Team captain Rob Cisline grew up on a working cattle ranch, eating Rocky Mountain oysters.
“One year, I had an idea,” he said. His idea was simple: sauté the beef testicles with garlic, onions and other spices and put them into a wonton shell and briefly fry the wonton. His first year, he won.
The next year, his booth moved away from the labor-intensive wontons but came back to it for this year’s Virginia City Rocky Mountain Oyster Fest.
“You’d eat the ... out of them if you didn’t know what they were made out of,” Cisline said.
He wants to break down the presentation of the meat, to take away from it the “ewe” or rather, steer, factor and present meat, which he ate as a child, as normal. Hence the wontons.
“We’re making it more appealing,” he said.
Wendy Bacus, who did not have a bottle of wine handy, was the head chef at Tacos de Bolas. After skinning, washing and marinating the meat she put them on a propane grill. They looked much like puffed-up chicken breasts with a more orange hue. From there, the presentation was changed: they chopped the meat up, mixed it with cooked onions and peppers, before putting them into deep-fried taco shells, oil bursting precariously close to open-toed shoes.
Taco de Bolas was raising money for both a scholarship fund for Virginia City High School students and to help fund a few of the children’s visits to the Great Basin Outdoor School at Lake Tahoe.
“I hope we win,” Bacus said, oddly dressed in a black shirt and blue jeans, a toga nowhere to be found. “We have the longest line for the longest time.”
Over at the Red Dog Saloon, Husband of the Head Chef Matt Lediard described the slider concept his booth, the Red Dog Saloon, had taken. The meat was cooked on a griddle, cut up and sauced, finally placed in a small bun, resplendent with barbecue sauce and onions. The meat had much the same consistency as cow tongue but was just a tad bit chewier in the middle, much like squid or snails.
“Win or lose, it’s a fun event,” he said. His booth was raising funds for the Virginia City baseball and softball teams.
Bacon was a common theme and Head Chef Brandi Lee with the Great Balls of Fire went back to her crowd favorite: the meat was chopped up, breaded, wrapped in bacon, breaded again and then deep fried in a turkey fryer. Last year, she made sushi. This year, she wanted to win.
“I’m the only one who’s won four consecutive times,” she said. When it comes to the bacon, “it’s the one that people like the most because they like the bacon,” she said.
Archeologist Ashlee Wounie, with Broadbent and Associates, was tasked with making their booth pretty and themed, something Lee ignored. Her booth was Rocky Mountain oyster chowder, with lots of potatoes.
“We wanted to give back to the community,” Wounie said. This is their first year and they are collecting for the Comstock Cemetery Foundation.
“Who doesn’t want to cook balls for charity?” she asked.