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The President Dines in New Hampshire

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Original content from the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Chefs create meal fit for a President
Union Leader Staff
July 25, 2005

The first time I wrote about "The Way We Cook" — the very fine restaurant in the Bedford Block at 1361 Elm St. — I made it abundantly clear to one and all that Jim Borbotsina and David Gazzola serve cuisine that's fit for a king.

Apparently, it's fit for a President, too.

The President in question?

It's none other than Josiah "Jed" Bartlet, the fictional chief executive who rules the roost on "The West Wing." The man who plays Bartlet — actor Martin Sheen — was a recent surprise guest at "The Way We Cook" and by all accounts, the experience was as memorable for the television star as it was for the restaurant staff.


In case you're one of those Druid-types who doesn't own a television set, you should know that, as written, President Bartlet is a former New Hampshire governor who made it all the way to the White House, which explains, in part, Martin Sheen's visit.

"When we asked him why he was here," Jim Borbotsina said, "he told us he was making a movie down in Boston, so he and his wife decided to rent a car and come up to New Hampshire. Then he smiled and said, 'I'm supposed to be from here, after all.'"

And what were the orders from the Commander-in-Chief?

"He had chicken picatta," Jim said, "and his wife Janet had some Greek appetizers, Spanikopeta and Dolmathes and feta with olives. They said they were too full to have dessert, but we gave them some rice pudding to share and they liked it so much, they took some home with them."

The Sheens loved the food.

The staff loved the Sheens.

"What impressed me the most was that he was very kind, very gracious and very down-to-earth," said Dave Gazzola. "He took time to recognize everyone who worked in the restaurant. He spoke to them, asked them their names and then he took the time to speak to people at some of the other tables.

"The guy was like a saint," he added. "There was no arrogance, just a gentle graciousness. He was very kind, and his wife was the same way. It was unbelievable for a Hollywood superstar kind of guy."

Jim and Dave and their staff members were still buzzing about the visit a couple of days later when a package arrived in the mail.

"He took the time to sign pictures from 'The West Wing' for everyone on the staff," Jim said, "even the ones who weren't working the night he was here."

He also enclosed a letter.

It wasn't on White House stationery — he's not the real President, after all — but it was addressed to Dave, Jim and Jim's wife Margo, and the letter now occupies a place of honor on the wall of the restaurant. It says:

"We just arrived back in Boston, singing your praises all the way. Many thanks for your warm hospitality and generosity. We felt like we were with family. Again, thank you all. Peace. Martin and Janet."

Even two weeks after the fact, Jim and Dave were reluctant to spill the beans about the Sheens' visit, but my powers of persuasion — much like the Greek and Italian dishes they serve at "The Way We Cook" — are clearly irresistible.

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