Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Keeping A 2008 Campaign Promise In Iowa, President Obama Gets Lunch At Ross' Restaurant

MyPlate, Magic Mountain edition: The President orders massive sandwiches and dubs his press pool "chickens" for not indulging...
UPDATE, July 2: Restaurant owner Freidhof makes her sandwiches on "The Rachel Maddow Show"
En route to giving a speech at Alcoa Davenport Works Factory in Bettendorf, Iowa, on Tuesday, President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise made in 2008, as he stopped for a to-go lunch at Ross', a 24-hour restaurant. The President placed an order for six of the gigantic sandwiches that have made the eatery a local legend--four "Magic Mountains" and two "Volcanos"--and treated three customers to lunch. "How are you doing? We came to order some food," President Obama, clad in shirtsleeves and a striped tie, said to the very excited and surprised owner, Cynthia Ross Freidhof, as he bounced in to cheers at 12:10 PM local time. (Above: The President, Friedhof, and a giant cinnamon roll)

Mr. Obama met Freidhof on Aug. 25, 2008, during a Town Hall meeting for undecided voters held at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa. Candidate Obama pledged that one day, he would visit her restaurant, after Freidhof wowed him with her description of the oversized sandwiches: The Magic Mountain is grilled Texas toast with loose steamed hamburger meat, piled high with a choice of French fries or hash browns, homemade cheddar cheese, and onions, while The Volcano is the Magic Mountain with the addition of a scoop of spicy chili on top. (Above: Freidhof, in purple, watched as Candidate Obama spoke on her cell phone to her husband, Ron Freidhof)

Moments after arriving at Ross', the President was waving a cinnamon roll the size of a salad plate. The eatery bills itself as "Home of the Magic Mountain," and has a range of mountainous sandwiches, appropriately named and sized generously. Most things are made in-house, from the cole slaw to the bread for the sandwiches and baked goods.

"I'm not sure I'm going to be able to eat one of these," President Obama joked about the cinnamon roll, but then joshed his press pool for having the same idea about over-sized portions.

The press corps is a gang of chickens, President says...
President Obama and Freidhof gave a description of the massive sandwiches to the gathered crowd before he ordered, and he threw down an eating gauntlet for his press pool. (Above: Shaking hands with patrons)

"Anybody who wants one, I will buy it for you," President Obama said. "Anybody in the press corps has to eat the whole thing. I already got some takers on the plane though, so we're going to order four Magic Mountains and two Volcanos."

"Any takers on the press?" The President asked.

No one responded.

"You chickens," President Obama joked.

His bill came to $61.26.

First Lady Obama spent last week in Africa, bringing Let's Move! to the international stage. Among other activities, she gardened at a community center, and did pushups with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Earlier this month Mrs. Obama unveiled MyPlate, USDA's new food icon, designed to encourage Americans to fill half their plates at each meal with fruit and vegetables. But after more than two years, Mrs. Obama's efforts have had no impact on her husband's public dining excursions; the presidential photo op food outings lean toward the indulgent and fun.

"Don't tell Michelle," President Obama has joked to his press pool in the past, when ordering something especially caloric. Only once has he publicly ordered produce when doing a dining photo-op outside the White House, and that was on the Midterms campaign trail in 2010, when a vendor at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia urged the President to purchase some apples. The President did, but handed these off to an aide, and left eating an ice cream cone.

"I hope he brought his antacids because he said he's going to need one after he eats the Magic Mountain, he thinks," Freidhof told the pool reporter on duty, adding "but I don't think so."

The visit was a real surprise...
Freidhof voted for the President in 2008, and said she will do everything possible to help Mr. Obama win Iowa in 2012, but she didn't actually believe he'd ever visit her restaurant. (Above: Freidhof laughs as the President makes his eating challenge to the media)

Freidhof said President Obama really did surprise her, her staff, and the lunch crowd sitting at banquets upholstered in blue vinyl; she wasn't given a heads up by Secret Service agents that the President would be dropping by. Friedhof said she was outside the restaurant to watch the motorcade go by when she saw it stop at her restaurant, which was founded by her father in 1944.

"I'm thrilled to be here," the President announced to the lunch crowd. He worked the entire room, chatting, shaking hands with adults and kids, hugging people and posing for photos. He even had a 'baby whisperer' moment, and held a small blonde baby, who happily snuggled on his shoulder.

Freidhof afterwards re-named her famous sandwich the "Presidential Magic Mountain" for the day.

"So business is going ok?" President Obama asked her.

"It is going okay, it is okay, yeah," Freidhof said, before quickly changing the subject.

After the visit, Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press pool that he ordered a Volcano for himself, too.

It was "delicious," Carney said.

"I confess I could not finish it," Carney added.

The President arrived at 12:41 pm at the Alcoa factory, after driving through Iowa streets that were thick with onlookers.

Info: Ross' is at 430 14th Street, Bettendorf, Iowa, 52722. Phone: 563. 355.7573.

*Photos by AP; 2008 photo by Larry Fisher, Quad City Times