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2005’s first Monday Mélange

Did you miss “Coming Home” ‘s big debut? Not to worry. starts your new year off right with photos & a transcript of the teaser ad that serves as the kick-off of Disney’s 18-month long “Happiest Celebration on Earth.” Plus don’t miss this week’s trivia contest featuring great prizes from Just Plain Joe Coffee.



Did you see it?

That’s the question that’s been bouncing around the Internet this morning. Particularly among Disneyana fans.

As in: “Did you see the ‘Happiest Celebration on Earth’ ad that debuted this past Saturday morning as part of the Tournament of Roses’ television coverage? That TV commercial that cleverly mixed CG versions of classic Disney characters and live action settings to get people all excited about the Walt Disney Company’s upcoming 18-month long celebration of Disneyland’s 50th birthday?”

If not … Well, not to worry. Your friends at JHM have you covered. Thanks to the technical expertise of Jeffery Lange and Nancy Stadler, we’ve actually got some images from the ad as well as a full transcript of the commercial to share with you today.

First a little background info. This 60-second long commercial — entitled “Coming Home” — was actually created for Disney’s Theme Parks & Resorts division by the whiz kids over at Leo Burnett. This ad — which features a score by “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” ‘s composer, Alan Silvestri — is actually the first of the series. So look for other installments to get rolled out as we get closer to the official launch date of the “Happiest Celebration on Earth.” Which will be May 5, 2005.

WARNING!! There be spoilers ahead. If you don’t want to know how “Coming Home” plays out before you actually get to see this ad on television, then I suggest that you bail out of this story right now.


The commercial starts with a live action shot high over Manhattan. As the Empire State building stands proudly in the background, a CG Dumbo swoops into the shoot. After smiling for the camera, the playful pachyderm flies off over the city.

Copyright 2005.  Walt Disney Company

CUT TO … A palm-tree lined street in a quiet Florida suburb. A CG Goofy (Dressed in a red & white Hawaiian shirt with a bedroll strapped to his back) glances at his watch. He’s obviously waiting for someone.

CUT TO … CG versions of Iago and the Genie from “Aladdin” — riding atop a live action camel — cross the desert sands in Egypt. As they pass a pyramid, the parrot sputters.

IAGO: No! No! You should have turned right at the pyramid!

CUT TO … Laughing manically, a CG version of Stitch (In one of the wittier touches of this advertisement, the little blue Alien is dressed in the exact same outfit that the late Marlon Brando wore in 1953’s “The Wild Ones”) rides a motorcycle across Monument Valley.

CUT TO: … The Alaskan Wilderness. CG versions of Rutt & Tuke (You know? The two moose who talked like Doug & Bob McKenzie in Disney’s Fall 2003 release, “Brother Bear”?) struggle to swim across a beautiful mountain lake.

RUTT: Hey, we’re gonna miss the anniversary.

TUKE: Maybe we should dog-paddle, eh?

CUT TO: … The African desert. A CG version of Donald Duck drives a tour bus that’s packed with all those ballet-dancing hippos from “Fantasia.” As live action giraffes walk through the background of this shot, we see one hippo ballerina who’s on foot, who’s desperately trying to catch up with the bus.

WE CUT BACK TO … That quiet suburban street in Florida. Goofy’s ride has finally arrived. It’s a live action version of Herbie the Love Bug, driven by a CG version of Mickey Mouse. (And — if you look really close — you can see that Hewey, Dewey and Louie are sitting the car’s back seat.)

As Goofy tries to cram himself & his gear into Herbie’s front seat (There’s some great squash ‘n’ stretch here), Mickey asks:

MICKEY: Have you got everything, Goofy?

As his head pops out of the Love Bug’s sun roof, Goofy says:

GOOFY: Ready!

Copyright 2005.  Walt Disney Company

With that, Mickey stomps on the gas and Herbie zooms off — out of the shot.

CUT TO … The lobby of the Paris Opera House. A CG Cinderella — in her beautiful blue ballgown — hurries down the steps, obviously rushing to get somewhere important.

WE CUT BACK TO … The African desert. Live action zebras cross the road, which prevent the CG tour bus from going forward. Through the bus’ windshield, we see Donald fuming:

DONALD: Come on! Move it!

Directly behind Donald, we see Ben Ali Gator (I.E. Hyacinth Hippo’s dance partner from the original “Fantasia”) slowly opening his jaws. As the alligator gets ready to bite the duck’s head off …

Copyright 2005.  Walt Disney Company

… Donald suddenly turns and looks accusingly at Ben Ali Gator. Feigning innocence, the alligator quickly looks off in the other direction.


