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“Adventures by Disney” to offer one-of-a-kind trips to Hawaii & Yellowstone

JHM gives you a detailed look at the pilot program that the Mouse has put together to test two non-theme-park-based vacation packages that the company will begin offering to the general public later this summer.

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Let the “Adventures” begin!

As of noon this past Monday, several hundred Disney cast members had supposedly submitted applications to be part of the “road test” for a new concept in Disney vacations: “Adventures by Disney” trips.
 
Though only 40 Disney employees (and their family members) will eventually be selected to take part in the test trips in June, I’m told that these folks are truly in for the “Adventure” of their life-time. As they get to “test drive” the Hawaiian-based “Escape to Paradise” package or the Yellowstone, Great Teton & Jackson Hole-based “Quest for the West” package.

These “Adventures by Disney” test tours represent a significant departure for the Mouse. Given that — other than a few token appearances by Disney characters during the 8 day / 7 night experience — these packages feature no stops at Disney theme parks and/or any trips on the Disney Cruise Line.

Even so, the two test intineraries that Disney has assembled for “Adventures by Disney” make these trips sound absolutely spectacular. A “must do” once the Mouse works all the kinks out and makes these vacation packages available to the general public later this summer.

“What’s so special about these ‘Adventures by Disney’ trips?,” you ask. Here. Take a look at the transcript of the ABD brochure that I’ve provided below. This will give you a full run-down of what the cast members who are taking part in these initial test tours can expect to experience:

It’s a Whole New World of Adventure

The next time you want to get away with your family, don’t just plan a vacation. Plan an adventure. Better yet, let us plan it for you. With Adventures by Disney vacations, we’ll take your family on the journey of a lifetime filled with exciting activities, fun events and unique activities. We’ll handle all of the details, from your luggage, to accomodations, to activities from the whole family. Two of our expert Adventure Guides will be your escorts, guiding you through two of the most beautiful destinations in the world, and creating the kind of lifetime family memories that you’ve come to expect from Disney.

Be One of the First

This is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be one of our first-ever adventurers. A very limited number of families will get the chance to experience and help us refine our Adventures by Disney vacations during our Summer Preview 2005 trial. We’re testing two unforgettable adventures starting in June: Hawaii’s “Escape to Paradise” and Yellowstone’s “Quest for the West.” Not only will you enjoy flexible itineraries and hassle-free traveling in a small group, you’ll have access to the kind of experiences that tourists only dream of. All you have to do is pack your bags, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. To book your adventure, call ***-***-****

Hawaii: Escape to Paradise

Crystal blue waters, miles of pristine beaches, tropical breezes and the magic of Disney. Does it get any better? As a matter of fact, it does. Because with our “Escape to Paradise,” you’ll get all this plus world-class accomodations, fine dining and your choice of exciting excursions and fun activities. Snorkel among some of the most beautiful reefs in the world. Tour a real volcano rim. Learn how to surf like a local. Or just relax and soak in the sun. Young or old, big or small, everyone in the family will experience their own litle slice of paradise.

Day 1: Aloha Adventure

When you touch down in paradise, you’ll be whisked to the JW Marriot Ihilani Resort and Spa in Ko Olina on Oahu. First you’ll meet your Adventures Guides, then you’ll be greeted in the traditional Hawaiian way, with a flower lei. You’ll have time to take in the hotel’s beautiful beach and sparkling blue lagoon before experiencing a legendary Hawaiian sunset. Then you’ll kick off your vacation with a Hawaiian feast.

Day 2: Legends of the Islands

Start your first full day on the islands with a delicious breakfast featuring fresh local fruit. From there, step back in time for an unforgettable tour of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. Enjoy lunch in Waikiki. Then the choice is yours — hike to the heights of Diamond Head for a gorgeous view of Oahu, hit the shops in Waikiki for souvenirs, or simply relax on the beach. Dinner will be served at the resort at the end of the day.

Day 3: Beach Party, Hawaiian Style

After breakfast, you’ll get the chance to see the coral reefs’ colorful residents as you snorkel in the hotel’s lagoon. Then you’ll embark on a private reef & ray excursion (An “Adventures by Disney” specialty) where you’ll be able to hand-feed the stingrays. In the afternoon we throw a Hawaiian luau on a secluded beach “Adventures by Disney” was granted special access to. Kids can build sand castles and make leis, parents can enjoy a massage session, and everyone can learn how to surf. After dinner, relax with some Hawaiian storytelling by a bonfire under the stars.

Day 4: Big Island Spirit

Today, we turn up the heat as we travel to the Big Island to explore Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park. You’ll have once-in-a-lifetime expereinces like touring a volcano rim with a geologist and hiking through a real lava tube. Back at the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, little ones can dive into a Disney-style kids-only pool party while parents can enjoy a romantic sunset dinner. At night, the whole family can get together for a moonlight snorkel.

Day 5: Hawaiian Treasures

Get ready to travel back to ancient Hawaii. After breakfast, you’ll head out on a hike with a Hawaiian guide, seaching for petroglyphs — ancient Hawaiian rock carvings used to document special experiences and occasions. The rest of the day belongs to your family, to create some special experiences of your own. At night, you’ll witness a torch-lighting ceremony and enjoy a beachfront ‘ohana-style’ dinner before watching Disney movies under the stars.

