Behind scenes, she keeps Feastival culinary bash running smoothly

Posted: September 07, 2012

For the last several summers, Bridget Gray's job could be described as culinary curator.

As part of the staff behind the food-focused fund-raiser known as Feastival, she is charged with overseeing the menu items that nearly 90 restaurants and bars will serve Wednesday.

She has to keep the selections diverse, to satisfy the 700 or so patrons who are paying upward of $250 a head for the night of entertainment and cocktail-party-style nibbling at Pier 9 on the Delaware River.

This third Feastival - whose participants are wrangled by restaurateurs Stephen Starr, Michael Solomonov, and Audrey Claire Taichman - is expected to raise $400,000 for the Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe.

"It's a great cross-section of the food scene in the region," Gray said.

Many of the chefs - who donate their time, staff, and food to the cause - use Feastival to experiment. How about foie gras liverwurst, offered by Jeremy Nolen of Brauhaus Schmitz? Perhaps washed down by tomato soda by Arthur Cavaliere of In Riva?

Some remain in their comfort zones, such as Tony D'Angelo from D'Angelo's (mini Sicilian meatballs); Darling's, there with its signature cheesecakes; Eclat (chocolates); La Colombe (coffee); and Federal Donuts (what else?).

Gray's special task is thwarting collisions of taste - the equivalent of society doyennes showing up in the same gown. This can keep her hopping.

Rabbit is one of the "it" meats this time of year, and its low cost and versatility inspire many chefs. Gray accepted Rittenhouse Tavern chef Nicholas Elmi's rabbit and foie gras croustillant with Concord grape and cocoa; Bar Ferdinand chef David Ansill's braised rabbit with white bean; and Le Virtu chef Joe Cicala's rabbit-filled agnolotti.

The pork belly craze must be accommodated, too. Fond's Lee Styer will offer braised Berkshire pork belly with roasted Okinawan sweet potatoes, escarole, and a Dijon pork jus, while 10 Arts' Nathan Volz is doing roasted pork belly, cream grits, and dashi sauce; Jose Garces and Reinaldo Alfonso at JG Domestic are creating pork belly rillette with fig and pear mostarda on crostini - not to be confused with the stout-braised pork cheeks prepared by Fred Vidi at Twisted Tail, or Alla Spina chef Michael Deganis' pork trotter involtini.

Cocktail bars are in the act, too. Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. will pour a Moko Collins using Cruzan Estate Rum, while Lemon Hill bartenders will serve a Tall Legged Woman using Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum.

For all the high-minded sentiment, one has to smile at Fergie's Pub's contribution to Feastival. Just one word: beer.


Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com. See the menu at www.philly.com/feastival2012. Feastival's website is www.phillyfeastival.com.

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