Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Philly Feastival 2011

On September 14, Stephen Starr, Audrey Claire Tachmann and Michael Solomonov hosted the second annual Philly Feastival. Feastival, a benefit for the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe, brought together 75 of the city’s best restaurants for a celebration on Pier 9.

The space itself is not what one would expect in such a high-profile event, but it reflected the spirit of the performing-arts festivals it supports. One would barely notice the uneven asphalt underfoot as smoke and neon-green lights enveloped the tutu-clad men and women along the walls overhead. Acrobats twisted and swung from ropes and iron frames above the packed bar and white-clad tables. Frankly, it was a little unnerving to order Time’s blueberry lemonade or Ranstead Room’s Hemingway Daquiri while a lithe young man clad only in jeans arched and swayed from a delicate tether just a few feet above.

But on to the food! Union Trust, somewhat surprisingly, showed up with a smoked salmon dish. At the next table, Sampan’s spicy king crab gazpacho was fiery and full-flavored. Square 1682’s yellowfin tuna tostadas were mounted on impossibly salty corn shells. Marigold’s foie gras “cherry” with pistachio crumbs tasted, according to my companion, like a “fatty, salty dessert.” Vetri played the throwback card with Sal’s Old School Meatballs, which were exactly as awesome as you’d expect.

Fish made a strong showing with a mouthwatering rock shrimp escabeche with Marcona almonds. J.G. Domestic went soigné with Hudson Valley potted duck. Headhouse Square’s new Twisted Tail fired up juicy ribs, and Opa kept it traditional with keftedes (Greek veal meatballs).

Pork seemed to be the preferred protein of the night. Cooperage brought messy pork nachos with pineapple salsa. Fork served an inventive calamari dish with pepperade and prosciutto. Talula’s Garden represented with blue-cheese-stuffed figs with a crispy slice of ham. And Le Virtu held strong on the Italian front with an agnolotti alla porchetta.

Highlights of the night included Matyson’s hiramasa poke, light and vibrant with pineapple and lotus root. Oyster House kept it real with raw clams and Cape May Salt oysters, which stayed chilly and perfect even in the hot, hazy venue. Le Castagne, which I was encountering for the first time, served shrimp in savory lemon-pepper ravioli pockets. Supper got creative with Lil’ Dixies, country ham and pimento cheese puffs. The Roots drummer ?uestlove premiered his fried chicken drumsticks, and the best dessert of the night was Darling’s assortment of cheesecakes. They create crusts with house-made cookies and fill the light, creamy cakes with peanut butter, Bailey’s, and all kinds of other comforting goodies.

To top off the evening, the La Colombe truck and Federal Donuts stand flanked the red carpet on the way out. What better way to end the night than with a hot, sugary, spiced treat from the Donut Robot? All in all, Feastival is an incredible event with great food and good people, benefitting a truly worthy cause.

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