More than five years ago, Richard Vague - an entrepreneur, deep-thinker and chairman of what is now FringeArts - was musing about the relationship between the performing arts and the culinary arts.
He had reason to muse. The culinary arts were doing quite well in Philadelphia, while the performing arts - especially five years ago - were taking a financial hit.
He turned to one of his best friends, restaurateur Audrey Claire Taichman.
Taichman gets people together - as she proves now with COOK, her demonstration kitchen on 20th Street, which attracts some of the country's top chefs to volunteer their time to lead intimate classes.
Vague asked Taichman to figure out a way to make money for the Fringe. Too often, the costs of mounting, say, a gala are barely offset by ticket sales and sponsorships. Taichman wanted to stage an event, but keep costs low.
She got support from Stephen Starr and Michael Solomonov. Then they wrangled 55 restaurants, sponsors and Fringe performers and set up the first Feastival in the Fringe's warehouse in Northern Liberties. Nearly 700 people showed up in 2010.
Over the years, Feastival has raised $1.5 million for the Fringe, organizers say.
Thursday, Sept. 18, for the fifth Feastival, 88 restaurants, bars and food companies are on board to serve food and drink to 1,000 people, who also will be entertained by impromptu Fringe acts.
Feastival will be in a new location - in a tent on Penn's Landing between Chestnut and Market Streets. (It's a few blocks from the Fringe's new HQ - a concept that five years ago was hard to fathom.)
At $250 a throw, it is not a cheap evening - why, it's more than 7 times the price of your Center City Restaurant Week dinner.
But if you're into food or the Philadelphia dining scene (or the arts scene), it's an evening that you should not miss.
It puts many of the players in Philadelphia's restaurant scene together under one roof, all dressed up. (The industry-insider/social aspect is reminiscent - on a much larger, more public scale - of the get-togethers that Jack McDavid hosted at Jack's Firehouse during The Book and the Cook in the 1980s and 1990s.)
At Year 5, it's fun to watch how people have grown.
In 2010, Jason Cichonski was there as chef at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse. Now, he’s been on Top Chef and owns The Gaslight in Old City and Ela in Queen Village.
In 2010, Nick Elmi was there as a chef at Le Bec-Fin. Earlier this year, Elmi won Top Chef and opened Laurel, on East Passyunk Avenue.
The 2014 Feastival will have food trucks for the first time: Gozen Frozen Yogurt, Poi Dog and Vernalicious.
Food will be the usual - all over the place. Based on the preliminary menu, expect pate from Russet, cured fluke from Fork, tea-smoked Skuna Bay salmon rillettes from Nectar, Polish meatballs and homemade pretzels from Gaslight (Cichonski can't resist), taramasalata from Vernick, braised pork bitterballen from Noord, diver scallops from Morimoto, white chocolate pudding from Laurel, hot doughnuts from Federal Donuts, and Super Fry Frickles from Shake Shack.
Super Fry Frickles?
Yes. It's a D.C. thing. Shake Shack gets Vienna hot dogs and tops them with fried jalapeño pickles, marinated shallots, cheddar cheese and American cheese sauce.