Still Family Run Since 1946
A month ago I enjoyed a most entertaining dining adventure the day after Thanksgiving. My family along with both of my brothers' families left New Orleans in a couple cars in search of Mosca's, a roadside treasure on the West Bank of the Mississippi. My NOLA brother Dave had been before and warned us that it can be tricky to find.
Well, the car I was in got lost, but we finally found the small building along US 90, with gravel driveway and simple sign. Evidently there was damage with Hurricane Katrina, but there were no attempts to change appearance with renovation.
Lisa (Mama Mosca) and Provino stared down at us from the wall when we entered. In 1946, an Italian immigrant named Provino Mosca moved with his wife from Chicago when their daughter married a Louisiana oysterman. They opened their restaurant in this very building, "in the middle of nowhere" along the highway. It was owned by a big New Orleans Mafia family (evidently still owned) and there are stories about the restaurant being quite the late night hang out for the Mafia for many years. I decided not to quiz our server on this.
All About Family
The best part of the dining experience was the family feel. There were two large tables in the main room, which included a casual bar, a juke box and an ATM, since they take cash only. Our room, as well as two other small ones seemed to be filled with families gathering for post Thanksgiving feasts. The family photos on the wall and the large serving bowls on the table made it feel like we were at home doing Thanksgiving all over again! Of course we didn't have to cook this time...and it was Italian Creole, not turkey!
We started in on our shared main dishes (just as a few gathered at the juke box to play some Sinatra and Harry Connick Jr.)
We had heard that garlic was the main ingredient in most dishes. No problem there. With our large group we were able to sample most of the dishes Mosca's is known for. Oysters Mosca was a delicious, sort of garlicky oyster dressing. The Chicken a la Grande had lots of white wine, rosemary and garlic! The Spaghetti Bordelaise was a nice balance to the richer Spaghetti with Meatballs...
The Shrimp Mosca along with garlic-free Pineapple Fluff...both perfecto!
I can easily picture Mama Mosca making that fluff years ago!
As we worked on our meal, a group of what appeared to be relatives gathered at the bar waiting for other the large table to clear. The door near the juke box opened and closed as other relatives arrived and mingled.
Who is that?
I pulled out my camera at one point to take a picture towards the other end of the table, since Scott had taken the first photo. Scott and Heidi had already noticed that Harry Connick Jr. had just entered and was standing behind Scott.
My Bro and Camera
Chris was unaware of the fact that we had a celebrity in our midst when he stood to take a family photo. The rest of the table knew by this time and grinned at the camera, waiting for Chris to bump into Harry. He didn't, but if he had, Chris would have probably just invited Harry to take the camera so Chris could be in the picture!
A Photo of Scott
By the time Harry was seated, our family was busily trying to ignore and eavesdrop at the same time. We were enjoying our family enough to know better than to ruin Harry's family outing by intruding for autographs.
However my daughter, who doesn't have to fumble to put on glasses to use her cell phone, was able to quickly and discretely take a photo of Scott who had just slurped up a string of spaghetti.
Just by accident of course, Harry happened to get in the photo.
I could be extra obnoxious and tell all the gossip that we heard across the room. But there isn't any to tell. They looked like a family enjoying a restaurant they have visited for years together. Harry seemed totally relaxed and did a good job amusing a small boy with some finger and thumb tricks. There was some chanting at one point. We thought the table was saying, "Gar-lic! Gar-lic! Gar-lic!" But evidently they were not cheering someone on to eat a clove of garlic. It was "Char-lotte! Char-lotte!" who is evidently Harry's daughter...and not anywhere near old enough to drink...so there was no chugging going on either. That's as much as I know.
Great Food and Great Time!
I hope to go back. Maybe next time it won't be so busy and there will be no celebrities, so I can wander and look at family photos...and ask more questions. Maybe I can even meet Mary Jo Mosca, the daughter-in-law of Provino and Lisa. She and her daughter run the kitchen now. Next time!
Liquid Dining Adventures at Genoa Bar
Sometimes I just have to write up a "dining adventure" that involves no food. Last October Don and I came upon a few mighty curious saloons while traveling through Nevada. This was the oldest one, in the small town of Genoa. It claims to be Nevada's Oldest Thirst Parlor, built in 1853.
It was 4:00 in the afternoon, so I actually went for Diet Coke, but there were a few folks having beer and cocktails at the bar already.
