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A Very “Mary” Monday Mélange

As sort of a tease for next week’s “From Page to Stage” series, Jim Hill serves up several “Mary Poppins” -related stories, including *** Van ***’s ability to see into the future, who almost played Admiral Boom in the movie as well as where to look to find a “Hidden Mary” in one of the “Poppins” books. Plus this week’s JHM readers’ trivia contest.

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Jim —

Are you ever going to finish that “Mary Poppins” series that you started back in December? Or am I going to have to come to your house and hurt you?

A fan

Not to worry, “A fan.” There’s no need for you to come up to New Hampshire and do me bodily harm. I’ve actually been hard at work on “Mary Poppins: From Page to Stage” for a couple of weeks now. And I think that the final product (which should start poppin’ up on JHM sometime next week) will be well worth the wait.

“But why has there been such a long delay between new installments in this series?,” you ask. Well, basically what happened is that — back in early January — I suddenly got a ton of brand new “Mary Poppins” – related research material dropped in my lap. Absolutely killer stuff about Walt’s dogged pursuit of P.L. Travers back in the 1940s & 1950s, all the work that was done on that proposed “Mary Poppins” sequel back in the 1980s, as well as Cameron Mackintosh’s 17-year-long effort to secure the stage rights to the “Poppins” books. Some stories that have never before been told in public before … ’til now.


Copyright The Walt Disney Company

Of course, the problem with material like this is that it’s an absolute bear to fact-check. So I’ve been sending e-mails, writing letters, making phone calls. Doing whatever I can to get ahold of people who can help me verify this stuff.

So a lot of this delay is just me, sitting around, waiting for folks who are in the know to get back to me. Which (I know) is a real drag. But it can’t be helped.

Still, most of you folks have been so nice about waiting that I thought that the very least I can do is use today’s “Monday Mélange” to share a few “Mary Poppins” related stories that — while they don’t quite fit in my “From Page to Stage” series — still make pretty interesting reading.

Take — for example — this bizarre moment from a radio interview that *** Tufeld did with Julie Andrews & *** Van ***. Back in the summer of 1964, several weeks prior to the world premiere of “Mary Poppins.”

As the host of the “Hollywood Microphone Spotlight” radio show throws out what he thinks will be a pretty innocuous question, Mr. Van *** suddenly reveals that he has the power to see into the future.

ANNOUNCER: Many of our top Broadway musicals are eventually adapted for the screen. Here in “Mary Poppins” we have a great screen musical written especially for the screen. Do any of you feel that there’s a chance that the process could be reversed? That “Mary Poppins” might eventually be adapted for presentation on the Broadway stage?

*** VAN ***: Without a doubt.

JULIE ANDREWS: But I don’t see how it can. Because that Mr. Disney did so many incredible things in the picture which would be impossible on stage.

*** VAN ***: Oh, yes. But I’m almost sure that it’s going to become a classic story.

JULIE ANDREWS: Oh, I agree there.

*** VAN ***: And someday it’ll be done in the theater. I’m just sure of it.

JULIE ANDREWS: It’s as classic as “Alice in Wonderland.”

*** VAN ***: Or “Peter Pan.”

JULIE ANDREWS: Or “Wizard of Oz” or any of them.

*** VAN ***: I think it will be done on the stage. This is going to make “Mary Poppins” as famous as “The Wizard of Oz.”

As you all well know, 40 years later, “Mary Poppins” was successfully adapted to the stage. This highly acclaimed show is currently being performed in London and is expected to open on Broadway in late 2006.

So — me personally — I find it kind of eerie that *** was able to predict (even before the movie version of “Mary Poppins” had opened!) that this Walt Disney film would eventually be successfully adapted to the stage. (Though — truth be told — this story also makes me wonder how I could persuade Mr. Van *** to pick out my Lotto numbers. Anyway …)


Copyright The Walt Disney Company

If you’d like to hear this interview for yourself, I suggest you pick up a copy of the new 2-disc “Mary Poppins” soundtrack that Walt Disney Records put out late last year. You’ll find Mr. Tufeld’s talk with Julie & *** among the extra features on Disc 2.

And — speaking of Broadway musicals — almost everyone already knows that Julie Andrews was passed over for the role of Eliza Doolittle when Warner Brothers made the movie version of “My Fair Lady” in 1964. But how many of you out there know that Ms. Andrews wasn’t the only member of the original cast of that Lerner & Loewe musical that Walt Disney recruited to be in “Mary Poppins”?

Strange but true, folks. But — if you throw the 40th anniversary edition of “Mary Poppins” into your DVD player and play this film in “Poppins Pop-up Fun Facts” viewing mode — you’ll learn that Stanley Holloway (I.E. The actor who played Eliza’s ne’er-do-well dad) had not only been recruited, he had actually been cast as Admiral Boom in this Disney film. And that the Sherman Brothers had even gone so far as to write a comic number for Holloway to perform in the picture!

So why did veteran character actor Reginald Owen wind laying this role in the finished film? Well, Stanley (just like Julie) had a clause in his contract that said that — if Warner Brothers contacted Holloway and asked him to recreate his Tony Award winning role in the movie version of “MyFair Lady” — that Disney had to agree to let Stanley bow out of “Mary Poppins.”

