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Feastival, the annual culinary fundraiser for FringeArts, celebrated its 12th anniversary on Thursday, with a top-tier lineup of food, drinks, and performances at The Budd Plant in East Falls.
After a year off for COVID, the one-of-a-kind party created in 2010 by restaurateur Audrey Taichman was a showcase for more than three dozen Philadelphia restaurants and bars. There were OG favorites like Fork, Good King Tavern, and Oyster House, and newcomers like Moshava, Irvwin’s, and My Local Brew Works.
More than 500 plates from each vendor were handed out alongside eye-catching aerial performers, burlesque dancers, drag queens, and of course, shiny cars from Audi, the presenting sponsor.
Sponsors, ticket sales, and a silent auction help the event reach its fundraising goals — it regularly pulls in more than half a million dollars for FringeArts, which puts on the Philly Fringe Festival and operates a theater and La Peg restaurant next to the Delaware River.
The energy was electric inside the brightly colored 150,000-sq.-ft industrial space. Slated to be redeveloped as a life sciences hub, the high-ceilinged warehouse was still a perfect blank canvas for performances and light shows. as guests mingled below, extra grateful to be reunited for a fancy night out after pandemic shutdowns.
“It was dope to see a lot of industry pros and acquaintances I haven’t seen for years,” says Haitian-American Chef Mackenson Horebe of Square 1682.
As always, though, the food stole the show. This year’s standouts showcased Philadelphia’s rising stars — many of whom were line cooks just years ago or used to taking a back seat, now leading restaurant kitchens, catering companies, and pop-ups around town.
Take chef Mackenson “Mack” Horebe, who works at Kimpton hotels but for this night put Caribbean food front and center with his Haitian griot.
His epis-marinated pork belly (think the Haitian equivalent of sofrito) were slow-roasted for 3 to 4 hours until tender, then pan seared. The pork was slightly crunchy on the outside, luscious, melt-in-your-mouth on the inside, and served with a tangy “pikliz,” a slaw of pickled carrots, white cabbage, and scotch bonnet peppers.
Philly’s first Sri Lankan eatery and pop-up shop, Sri’s Company, also won over hungry guests with chef-owner Melissa Fernando’s “nostalgic short eats.”
Her curry powder-spiced ground beef, potato and onion fried croquettes, showcased an appetizer popular back home in Sri Lanka. Chef Angie Branca of Kampar Kitchen and Amy Nassar-Rivera of Amy’s Pastelillos chipped in to feed folks returning for seconds and thirds.
“Last night was a fun experience for me. it felt good to be out there alongside my friends at Hardena and other restaurants,” said Fernando. “It is great to finally see our underrepresented food getting the attention it deserves and I’m honored to be part of bringing that food to Philly.”
Not to be missed was The Wonton Project, a takeout and delivery spot that launched out of High Street locations this past February.
Chef Christina Mckeough chose a special off-menu fried crab and shrimp wonton to celebrate the evening. The crispy and savory snack included Philadelphia Cream Cheese filling with chives and scallions, laid on a bed of homemade chili soy sauce.
Nearly 1,000 attendees savored flavors that spanned beyond local cuisines, so it’s no surprise vendors were sold out before the evening’s conclusion. Scroll down for videos and pics from the successful and colorful evening.