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A magic (red) carpet ride to “The Golden Mickeys”

Using photos that Jeff Lange took during his recent cruise on the Disney Magic, Jim Hill attempts to recreate what’s it like to attend a performance of the Disney Wonder’s newest stage show.

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So — let’s see — if last Sunday was the People’s Choice Awards and this coming Sunday is the Golden Globes … Then we must be right smack dab in the middle of awards ceremony season out west.

Me, personally? I take or leave award shows. But I know that there are a lot of you out there that secretly harbor fantasies of someday attending a star-studded affair like the Academy Awards. Maybe you long to stroll down the red carpet, to have your picture taken by the paparazzi.

Well, if that’s really your fantasy … Then maybe you need more wonder & magic in your life. The Disney Wonder & the Disney Magic, to be exact.

Yeah, the Disney Cruise Line has just the show for all you would-be celebrities out there: “The Golden Mickeys.” Presented once every cruise aboard both of these ships in the Walt Disney Theater, this live stage presentation is really something out of the ordinary. It features music from classic Disney films, singers, dancers, folks in character costumes all working in tandem with projected film. Not to mention that the show also gives its audience a little taste of what it’s really like to be a celebrity.

Here — using some photos that Jeff Lange took of this show during his recent voyage aboard the Disney Wonder — why don’t I try & recreate the whole “Golden Mickeys” experience for you? The fun actually starts out in the theater lobby, as you pass numerous colorful signs …


Photo by Jeff Lange.

Here, you and your family are assaulted by four relatively polite members of the papparazzi. Who snap your photograph as you stroll down the red carpet. Once you reach the end of the carpet, who should be waiting there for you but gossip columnist Rona Rivers? Who’s broadcasting live from the entrance of the theater and has nothing but good things to say about the outfit that you’ve chosen to wear to that evening’s ceremony.

Once you enter the Walt Disney Theater and take your seat, you can watch Rona continue to interview other passengers as they arrive for the event. You won’t miss a single comment that this gossip columnist gushes. Why for? Because Rivers’ comments are being broadcast live into the theater on two huge video screens that flank either side of the stage.

As the houselights come down, it’s finally time for “The Golden Mickeys” to get underway. This faux award ceremony — just like all the real award shows do — begins with an elaborate production number. Where you learn that this show is supposed to honor the Walt Disney Company’s most memorable animated features as well as pay tribute to the man who actually gave the Mouse Factory its start: Walt Disney.

Of course, this being a Disney show and all, things don’t go quite according to plan. With a drum roll, the curtain rises, revealing … an empty spotlight. It seems that the show’s master of ceremonies — who was supposed to be the ship’s captain — has suddenly been called away. Leaving “The Golden Mickeys” with no MC.

Which is how Ensign Benson — the award show’s frazzled stage manager — finds herself shoved out into the spotlight. Filling in for the captain as “The Golden Mickeys” ‘s temporary MC.

But it’s okay. Because Ensign Benson has friends in high places. Mainly Roy E. Disney, the former chairman of Feature Animation at the Walt Disney Company. Talking to the frazzled stage manager from the stage left video screen, Roy (supposedly speaking to the woman via ship-to-shore phone) says that he’s here to help. And — with that — Walt’s nephew introduces the show.

(A brief note here: Obviously, this portion of “The Golden Mickeys” was put together prior to Roy E.’s acrimonious exit from the Walt Disney Company in November of 2003. I’m told that — sometime further on down the line — the Disney Cruise Line as well as Disney Creative Entertainment [I.E. The two arms of the Mouse House who collaborated on TGM] will be making a decision about whether or not this pre-recorded piece of footage should be removed from the show. But — for the time being, anyway — Walt’s nephew is staying. Which — I know — will please a lot of you “Save Disney” fans out there … Anyway …)

“The Golden Mickeys” now officially gets underway with a film montage that cleverly illustrates Walt’s start in the motion picture business. Talking over these brief images from the “Alice” comedies as well as early Mickey Mouse cartoons, Roy E. sets the stage for Walt’s first big triumph. Which was the world’s first technicolor feature length animated film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Mind you, Roy E. can’t just say “Here are some musical highlights from ‘Snow White.’ ” This being a Disney stage show and all, you really have to lay on the hocus and the pocus. Which is why Walt’s nephew first summons up the slave of the Magic Mirror. Who — using footage from the original 1937 film — then describes a girl whose “… lips are as red as a rose, hair as dark as ebony.”

(Another brief note: In all of the Disney Cruise Line press releases, “The Golden Mickeys” is described as being ” … the most technologically advanced stage show at sea.” Well, there’s a good reason for that. The way that this stage show seamlessly blends its live performers with footage that’s been culled from classic Disney animated films is nothing short of amazing. Time and again, scenes from these memorable movies are projected onto scrims and/or the back wall of the theater. So that they either re-enforce the emotion of the moment and/or comment on the action on stage. This innovation makes “The Golden Mickeys” the sort of show that you wish the Mouse would do more of … Anywho …)

Getting back to our review now … Eventually, an on-stage scrim clears. And who’s standing on stage but Snow White herself. the littel princess leads six of the show’s singers & dancers through a musical number that features excerpts from “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Whistle While You Work.”

“But where are the seven dwarfs?,” you ask. Well, that’s where the audience comes in. Earlier in the evening, as families were making their way up the red carpet to the Walt Disney Theater, several children were recruited to take part in that night’s presentation of “The Golden Mickeys.” So now here come Snow White & Dopey — leading six little cruise passengers wearing white beards, caps and costumes. Everyone marching in step to “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho.”


Photo by Jeff Lange.

Yep, it’s a Kodak moment. A spot in the show virtually everyone in the theater ignores that “No flash photography, please!” warning.

Anyway … After the “Snow White” portion of the show is concluded, it’s time for “The Golden Mickeys” ‘s next celebrity presenter. So who’s now supposedly calling in via ship-to-shore phone but Mr. “Home Improvement” himself, Tim Allen. Tim tells Ensign Benson that he’s there to help her introduce the hero portion of the show.

According to Mr. Allen, a hero in a Disney animated film can handle any situation. “Of course, a good utility belt never hurt,” Tim continues.”Unless it’s too tight or too low.”

With that, “The Golden Mickeys” begins its hero medley. First up, it’s Quasimodo singing “Out There” from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Next (borrowing a page from Cirque de Soleil), it’s Tarzan and five monkeys performing “Son of Man” while twirling high above the stage on ropes. After that, Shang gives Mulan & her friends a martial arts lesson to the tune of “I’ll Make a Man Out of you.”


Photo by Jeff Lange.

Okay. So far we’ve had Disney princesses and heroes … So what should “The Golden Mickeys” do next? Send in the clowns!

To the tune of “Trashing the Camp” (You know? That Phil Collins’percussion piece from “Tarzan”?), Terk the gorilla leads Ensign Benson through a silly slapstick, trashcan-lid-smashing number that seems to have come straight out of “Stomp.” To add to the fun, Stitch suddenly shows up dressed as Elvis and joins in on this comic conga line.


Photo by Jeff Lange.

Sounds like a lot of fun, right? Well, of course, there are some Disney characters who think that “The Golden Mickeys” have been entirely too much fun up until this point. Which is why the villains now take over the stage.

And talk about making an entrance. First Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” appears on the big screen, as giant cloth glow-in-the-dark tentacles reach out into the auditorium and menace the guests seated in the first few rows of the theater. The next thing you know, Cruella de Vil and her miniature Rolls Royce have risen up out of the stage floor. Then the truck of the car opens and out pops Cruella’s boys (I.E. Four male dancers dressed all in spots). Who then join the fashion fiend in a rousing rendition of “Cruella de Vil.”


Photo by Jeff Lange.

And the elaborate production numbers in “The Golden Mickeys” just keep coming and coming. First Disney Legend Angela Lansbury (appearing just as Roy & Tim Allen did. In a pre-recorded sequence that is supposedly coming in live via ship-to-shore phone) introduces the “Friends” sequence in the program. Which is a hoedown featuring the characters from “Toy Story II,” who dance to the tune “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

Next up is the show’s “Love” medley. Which features numbers from “Lady & the Tramp” (“Bella Notte”), “Sleeping Beauty” (“Once Upon a Dream”), “Pocahontas” (“Colors of the Wind”) and “The Lion King” (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”). With each number featuring sets & costumes that recall the film (or — in the case of “The Lion King” — the Tony Award-winning stage adaptation of the movie).


Photo by Jeff Lange.

The show just continues to build and build. Until finally — at the “Golden Mickeys” finale — when Mick himself finally appears on stage, the audience has no choice but to stand & applaud. They have simply been beaten into submission by almost an hour of solid Disney entertainment. After a brief flash of on-stage pryro and the obligatory shot of confetti & streamers into the auditorium, the audience is then invited to join the show’s cast at “The Golden Mickeys” after-party. Which (depending on the weather) are usually held up on deck.

Of course, some guests (like Jeff) will want to take away more than just a few memories and/or photographs from their “Golden Mickeys” experience. Which was why Mr. Lange was pleased to see that the ship’s on-board shops actually carry copies of the faux statuettes that were featured in this show. Which could be purchased for a mere $24.95 and — just like Jeff did — taken home & proudly displayed as part of your Disneyana collection.


Photo by Jeff Lange

All in all, “The Golden Mickeys” show has made a fine & fun addition to the Disney Cruise Line’s line-up of nightly entertainment. Though this new stage show has only been performed on the Disney Wonder since Labor Day of 2003 (and on the Disney Magic since just last month), it’s already been drawing rave reviews from the ship’s passengers. Which perhaps explains why DCL now usually presents “The Golden Mickeys” on the cruise’s “Formal Night.” As if they were saving the best show for last.

So kudos to DCL show director Joe Calarco and choreographer Karma Camp, the two folks who basically created “The Golden Mickeys.” It’s going to be really hard for these two to top themselves. Though — from what I hear — Joe & Karma are currently giving it a shot.

To explain: Calarco & Camp are already allegedly in rehearsal with a brand-new show for the Disney Cruise Line. One that will commemorate the Disney Magic’s trip to the West Coast to take part in this summer’s “Happiest Celebration on Earth” festivities. When JHM learns more about that show, we’ll be sure to share those details with you here.

Anyway, that’s JHM’s attempt at recreating “The Golden Mickeys.” So, what do you former Disney Cruise Line passengers think? Did we get the tone & the feel of the show right?

 

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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