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A.M.P.A.S. Voices of Character event showcased the talented performers behind your favorite cartoon characters

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You've heard "How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria," right?
The song that the nuns sing in "The Sound of the Music" when they're fretting
about that novice's behavior? Well, have you ever wondered what that Rodgers
& Hammerstein song might sound like if Roz from "Monsters, Inc." had sung
it?


Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved

If so … Then you should have been at the Samuel Goldwyn
Theater back on August 19th. When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences – as part of its Marc Davis Celebration of Animation – presented a
"Voices of Character" panel.

Moderated by noted author & animation historian Charles
Solomon, this was an evening that animation fans will remember for years yet to
come. Given that this "Voices of Character" panel featured appearances by
industry vets like June Foray, Russi Taylor, Susan Egan and Yuri Lowenthal. Not
to mention Pixar screenwriter Bob Peterson's singing nun impression.

The evening actually got underway with this terrific clip
reel that Les Perkins had created. The short montage featured a myriad of
actors in live-action films followed by clips of their famous animated
performances.   The audience in the
Samuel Goldwyn Theater reeled with delight as they watched Lucille La Verne
make her unmistakable cackle in a live-action film from the 1930s, which  was then reprised instantly in her iconic role
as Snow White's Wicked Witch.  The clips
oscillated from live-action actors – both legendary and almost completely
forgotten – to their animated counterparts, each unforgettable.  The brilliantly edited clips featured
everyone from Roy Atwell, first on-screen, then as the voice of the dwarf Doc,
to Eddie Murphy in Bowfinger then as Donkey in Shrek.


Charles Solomon moderated the Voices of Character
panel at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Photo by
Richard Harbaugh. Copyright  2010 A.M.P.A.S.
All rights reserved

The audience was then treated to a short clip of Monsters
Inc. where the dialogue changes to 30 different foreign languages.  The audience simultaneously giggled at the
foreign languages emanating from these familiar characters, and marveled at the
work it takes to produce these dubs and make them true to the story in so many
different cultures.

Then Rick Dempsey (i.e. senior VP of Disney Character Voices
International), animation master James Baxter and Bob Peterson took to the
stage. Where Solomon asked the panelists when the voice of the character first
enters their minds.  Baxter responded,
"from the instant you see the first  artwork of a character… the possibilities
start to open up.  And of course, once
you cast an actor, that may affect the design of the character in the end as
well." 

Peterson offered a different take on Solomon's question.  "When the character's flaw comes in, you know
(you need someone who can then) balance that flaw."  He went on to explain that Woody's unlikeable
behavior necessitated casting an actor like Tom Hanks who had inherent likeability
that could then balance that flaw.  Up's
Carl Frederickson was grumpy for a lot of that movie.  Which is why Ed Asner was the perfect voice actor
to make that Pixar character appealing.


James Baxter offered up his thoughts at last month's Marc Davis Celebration of
Animation.
Photo by Ivan Vejar. Copyright 2010 A.M.P.A.S. All rights reserved

James added modestly, "With a good voice, all of your work
is done.  You pray for a rich, juicy
voice. Then you just have to not drop the ball."

Baxter talked about the unique situation with Enchanted's
Giselle.  Her animated design was tailored
to reflect the live actress who was cast to play her – Amy Adams.  After showing her some of the poses of her
animated counterpart, Amy then folded some of her cartoon mannerisms that James
had created for that character into her live-action performance.  "There was more back and forth between actor and
animator in that instance," he added.

Peterson shared that Tom Hanks has stated that voice-acting
was the hardest thing that he's ever had to do, emoting with only your voice,
working alone in a small booth.  Baxter then
offered up James Earl Jones' impressions of voice-over from the production of
The Lion King.  "When recording Mufasa,
Jones likened it to the way ancient Greeks players acted behind a mask."


Bob Peterson shared some behind-the-stories about Pixar recording sessions.
Photo by Ivan Vejar. Copyright 2010 A.M.P.A.S. All rights reserved

Bob talked about Albert Brooks' approach to Marlin in
Finding Nemo.  He was a gifted ad libber
and would dial in the nuance of his character take after take.  Then they would move on to the next scene,
and Brooks would stop them and say "Ooh, I want to go back. I thought of
something else."

Speaking of ad libbing, Peterson shared an anecdote from
Billy Crystal's recording on Monsters Inc. 
At some point, Crystal's mic was unintentionally given reverb which then
created an echo effect.  And so Crystal
spent the next twenty minutes pretending to broadcast FM radio from inside of the
Luray Caverns.  The crew at Pixar was in
hysterics listening to Billy.  Inbetween
laughs, Peterson noted to the others that " … We should be paying him for this
…  Oh, wait. We are."

The next clip screened in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater featured
Walt Disney in the only known footage of him recording Mickey Mouse.  Walt performed with Billy Bletcher as Pete in
1940's Mr. Mouse Takes A Trip.  It was a
curious sight to watch tall, lanky Walt invoke this squeaky, friendly little
voice.  And watching the diminutive Billy
Bletcher bellow like a foghorn as Pete.


Walt Disney and Billy Bletcher. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

After this, June Foray, Russi Taylor, Susan Egan and Yuri
Lowenthal were welcomed to the stage with a montage of their diverse spectrum
of work  in everything from Rocky and
Bullwinkle to Spirited Away.

Animation's grande dame June Foray shared many hilarious
anecdotes from her life in voice-over. 
One of which involved her annual Halloween phone call to friend Pat Buttram.  Pat would call June in order to speak with
Witch Hazel, and receive a report on broom-flying conditions.  One year, Foray was running late from a
recording session, and so she called Buttram from a phone booth on a busy
street.  As June cackled and squealed
from the phone booth, curious passersby wondered, "What kind of nut is
that?"  The answer is obvious to us.  That's a real voice-over artist.

