After its inaugural success last year, the Coconut Grove Seafood Festival is coming back this Sunday, October 19, for the second year in a row. Festival organizer Tony Albelo has rounded up a roster of local restaurants to be vendors for the event. They will all be cooking up delicacies of the sea. Think Bahamian cracked conch, lobster rolls, and stone crabs.
There will be lots and lots of stone crab, considering the season starts just four days prior to the festival. To kick it off, Albelo has arranged for stone crabs to be dropped the morning of the 15th.
Last year, Albelo arranged for a helicopter delivery in which Ralph Pagano flew and carried the first batch of stone crabs into Peacock Park, the home of the festival.
This year, while Albelo has changed his method of delivery, the idea is still the same. "We want to formally inaugurate the beginning of stone crab season," he says. "Even though the season officially kicks off on the 15th and everyone expects to get stone crab, the general population doesn't realize yeah, boats are getting crabs on the 15th but you won't be able to get them anywhere till the day after. This is kind of like a tease."
To step it up a notch from last year, Albelo has enlisted the help of some experience skydivers, who will be in fact jumping off a plane and into Peacock Park with a cooler of the crustaceans in hand, which are coming directly from boats that caught them just hours before. The other skydiver will be holding a flag that welcomes the beginning of the season. This will happen Wednesday at around 10 a.m., just four days before the festival. "It is not by coincidence."
While in the cooler, there will only be stone crabs to feed two people, you can get all the claws your heart desires on Sunday, when returning vendor Monty's will be serving them up with their famous mustard dipping sauce. Other returning restaurants include Casablanca Seafood, Alba Seaside Italian and Chef P's New England Lobsta Rolls.
Albelo tells us there will be a big focus on Spanish and Caribbean food -- specifically paella, jerk grilled fish and Bahamian cracked conch. As a nod to the wharfs of Boston and San Francisco, the Grove Wharf will allow seafood aficionados to take fresh fish home from the festival market. Fishmongers on site will answer any questions you may have and even offer some cooking tips.
A new addition to this year's festival, the Milam Kitchen Lab, has invited local chefs to share their knowledge by way of cooking demos. Coconut Grove chef and restaurants include Oscar del Rivero from Jaguar Ceviche and Igor Ferraro from La Bottega.
Live musical talent Calypso and Island Escapism are back to the festival for round two and to provide all day entertainment while you chow down on bushels of shrimp, crawfish and lobster.
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Admission to the Coconut Grove Festival costs $15 per person when you purchase your tickets online with children under 12 gaining free admission. Once inside, it's a pay as you consume policy. VIP tickets are also available for $65 and get you access to the Rums of Puerto Rico VIP Island experience. What does that mean? You've got your own private entrance with access to the VIP lounge where a mojito, rum punch and coquito bar will be pouring complimentary drinks in addition to hand rolled cigars and pairings, a rum cake station, and coconut rum paella.
If you don't get your tickets in advance -- fret not, they will be available at the door for $20.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha