolute best in Philadelphia’s fine dining scene.
Just a few of the delectable choices on display were mini lavender lemonade donuts from Michael Solomonov’s Federal Donuts, coconut panna cotta from Taichman’s eponymous Audrey Claire, a cotton candy exhibition with house restaurant La Peg‘s executive chef Peter Woolsey, fig and foie gras crostini from Woolsey’s first restaurant Bistrot La Minette, smoked trout roe from Top Chef winner Nick Elmi’s super-popular Laurel, raw salmon sliders from Philly hotspot Vernick, assorted desserts from Stephen Starr’s crown jewel Parc, butter-poached lobster from Starr’s steakhouse Butcher & Singer, and coffee cocktails from both Rival Bros. Coffee and La Colombe (a coffee Dark & Stormy from the former, and the signature Different Drum liquor from the latter).
Bartenders from Olde Bar, Twisted Tail, Twenty Manning Grill, and others were on hand to create unique signature cocktails for the thirsty crowd, and the food was served fast and efficiently to keep everyone satisfied – as chefs worked, staff from the restaurants were on hand to distribute small plates to the eager crowds.
However, Feastival isn’t just about the food – artists and groups from the Philadelphia creative and performing arts scenes entertained guests throughout the event.
BalletX used FringeArts’ stage space for an open rehearsal that continued for most of the evening, allowing patrons to see the company’s process for its upcoming season, with founder and artistic director Christine Cox directing the action. Dancers, painted silver from head to toe, could be found on every roof, ladder and table, and throughout the night, sky dancers flew through Feastival on poles with the Ben Franklin Bridge and Delaware River as a spectacular backdrop.
FringeArts’ house band, Red 40 & The Last Groovement, kept crowds entertained and moving with covers of Prince, Alanis Morissette, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, and so many more. Caitlin Antram, who performs with Red 40 as Boogaloo Borine, was excited to be a part of the event, telling us that “Feastival is an incredible Philly event because it brings together two different avenues of culture.” To round out Feastival’s visual delights, main sponsor Audi had its 2016 fleet on display for guests to admire and even sit in, including the stunning 2016 R8 Spyder.
Feastival is a signature event unique to the vibrant city of Philadelphia; serving as both a great blowout party and philanthropic benefit for an arts institution, this evening was an absolute blast to attend and behold. As Benjamin Mann, co-owner of Junto, put it, “Philadelphia is an underrated city with great young chefs and amazing BYOBs,” and Feastival is a great way to express to both the greater nation and the world that Philadelphia is an international, exciting, and growing city, with a food scene that can rival any other major metropolis.
Furthermore, Feastival does real good – David Lipson, the owner, president and publisher of Philadelphia Magazine, passionately argued that “Feastival raises money for FringeArts, which brings performances that would otherwise be difficult to stage. We always need to push the boundaries of creativity so it pushes us to try different things and experiment. The arts are so very inspirational to our lives, and it’s so important to support them.” Between the award-winning cuisine, incredible performance art, and organization that leaves no stone unturned and no detail unconfirmed, Feastival is a stunning and perfect example of the wide variety of excellence that Philadelphia has to offer.