Copyright 2005.  Walt Disney Company

CUT BACK TO … The Genie and Iago continue their journey across the burning sands. As their live action camel stumbles, the CG parrot temporarily loses his grip on the dromedary and squawks.

IAGO: Hold your horses! I almost fell off that time!

Copyright 2005.  Walt Disney Company

CUT TO … Rutt & Tuke walking through the streetx of Manhattan. As live action New Yorkers get ready to cross at the corner of 57th & Broadway, Tuke turns to Rutt and says …


TUKE: Hey, this herd’s moving kind of slow, eh?

Copyright 2005.  Walt Disney Company

CUT TO … Paris at night. With a beautiful lit-up Eiffel Tower off in the distance, Cinderella hurries along a wet cobblestone street. “Where’s the princess headed,?” you ask. Well, if you look beyond the live action limos in the foreground that are waiting at curbside, you can see a CG version of Cinderella’s pumpkin coach off in the background — waiting to pick the princess up.

CUT TO … Still on his motorcycle, Stitch pops a wheelie as he roars through a four way intersection in the middle of the desert. Seconds later, Mickey & Goofy (who — along with Donald’s nephews — are still riding in Herbie) come zooming up to this same intersection. The only problem is, Mickey’s having trouble following Goofy’s directions.

GOOFY: We’re almost there.Go left.

MICKEY: Right.

GOOFY: No, left is right.

CUT TO … The Golden Gate bridge. Still riding on the back of their live-action camel, Iago and the Genie find themselves at a toll gate. The parrot squawks down at the bridge’s toll-taker.

IAGO: No, I don’t have any quarters.

As if to back up Iago’s claim, the Genie reaches into his harem pants and turns his pockets inside out — revealing them to be empty.

CUT TO … Cinderella and her pumpkin coach, rolling down the live action Chans-Elisee. Though the real life Arc de Triomphe looms in the background, the animated princess has her head out of the pumpkin coach. She stares intently at something off in the distance.

CUT TO … Donald Duck and that tour bus full of hippos. Only now they’re driving along the top of the Great Wall of China. And — if you look closely — you can still see that one lone hippo ballerina. Still racing after the bus, trying to catch it.

An off-screen narrator (AKA “Frasier” star Kelsey Grammer) now chimes in:

NARRATOR: It’s our biggest celebration in 50 years.

CUT TO … Donald driving his tour bus, Mickey driving Herbie, Cinderella riding in her pumpkin coach, Genie, Dumbo, Rutt & Tuke have all arrived at their destination at the same time. They “Ooh” and “Aah” at something right off-camera.

NARRATOR: And everybody’s going to be there.

CUT TO … A live action boy in rural America. He runs  through his own backyard as the CG Dumbo flies overhead.

NARRATOR: The only thing missing …

CUT TO … A close-up of the smiling boy as Dumbo flies off.

NARRATOR: … is you.

CUT TO … The CG version of Dumbo flies off to a brightly-lit castle in the distance.

CUT TO … Earth as it would be seen from deep off in space. As golden fireworks erupt above the northern hemisphere, it briefly appears as if the planet is sporting Mickey Mouse ears.

NARRATOR: Logo on to find about all the new attractions coming this year to the Happiest Celebration on Earth.

Below the earth in space hangs this web address:

CUT TO … Stitch still out in the desert, sitting on his motorcycle. Clearly depressed because he’s just been pulled over the highway patrol.

Copyright 2005.  Walt Disney Company



That sounds like a pretty neat teaser ad, don’t you think? Witty, understated, with really great production values. It’s a commercial that successfully plays to the general public as well as the hardcore Disneyana fan.

(Of course, if you’re one of those “Seeing is believing” types … Well, you can just go take a look at this ad yourself by following this link over to  and then going to the “Experience the Excitement” box that you’ll find on that page. Once there, just chose the “Long”or “Short” form of the TV commercial. And you should be good to go.)

Anyway … You wanna know the best part about “Coming Home” ? With the exception of that one castle off in the distance, you never actually see a theme park in the ad. This TV commercial truly is a teaser. It shows all of these Disney characters journeying from the four corners of the map to take part in some sort of significant event that’s about to occur at the Disney theme parks.

“But what sort of event?,” you query. “And inwhich Disney theme park will it happen?” Ah — but that’s the beauty of “Coming Home.” This commercial is specifically vague. While the off-screen narrator says things like “It’s our biggest celebration in 50 years,” Disneyland’s 50th anniversary (I.E. The event that the Walt Disney Company is really celebrating here) is never actually mentioned.

