On January 30th, 2018, Coast Watch Alliance hosted their inaugural Venom & Vino Gourmet Series event at Pot Roast & Pinot in Pensacola, Florida. Thirty seven donors attended this unique fundraiser where a five course, lionfish-centric meal was paired with premium wines and spirits.
During the three hour event, Chef Joe Abston served dishes featuring poached, seared, and fried lionfish alongside other fresh seafood and aged steaks. Even dessert incorporated the featured ingredient; Chef Joe delivered a decadent curiosity combining vanilla ice cream, foie gras, and a caramelized lionfish wafer. "I am genuinely surprised by the mild flavor," remarked one donor. "Lionfish really is quite delicious."
Between courses, donors learned about Coast Watch's efforts to manage the lionfish invasion including lionfish trap research, ROV development, and commercial spearfishing initiatives. Guest speakers Bryan Clark and Ashley Ridout also discussed recent marine debris removal projects at the USS Massachusetts and Southwind Marina and learned about the dangers of ghost traps and waste plastics.
Between entry fees and the silent auction, Venom & Vino raised over $3,700 to support Coast Watch's continuing mission in the northern Gulf of Mexico. "We are so appreciative of the guests who joined us for Venom & Vino," said Deanna Richburg, Coast Watch Alliance's Sponsorship Coordinator. "People entered this evening as curious patrons and left as a group of lionfish activists." The Venom & Vino Gourmet Series will return this June at new location with new sustainable lionfish dishes. Stay tuned to the Coast Watch website and Facebook page for more details.