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A special go-to-the-mall & under-the-sea & behind-the-scenes & up-in-the-air edition of Why For

Jim Hill’s back with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim talks about the Celebration Center mega-mall, the “Madison’s Dive” nightclub that was supposed to be built at Pleasure Island, what the Imagineers are hoping to build behind Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. and why Tokyo DisneySea’s Tower of Terror attraction is Rod Serling-free

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First up, Tyler P. writes in to ask about:



Jim —


While my family and I were down at Disney World last week, we spent an hour or so exploring Celebration. Which was kind of fun, except for the lack of places to shop. It took us less than 30 minutes to visit all of the stores along Market Street.


Given how stunted this planned community’s retail center seems, I kept thinking that this wasn’t how it was originally supposed to be. Wasn’t Celebration supposed to have some sort of Disney-designed mega-mall located right nearby? I distinctly remembering hearing about something like that back in the early 1990s as part of the “Disney Decade” announcement. Since JHM seems to specialize in stories about things that Disney never built, I was wondering if you had any info to share about this particular project?


Tyler P.


Dear Tyler P.


Yes, Celebration was originally supposed to have had its very own mega-mall built right nearby: Celebration Center. And this project would have been huge. At full build-out, this enormous complex was supposed to have featured 2 million square feet of retail space.


Mind you, Celebration Center wasn’t going to offer your typical warm, fuzzy Disney shopping experience. As designed by noted architect Helmut Jahn, this enormous retail complex was supposed to have been sleek & modern.



Copyright 1991 The Walt Disney Company


Of course, recognizing that the kiddies would really get bored if Mom & Dad were to spend an entire day in Orlando shopping, Jahn wanted Celebration Center to feature this enormous ferris wheel.


Me personally, I don’t know if that ferris wheel would have been such a hot idea. After all, if you’re a kid … What could be worse than having to waste a day of your family’s WDW vacation on shopping? Well … How about if this place (where you really didn’t want to be ) then had a ride that was just tall enough to allow you to see the places where you really did want to be (I.E. The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) looming off in the distance. Talk about your cruel & unusual punishments.



Copyright 1991 The Walt Disney Company


As for the rest of the complex, Disney envisioned Celebration Center as being this international shopping district. Which would feature flagship stores for noted European & Asian retailers like  Harrods or Mistsukoshi.


In the end, the sheer ambition of Celebration Center ultimately did the project in. Given what the Walt Disney Company was going to have to spend in order to turn Helmut Jahn’s sleek, modernistic dream into a reality … That — plus (just about this same time) the Florida Mall announced that it was about to undergo a major expansion. This news — coupled with the revamping of Orlando’s Fashion Square Mall and the announcement of the Mall at Millenia project … seems to have given the Mouse second thoughts about the whole mega-mall plan.


Which is why the residents of Celebration still have to leave their perfectly groomed planned community if they want to do any serious shopping these days. Because yet another “Disney Decade” project failed to make it off the drawing board.


And speaking of things that didn’t it off the drawing board, Melissa B. writes in to say:



Dear Mr. Hill —


I just discovered your website. I’ve never before come across such a treasure trove of stories about Disney theme park attractions that never got built. Where do you get all of your information?


One story of yours (“The Big One That Got Away: Madison’s Dive”) really fascinated me. Given that I (just Mr. Eisner) am a big fan of “Splash“, I was wondering: Is there artwork out there that would show what this proposed Pleasure Island nightclub would have looked like?


I’ve spent the past few days reading through all of your old stories. It’s been so much fun trying to catch up on everything I’ve missed. Please keep up the great work.


Sincerely yours,


Melissa B.


Dear Melissa B.


Thanks for your kind words about the site. Now, regarding “Madison’s Dive” … To be honest, the only images that were ever released to the public of this proposed Pleasure Island nightclub appeared in the early, early press kits for this project. We’re talking 1986, 1987 here (Almost 20 years ago).


Now — if you look at this black & white photograph of a Pleasure Island concept painting (which gives you an aerial view of what the Imagineers originally hopes WDW’s night-time entertainment district would look like) — virtually at the dead center of this image …



Copyright 1987 The Walt Disney Company


… you’ll spy “Madison’s Dive.” Here. Let me throw in a close-up of this proposed PI addition. So that you can then get a better sense of the exterior of this nightclub would have looked like.



Copyright 1987 The Walt Disney Company


Now what’s kind of cool about the marquee that the Imagineers had wanted to build for “Madison’s Dive” was that it was supposed to have featured an over-sized mechanical version of Darryl Hannah. Which would have flicked her mermaid tail up & down, up & down … With the hope that this kinetic device might then draw the attention of people walking through Pleasure Island. Make them that much more compelled to go check out that particular nightclub.


Unfortunately, as PI’s construction costs continued to spiral out of control (When work on WDW’s night-time entertainment district was finally completed, this project had come in a staggering 300% over-budget), “Madison’s Dive” was one of the first things to get cut.


