By: Jodi Farrell
Miami’s beaches, waterfront parks and historic estates offer idyllic settings to savor seafood, and there are plenty of outdoor festivals for sampling local bounty, whether you like it steamed, sautéed, grilled, ceviche, fried or peel-and-eat.
Stone crabs, Florida lobster, snapper, mahi mahi and shrimp go from Florida shore to plate, prepared by local celebrity chefs, at annual outdoor events dedicated to some of our favorite catches.
“When I think of Miami, I think of seafood,” says Tod Roy, owner and producer of Hess Select South Beach Seafood Festival, which takes over Lummus Park on the beach between Ocean Drive and the Atlantic Ocean in South Beach every October. “You’re outdoors, on the sand, eating amazing seafood prepared by chefs who are inventive and make it exciting for everyone. What could be better?”
Coconut Grove Seafood Festival: Mid October
Hosted in Coconut Grove’s waterfront Peacock Park just south of downtown Miami, the Coconut Grove Seafood Festival kicks off the Florida Stone Crab season every fall.
From 11 a.m. to sundown, the one-day festival in the middle of October features Bahamian cracked conch, Jamaican jerk grilled fish, paella, ceviche, lobster rolls and more. Live music – from calypso and steel drum to reggae – occurs all day, along with rum tastings and a nautical-theme exhibition area showcasing art, jewelry and décor.
Along with local restaurants, fishmongers from Miami’s popular Casablanca Fish Market create a pop-up “wharf” in the park along Biscayne Bay, offering fish from around the world. A kitchen lab provides cooking demonstrations by popular South Florida restaurants from Coconut Grove and beyond. Participants in the past have included Salt Fusion Cuisine, Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar & Latam Grill, La Bottega on the Bay, Calamari and Truluck’s, among others.
A family fun zone provides pirate-themed slides and climbing equipment, surfer simulations, magicians, face painting and other fun.
If you go…
The festival is located at Peacock Park, 2820 McFarlane Road in Coconut Grove. Tickets are $15 when purchased in advance online, $20 at the gate and $50 for a VIP Rums of Puerto Rico island experience that includes complimentary mojito and coquito bars, hand-rolled cigars and pairings, and complimentary dishes, such as lemon and coconut rum ceviche and Puerto Rican frituras (fried snacks) with rum-infused sauces. Children 12 years old and under enter free.
Hess Select South Beach Seafood Festival: Late October
The good eating continues in late October, when more than 20 Miami chefs set up in South Beach’s Lummus Park to cook signature seafood dishes on the beach from some of city’s top restaurants. The festival promises generous servings on the sand.
Historically, participating restaurants have included A Fish Called Avalon, Tarpon Bend, Red the Steakhouse, Joe’s Stone Crab, City Hall, CJ’s Crab Shack, Cibo Wine Bar, Poseidon Greek Restaurant & Outdoor Lounge, and Smith & Wollensky, among others.
Cooking demos, mixology lessons, a sports bar, an interactive Goya Kids Zone for “little chefs,” and live music keep the event hopping for everybody from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
In the days leading up to the festival, satellite events take place nightly, including a kick-off dinner at Joe's Stone Crab for VIPs, a “Seafood Shuffle” with a complimentary glass of wine and $5 bite menus at each of the five to seven participating restaurants, and a “Seafood and Sneakers” ball where chefs compete at a “Chef Showdown” to serve the best iconic seafood dishes, such as lobster rolls and surf -n-turf.
If you go…
Festival is located in Lummus Park, along Ocean Drive between 5th and 15th streets in Miami Beach. General admission for the main event is $25, but more inclusive passes go for $50-$150.
Deering Seafood Festival: Late March
Relax on the lush lawn of the biggest backyard on the bay at the Deering Estate, which throws a day-long bash to celebrate the ocean's bounty every March.
Once the Florida home of International Harvester executive Charles Deering, the estate is a 444-acre natural and archaeological preserve that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Along with Bahamian Junkanoo bands, the historic grounds are taken over by celebrity chefs, sommeliers and culinary students who cook, share recipes and answer questions. Chefs in the past have included Eating House Chef Giorgio Rapicavolis and winner of Food Network’s “Chopped,” Simon Stojanovic of Altamare. Their dishes include fresh stone crabs, grilled mahi mahi, garlic blue crabs, fresh crawfish, seafood paella, conch and mountains of shrimp.
Entertainment for all ages includes scenic boat rides on Biscayne Bay aboard the Pelican Island Skipper; professional cooking demos this year featuring chefs Kareem Anguin, Damian Gilchrist of Ocean Reef Club, Luke Livingston of Deering Bay Yacht & Country Club, David Lesser of Munch Thyme and Joaquin Ortiz of Station 5 Table & Bar. A Little Shrimp Kids Zone offers art activities, an Under the Sea Caterpillar bounce house, a rock wall, and a giant slide; and an Artists’ Village showcasing original paintings and crafts.
The grounds of the Deering Estate have what is thought to be the largest virgin coastal tropical hardwood hammock in the continental United States. The house and grounds were featured several times in the 1980s TV series, “Miami Vice,” and were the starting line for “The Amazing Race All-Stars” in 2007.
If you go…
Deering Estate is located at 16701 SW 72nd Avenue in Palmetto Bay. Tickets are $15 for adults if ordered online before the end of March; $25 at the door. Children, ages 4-14, are $5 each.
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