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Piccolo Ristorante Is Hosting A Lionfish And Wine Pairing Dinner To Benefit Marine Conservation Efforts

Fort Lauderdale, are you ready to eat lionfish? 

Piccolo Ristorante will be hosting a five-course lionfish tasting with wine pairings on Wednesday, June 22. The focus on fish is meant to show guests that if you can't beat the invasive species, you eat it.

The menu will feature five tapas-style lionfish dishes paired with Spanish and Italian wines provided by Miami Wine Buzz, which curates wines from boutique vineyards around the world. The plates include a smoked lionfish appetizer, a surf and turf pairing with skirt steak, blackened lionfish tacos and last year's favorite, a lionfish corn dog.

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"Chef Andres [Avayu] enjoys cooking with lionfish because it is a nice versatile white fish that can be cooked many different ways," co-owner Alison Avayu said. "… We enjoy putting on these tasting dinners to show the public just how versatile and delicious lionfish is."

Piccolo hosted a lionfish tasting for the first time last October after meeting a contact at REEF during Tortuga Music Festival, the big country bash on Fort Lauderdale beach that focuses on ocean conservation.

"[I]t was a huge hit, Alison​ Avayu said. "This year [it's] getting more interest in part thanks to Whole Foods for opening up the gates for the public to purchase lionfish." 

Whole Foods recently started selling whole lionfish in its Florida stores to help reduce the number of lionfish in the wild.

Proceeds from the dinner will also go to the cause, as funds benefit Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), a grassroots organization that supports marine conversation. 

In addition, Dive Bar, an organization of legal professionals who raise awareness about coral reefs, has partnered to help promote the event.

Avayu said it's organizations like these that have helped awareness of the lionfish invasion increase dramatically over the last couple of years.

"Prior to 2016, very few purveyors were selling lionfish to restaurants, let alone the public. Now, there are purveyors and retailers selling the fish, and people are starting to take interest," she said. "The idea of being able to help save our reefs, and enjoy delicious food while doing it, [is] catching on."

Piccolo has also worked with REEF on its release of "The Lionfish Cookbook," which features more than 65 appetizer and entree recipes that use lionfish as the main ingredient. One of chef Andres' recipes is featured. The second edition of the cookbook will be sold at the event Wednesday night.

Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased here. Piccolo hopes to sell out all 30 seats available. As of Friday, there were 10 spots left. 

See below for the full five-course menu:

Course 1: Smoked Lionfish Dip

Course 2: Lionfish Corn Dog

Pairing: 2013 Verdejo (Spanish white)

Course 3: "Surf and Turf" with Marinated Skirt Steak

Wrapped around Lionfish Yucca Croquette

Pairing: 2012 Ballarino (Italian white) 

Course 4: Blackened Lionfish Tacos with Tropical Salsa

Pairing: 2013 Rutuin (Italian Dolcetto)  

Course 5: IPA Lionfish with Chinese rice 

Pairing: 2012 Alas Negras (Spanish red)


(Image via Flickr/Tambako The Jaguar)