But the guys from WDI … They never forgot about that sexy mermaid with the swishy tail that they had intended to install as part of the marquee for “Madison’s Dive.” So when word came down from Burbank that Eisner wanted a store built at PI that was themed around the Jessica Rabbit character from the 1988 Touchstone Pictures release, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” … Well, the Imagineers knew just what they wanted to do.


So — instead of a blonde mermaid that flicked her tail — Pleasure Island got an enormous curvy redhead who slowly swung one leg back and forth. Which ultimately achieved the same effect. As least as far as the men who visited PI were concerned.


Anyway … Next up, BlackCherryVanillaCoke writes in to ask about a certain piece of backstage property at Disneyland.



Jim —


As a cast member at Disneyland, I’m always fascinated by these stories about these new “lands” (Like International Street, Liberty Street, Edison Square, Chinatown and Hollywoodland)



Early concept section for Disneyland’s Hollywoodland
Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company



… that the Imagineers have wanted to build between Main Street U.S.A. and Tomorrowland over the years. Given how little actual room there is back there (You should how we have to struggle in order to get all the units from the 50th anniversary parade properly parked back here), I just can’t believe that Disney would have ever been able to get a decent “land” built on this tiny bit of real estate. Yet for decades now, this particular piece of proprerty has continually been in play.


Speaking of which, a friend of mine recently observed a survey team backstage at Main Street U.S.A. These guys supposedly spent hours on both the Adventureland and Tomorrowland sides to the street carefully measuring things.


So does a WDI survey team backstage at Main Street U.S.A. mean that there’s yet another new “land” in the works for this part of Disneyland? And if so, where are we going to park the parade floats after they build this thing?


Dear BlackCherryVanillaCoke —


Actually, based on what I’ve been hearing, those 50th anniversary parade floats can continue to be parked just where they’ve been parked for the past 30 years. The reason that those survey teams have been poking around the backstage areas along Main Street U.S.A. is that … Well, the Imagineers may be revisiting an idea that was first proposed for this Anaheim theme park back in the 1970s. Which involves building enclosed walkways on both the Tomorrowland & Adventureland sides of the street. Which would then (in theory) improve guest traffic flow at Disneyland on those busy summer nights and/or over the holiday season.


I mean, anyone who’s ever been to “The Happiest Place on Earth” on a hot July night will tell you that this place is anything but happy right after the fireworks go off. How you can literally stand body-to-body for 10 minutes or more as Main Street U.S.A. gets ungridlocked. As Disneyland cast members — as they frantically wave those flashlights — struggle to get tens of thousands of people on the move again.


Of course, given that there’s currently only one way in and out of the park for day visitors at Disneyland (For the moment, let’s forget the monorail to the Disneyland Hotel, okay?), this has always been the place where congestion is at its worse at the Anaheim theme park. Where tempers inevitably flare because some poor slob in the crowd is tired of having strollers bang into the back of his legs.


This is why this walkways (Which — in some version of this plan — are also called arcades) keep getting proposed for construction at Disneyland. The Imagineers keep talking up how much more pleasant a visit to the company’s first theme park would be if each & every guest didn’t have to be funneled down Main Street U.S.A. If there were also designated over-flow areas out behind Tomorrowland and Adventureland which could then be used to handle the crowds.


Mind you, not everyone at Disneyland is all that enthusiastic about the idea of these enclosed walkways finally being built. I hear that the people in charge of the Emporium are particularly incensed that a certain portion of their possible customers might soon be able to slip out of the theme park without first being tempted to purchase an over-priced Disneyland t-shirt or coffee mug.


“But why — after all these years — is this idea now suddenly gaining momentum?,” you ask. Well, after dealing with all the crowd-control nightmares that “Remember … Dreams Come True” caused last summer. And the marathon-length lines that the Anaheim theme park has begun experiencing in the wake of this week’s re-opening of the Johnny Depp-utized version of “Pirates of the Caribbean.”


Now add to that the enormous crowds that are expected to come to Anaheim next year to experience the “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.” Plus the people who will be coming back to Disneyland just to see the Will Turner & Elizabeth Swann AA figures that are scheduled to be installed in “Pirates” next spring.


Then add to that the control-control issues that will inevitably erupt when Disneyland gets its all-new edition of “Fantasmic!” as well as the fireworks show that’s going to replace “Remember … Dreams Come True” … And … Well, it looks like the Main Street U.S.A. area is going to be severely congested for at least the next five years. Which is why Disneyland could use these enclosed walkways sooner rather than later.


“Is there any other reason that the Imagineers are pushing for this particular project now?,” you continue. Well, yes. There is the John Lasseter / Bob Iger factor. There’s a belief at WDI that these two guys actually “get it.” That not everything at Disneyland has to make money. That things can be built & installed at the Anaheim just because they’re aesthetically pleasing and/or because they improve the guest’s experience.


Mind you, there are no guarantees that Lasseter & Iger will continue to “get it.” That they — just like Eisner did — may eventually be seduced by the bottom line. Always see things in a “How much is this going to cost us and how much do we stand to make” sort of way. Which is why — once again — the guys at WDI are trying to ram the Disneyland-enclosed-walkways project through.


