Week-Long Hess Select South Beach Seafood Festival Starts Today

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The Hess Select South Beach Seafood Festival returns for its second year with a host of dinners and events. Starting today October 22, South Beach will get fishy with dinners, a wine-and-dine around, and a chef showdown before the grand event festival happens on Saturday, October 25, at Lummus Park in South Beach.

See also: Hess Select South Beach Seafood Festival: Seeing Seafood and Eating It (Photos)

On Wednesday October 22, the fun kicks off at a special dinner at Joe's Stone Crab. The dinner, which starts at 6:30 p.m., is a $500 ticket that includes a four-course stone crab meal paired with wines from the Hess Collection and beers from Gold Coast.

On Thursday, October 23, the festival hosts a seafood shuttle tour that takes guests to a half dozen restaurants via bus for a wine around. A complimentary glass of wine will be offered at each stop, with a $5 bite menu also available at every location. The evening starts at Equinox South Beach (520 Collins Ave.) at 6:30 p.m. and the rest of the evening is a surprise. Tickets are $50 each and available at sobeseafoodfest.com.

Things really heat up Friday, October 24 when some of the best culinary names go head-to-head in a battle for seafood supremacy at the Chef Showdown. The event, held at festival's Goya Culinary Pavilion at Lummus Park, starts at 7 p.m. Celebrity chef Ralph Pagano (Alba Seaside Italian and Naked Taco) hosts the showdown (and competes against Top Chef and Siena Tavern owner Fabio Viviani). Pagano tells us that he's looking forward to his dual role at this year's fete. "Last year was the first year and I attended and I thought they did a bang up job. They really had their ducks in a row, so I jumped at the opportunity of being part of this year when they asked me."

Pagano says this seafood festival and chef showdown is unique because it really focuses on local Miami talent. "It really is a South Beach seafood festival. The contestants, the participants, the people serving up food all live and work in Miami. This one is all about the local neighborhood."

The competition, which starts at 8 p.m., features four different battles, each pitting two chefs in a head-to-head duel from restaurants that include Siena Tavern, Naked Taco, Red the Steakhouse, CIBO, City Hall, Oceanaire, Dolce, Poseidon, Florida Cookery, Cafe Avanti, Park Central, and more.

For instance, chef Pagano will face off against Siena Tavern's Fabio Viviani in the lobster category. Pagano's dish? "I'm representing my world famous Mexican-inspired lobster pot." How does the Naked Taco owner feel about is chances against the Top Chef contender? We're friends. We go back a long time, but that means nothing in the heat of battle. He said that I was a good friend but old. But clearly I'm aging better. I'm going to give him a lesson in Miami cooking. "

If you want to witness these two chefs school each other in lobster, tickets are $150 each and includes tastings and wine. Guests are also invited to vote for their favorites during the chef showdown.

The weekend culminates in the Saturday South Beach Seafood Festival. From 1 to 9 p.m., guests can enjoy seafood from Miami's best restaurants with dishes priced between $5-10. In addition to food, there's live entertainment, a demo stage, a Goya kids' zone, a health village, cool down stations, and creative cocktails. General admission tickets start at $25 and go up to $150 for VIP tickets that include a full raw bar and open bars.

To see a complete schedule of events and purchase tickets, visit sobeseafoodfest.com.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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