The panelists were asked about how much, if any, of the
performance is physical while recording. 
They all noted that it is surprisingly physical.  Russi noted that Bill Farmer bends his body
into an S-curve just like Goofy when recording the iconic character.  Yuri Lowenthal shared a story from when he
was cast as Superman for a project. 
Several sessions passed and while they were on break, the show runner asked
Yuri "if [he] always records like that?" 
Yuri didn't realize that, at each of the sessions, he had been standing
at the podium with his hands on his hips in the signature Superman heroic
stance.


Yuri Lowenthal struck a heroic pose at last month's "Voices of Character" panel.
Photo by Ivan Vejar. Copyright 2010 A.M.P.A.S. All rights reserved

In discussing the origins of Roz's voice for Monsters Inc.,
Bob Peterson shared that "… she was my lunch ladies from the 1970s, dispensing
government cheese."  It has a guttural
didgeridoo quality he noted, "But you can't make any physical noise while
recording. So you learn to act from the waist up."

Russi told a story she had heard about legendary actress
Carol Channing.  While recording
voice-over some years ago, her elaborate blouse made so much noise that it was
ruining every take.  So finally Channing took
off her shirt and finished recording in her bra.  "That's a woman."  Russi declared gleefully

June Foray noted that she's been playing Granny in the
Looney Tunes since 1957.  "I'm still
doing it. But now I'm old enough." 


June Foray proved to be an audience favorite at this Academy of Motion
Pictures Arts and Science event. Photo by Todd Wawrychuck.
Copyright 2010 A.M.P.A.S. All rights reserved

Susan Egan described dubbing anime like a jigsaw puzzle,
which is what she says really appeals to her about it.  It's such a technical process, working with the
director & writers to find just the right colloquial American word or
phrase to convey the intent of the dialogue. 
But then it also has to fit the timing of the existing mouth animation,
which changes everything all over again.   

Egan — who recorded Meg  for Hercules as she was performing in Broadway's
Beauty and the Beast — was asked if she felt her nightly stage persona
creeping into her voice recording.  "No,"
she responded, "but Alan Menken came to the show one night.  And after the show he came backstage and said
'your Meg is creeping into your Belle and I have notes for you.' "  The panelists noted that THAT was a version
of Beauty and the Beast they'd really like to see – a Belle with Meg's snark
who takes none of the Beast's crap.  Without
missing a beat, Susan dropped into Meg's voice and started snapping at the
Beast.  She referred to this as "Beauty
and the Beast 2:  The Divorce."

Susan discussed the difference between auditioning for the stage
and auditioning for voice-over.  Egan marched
in, handed them her materials and the casting personnel & directors
promptly put their heads down on the table. 
They just listened and "I felt very alone up there.  But they had a camera on me.  And sure enough, a year and a half later, I
noticed some of (my) gestures in Meg's performance." 


Russi Taylor remembered what it was like to work on some of your favorite Saturday
morning shows. Photo by Ivan Vejar. Copyright 2010 A.M.P.A.S. All rights reserved

Solomon then asked about recording in isolation and yet
creating a great sense of chemistry.  Foray
responded simply "You have to be a good actor." 
Taylor talked about the fact that this wasn't always the case.  All  of
her work on DuckTales (Huey, Dewie, Louie and Webby Vanderquack) and Muppet
Babies (Gonzo) was performed all together. 
The panelists noted that this was a rare luxury these days, and one that
they certainly relish when they have the opportunity. 

Peterson then shared an amusing anecdote of recording
Christopher Plummer's performance as Charles Muntz in Up.  Because of his long-ago experience in radio,
he physically moved past the mic, recreating the effect of falling past the
mic.  They had to tell him that they will
create the falling effect in post. 

Susan followed Bob's story by recalling the call that she
received from Disney while that they were working on the direct-to-video
feature, Lady and the Tramp II.  "Can you
sing like Alyssa Milano?,"  they asked. Without
a moment's hesitation, Egan responded "Yeah, of course. You know, it's something
— as an actor – (that)  I've been
working on for years."


Susan Egan talks about some of the sillier requests that casting
directors have made over the years. Photo by Ivan Vejar.
Copyright 2010 A.M.P.A.S. All rights reserved

The panelists then took part in a table read of the classic
Jay Ward Fractured Fairy Tale, "Aladdin." 
Bob Peterson assigned roles.  They
created voices.  Once completed, they
returned to an earlier point in the script and read again with the same actors
assigned each part, but with completely different voices.  As a member of the audience, you couldn't help
but marvel at their skill. 

June Foray talked about what a rare gift this is.  Lots of people can do funny voices.  But few can actually act, creating a
performance in that character's voice. 
Russi added, "…and keep it up, often for hours!  You have to start high energy and keep it up
or go even higher!"

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences'  Marc Davis Celebration of Animation: Voices of
Character event closed out with a montage of Mel Blanc performances. Which
easily illustrated why Blanc was called the man of a thousand voices.


(Seated) Charles Solomon, Susan Egan and June Foray. (Standing) Yuri
Lowenthal, Bob Peterson, Rick Dempsey and Russi Taylor. Photo by
Richard Harbaugh. Copyright 2010 A.M.P.A.S. All rights reserved

In short, this was one of those nights that the animation fans who were lucky
enough to be inside of the Samuel Goldwyn Theater on August 19th will
remember for the rest of their lives. And not just because they got to hear Roz
sing "How Do You solve a Problem like Maria?"

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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