One of the doors was propped open which didn't seem like a good thing since it was pretty darn chilly on October 30. The bar had no heat, except for a wood stove that gets used in the winter.
There were a few regulars seated at the far end of the bar who were eager to tell us some of the saloon history. One gentleman pointed out the door knob, way down below the glass on the door. Evidently there were problems in the past with eager patrons coming on horseback...who didn't bother to get off their horses before entering. Lowering the door knob helped put a stop to that.
The impressive mirror behind the bar was originally imported to San Francisco from Glasgow, Scotland, then transported by covered wagon to Genoa. Dan, the bartender used a flashlight to point out the shimmering diamond dust used in the mirror.
Dust and Grime
Besides diamond dust, there was a good amount real dust coating just about everything attached to the wall or ceiling. The windows were literally caked with so much grime you couldn't see through the glass at the top.
My buddy Vic, seated next to me did the most talking. He was very excited to tell me about some of the curious visitors who stopped by the saloon long ago, like Mark Twain and Clark Gable. But there was one famous guest only a few decades ago who came and left her bra behind.
A Safe Full of Bras
Evidently Raquel Welch was in the area (filming a movie perhaps) and noted all the bras that were displayed in the saloon. She
actually offered to join in the tradition of leaving her bra on the wall, only if all the others were taken down so hers could
be displayed alone.
The lace and satin goodies of past ladies were removed and packed into an old safe, which I was invited to peer into.
Raquel's leopard print bra still dangles from an antler beside a framed photo of the actress.
The thing looks like a shredded dust rag and I don't think Raquel would be pleased. She should have stored it in the safe!
My Diet Coke did not permit me to participate in this tradition.
On to Virginia City!
Silver Queen Hotel and Saloon
We hit the jackpot in the old mining town of Virginia City, which had more than it's share of great old saloons. The Silver Queen probably was the quirkiest of the 3 we visited. It was also our hotel... which was another story.
This place looked dustier than the Genoa Bar, but really the cobwebs were left over from Halloween the night before. The children of Virginia City don't go trick or treating to houses, they walk up and down the boardwalks and collect candy from the local shops, bars and restaurants. Too bad we didn't come a day earlier to witness that curious custom!
Carl was providing our musical entertainment at the Silver Queen. He was eager to pose for a photo and I applauded and tipped his abilities to play guitar and keyboard at once. He gave me a free CD and took a break to tell me some hotel history and gossip.
The Silver Dollar Lady
I had already noticed this fine piece of art, made with 3,261 silver dollars. But Carl gave me the inside scoop on the couple who owned the bar at one time and created this 15 foot beauty. Evidently the image of the woman in silver is the wife. She ended up killing herself when she found out the husband was cheating on her. Carl shook his head as if he'd known the couple...and maybe he did. "She should have just killed him."
Mississippi, the bartender
Our bartender was quite the character. Mississippi is her real name, but she goes by Sippy. She is barely in this photo on the far left, wearing her black cowboy hat which was sprouting devil horns. You can't see the giant shimmering silver skeleton on her sweatshirt, but you can almost make out the appliqued flowers that were sewn onto her painter's pants! She seemed a bit hurried and gruff, but softened after a phone call. She had just gotten a request from a young woman who wanted her help in setting up a wedding proposal to her boyfriend.
"She knows he'll say yes!" Sippy explained with a sly smile. "Because she said she's always been the one who didn't want to get married before." Sippy said the couple would later have their wedding in the hotel chapel. I wandered off to have a peek at the chapel. It looked a little creepier than this photo, but it was good enough for Captain and Tennille's wedding in 1975, so who am I to talk?
Bucket of Blood Saloon
Our second saloon in Virginia City had the worst name, but the best view. The name has something to do with a bar brawl and the quote of the poor guy who had to mop up the mess afterwards. The view is at the back of the 138 year old saloon. The large picture window, which may not be that old, has a pretty ideal view of mountains and some pretty sweet church steeples!
Self Serve Popcorn!
Plus the place had free popcorn, which I love even more than beer. This gave Don and me something to do while we gazed at the curious collection of Victorian pickle canisters behind the bar. We also kept an eye on the lovey dovey couple wasting the best table near the picture window. Finally they left.
