Dare to Try This Now: Lamb “Fries” at Mintwood Place

The bistro puts a local riff on Rocky Mountain oysters.
Do you dare to try lamb “fries,” a.k.a. Shenandoah Mountain oysters? Photograph by Anna Spiegel.
Do you dare to try lamb “fries,” a.k.a. Shenandoah Mountain oysters? Photograph by Anna Spiegel.

We’ve heard of fries that venture beyond the humble potato, but no chickpea comes
equipped with what’s needed for Mintwood Place’s
new bar snack. “Lamb fries,” as they’re listed on the menu, aren’t like any I’ve had
before; instead of puréed starch, the crispy fritters are a cousin of Rocky Mountain
oysters—a.k.a. bull testicles. Given that Mintwood’s sheep variety comes from the
nearby Virginia Hills, think of them less like ram balls and more like Shenandoah
Mountain oysters.

Faced with a platter, it’s easy to see the comparison to bivalves. Chef
Cedric Maupillier slices the raw product into bite-size ovals (sorry, guys), and soaks them in buttermilk
overnight. The “oysters” then marinate in hot sauce, shallots, garlic, and lemon juice,
which mimics a South American preparation for bull testicle ceviche. We’re not quite

that adventurous in Washington, so Maupillier does what many chefs do to make strange
foods seem friendly: He breads and deep-fries them.

So what do Shenandoah Mountain oysters taste like? Surprisingly, they’re a lot milder
than the euphemistic shellfish. The crisp fritter’s soft inside faintly recalls lamb,
but is less robustly flavored than a loin or chop. Dunked in spicy house-made ranch
dressing, you could mistake the fries for sweetbreads—though thymus glands now seem
tame by comparison—or if you’re not an offal eater, a very tender chicken nugget.
My dining companion and I happily polished off the whole stack (to quote Chevy Chase in Funny Farm, “Call me Mr. Lamb Fries”). As for a pairing,
a nice lambic feels appropriate.

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