Mind you, there’s absolutely no guarantee that this project will ever be greenlit. After all, the Liberty & Discovery Arcades have been successfully moving guests around the congestion in the Main Street U.S.A. area at Disneyland Paris for nearly 14 years now … And yet Disney Company executives have (to date) shown no real inclination to ship this obviously-successful concept stateside.


Ah, but that the nature of the Imagineer, folks. You carefully nurse along and safeguard an idea. With the hope that someday the right executive will suddenly take a liking to your idea. Which is how notions that are scribbled on napkins eventually become fully-funded realities.


Of course, sometimes ideas undergo intriguing changes on their trips from the drawing board into reality … Which brings us to our final question of the day. Where CrazyQuilt asks me about the Tokyo DisneySea version of the Tower of Terror. He writes:



Jim — 


Is what I’m hearing about the TDS version of TOT true? That this version of the attraction won’t make any reference to the “Twilight Zone” TV show? How is this new thrill ride ever going to thrill anyone if it doesn’t set the stage properly by first having Rod Serling establish the premise of the show? Without Serling and all of those “Twilight Zone” trappings, it would seem to me that Disney’s Tower of Terror just then becomes your average freefall attraction. The sort of thing that you can find at virtually any amusement park.


I thought that the Oriental Land Company was all about doing things right. Insisting that the attractions that are built for their two Disney theme parks are even better than the U.S.A. originals. So what’s the point of building a brand-new Tower of Terror if you don’t include Rod Serling and all that “Twilight Zone” stuff. Rod is god, you understand.


If you could explain why Tokyo DisneySea is “Twilight Zone” -free (Was it money-related? Was the Oriental Land Company unwilling to acquire the Japanese rights for use of this TV show in their theme parks?), I’d really appreciate it.


Thanks for all the great stories.


KrazyQuilt


Dear KrazyQuilt —


Relax. There’s no sinister conspiracy behind the Imagineers’ decision to make the Tokyo DisneySea edition of “Tower of Terror” “Twilight Zone” free. To be honest, this decision was made because … Well, Japanese theme park goers aren’t all that familiar with this 1960s era TV show. More importantly, Rod Serling isn’t an instantly recognizable cultural icon in Japan the way he is here in the U.S.


Which is why the guys at WDI eventually decided to create another mythology for TDS’s TOT. One that’s built around eccentric billionaire Harrison Hightower and the mysterious artifact that seems to have done him in … 


I know, I know. It may seem like heresay to some of you “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” fans to think that a version of this attraction could ever be built without Rod Serling and his clipped narration succinctly setting the stage for the thrills & chills that follow.


But what you folks need to understand is that Disney-MGM’s “Tower of Terror” project had been in development for a number of years before Mouse House attorneys were finally able to make a deal with Carol Serling (I.E. Rod’s widow). Which then allowed the Imagineers to begin weaving elements from the classic 1960s TV series into the attraction.


Up until that point, the “Tower of Terror” was pretty much just as KrazyQuilt described it: Just another version of Freefall. Only this time around, the modern amusement park favorite would be found inside of an old abandoned Hollywood hotel …  



Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company


… Only guests wouldn’t to experience the terrors to be found in that tower …



Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company


… until they’d spent some time wandering the corridors of this long-empty building. Where (it’s been said) a famous Hollywood director — who’d lost his home, his wife and (eventually) his mind because he wasn’t able to successfully make the transition from directing silent films to talkies — still wander the halls. Seeking to get his revenge on those fickle film-goers who turned their backs on him.



Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company


Back in those days, the climax of the “Tower of Terror” was supposed to come as your service elevator reached the very top of the shaft at the Hollywood Hotel. Once there, you were supposed to look up through the wire mesh that cover the ceiling of the elevator and then spy this insane old movie director sawing through the cables. As he yelled “Cut!” … The last strand of cable was supposed to snap. And your service elevator was then supposed to plunge down into the darkness of the basement.


There are still those at Walt Disney Imagineering who believe that the storyline that was originally proposed for the “Tower of Terror” was actually much stronger than the one that piggy-backed on the mythology of “The Twilight Zone.”


Me? I have to admit that I find that first storyline rather intriguing. But — that said — I also recognize that, by attaching the “Twilight Zone” name to “The Tower of Terror,” that did give this MGM addition instant name recognition. So — in the end — acquiring those rights from Rod Serling’s widow was probably a very smart way to go.


But even so, given how strong the Harrison Hightower mythology is, I have no doubt that TDS’ version of TOT will be a huge success when this new thrill ride finally opens at that theme park in early September.


And speaking of which … This is already a pretty huge edition of “Why For.” Which is why I think I’ll close now and start getting ready for next week here at JHM. Where we’re going to have even more stories about “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” So be sure to come on by to learn about how Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and Gore Verbinski conspired to turn “The Curse of the Black Pearl” (which was originally intended to just be a stand-alone film) into the first installment of a full-blown trilogy.

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.

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“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.

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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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