Sitting close enough to the window we didn't have to look at the witch and spider cutouts which were ruining my view from afar. (Again, bars are decorated for trick or treaters around here!) The old photographs on the wall depicting scenes from mining days were just as entertaining as the view. I was sorry we couldn't stay for sunset, it would have been beautiful!
I'm not a big fan of slot machines, but I found these in the attached room. I was pretty thrilled because they took real coins and you got to pull down on the handle like the good old days. I didn't win anything, but I was pretty thrilled that I got to use a little muscle to get those fruits spinning around!
Old Washoe Club
It was dark by the time we reached our final saloon. This saloon got the prize for most interesting bartender and an awesome staircase!
We met John, the bartender outside the saloon as we were strolling down the wooden boardwalk. "Pretty lonely in there." He laughed as he pointed towards his empty bar. We weren't planning on another stop, but he invited us to check out some of the curious features that have been shown on TV shows like Ghost Hunters and Ripley's Believe It or Not.
We wandered back and peeked in the crypt where back in the mining days, bodies were stored during winter months when they couldn't be buried in frozen ground. Then we studied the staircase which is the longest spiral staircase without a supporting pole. In the 1870's, this stairway lead to the Millionaires Club where the elite, like Mark Twain and Thomas Edison could get away from the rowdier citizens in town.
A Pleasant Chat
We ended up sitting down for a beer and glass of wine and having an incredibly nice conversation with John. He told us more history of the town, but mostly we talked about everything from our childhoods to moving as adults. Bartenders are supposed to be good conversationalists, but it really did feel like we were visiting with an interesting and intelligent friend. And just when we were about to head out, a large ghost tour came in to finish up the evening and we were glad to leave John with a bar full of customers.
Good-Bye Land of Saloons
We headed out of Nevada on Highway 50, the loneliest highway in America.
Hope to return and visit about 100 more of these oddball and often haunted little gems!
Grass Valley, CA
While recently visiting this once booming, gold mining town, we found this wonderful pasty shop. To clarify what a pasty is not, pronounce the first syllable like past not paste. I happen to know this fact because my husband's mom used to make delicious meat pasties from scratch.
A Café and Shop
We arrived just after Cousin Jack's opened at 10:30 and found a woman behind the counter busily rolling out dough. The shop and the tiny cafe next door were beginning to fill with baking smells. The shelves and counters were packed with yummy and usable sale items from imported jams and homemade cookies to aprons and teapots.
What are Cornish Pasties?
Pasties are hearty (empanada style) pies filled traditionally with beef or chicken. Hardworking tin miners in Cornwall, England (known as Cousin Jacks) often ate these hefty meals in the mines because they were as easy to eat as a sandwich. In the 1850's many Cornish miners immigrated to gold mines in the States, bringing their hard rock mining and pasty making skills. There were many Cornish miners working in the the Grass Valley area years ago. Their wives, called Cousin Jennies, filled their lunch buckets with pasties and tea before they headed hundreds of feet underground for work each day.
So Many Choices
Don and I ordered traditional pasties, although they offered some pretty curious options of pot roast, Greek and spinach-mushroom pasties. As our order was being prepared, the woman's husband arrived in his apron and cap and was more than happy to tell us more of the history. He was proud to tell us his wife's family had arrived from Cornwall 4 generations ago, with the pasty recipe that is still used.
Next we had to decide on dessert. We handed over a selection of cookies and pies to add to our order and asked the man how he came to the area. "I came here from Oklahoma during the depression." He described the town when it was bustling with mining activity. He seemed eager to remember those days. "The town was literally booming from the drilling and blasting below ground!" He chuckled when we gasped at the thought of living in a town jolted with regular booms!
The husband and wife team graciously posed for a photo before we left. I'm sorry I never got their names. Surely not Jack and Jennie?
Don and I took our bag of piping hot pasties and sweet treats and hit the road.
An hour later we stopped at a park in the town of Pleasanton and had our picnic. I hated to destroy my chicken pasty by biting into it. The crust was a perfect, shiny brown with a raised letter "C" made from dough. (Don's beef had a B of course) The still warm pasties were excellent. The pastry crust was mouthwatering and the filling was like a perfectly seasoned homemade stew. My "Jenny" sized small was perfect. Don's "Jack" sized large was more than enough! Now I'm going to hunt one more time in my mother-in-law's old files and see if I can find her pasty recipe!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.