Feastival 2015: Funk, food and fancy footwork

Feastival, now in its sixth year, has become a highly anticipated staple in the social calendar of the city.

Over 1,000 people gathered on Thursday, Sept. 17, in the shadow of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to celebrate the culinary and art scenes of Philadelphia.

At the benefit for the FringeArts, shining stars of the culinary world rub elbows with the Philadelphia elite for one night only. Tickets are steep — beginning at $300 for general admission — but they still sold out.

Jesse and Beka Rendell, co-chairs of Feastival for the third year now, posed for photos on the median of Columbus Boulevard during the VIP hour.


Co-chairs Beka and Jesse Rendell with Alex and Dan Greenberg

Once they got to the bar, Beka revealed she was wearing the Tamar dress by local fashion house NINObrand. Her father-in-law, former governor Ed Rendell, made an appearance later in the evening.


Parc’s Carol Serena with former governor Ed Rendell

Behind the bar, craft cocktail connoisseurs Phoebe Esmon and Christian Raphael Gaal worked their magic.

The Good King Tavern served the Old Cuban - made with Flor de Cana slow-aged rum, Simonet Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine, lime, sugar and mint. 


The Good King Tavern’s chef de cuisine Mike Blau with general manager Chloe Grigri

There were also non-alcoholic delights for attendees to enjoy as well.

The La Colombe coffee truck was parked in the center of it all. Account manager Brian Honsinger explained the chemistry behind the evening’s popular drink of choice.

“The draft latte is concentrated coffee with whole milk. The nitrous oxide adds texture and a natural sweetness to it as well. Surprising, right?”

Most tasting events are overwhelming and a free-for-all — but not Feastival. Traffic flowed smoothly between tables. With 76 participating bars and restaurants, there was something for everyone.

Eli Collins, executive chef at Pub and Kitchen, was busy dishing out crispy pig trotters with a summer berry mostarda. Laurel served smoked trout roe with crème fraiche on a crispy potato.

Bank and Bourbon prepared a refreshing raw tuna with yogurt, cucumber, hot chili and mint.

Rittenhouse’s a.kitchen and bar offered a scallop crudo with red cabbage curtido and preserved plum, something not on their menu.

 

“It’s a mix of the two restaurants,” Maxine Peabody, a bartender at a.kitchen, told me. “At a.kitchen, we are more focused on the charcoal grill fare while a.bar is more lounge and raw seafood. So this is a combo.”

Ellen Yin, of a.kitchen and Fork, gushed over the evening.


a.kitchen’s Ellen Yin, Maxine Peabody, Jon Nodler and Kevin Villanueva.

“The Fringe Festival has been in Old City for 18 years. It is awesome for the headquarters to now be in this location. You can’t beat being under the bridge and on the waterfront.”

Good eats and drink were abundant, but so was the performance art.  

New York-based Bridgman|Packer Dance brought their signature integration of live performance and video technology with TRUCK, an installation inside a 17-foot U-Haul.


Nearly nude dancers covered in silver body paint and glitter were positioned throughout the event, oddly gyrating to the music and contorting their bodies.

High above the Le Peg Brasserie bar inside FringeArts, Rogue Aeriel Entertainment dancers fantastically flipped and flew from the ceiling.

Niff Nicholls, owner of Secret Circus in East Falls, has performed before at Feastival. “I love feeling the energy of Philadelphia come alive right underneath me.”

In the theatre of FringeArts, BalletX held an open rehearsal.

Dressed in sweats, the talented dancers of the contemporary ballet company rehearsed for an upcoming pop-up performance in honor of the company’s 10th anniversary.

Richard Villaverde is one of those dancers. “Since we didn’t have our own show in the Fringe Festival, they thought it would be nice to add us to Feastival for guests to come in and watch a rehearsal. I think it is more fun to see us rehearse than perform. It was a nice practice and I think we got a lot of new people to see the company. This is a different environment and I saw a lot of new faces.”

Outside, Red 40 and the Last Groovement rocked the crowd throughout the night.

From covers of Stevie Nicks, Alanis Morissette and Amy Winehouse, the FringeArts resident house band was on fire and kept guests on their toes well past closing time. Band singer Jess Conda later proclaimed that Feastival stands for “funk, food and fancy footwork.”

“Performing tonight freaking ruled. I felt like we brought Red 40’s brand of dangerously down and out funky, dance flavor to a new audience, and that is always exiting. It was raw as steak tartare.”

Returning to the event for the third consecutive year, Australian performing arts group Strange Fruit swayed high above the crowd on massive poles.

This year’s Feastival promises to raise nearly $500,000 for the FringeArts. Restaurateur Audrey Claire Taichman, the force behind the event, took to the stage mid-evening to thank sponsors and attendees for coming out.

Taichman began Feastival in 2009 as a way to diversify funding for the FringeArts. That first year pulled in $235,000.

Jason Cichonski, owner of Ela and The Gaslight, has been involved with Feastival since 2009. “I feel like food and art are closely tied already. It’s an awesome opportunity to help culture in our city. It’s just an awesome opportunity to bring people together.”

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