Feasting at Feastival 2013

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Upon reaching the entrance to Feastival, a celebration of Philadelphia’s cultural and artistic scenes in benefit of Fringe Arts, we knew we were in for quite the spectacle.  Poised high above the earth, a dancer elegantly greeted guests with her graceful poses, while sweet aromas filled the air as Federal Donuts enticed guests to sample their raspberry and white chocolate donuts.

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Federal Donuts’ raspberry and white chocolate donuts. Dusted just so with a fragrant sugar mixture, the flavors exploded in our mouths. Being hot from the fryer didn’t hurt either– the donuts’ flaky texture melted on our tongues.

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Dressed in chic cocktail attire, foodies of all ages enthusiastically entered the converted warehouse.  Neon lights swished across the floor, dancers paraded above the audience, and white tables filled with food samples from Philadelphia’s finest lined the room.

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For the exclusive VIP attendees, perks included an extra hour to explore the offerings, a chef demonstration, and a private lounge to relax at during the evening.

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Let’s get this party started! We kicked off the eating extravaganza with strong rose petal margaritas made from Siembra Azul’s small-batch tequila.

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Zahav’s beef basturma (thin slices of air-dried cured beef) with liver mousse and pickled vegetables made the perfect hors d’oeuvre.

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Accompanied by crisp rice puffs, Audrey Claire’s pork belly was astonishingly tender.

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Noord’s Pork Bitterballen featured a delightfully crispy shell encasing moist shreds of pork.  Sharp and tangy homemade mustard cut through the hearty bite and piping hot cheese oozed from the center.

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Tinto offered two dishes: spicy chilled gazpacho (with a skewered pepper hanging precariously over the broth) and duck montaditos.  Cool and refreshing, the gazpacho complemented the savory duck montaditos.

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Our favorite dish of the evening, the duck montadito tasted divine.  The canapé featured duck confit wrapped in serrano ham. The tightly wrapped package was placed on top of a toast with a black cherry, and La Peral spread.

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Belle Cakery’s peanut butter milk chocolate mousse parfait was also one of our favorite dishes of the night– it was one of the few that we went back to for seconds! Our tiny spoons dove into the shot glass sized dessert, revealing a layer of crisp peanut butter brittle, silky smooth mousse, and a bed of chocolatey crumbs.

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Similar to Noord’s bitterballen, Ela’s pork belly banh cam featured a smoother, more glutinous surface. We quickly gobbled up the delicate Vietnamese sesame balls.

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Lacroix’s fall lettuce pot de crème was a rather innovative dish with a puréed base of lettuce topped with fish roe and crunchy granola-esque topping. We particularly enjoyed the interplay of textures and the fresh lettuce flavor.

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Will BYOB’s green pea gazpacho with verjus ‘foam’ was delicate yet deeply rich in flavor.

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Sbraga’s steak tartar lettuce wraps with French onion dip were savory and refreshing.  Not to mention the perfect dish to eat standing up!

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Verdad’s seafood paella, colored a beautiful golden-orange hue from saffron, was packed with shrimp, mussels, etc. The pan that the paella was cooked in was notably huge– at least the size of a standard round dinner table.  Reminiscent of days spent lolling by the seaside, the paella left us bidding a fond adieu to summer.

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Oyster House’s raw oysters and raw clams were shucked fresh for the guests attending and kept freezing cold in a bed of ice.  Lemon wedges accompanied the purest form of seafood.

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Sampan’s hamachi ceviche was beautifully plated, the perfect bite-sized gulp. The fish was incredibly tender and seasoned quite well from the other ingredients.  We couldn’t help but be reminded of our elementary school egg-and-spoon races with this creative presentation of food!

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Eclat Chocolate served assorted truffles (of the dark caramel–light and smooth caramel with hints of Tahitian vanilla, covered in a dark couverture chocolate and accented with Fleur de Sel–and Peruvian Pure Nacional–rich dark ganache with fruity, floral flavors and mild nutty undertones–varieties) and their PHL Pennsylvania Dutch Pretzel bar (33% milk chocolate blended with Lancaster County pretzels).  A clear audience favorite, Eclat ran out of the dark ganache samples before the end of the night!

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Not your ordinary chips and dip–Vernick dished up fresh brandade (an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil) accompanied by crisp toasts.

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Le Virtu’s unctuous porchetta was excellent on its own; the crackling skin rife with savory seasonings was the best part!

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Continental’s tender big eye tuna poke was complemented by crunchy wonton strips.

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Route 6’s mini lobster rolls featured a buttery bun filled with savory lobster, a touch of mayo, and various seasonings.

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Fette Sau’s tender barbecue ribs hit all the right marks–crispy, messy, and a tad spicy.  Diners were even provided with small hand wipes!

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Pod’s assorted sushi came with service; not only did they make the pieces fresh at the event, those staffing the table even served up plates for guests.

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Preparation of Bubbi’s apple cake party favors, a delicious parting gift for all those in attendance.

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Modern dancers move perform high above the crowd, akin to artwork hung on walls.

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A passionate duo performed amidst the crowd, shocking guests with their undulating movements and piercing gazes.

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Bartenders from The Lounge and The Twisted Tail (among others!) expertly crafted refreshing cocktails and mocktails for the guests.

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Shake Shack’s dogmeister dog and thin mint custard created quite the daring duo.  Thick and creamy, the custard brought together some of our favorite things: ice cream and girl scout cookies.

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Russet owners Kristin and Andrew’s adorable son meticulously plated the tender duck terrine. He refused to let his concentration be broken by the cooing crowd.

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Governor Ed Rendell, Stephen Starr, Michael Solomonov, and Audrey Claire (among others!) lined the stage for a rousing live auction.

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Chef Michael Solomonov (left) promised to grill a la nude in support of the arts. Restaurateur Stephen Starr’s reaction is hard to read.

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Audrey Claire couldn’t help but bid on the exclusive sports package herself!  We’re pretty sure she’s talking down her competition here.

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Two of the hosts playfully fight over the honor to moderate the ever intense live auction.

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An excited bunch point to the live auction winner!  Prizes included private dinners prepared by Philadelphia’s finest chefs, an exclusive sports package, and an outdoor barbecue.

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Swarms of press pushed their way to the front to get a picture of the esteemed crowd.

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The hostess engaged the crowd with her cheerful and animated disposition!

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The perfect send-off to a delicious evening, Bubbie’s apple cake combined the texture of a muffin with the sweetness of an apple pie.

Feastival knocked our socks (or should we say high heels?) off this year. We can only imagine how incredible next year’s fundraiser will be and can’t wait to attend!

— Katie Behrman and Nicole Woon

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