Marietta to host Taste of the Wild Community Dinner

MARIETTA – Kangaroo, alligator elk and rabbit, there are a few ways to get out-of-the-ordinary cuisine around Marietta.

At 5 p.m. Feb. 28, area residents will be treated to a free Taste of the Wild Community Dinner at River of Life Assembly of God Church, 200 Franklin St.

Cheryl McGowan, 60, of Marietta, is helping organize the second annual wild game feast. She said it is a part of the monthly dinners by the church.

“There’s going to be squirrel and rabbit, venison, trout and elk,” she said. “And we’re going to try to get some goat.”

She said the dinners were started by Pastor George Gaston. The first meal served was last year, and was also wild game.

“The pastor suggested it and the church went with it,” McGowan said. “It sounded like a good idea.”

Pastor George Gaston said the goal was to give people a high quality dinner and many who attend the church are hunters and sportsmen.

“It was very popular; it was a huge success,” he said. “People were lined out the door. The fun thing is people get to try things they’ve never tried before.”

Gaston said last year there was lamb and bison, and local food like deer, squirrel and rabbit. He said one of the biggest hits, which would be on the menu this year, was the squirrel pot pie.

McGowan said the game would come from members of the church who have gone hunting. She added that everything at the dinner has been donated.

Gaston said the feast will start at 5 p.m. on Feb. 28 and will go on until the food is gone.

In addition to the church dinner, Austyn’s, 130 Front St., offers exotic food from time to time. As recently as Valentine’s Day, Austyn’s offered kangaroo tenderloin for a dinner entree.

Phi Chen, owner of Austyn’s, said that offering unique fare is normal for the restaurant.

“Our menu is pretty diversified anyway,” he said.

Despite that, Chen said every Wednesday from September to December restaurant goers can experience “Wild Game Night.”

The menu during those days includes kangaroo, ostrich, rabbit, buffalo, elk, venison, alligator, octopus, pheasant and quail.

“We try to find exotic stuff, but not out of this world exotic,” Chen said.

He said he was surprised about the positive responses for the exotic fare that can’t be found in a restaurant everyday.

“We’ve had great responses and people looking forward to eating it,” Chen said. “For a small town like Marietta, I’m surprised about the number of people interested in that kind of food; I’m surprised how well it does do.”

Marietta resident Barbara Jackson, 60, said she hadn’t tried any exotic food before, but said if it was affordable she’d be willing to taste it.

“I’d either like it or I wouldn’t,” she remarked.

Chen said the taste of some of the fare shouldn’t be a turnoff.

“Kangaroo looks like beef, the texture is kind of like beef, but it’s a little bit more rich on the meat,” he said.

Many people say alligator tastes like chicken, he added.

“It all depends on how you prepare it, too,” Chen said, adding that different spices and sauces can make the taste of the meat vary. He said it takes creativity to prepare a lot of the unique foods.

Chen said that in the next few weeks, Austyn’s will begin to offer sushi and unique fish, especially for Lent. He added that a lot of the fish would be fresh from Hawaii.

“We’ll have some good seafood on the menu,” he said.

Hilda Jamison, 86, of Marietta, said she once attended a dinner in another county that offered a menu that included raccoon and deer. She said though she hadn’t tried some of the more exotic food like kangaroo, it would interesting to eat.

“I think it would be interesting; it would be something different,” she said. “I see nothing against it and don’t see why people wouldn’t want to try it…I think it would be something you could remember.”

Chen said everybody should be open to trying something new if given the opportunity.

“Everybody’s different,” he said. “My recommendation is unless you try it, you’ll never know if it will be something for you or not.”