“Why for?,” you query. Because were this ad to emphasize the Anaheim resort, that’s where you’d undoubtedly want to go to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event. But that’s NOT what the Walt Disney Company wants you to do, folks. The Mouse wants to spread the wealth around, so to speak.

That’s why Disney is describing “The Happiest Celebration on Earth” as ” … a salute by all 11 Disney theme parks around the world (including Hong Kong Disneyland) to the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland.” With the idea being that you don’t actually have to go to Anaheim to get in on this 18-month long festivities.

This might explain why Jay Rasulo — president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts — has been telling reporters that:

“I think of Disneyland not just as a wonderful physical space, but also as a state-of-mind … Now as we near the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland in China, we have the Disneyland concept all over the world, creating a great opportunity for us to produce a truly global celebration that conveys the international appeal and emotional equity of the Disneyland concept to connect with our guests.”

“The Disneyland concept”?! I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this, folks. Me personally, I guess I would have actually preferred it if the Walt Disney Company had kept Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration as a Southern California specific event. So that the “Happiest Place on Earth” would have gotten all the attention & acclaim that the world’s first theme park so richly deserves.

But — at the same time — I recognize that the Disney Corporation is a business. More importantly, that the Mouse has other resorts (I.E. Walt Disney World & Disneyland Paris) that could really use an influx of tourists right about now. So if the “Happiest Homecoming” helps put heads in beds in all those empty hotel rooms at Lake Buena Vista and Marne La Vallee … Well, who am I bitch & moan?

Of course, some of you animation fans out there may still bitch & moan once you realize the “Coming Home” commercial actually offers you a brief glimpse into Disney’s future. How so? Well, how many of you remember “Dumbo II,” that direct-to-video sequel to Disney’s 1941 animated classic that was supposedly cancelled because the studio (which really wanted this video premiere project to be done in CG) could never come up with a computer-animated flying pachyderm that everybody at WDFA could live with.

Well, based on how often that CG Dumbo appears in the “Coming Home” ad, this is clearly no longer a concern of the Walt Disney Company. So I’m guessing that we can expect to see a CG follow-up to this traditionally animated classic sometime over the next two or three years.

Likewise that computer-animated Rutt & Tuke that pop up so prominently in this commercial … SCTV vets Rick Moranis & Dave Thomas have been recording dialogue for “Brother Bear II” for the better part of a year now. And my understanding is that Disney is currently leaning toward to doing this direct-to-video sequel as a CG product. (Though I should also note here that “Brother Bear II” is supposed to be a film that’s very much in the spirit of “The Lion King 1 1/2.” As in: This video premiere to Disney’s Fall 2003 release will basically star Rutt & Tuke. Kenai & Koda will make a token appearance in the picture, but the moose are really the main stars of this still-in-production film.)

Anyway … In honor of “Coming Home” and all of this TV commercial’s cleverly stylized CG versions of classic Disney characters, I’ve got a trivia question for all your JHM readers out there.

QUESTION: Who was the first Disney character to be rendered in CG? And for what film/project was this classic character computer animated?

BONUS QUESTION: What’s so ironic about the company that Disney hired to do the computer animation for this film/project?

The first three JHM readers who correctly answer this question win a pound of Just Plain Joe Coffee. The first person to correctly answer both this week’s trivia question AS WELL AS the bonus question win a pound of coffee plus a limited edition “Just Plain Joe Coffee” t-shirt.

Good luck, everyone. And have a happy Monday!



I don’t know how many of you have actually already read Wade Sampson’s great article from
last Friday? You know, the one about the history of the Walt Disney Company’s participation in the Tournament of Roses Parade?

Well, due to some technical difficulties, a few images that Wade had wanted us to use to illustrate that article (including a picture of the Disneyland promotional float from the 1955 Tournament of Roses  parade as well as Walt’s appearance as Grand Marshall in the 1966 parade) weren’t actually able to be inserted into that story ’til just this morning.

So — as an extra added incentive to get JHM readers to go back & check out Sampson’s “Disney Goes to the Rose Parade” article again– we’ve added those images as well as a bonus photo. A picture of the Walt Disney Company’s entry in the 2005 Tournament of Roses parade. You know, that snazzy new purple-and-gold version of Sleeping Beauty Castle? 

So please go take a peek at that piece that now includes some very pretty pictures, okay? 


Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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