Of course, when Holloway accepted this part in “Poppins,” he only did so because Stanley believed that he wasn’t going to be cast in the “My Fair Lady” movie. After all, Hollywood was rife with rumors about how Jack Warner only wanted stars to appear in the movie version of this Lerner & Loewe musical. With the head of Warners supposedly contacting Cary Grant to see if he’d be interested in playing Professor Henry Higgins as well as trying recruit screen legend Jimmy Cagney to play Alfred P. Doolittle.


Copyright The Walt Disney Company

So — since the chance to recreate his role in “My Fair Lady” seemed to have eluded Holloway — Stanley was happy to accept the consolation prize. Which was to accept a nice check from Walt Disney Productions to appear beside Julie again in “Mary Poppins.” As well as perform the comic number that Richard M. & Robert B. Sherman had written expressly for this British musical hall vet to perform in the picture. Which featured lyrics like:

Who in the royal navy established that rigid time,

That firm, inflexible interval known as tea?

Admiral Boom!

Time has been my watchword: Punctuality

Though the world takes its time from Greenwich

Greenwich takes its time from me

Admiral Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!

The name for punctuality, you can safely assume …

Okay. Admittedly, it’s not “With a Little Bit of Luck” and/or “Get Me to the Church on Time.” But I’m sure that — given Stanley’s gift for stealing scenes — he could have turned this mild musical hall number into something truly memorable in the finished motion picture.

Anyway … As the story goes, Holloway was just about to fly out to Burbank to begin rehearsals for “Mary Poppins” when Stanley received a frantic call from his agent. It seemed that Jack Warner had changed his mind about casting him (Reportedly because Cagney had turned the role down). So, if Holloway still wanted to play Alfred P. Doolittle in the movie version of “My Fair Lady,” the part was his.

Obviously, Holloway did. So — per their previous arrangment — Walt gracefully agreed to allow Stanley to bow out of “Mary Poppins” so that he could then go appear in “My Fair Lady.” Following Holloway’s exit, Disney quickly replaced him with Reginald Owen.

“So why didn’t that ‘Admiral Boom’ song wind up in the movie?,” you query. Two reasons. 1) Owen wasn’t a song-and-dance man. So there was reportedly some concern at the studio that Reginald really wouldn’t be able to pull the number off. 2) More to the point,  “Mary Poppins” already had an awful lot of musical numbers. 14 total in the finished film. So — in order to pick up the picture’s pace — Walt personally cut that number out of the score just prior to the start of production.

That said — if you listen very closely — you can actually hear the music that the Sherman Bros. wrote for that “Admiral Boom” comedy song played as part of the film’s underscore whenever this blusterly character appears on the screen.

Speaking of appearances by Admiral Boom … You can see an image of Boom and his good wife (as drawn by Mary Shepard) in the upper right hand corner of this illustration from “Mary Poppins Comes Back,” the second book in the “Mary Poppins” series.


Copyright Harcourt Brace Young Classics

Now all good Disneyana fans know about “Hidden Mickeys,” right? Those trios of circular shapes that animators & Imagineers delight in stashing in movies and attractions. As sort of a tribute to the Mouse that started it all. Well, the above illustration actually reveals a precusor to the “Hidden Mickey”: A “Hidden Mary.” As in: A cameo appearance by the author & illustrator of “Mary Poppins” within the pages of their very own book!
 
To explain: In the “Balloons and Balloons” chapter of “Mary Poppins Comes Back,” the practically perfect nanny and her young charges encounter a strange old woman at the entrance to the park who’s selling balloons. Mary agrees to buy balloons for Jane & Michael (As well as their younger brother & sister, John & Barbara Banks). But only if they follow the old woman’s advice. Which is:

“Go carefully, my deary-ducks!” she warned them. “Remember, there’s balloons and balloons, and one for everybody! Take your choice and take your time. There’s many a child got the wrong balloon and his life was never the same after.”

Well, Jane and Michael do choose carefully. Which is why the Banks children are rewarded with balloons that magically have their names emblazoned on them once the balloons are inflated. What’s more, these same balloons then pull Jane, Michael, Barbara, John and Mary Poppins up into the air for a fanciful float across the park.

And soon the sky over Cherry Tree Lane is filled with other folks who have chosen wisely. Who chose balloons that had their names written on them, which then pulled these people up into the air.

Which brings us to that cameo appearance by “Mary Poppins” ‘ author and illustrator. Have you spotted them yet? If not, check out the two attractive ladies in the bottom left hand corner of the illustration.


Copyright Harcourt Brace Young Classics

One woman is cluthing a balloon that reads “L Avers.” That’s because this drawing is supposed to be a caricature of “Mary Poppins” author, P.L. Travers. While — right next to her — is a woman clutching a balloon which reads”Ma Shepa.” That’s because this one’s supposed to be the book’s illustrator, Mary Shepard.

Speaking of Ms. Shepard … P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins” books & A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” stories are linked in a rather interesting way. And — no — not just because both of these books are beloved pieces of English literature that were eventually turned into memorable motion pictures by Walt Disney. NOR because both of these films featured songs that were written by the Sherman Brothers.

No, the link that I’m talking about is more direct, but — at the same time — a lot more subtle than that. Do you think you know what the answer is? If so, send me an e-mail at jim@jimhillmedia.com before midnight EST this coming Thursday. I’ll then award a pound of “Just Plain Joe” Coffee to the three randomly selected JHM readers who get this week’s trivia question right.

Anyway … Consider the above article to be sort of a teaser for next week’s “Mary Poppins: From Page to Stage” series. Which again (I hope) will really be worth the wait.

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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