For this treat, we’re going to a staple restaurant on the east side, hidden back from the street where Wilmot becomes Tanque Verde.

The building has been there for years, but there’s a new team of owners, managers and chefs now running The Cork Tucson. Head chef Carlos Aponte wanted to show us his take on a leaner meat that the restaurant will now serve as an appetizer.

Aponte said he’s had an appreciation for lamb chops since he was a kid. In fact, he said, his family in Tucson would come to enjoy grilled game meats cooked from the very same kitchen that he works in today.

“My family, we were always sportsmen,” Aponte said. “And we went hunting for elk and venison. So we would come to here to eat and dine on that stuff, too.”

As a nod to those familiar flavors, Aponte prepared lollipop lamb chops. We stood next to him by the kitchen’s grill, enjoying the sights and smells. “The fat in the flame… we get that good sear on it ,too,” Aponte said. “When you’re cooking something fast to high heat, you’re searing the outside of it quickly so it’s sealing the juices.”

We asked Aponte how someone cooking lamb chops at home should approach getting the meat to the right doneness on the grill. “Compared to beef,” he said, “it cooks a little faster for the (temperatures). So lamb would run about five degrees cooler for what you would expect would be a rare, medium-rare on beef steak.”

As the chops sat on the grill, Aponte checked on the bed of garlic mashed potatoes that hold the lollipops. Once the chops were charred, he put the last touch of earthy flavor on top with a mint sauce. “It’s going to impart a little more of a sweetness to it,” Aponte said.

In tasting and learning about our community’s food roots, Aponte mentioned that people who’ve grown up in Southern Arizona may recognize mint as a key ingredient in another classic dish: ‘Albondigas’ or Mexican meatballs.