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Taste of Henry: Good food, good cause

By Kathy Jefcoats

They chewed up chicken wings, slurped up soup and pigged out on pork ribs, all for a good cause – to benefit A Friend's House, Henry County's children's shelter.

Hundreds turned out for the third annual A Taste of Henry held Friday evening at Dogwood Plantation. Some 20 restaurants set up tables under shade trees, lit Sterno cans or opened the valve on a propane tank and cooked for hours. All the money raised went to the shelter.

Since it rained last year, participants and organizers hoped an overcast sky would serve only to create a cool breeze and not a downpour. Christia Martinez, executive director of A Friend's House, said she was pleased with the turnout – and that the weather stayed fair.

"We're very pleased with ticket sales," she said. "And the weather looks like it's holding out."

The community can always be counted on to support A Friend's House, though, Martinez said.

"We always have a good response from restaurants and from the community," she said. "The restaurants say this helps them bring in new customers."

This was the first year for Hooters, famous for its chicken wings. General Manager Jimmy Berning brought three employees to work their table.

"The main reason we got involved is because it's a good cause," Berning said. "Corporate-wide, the company does a lot with charities. In fact, we're doing a car show in a couple of weeks for a benefit."

Michele Nestle of Sam's Club said this is the second year the business participated. Nestle and two colleagues served up pieces of cake and offered bottled water to participants.

"It's the Wal-Mart philosophy of giving back to the community," she said. "And this is fun. We enjoy getting out and meeting people."

Duewayne Knight, chef at Ron's Southern Skillet, kept his vow to serve up the best pot roast ever, alongside hot servings of collards and black-eyed peas and chilled sweet potato souffle.

"This pot roast is better than what Grandma makes," said a customer. "It's so tender, I don't know how he does it."

Truman's Restaurant offered a pasta dish, in addition to bean salad appetizers, and Italian ham and melons. Publix and Kroger served items from their deli and bakery sections.

The Italian Oven dished up chicken alfredo soup. Caf? Chavez prepared plates with samples of Cuban sandwiches, jerk chicken nuggets and nachos with black bean salsa. Dozens lined up for a fruit smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Caf?.

But Shelley Lawyer, browsing the tables with husband Dwayne, was looking for something special.

"They were telling me about some ribs?" she said, finishing off a chicken wing. "Somebody told me Buckhead Brewery was out here with the best ribs."

The Lawyers, of McDonough, said this is the first year they attended A Taste of Henry.

"We bought tickets from someone at church," said Shelley Lawyer. "It was for a good cause so we came out to support Henry County because we're from Henry County."

Someone pointed out the Buckhead table and clued her in on the homemade root beer also available, and she was off in that direction.

There was also plenty for children to do – interact with animals from the Atlanta Gardens and Petting Zoo, get their faces painted or carry around balloons twisted into interesting shapes.