• Sunday , 18 February 2018

Eighth Annual Audi Feastival Celebrates FringeArts 21st Birthday

Story, photos by Sharon Kozden

“I think eating is one
of the most delectable experiences
of radiant, sweet, sour, hot splashes
biting at your taste buds
that you could ever have.

Now imagine knowing how to maneuver
and manage these flavors from a cook’s perspective.

Pure power.”  – Christopher Staab

I’m remembering with gastronomic bliss the evening of September 28th, when Audi FEASTIVAL joined FringeArts for what arguably deserves its reputation as Philadelphia’s “Party of the Year.” For eight years running, an assembly of over 75 of Philadelphia’s renowned restaurants and bars has combined their award-winning fare samplings with FringeArts raise-the-bar, always innovative entertainment, artistic and cultural wonderment.

FEASTIVAL first came to light, life and belly (in general, to all things artisanal) in 2010, after restauranteur Audrey Claire Taichman suggested a grand-scale blend of food, drink, culture and art to benefit FringeArts by reigning in “the artists, foodies, but also the movers and shakers … and the money.” Then and there, FEASTIVAL was birthed. Done deal. Eight years on, Audrey’s mission statement of sorts is exactly what one can expect from the event that could and does spiral out of control in the best possible way, breaking onto the Philadelphia scene (as one would break the Internet). Continuing its reputation and tradition as the place to be beneath the Ben Franklin Bridge along the Delaware River’s waterfront, September in Philadelphia is synonymous with FEASTIVAL.

This year’s bash was billed as “The Year of the Beard,” which had nothing to do with hirsuteness and everything to do with the James Beard Award recipients, Steven Starr, Michael Solomonov and Greg Vernick. Co-hosted by Nicholas Elmi (new gig for Nick this year), Mike Solomonov, Steven Starr and Audrey Claire Taichman, the smorgasbord of everything comprises a party worthy of loyal and newbie attendees and all that represents our fair city’s diversity on every level. As Taichman once said, “The better the art, the better the city.” When it comes to FEASTIVAL, that may be an understatement. Until you experience it firsthand, you can’t know what you’re missing, and when you do attend, the mind still boggles.

Performance art runs the soup-to-nuts gamut from edgy to outright outre, which marries exceptionally well with the equally extraordinary culinary dishes. This year’s entertainment included PECO’s Performance Cube, Circadium, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, Lux Arati, Red 40 & the Last Groovement and Almanac Dance Circus Theatre. The photos below will illuminate what puts the Fringe in FringeArts.

In addition to the aforementioned Co-hosts were Co-Chairs Tony Forte and Ryan Hummel, Jesse and Beka Rendell, Susan and David Lipson, Dr. Larry Kaiser and Lindy Snider. Such an extraordinary event bears mentioning and thanking at least some of the main sponsors as well as the committed efforts by all associated with Team FEASTIVAL, from the Board of Directors, staffers and myriad of volunteers. FringeArts Board President Richard Vague and Producing Director Nick Stuccio deserve kudos for their contributions as well. PECO, Philadelphia Magazine, Wells Fargo and the Abramson Family Foundation served as presenting sponsors, while Delaware Valley Audi Dealers was the dedicated title sponsor.

As always, both the silent and live auctions were massively successful courtesy of generous attendees’ obvious appreciation for FEASTIVAL’s commitment to the continued success of FringeArts and its contributions ensuring Philadelphia as a city to be reckoned with.

I extend a personal note of thanks to Shana Saddic, FEASTIVAL media and press contact from Cashman & Associates, a most gracious addition to the event.

Happy birthday 21st birthday, and many, many more, FringeArts! I’m already in search of my fat pants for FEASTIVAL, 2018.

Sign says: put a fork in it and call us all ready to party.

Feast your eyes on this delicious architectural morsel.

Any chance one of these will grace my take-away swag bag?

Bright lights, big bar sign.

Let’s meet for drinks!

Please someone explain why the two pictured gentlemen are not gazing rhapsodically on this downy beauty.

A member of Lux Arati, an all-femme Philadelphia-based belly dance and fire troupe, heats up the crowd.

Dancers in PECO’s Performance Cube electrify the crowd.

Gold lame-clad (and not much more) dancers from Circadium. Nothing lame about these two.

I have a pair of these (not the pants); however, I typically top them with, like, clothing. Business casual anyone?

Shiny, happy bumkake!

I know this yoga pose: shirtless-facing dude. Circadium is at it again with some wikid contortions.

From left, Nick Stuccio, Producing Director of FringeArts and FEASTIVAL co-host, Audrey Claire Taichman.

Former Governor Ed Rendell reinforces to crowd the significant role Philadelphia’s restaurants wield in city’s betterment.

One of four presenting sponsors, Wells Fargo. This is your grandfather’s Audi.

Dr. Larry Kaiser, pictured in middle, who along with wife Lindy Snider, served as FEASTIVAL’s newest co-chairs.

Lovely ladies show how to present for what is oft-named Philadelphia’s Party of the Year.

Within La Peg Brasserie, a suspended performer from Circadium thrills attendees with what are arguably not yoga asanas.

More acrobatics and artful poise from a Circadium performer.

On my bucket list is to be naked atop a yellow Audi, having a full-on body paint.

Well-deserved recognition, Michael. Well-deserved.

2017 James Beard award-winning chef Michael Solomonov gives Sharon Kozden pointers. How about some culinary-based ones for good measure, Mike?

Philadelphia and Steven Starr–that’s some fab tag-team.

Sharon Kozden meets Steven Starr, premier Philadelphia restauranteur, whose restaurants are located in PA, NY, FL, NJ and DC.

Cubana Havana: get thee to Alma!

Where to begin with 75-plus Philadelphia’s finest restaurants offering samples from their menus?

All the night long, I roamed and stuffed face with culinary excellence.

This not-s0-little piggy went to FEASTIVAL.

Discover Laurel. See what awaits you from another stellar chef.

Trout Roe with Burrata by Oyster House.

A Street Food Bar’s Chilled Kung Pao Noodles (peanut, pickled tofu, radish and scallion).

Blackberry bacon grilled cheese.

Seemingly never-ending array of first-rate offerings. It’s no wonder this event is so popular.

Teriyaki meatballs from Pod.

Next year I’m wearing my fat pants. Will do need the extra room because I don’t know when to call when.

Another featured among the nearly 80 who came out to show off their very best in show.

Sudden idea for New Year’s resolution: visit each establishment who participated in FEASTIVAL in 2018.

There’s that singularly telling Philadelphian word: JAWN. But I’d much rather focus on cookie dough.

Batter up!

Winding down one Gorge-apalooza with sweet treats from Federal Donuts, co-owned by Mike Solomonov.

I ended my evening on these sweet notes.

Kensington Quarters, terrific table staging. May I borrow this tool-0f-trade to shave some body blubber post-FEASTIVAL noshing in extremis?

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