Eating balls at the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry

There are still many unfamiliar with the euphemism "Rocky Mountain Oyster". It has nothing to do with seafood, for sure. After all, the Rocky Mountains are far from the ocean. No, what became cowboy slang, I guess, is a kinder way to talk about eating testicles. While they can mean sheep, in this case we are talking about bull balls.

I had the "privilege" of judging the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry in Virginia City, Nevada on Saturday. This event has been going on for 26 years. How did I warrant such a coveted position? It really has to do with not only this blog, but because I did create Have an Offal Day. Although we've had all sorts of offal before, the only balls we had were Patrick Mulvaney's "Balls to the Wall" deep fried duck testicles in year one. That means that I was going to the event a virgin to this particular offal dish.

I had been asked to judge in 2016, but a blizzard prevented me from going up the mountain. Lucky for me, it seems, as the other judges told me last year's entries were bad. Nobody wants to eat a simple deep fried testicle. It's not that tasty and the texture is chewy and nasty. This year, apparently, the contestants had upped their game considerably and so I got to judge ten much-improved entries.  

I started by going around to visit the entrant booths as they prepared their dishes. Each team had a name and there was a even a trophy for best name - The Ballsy Vaqueros. Team Cajones Calientes consists of a bunch of friends that have competed for several years, while other teams came from local restaurants and bars, such as The Bucket of Blood Saloon and The Mustang Ranch.

At 10 a.m. the teams started plating their presentation plates. Normally "Best Presentation" in the cheffing world has to do with making the food look as appetizing as possible, which is how I judged. Here they take things further. These teams were all about the decoration as well. Some teams obviously tried to score for this prize versus actual taste. The tacos were presented nicely, but both sets were bland. I enjoyed the fritters (bottom right) for focusing on the main ingredient.

winning eggrolls
Eventually I went in to the judging tent to try the entries. The seasoned judges had learned from prior years that it was best to eat balls while they are hot. They aren't so good cold. Of the ten we had two taco entries, a taquito, an egg roll, two fritter-like entries, a jalapeno popper, a rumaki, a chili, and a dessert. 

Yep, the Most Creative prize went to dessert. Someone actually took the cooked, ground meat and mixed it with walnuts, whiskey cocoa powder and some other ingredients to make a sort of chocolate truffle. It was surprisingly good and not too sweet!

I personally favored the jalapeno popper over the eggroll, but they averaged the scoring of about seven judges and the results are below. I've been to a few competitions and the trophies for this one were very nice. They had different sized etched flasks for 3rd, 2nd, and 1st places of all the categories. The only different one was the giant pot for Best Overall Taste. There were cash prizes as well. Not too shabby after slinging balls for about six hours.

I figured I'd leave the sensitive tasting details for last. What do balls taste like? Well, I'd say it's not really so much taste as it is texture. I do count myself lucky to be served up prepared, chopped balls and didn't have to suffer the prospect of downing a whole ball. 

The balls that were served had all been cut up in some way. Here you can see a picture of what constitutes a testicle. The outer sac is a totally different thing than the innards. The sac I would liken to eating clams, a chewy texture. The innards were cooked up to be like ground beef, thus making them well suited for a filling for the eggroll and popper entries. 

became the popper stuffing - innards, bacon, butter, garlic, seasoning
At noon was the St. Patrick's Day parade. 

Then the winners were announced late in the afternoon.

costume winner

the dessert ball winners
The big winner walked away with the pot and 2 flasks!

Best Overall TasteWINNER = Nut Up or Shut Up (eggroll)
2nd Place = Mel John & Jon’s
3rd Place = Cajones Caliente (jalapeno popper)
Most Creative DishWINNER = The Sack Shack (dessert ball)
2nd Place = Cajones Caliente
3rd Place = Nut Up or Shut Up
Best Plated PresentationWINNER = Cajones Caliente
2nd Place = Nut Up or Shut Up
3rd Place = The Sack Shack
Best Team Name = The Ballsy Vaqueros
The Brandi Lee’s People’s ChoiceWINNER = Nut Up or Shut Up
2nd Place = Cajones Caliente
3rd Place = Mel John & Jon’s