Having a “ball” at the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry in Virginia City, NV

It was time to rise and shine on this beautifully brisk morning at the Gold Hill Hotel. The light snow fall the night before had melted and winds howled through the hills. A pot of in-room coffee perked up the senses and it was time to head up to Virginia City to find a good parking space for the 25th Annual Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry; the one day of the year where it is appropriate to talk and joke about balls, nuts, and testicles.

The cold winds from the mountains were blowing through Virginia City causing a ruckus while vendors and competitors were trying to set up their booths. It was like the Santa Ana winds in Southern California, but freezing cold. Layered clothing, mittens, and scarfs were a must for the morning and most of the day.

At 8:45 a.m., the cooks’ meeting started. They went through the rules and handed out the containers for turn-in. Each team needed to provide enough samples for 6-8 judges to taste. With an hour and a half to kill before the judging process started, it was time to warm up at The Roasting House. The coffee aroma alone will lure you in. The coffee of the day had a robust aroma with perfect breakfast blend for the morning. Rating: 4.5/5. The blueberry muffin had lots of blueberries but there might have been a mishap in the ingredient measurement or not enough baking time. The muffin had sunk in the middle and was a little doughy. Rating: 3/5. Brevi is similar to a cappuccino but instead of milk they use half and half. It is ultra-creamy, rich, and slightly sweet. The espresso pushes through with a robust caffeinated punch. Rating: 5/5. Leprechaun Balls were peanut butter balls topped with chocolate and green crystal sugar. It was a nutty (no pun intended) protein packed bite. A good energy punch for the cold weather. Rating: 4.5/5.

At 10:30 a.m., it was time to head over to the judging tent to start judging. Categories for judging were: Best Overall Taste, Best Presentation, Most Creative Dish, and Best Booth. Judges were Chief Judge Jack McGuffey (County Commissioner for Storey County), Anne Langer (Storey County District Attorney), Meghan Burke (Getaway Reno-Tahoe Magazine), Kate Redick (Yelp), Kristy Cahoon (Yelp), and Chelsea Madren (OC Food Diva).

Here are the author’s notes and scores on each entry during the judging process:
Storey County Senior Center: Booth – 7/10, Taste – 7/10, Creativity – 5/10, Presentation – 9/10. Rocky mountain oysters were presented grilled alone and also wrapped in bacon and grilled. These had the most authentic in your face flavor of rocky mountain oysters. The char from the grill gave it a smoky flavor both with and without the bacon. 

Delta Saloon’s Ball Shack: Booth – 7/10, Taste 8/10, Creativity – 9/10, Presentation – 8/10. Presented in a croquette fashion. Not the prettiest presentation in the box, but they were tasty. 

Cherry Bomb Catering http://www.cherrybombreno.com/ : Booth – 7/10, Taste – 10/10, Creativity – 7/10, Presentation – 8/10. More traditional presentation of rocky mountain oysters - fried and crispy. A basket of these with a beer in hand would be just perfect. 

Cajones Caliente: Booth – 9/10, Taste – 9/10, Creativity – 10/10, Presentation – 9/10. Creative way to serve up rocky mountain oysters as a popper. Bacon added a smoky flavor and the jalapeno gave it a spicy kick. 

Nut Up Or Shut Up: Booth – 7/10, Taste – 9/10, Creativity – 9/10, Presentation – 10/10. Creative presentation in a wonton form. Even though it had a great flavor, the rocky mountain oyster taste was masked. 

Mustang Ranch Steakhouse http://www.mustangranchsteakhouse.com/ : Booth – 5/10, Taste – 3/10, Creativity – 6/10, Presentation 7/10. The slider was much too sweet and no rocky mountain oyster flavor was present. Maybe making this into a meatball mixed with ground beef and chunks of rocky mountain oyster would have been better along with a fresh marinara. 

V.C.T.C: Booth – 7/10, Taste – 9/10, Creativity – 9/10, Presentation – 7/10. The rocky mountain oyster worked great inside of a chili giving it more texture. It also made the dish more approachable for the public. 

Taco de Bolas: Booth – 5/10, Taste – 6/10, Creativity – 7/10, Presentation – 9/10. Great way to use rocky mountain oysters is a common food presentation, but everything in the taco from the rocky mountain oysters to the guacamole and sour cream was just mushy. It needed more texture like chunks of rocky mountain oyster and freshness like chopped tomatoes or lettuce. 

Mel John & Jon: Booth – 3/10, Taste – 8/10, Creativity – 6/10, Presentation – 0/10 (unfortunately the presentation was not complete when judging started). Another traditional presentation of a sliced rocky mountain oyster - breaded, deep-fried, and served with a garlic cream cheese topping. They were cooked perfectly but overly salty.

At high noon, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade started. Costumed players of the Old West paraded down C Street – soldiers, cowboys, renegades, and gunslingers. Candy was thrown to the audience like a small town parade in the Midwest. Classic cars and motorcycles along with county official vehicles like fire engines and ambulances also joined the parade.

At 3:30 p.m., it was time to announce the winners of the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry!

Best Booth:

  • 1st Place – Cajones Caliente ($250 cash prize)
  • 2nd Place – Nut Up Or Shut Up
  • 3rd Place – Storey County Senior Center

Best Presentation:

  • 1st Place – Nut Up Or Shut Up ($250 cash prize)
  • 2nd Place – Taco de Bolas
  • 3rd Place – Cajones Caliente

Most Creative Dish:

  • 1st Place – Cajones Caliente ($250 cash prize)
  • 2nd Place – Nut Up Or Shut Up
  • 3rd Place – Delta Saloon

People’s Choice

  • 1st Place – Cajones Caliente ($250 cash prize with a total of 239 votes)
  • 2nd Place – Nut Up Or Shut Up

Best Overall Taste

  • 1st Place – Cajones Caliente ($500 cash prize)
  • 2nd – V.C.T.C.
  • 3rd Place – Nut Up Or Shut Up

It was time to head back to Gold Hill Hotel to warm up. It had been a long day and with a ton of leftovers from Copper Top BBQ, in-room dining for dinner was the best bet. With restful sleep ahead, an early morning road trip to Reno is just around the corner. Stay tuned!

For more information:
1540 Main St.
Gold Hill, NV 89440
Parking: Free parking in front of the hotel and behind.

Virginia City, NV

310 N. Main St.
Big Pine, CA 93513
Parking: Dirt lot just behind the restaurant
Seating: Exterior only, dress accordingly.