CHICAGO — About 700 people packed into an industrial-chic loft at 1520 W. Fulton Market in December to sip, sample and shop.
This was the inaugural Fete, a one-night market spotlighting Chicago food and design artisans. It was just the warmup.
The next Fete, April 4-7, will be greatly expanded in size and scope, with events planned in locales across the city, the idea being to "create a platform for designers, artisans and chefs to have face-to-face conversations with people in their communities," said co-founder Emily Fiffer, Daily Candy's senior Chicago editor.
One event already is sold out — a 20-person visit to the studio of tableware designer Martin Kastner, whose work anchors chef Grant Achatz's restaurants Alinea and Next and the Aviary bar.
Events on April 6 include a tour of The Plant, a sustainable food production center in a former meatpacking plant at 1400 W. 46th St.; and a chat on Bridgeport's legacy and future at the gallery Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S. Morgan St., with gallery owner Ed Marszewski and Art Jackson of Pleasant House Bakery.
The night market returns to the same West Fulton loft (photographer Stephen Hamilton's studio) on opening night, with an additional floor reserved for chefs and bartenders cooking and pouring on-site.
Attendees will get a first taste of Parson's Chicken and Fish, the Logan Square spot in the works from the Longman & Eagle team, who also will work the bar that evening with Virtue Cider and 5 Rabbit Brewery.
The Trenchermen crew will run a pop-up ramen stand. Blackbird pastry chef Dana Cree is bringing chocolate cake, honey ice cream with a "magic shell" and chestnut hot chocolate.
On the design side, shoppers will find eco-friendly, interchangeable dollhouses by Lille Huset and framed planter boxes by K. Dille Designs. Jannie Eckert, who will have just launched her online shop August General Store, will offer Japanese-inspired ceramics and housewares.
"It's definitely the first time you'll see her stuff in person," said co-founder Jessica Herman, a contributor to TimeOut Chicago and formerly its shopping and style associate editor.
Bringing "firsts" to the masses is key to the Fete formula, honed when Herman, Fiffer and Heather Sperling, the Chicago editor of Tasting Table, started the similar Dose Market with April Francis. That monthly market still runs at the River East Art Center.
But the trio wanted to do more.
"We had a need to delve deeper into the process, take people out of the market atmosphere, out of their neighborhoods, into a different space, behind the scenes," Fiffer said.
Keeping costs reasonable, both for consumers and vendors, is a priority, Fiffer said, though that translates into little profit. Entry to the market is $5 and includes a drink ($15 gets you three drinks), and tickets to the other events are $20 or less. Part of the proceeds from Fete will go to Fresh Moves, a Chicago nonprofit that operates a roving produce market on an old CTA bus.
"We are a business at the end of the day, but we are not doing this right now to turn a profit," Fiffer said. "We all need our our full-time jobs. It's definitely a passion project."
The three are working on a fall/winter Fete. Fiffer envisions two or three such festivals a year.