Sunday, August 28, 2011

Martha's Vineyard 2011: Obama Dining Report

Local, organic and fried: President, First Lady re-visit favorite eateries during island vacation...
During a summer vacation cut short by a day thanks to Hurricane Irene, President Obama and First Lady Obama had just three public dining excursions while relaxing on Martha's Vineyard. The President and Mrs. Obama have summered on the tony island off the coast of Massachusetts for fifteen years, and they visited all three eateries during their 2010 vacation, too.

The outings included dinner at State Road restaurant in West Tisbury last Thursday; a visit to Nancy's Restaurant & Snack Bar in Oak Bluffs to get takeout last Sunday; and a date night dinner at the Beach Plum Inn in Menemsha, on the first full day of the vacation, on Friday, Aug. 19th. (Above: Leaving Nancy's; the visit was the only dining excursion that was photographed by the press)

The dinners were sprinkled between a rare 5.8 magnitude East Coast earthquake felt from Virginia to Massachusetts (though not by the President, who was golfing at the time); regime change in Libya; and a major effort to coordinate the federal hurricane response. But there was also time for First Family beach outings, a trip to Bunch of Grapes bookstore; a reception thrown by Harvard professor and close friend Charles Ogletree; a cycling excursion; and plenty of golf. The President played all three of the island's courses, including a game at Mink Meadows Golf Club with Sam Kass, Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives. (Above: The President and daughter Malia cycle through Manuel F. Correllus State Forest in West Tisbury on Aug. 23rd)

State Road: Deval Patrick, Vernon Jordan join First Couple
The President and First Lady's last public dinner on island came on Aug. 25th at State Road, after a day enjoying the sun at a private beach. At close to three hours, the meal was their longest dining excursion of the holiday. Shortly after 7:00 PM, the First Couple were joined by close friends including Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his wife Diane Patrick; senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and her daughter Laura; and Washington attorney and powerbroker Vernon Jordan (who also golfed with the President during the vacation) and his wife Ann Jordan. The Jordans and Valerie Jarrett were at the Obamas' State Road dinner in Summer 2010, too. (Above: The President with Jordan at Farm Neck Golf Club on Aug. 23)

President Obama went to bat for Governor Patrick during his 2010 re-election campaign. "When Deval speaks, I listen,” he told a crowd of Patrick supporters last October during an appearance at the Westin Copley Place hotel in Boston. Mrs. Obama is also a major Patrick fan: She last visited Massachusetts on June 30th for a fund-raiser for Mr. Obama at a private residence in Chestnut Hill. She told the avid crowd that the Governor is “one of my favorite people in the whole wide world," and described Patrick as “your fabulous governor.” At the 2011 Governors Dinner at the White House in February, Patrick sat at the Head Table with the President and Mrs. Obama (Above: Toasting after the President's remarks)

State Road calls itself as "a contemporary American tavern," and features a seasonal menu with vegetables plucked from its own garden as well as sourced from local organic purveyors. The menu specials for the evening included "Morning Glory Farm sweet corn soup, Good Farm roasted chicken, Menemsha fluke, and steamed local clams.” The eatery notes the 2010 Presidential dinner on its website.

Takeout from Nancy's...and regime change in Libya
The President and First Lady's visit to Nancy's Restaurant & Snack Bar on Sunday, Aug. 21 to grab some takeout could not have been more different from the white-tablecloth experience at State Road, though it, too, included Valerie Jarrett: She joined the President at the ordering window. Chicago pal Dr. Eric Whitaker was also at the restaurant. (Above: Jarrett is in the floral dress as the President waves to fans)

Nancy's is a Vineyard institution, known for its wide range of fried seafood---clams, oysters, shrimp, calamari--and excellent cocktails, and has been open since 1960. Hundreds of well wishers lined the streets of Oak Bluffs and hung out of windows as the President and Mrs. Obama arrived and departed. At 8:25 PM, they decamped to Jarrett's home--three minutes away by motorcade--to enjoy the feast. (Above: The President places his takeout order at Nancy's)

"The First Family went to the home where Valerie Jarrett is staying to have dinner with friends," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told the press pool.

Only later did the White House reveal that the President, while at Jarrett's, had a conference call with his senior advisors about the evolving situation in Libya, where protesters were massing in the capitol, and it looked like the rebels would shortly be triumphant. The President also crafted a statement calling for Muammar Gaddafi to step down, which was released that night. (Above: Jarrett with the President in his limo on Aug. 20th)

"The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator," President Obama said.

The 2010 Presidential visit to Nancy's was during the day, when the First Family had lunch with a huge group of friends. The Obamas ordered fried takeout at Nancy's during their 2009 vacation, too.

Beach Plum Date Night...

On Friday, Aug. 19th, the first full day of the vacation, the President and Mrs. Obama enjoyed a two-hour dinner at the restaurant at the Beach Plum Inn in Menemsha. The lovely, intimate eatery has a menu that spotlights locall, organic and sustainably sourced foods. It is perched atop a cliff with a stunning, panoramic view of Menemsha Harbor. The First Couple arrived at 7:38 PM, just in time for sunset. A post about the visit is here. Mr. and Mrs. Obama dined at the Beach Plum last summer, too. Beach Plum also features the 2010 Presidential visit on its website.

Working vacation...
The President's vacation began on Aug. 18th against a backdrop of media and GOP criticism that he was relaxing while the economy was flailing--and the White House was quick to push back against this. Seven different official photos of the President hard at work at Blue Heron Farm, his 28.5 acre rental estate in Chilmark, were released--including a photo taken in the morning on the first full day of the vacation. The White House also posted a photo gallery on the official blog of other Presidents on vacation, to make the point that all who hold the nation's highest office do, in fact, take a break. The President and Mrs. Obama arrived in Massachusetts hours apart in separate planes late on Aug. 18th, and this also led to criticism. (Above: One of the official photo releases showed the President receiving an economic briefing from aide Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council on August 24th)

The First Family returned to Washington, DC on Friday, Aug. 26th, and arrived back at the White House shortly before midnight. (Above: Walking across the South Lawn)

Restaurant info...
State Road
is at 688 State Road, West Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard, MA 02575. Phone: 508-693-8582.

Nancy's is at 29 Lake Avenue, Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, MA, 02557. Phone: 508-693-0006.

Beach Plum Inn is at 50 Beach Plum Lane, PO Box 98, Menemsha, Martha's Vineyard, MA 02552. Phone: 508-645- 9454.

*Photos by Getty, AFP and AP, except for Deese photo; that's by Pete Souza/White House