First Lady visits Kitchen Garden at Monticello; poses for photos & compliments chef after lunch at small town eatery...
The news that First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha, 9, had lunch in Luray, Virignia on Thursday spread through the small town "like wildfire," restaurant owner John Thomas said. The First Lady's visit to Thomas' A Moment To Remember eatery came in the midst of a day trip to Central Virginia, bookended by stops at two historic attractions: The Luray Caverns in the morning, and Monticello, President Thomas Jefferson's plantation home, in the afternoon, according to a White House official who confirmed the details.
Thomas, 62, said his wife, co-owner and chef Elke Thomas, prepared lunch for about about 23 people in Mrs. Obama's party during the visit to the fifty-seat eatery, located in a converted hardware store on Main Street in Luray.
"She was very gracious, very lovely. She represents the country very well," Thomas said of the First Lady, noting that he was more apprehensive than nervous when he found out from Secret Service an hour prior that Mrs. Obama would be arriving at about half past noon.
The Thomases have a 100 x 50 foot garden, which produces everything from melons through kale, Thomas said, and they use the crops in the restaurant, which features American standards--sandwiches, salads, and soups--at lunchtime, with German cuisine served at night.
"She said the menu was excellent and she enjoyed lunch," Thomas said of Mrs. Obama. "She commented that the menu was very healthy."
Asked what exactly Mrs. Obama ordered for lunch, Thomas declined to comment.
"We were asked not to disclose that," Thomas said. "But we were pleased we could provide them with a healthy lunch."
The First Lady shook hands and posed for photos with the Thomases and restaurant staff after lunch.
"She did the whole nine yards," Thomas said, and noted again that Mrs. Obama was "very gracious."
The restaurant remained open to other patrons as Mrs. Obama and her party had lunch, but no one interacted with the group. "I was real proud of everybody here," Thomas said. "No one bothered them and just allowed them to have their lunch."
During the visit to Luray Caverns, Mrs. Obama and her entourage, which included a pal for Sasha, walked through the dramatic subterranean caves, which feature "singing rocks" and underground lakes. At Monticello, they had a tour inside the residence, and a viewing of Jefferson's historically accurate re-created Kitchen Garden, according to the White House. Mrs. Obama's own White House Kitchen Garden contains a special bed in honor of Jefferson, with seeds and starts from Monticello donated by master gardener Peter Hatch, who joined the First Lady and her team for last Spring's planting.
Thomas said he was aware that Mrs. Obama also visited Luray Caverns last year (that trip included a visit to Monticello, too, in July of 2009), but added that he never imagined the First Lady would be in his restaurant. He said he was told that the Secret Service had checked out A Moment To Remember twice before Mrs. Obama's visit, last Saturday and again on Monday. He had no idea the restaurant was being observed, but he was pleased the eatery had passed muster.
There was one food item that Thomas was willing to discuss: The lead agent from Mrs. Obama's Secret Service detail came in and ordered twelve of the same sandwich to dine on, he said. That was the chicken breast served with Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, tomato and smoked bacon on a kaiser roll, which is $6.25.
"It's a small town, everybody was excited," Thomas said. "We make a really good chili in the winter, and I know the President likes that. I hope he stops by for a visit, too."
Daughter Malia, 12, was on the trip to the area in 2009, but not this year. She is currently away at camp.
*Photo, not from today, of Mrs. Obama and Sasha