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A JHM exclusive: Feature Animation-Florida’s going away party

Only JimHillMedia.com takes you behind-the-scenes at Disney-MGM, where all the artists and technicians who made “Mulan,” “Lilo and Stitch” and “Brother Bear” gathered for one final blow-out this past Saturday night.

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When you look back over the past three months of Disney Company history, with all its dramatic twists and turns, all the sudden surprises … one has to wonder: How did we actually get here?

How did we get to the point where Roy Disney and Stanley Gold are on the outside of the corporation, calling for Disney’s CEO to step down? Where Pixar’s getting ready to pack up and move on, while Kermit and Co. are getting ready to move into the Mouse House? Meanwhile, Comcast is said to be readying yet another takeover bid for the Disney Company. While Michael Eisner’s job … well, it appears to be hanging on how well Disney’s Big Cheese performs at next week’s annual shareholder meeting in Philadelphia.

How did we get to this extremely weird juncture in Disney Company history? Well, if you asked me, I’d say that the first domino fell back on Friday, November 17th. That was the day that WDFA president David Stainton snuck into Orlando and — with little or no warning — suddenly pulled the plug on “A Few Good Ghosts.”

That was the event (to my way of thinking, anyway) that served as the catalyst for much that followed. The incredibly shoddy way that the artists and technicians who worked at Feature Animation-Florida were treated in the weeks that followed caught the attention of both the mainstream press as well as Disneyana fans everywhere. It was into this highly charged atmosphere that Roy and Stanley decided to launch their savedisney.com effort … and the rest of the story, you know.

But what you may not know is — this past Saturday night — the alumni of Feature Animation-Florida gathered backstage at Disney-MGM for one last time. Many of the studio’s executives, artists, animators and technicians made one final visit to this state-of-the-art facility. To talk, to drink, to reminisce … as well as to wonder why in hell Disney management could do something so stupid as to break up such a winning team.

Some of you may recall Brother Bri, the WDFA staffer who was kind enough to share his thoughts with JHM readers last month when Stainton finally officially pulled the plug on Feature Animation-Florida. Well, Brother Bri is back. This time with an admitted bittersweet take on what just happened this past Saturday night. When the talented team that made WDFA-F such a special place to work … gathered at that studio for one final fling.

Jim,

It’s hard to believe, but the last mass assembling of the Walt Disney Feature Animation-Florida crew has come and gone. No real big dramatic embarrassing speeches with fake tears from Disney management. Just a really nice night with food and games and many, many welcome faces from the WDFA-F past and present.

Among the notable mingling guests were Max Howard, that wonderful man who helped start up this studio. He was unlike any other studio head: sincerely personable, friendly, and a guy who honestly cared. It was so amazing that he showed up to help bookend the history of this place.

Also among the surprise guests were Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois, and Clark Spencer — the brilliant directors and producer who brought us “Lilo and Stitch,” arguably the Florida Studio’s finest hour and twenty minutes. Chris and Dean had such great affection for this place because they could be unbelievably creative here without Disney executives breathing down their necks. I really believe they discovered how free they felt when they came out to Orlando to work out “Mulan” ‘s story.

Clark Spencer, who was all too briefly the studio head before being placed as the producer of “Lilo and Stitch,” is one of THE most professional individuals I have ever met. He never forgot a face, and always displayed such abject humility despite his incredible communication skills. Because of these 3 men, “Lilo and Stitch” ‘s production was such a well-oiled machine. It’s a crying shame that Disney has split up that incredible team with Clark on “Wilbur Robinson,” Chris on “American Dog,” and Dean writing live action features.

Then again, that was the theme of the whole night. How could Eisner and Stainton let slip through their fingers THE premiere 2d animation staff in the world? It made me sick to my stomach to hear Eisner on “Larry King Live” (this past Friday night saying things like): “Well, everything has not moved to California. We will still be demonstrating animation in Florida. We will still be doing certain cell animation in Florida. And it’s going to be the same great attraction that it always has been. We consolidated a lot of the creative work back in California in our building, so that we could participate in the rejuvenation and the rebuilding of three-dimensional animation which really has to take place in one location.” How many times could that man drop the term “three-dimensional animation”?! … And (just) what did he mean by “doing certain cell animation in Florida”?! … Or why does that even have to take place in one location?

The question I get most often when I inform other people that I was a member of the Florida crew is, “Are they moving you out back to California?” As if all they were shutting down was the building and we were all going to be flown to Burbank on a private jet to continue the work that we all dreamed of doing as children. Jim, a SMALL minute fraction of us were offered that deal. They are retaining next to nothing of the Florida crew. We have been scattered to the four winds.

The talent has already bled away. The beneficiaries are Pixar, Sony, CORE digital, Blue Sky, Electronic Arts, and a few others. Historians will look back at this point in Disney history and ask “Why?! This doesn’t make any sense.”

The great majority of us are still languishing here hoping that work will come along. I think many people believe that LEGACY picked up all the pieces left in the debris, but even they can only afford a small handful of people. The many remaining casualties are trying to find that redirection and purpose in life.

