Those long, venomous spines, the wild, striped colors, the face only a mother could love, there are not many attractive features of a lionfish. To make matters worse, these little buggers migrated into the Gulf a few years ago and have proven to be a nuisance. The biggest problem is they have pretty much the same diet as some of our favorite fish such as grouper and red snapper, and their appetite is tremendous.

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Let this be a lesson in responsibility. Originating in the Pacific and Indian oceans, these predators with neurotoxin venom began turning up in the Atlantic somewhere around 1985. How? The best guess is that some jacklegs released them from aquariums. With voracious appetites and an astounding ability to procreate, the lionfish began destroying the Atlantic ecosystem, reducing the population of some species of native fish by nearly 65 percent.

From there the Bahamas began to suffer and more recently, the Gulf of Mexico. So what does man do to correct man’s mistake? Humans are responsible for tilting our environments balance, so if the lionfish have no natural predators it is up to humans to predate. Lucky for us they are delicious.

Enter the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition.

The mission of the GCLC is to promote the removal of lionfish from our fisheries, even if it is one fish at a time. Educating others about the deliciousness of the nuisance fish has been another goal, and Gulf chefs are catching on.

“It’s one of the best eating fish I’ve ever had,” said Chris Sherrill, executive chef of the Florabama Yacht Club. “It tastes a lot like flounder.”

Let’s hope this catches on

“They lend themselves to every way you can cook a fish,” added Sherrill. “We do several different presentations from ceviche to a sashimi-style, frying them whole, grilling or blackening the filets, or frying the filets. For anybody that is willing to try it, it’s one of the best ceviche-style fishes that you could ever use.”

Not only is the Florabama Yacht club serving up the delicacy, Shipp’s Harbor Grill is in on the hunt.

Scared of the spines? No worry. They are venomous, as I stated earlier but the flesh of the fish is not poisonous. Do take care in handling the fish as the spines can even pierce a wetsuit, but there are no recorded fatalities from a lionfish sting.

The biggest plan to put a dent in the population of pesky lionfish is a series of shootout tournaments throughout the summer and fall. One was just held June 28. The next event is slated for August 16. Visit gulfcoastlionfish.com for more information on the GCLC. Even if you aren’t into fishing, becoming a member can help. Let’s show these fish who the top predator really is.

Greek wine dinner on the horizon

It’s time for the Italian Fisherman’s last wine dinner until October, and this one is the most unique to date. Entitled “Greek, Greek, Greek, it’s all Greek to Me,” this may be a tribute to Chef John Weichman’s wife Maria, whom he describes as “pure Greek.”

Tuesday, July 22 will find guests mispronouncing wines such as Tsantali Blanc, Domaine Sigalas Santorini, Skouras St. George, and Skouras Zoe while dining on a menu of seasoned beef, cheese pie, baked macaroni, shrimp, Greek meatballs, zucchini fritters, and an apricot almond pastry. That’s the short pronounceable version.

It’s always a learning experience. The price is $60 per person. Make your reservations now by dialing 251-401-7246.

Get ready for Alabama Restaurant Week

Who can argue with the Alabama Tourism Department’s initiative known as Alabama Restaurant Week? It’s a growing promotion of our locally owned and operated restaurants that participate in fixed price dishes that showcase what some of our gems have to offer. The promotion actually lasts 10 days and runs Aug. 15-24.

The participating restaurants offer a two-course lunch or three-course dinner (or both) set at an attractive price. The price structure for lunch including an appetizer and entrée or entrée and dessert is set at $5, $10, or $15 while dinner includes an appetizer, entrée and dessert at $10, $20, and $30. Restaurants can participate in one or all categories.

Each restaurant will be listed on alabamarestaurantweek.com. But the deadline for participation is coming up quick. Complete menus for the set price must be submitted by July 15. The list is growing as we speak. Check out the website for this statewide event.

Have a happy Fourth of July. If you start an accidental grassfire with bottle rockets and Roman candles, be sure to turn it into something productive like roasting wieners or S’mores. I always keep a hose handy when dealing with illegal fireworks. Recycle those watermelon rinds. Those preserves may come in handy.