PORTSMOUTH — If you're a high-profile presidential hopeful with your former president-of-the-United-States husband making whistle stops across the country, where do you go to whet that whistle and get the sustenance you need to go on with all the endless touring and politicking?
If you're U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, after a rousing appearance in Market Square last Sunday, you go on to Victory — the restaurant, that is. A political victory remains to be seen.
Duncan Boyd is the chef/proprietor of Victory at 96 State Street in Portsmouth, and while he's not quite sure how the Clintons found out about his restaurant, he's got some theories.
"I wasn't just going to come out and ask them, but this is the fourth time I've cooked for them — three times in Washington — so that could be it," he says. "But if I were to venture a guess, I would say that probably some mid-level to high-level campaign person here knew about us. Or maybe some staff member did a search on the Internet or was walking by.
Of course, Carol Shea-Porter and Jeanne Shaheen were here with their husbands, so that could be it."
Boyd says the Clintons came in after their speech in Market Square.
"Without compromising the Secret Service, let's say, in theory, I didn't know it was them until they came in."
And naturally, their visit to the popular restaurant brought much attention — attention they apparently didn't try to avoid.
"They sat right downstairs with the regular guests. People were very excited. With the exception of a friend of mine, who was sitting at the bar who's a staunch Republican, people wanted to buy them drinks, even dinner. The liquor commissioner was across the street and popped in," he said.
The Clintons, Boyd says, were happy to greet everyone.
"They shook hands with everyone when they came in and on the way out. There were 150 people outside. Hillary even walked across State Street right out into traffic. Everyone at The Rosa got word and spilled out onto the street."
Boyd says that it was so busy he had to wait tables, too, while trying to throw out gawkers. But despite the hustle and bustle, he had a pleasant talk with President Clinton about some common interests, like Martha's Vineyard and a favorite restaurant there, Atria, in Edgartown, as well as Washington haunts.
Still, crowd control was an issue.
"Everyone who couldn't see them in the front seemed to have to go to the bathroom quite a lot. I tried to tell people to stop coming in and I told the Secret Service they could stop people, too. One of them said, 'We don't want to hurt your business.' I said, 'Does it look like it's hurting?' It's not often you get the Secret Service to work your door."
But all brouhaha aside, serious food lovers just want to know what the Clintons ate at Victory. Did Bill chow down on a burger? Did Hillary go for the steak?
"They were heavy on the lobster," says Boyd. "They both had the golden-fried tomatoes with the lobster salad on top. Hillary had the sweet corn soup and President Clinton had our famous fries. Everyone with them had fish — lobster rolls, lobster gnocchi, succotash."
And, says Boyd, no cocktails. You've got to keep sharp to get to victory.