There was a small rumour that Roy Disney might show up and speak to us. But — sadly — he never appeared. The naive fool inside of me thinks (that) he’ll oust Eisner on March 3rd, remove David Stainton, and (then) wave his magic wand and (put Feature Animation-Florida back the way) it was before all the events from the past year took place.

However, I know that’s a huge pipe dream that can never come true. A resurrection of the Florida Studio would truly have to be a miracle.

The most I can realistically hope for is the ousting of Eisner as some sort of satisfying revenge. In a way, the closing of the Florida Studio started a HUGE chain reaction that changed the face of this company. It’s amazing to recount the events of the past few months. In November, our picture was shut down. Next, Roy Disney and Stanley Gold quit. In January, they officially shut us down. Pixar secedes from the union. Comcast attempts a hostile takeover. The Muppets are taken hostage. It’s like some sort of strange war is being played out and the Florida Studio was the “Pearl Harbor” that started it all.

The saddest moment last night was when we were all being ushered out as catering packed up and they flashed the lights like they do at the library to let us know that we only had ten minutes left in our fifteen year run. No one wanted to leave. If they’d let us, we’d still be standing about right now recounting all the wonderful experiences that we shared on the backlot of the Disney/MGM-Studios.

Instead, we were given a sack full of parting gifts that they cleaned out of their storage closets and we went our separate ways.

It is too difficult to express how I truly feel right now. I’m still too close to it. All I know is that I shared in something great and it died prematurely. Our coping mechanisms have kicked in as we say things like, “It was probably time to move on …” or “This is a new beginning.” While those statements ring true, it doesn’t diminish how terrible it feels to have gone through one of the biggest mistakes in Disney history.

Jim, thank you so much for being our sounding board. I’ve CC’d this to Roy Disney and Dave Pruiksma to let them in on the events of last night ….I don’t know if you’ll hear from me again. I don’t have much more to offer you. March 19th is the last day we have to clean out our stuff before they refit the studio for whoever inherits it. Feel free to share my thoughts on your site. I just hope my words can have some small affect to put the company back on track.

Someday, I’d like to work for Feature Animation again. It was a realization of a lifelong dream …. Hopefully, the next iteration of my life will be just as satisfying and not as bittersweet.

All the best

Brother Bri

In the years ahead, when the management of the Walt Disney Company finally DOES come to its senses and realizes that it HAS TO get back into the traditional animation business again (And — trust me, folks — that’s going to happen. Sooner rather than later. Just wait ’til that glut of CG animated features that’s currently in the production pipeline hits the big screen in late 2005/early 2006. Audiences are really going to hacker for something different to look at right about then), shutting down Feature Animation-Florida is going to be seen as one of the most ridiculously short-sighted maneuvers that the Mouse ever made.

It’s going to take YEARS for Disney to rebuild its traditional animation department, to recreate the unit that once brought us such memorable motion pictures as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”

That’s perhaps why so many WDFA vets (at the Burbank studio, anyway) have opted to swallow their pride, taken salary cuts, spending hundreds of hours taking computer classes … all in an effort to hang on to their jobs at Feature Animation. Not just because they have mortgages to pay and families to support.

But rather … here, let me let one anonymous Disney animation great (a man who — I’m sure — has animated some of your favorite Disney characters over the past 20 years) explain:

“Someday, in the not-so-distant future, Disney’s going to realize that it made a huge mistake in shutting down the studio’s traditional animation unit. That our CG films aren’t going to seem all that special. That they’re going to look just like the stuff that Pixar, Blue Sky and Sony are churning out. So Disney’s animated films are going to start to look like everyone else’s do.

At that point — in order for our studio to seem special once more — Disney’s going to HAVE TO to get back into traditional animation again. The suits are going to realize that — once they see the glut of CG product that’s coming — that hand drawn stuff is going to look special to audiences once more. So the only way that Disney can differentiate itself from Pixar and the rest of the pack is by going back to what it once did sowell.

That’s why I’m hanging on here, Jim. For the day I know is coming. In two years, maybe three. When the suits suddenly realize how just badly they’ve screwed up. When they finally announce that Disney’s going to make another traditionally animated feature.

That’s why I’m staying here at the Burbank studio. When I know I could probably get a better paying job elsewhere. Because someone — when Disney Company management finally realizes that Feature Animation is broken — has to be on hand to fix it.”

It’s kind of sad, isn’t it? To read about WDFAF’s last big blow-out this past Saturday night. Then to hear how truly dedicated some of the remaining Feature Animation employees really are …pParticularly when you realize that Disney Company management doesn’t have nearly this amount of dedication and heart. Those guys are just concerned about how the stock price is doing this week. Whether the Disney corporation is going to meet its quarterly earnings projections.

It’s at moments like this that I realize that — these days — the wrong people are really running the show at the Mouse House. This is an issue that we’ll discuss at some length over the next few days.

Til then … your thoughts?

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  ExpertGriller.com 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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