Day 6: The Ancient Island

In the morning, we say mahalo and goodbye to the Big Island and travel to breath-taking Kauai. After a private ocean-view lunch at the famous Duke’s, prepare yourself for some dramatic, stunning scenery as we tour the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific,’ Waimea Canyon. Later, we’ll arrive at your luxury hotel just in time for a lei greeting. The evening is yours to explore and enjoy on your own.

Day 7: Paradise Found

Today we set sail on a calamaran cruise around the Na Pali coast. It’s the perfect way to see Kauai’s rugged beauty, steep cliffs and famous waterfalls as you soak in the sun on deck. We’ll have lunch on board, then plunge into the crystal-blue water for some snorkel time. At night, we pull out the stops Disney-style with a private paradise farewell dinner full of Disney surprises.

Surprise Visitors: Keep your eyes open, because you never know when you might meet up with one of your favorite Disney friends.

Day 8: Aloha

Enjoy one final aloha breakfast before bidding goodbye to paradise.

————————————————————————-

Quest for the West: Jackson Hole – Grand Teton – Yellowstone

Wide open spaces, rushing rivers and roaming wildlife abound in our Quest for the West. Take your family into the awe-inspiring heart of cowboy country as we explore Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, beginning and ending our trip in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. You and your family will hit the trail hiking or on horseback, experience the thrill of whitewater rafting, fish a mountain pond or simply relax and take in the splendor of the Wyoming scenery. Between Disney and Mother Nature, you’ll be treated to the adventure of a lifetime.

Day 1: Wyoming Welcome

Upon landing, you’ll be greeted with that famous western hospitality by your Adventures Guides. The drive to Jackson Hole will give you time to check out Wyoming’s spectacular scenery and maybe even see some bison or elk. When you arrive at our hotel in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, you have time to settle into your anything-but-rustic accomodations before a private welcome reception and dinner.

Day 2: Grand Nature

Early risers can chose to start their day off with a morning wildlife hike. Then we head to majestic Grand Teton National Park for a scenic raft tour down Snake River. Along the way, keep an eye out for moose, elk, beaver, bison and bald eagles. After lunch, you can saddle up for a horseback ride, hike in the mountains or relax and enjoy the astounding views. Later, your Adventures Guides will set up telescopes for some after-dinner wildlife and star-gazing.

Day 3: Yellowstone Journey

After breakfast, we all travel by ferry across beautiful Jenny Lake to Yellowstone National Park. Once ashore, you’ll embark on an unforgettable hike past the cascade of Hidden Falls and onward to the aptly-named Inspiration Point, where you’ll see some of the most stunning scenery Mother Nature has to offer. After a picnic lunch at Colter Bay, you’ll witness the geothermic wonders of West Thumb Geyser Basin before checking into the historic and grand Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Then, we’ll seek out some evening adventure on a wildlife excursion through the park.

Day 4: Untamed Nature

The day begins with a driving tour of Yellowstone’s Grand Loop, a road that was originally formed by old wagon trails. From there, you’ll venture into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and witness the heart-stopping view from Artist Point. Then you’ll explore the rainbow colors, hissing steam and bubbling geysers of Norris Geyser Basin. Finally, you’ll travel to Old Faithful to catch a few of the world-famous geyser’s 130-foot eruptions before checking into the Old Faithful Snow Lodge or the Old Faithful Inn (one of the last log hotels in the country).

Day 5: Trail Blazers

The morning begins with a biking or walking tour of Upper Geyser basin, for more hydrothermal activitiy among the plentiful geysers, hot springs and steam-filled fumaroles. You’ll enjoy lunch back at the hotel and spend the afternoon either exploring on your own or on an exclusive Disney backcountry bike trip to Lonestar Geyser and Kepler Falls. At night, there’s a kids-only dinner with the Adventures Guides, while parents get some romantic dining time alone. Then you’ll get together for a cowboy-style scavenger hunt before bed.

Day 6: The Wild West

Today we’ll round up and head out to the Spotted Horse Ranch in Jackson Hole, with a stop along the way to snap a picture at the Continental Divide. You’ll tap into your inner cowboy at a local saloon for lunch, then have some time to check out the town. Later, the adventurous at heart can take on a whitewater rafting trip while the more subdued traveler can experience the Jackson Hole aerial tramway. Spend the evening in true Disney style, with local cowboys cooking, playing music and telling stories by the campfire.

Day 7: On the Range

Start your day off with a mouth-watering range breakfast, then tailor your day to fix your tastes. Take off for some trail riding on horseback, go fishing in a tranquil trout pond or enjoy time around the ranch with your family and the new friends that you’ve made. At night, we’ll bring our wonderful week to a close with a farwell dinner party, where we’ll dance, sing and reminisce in true Disney fashion.

Disney Friends: With “Adventures by Disney,” no two days are ever the same. Be prepared for magical Disney touches around every corner.

Day 8: Happy Trails

Fill up on a hearty ranch breakfast before waving good-bye to the great west.

————————————————————————-

 

Don’t those trip itineraries sound like spectacular? Don’t you wish that you could be one of the cast members whose families were selected to take part in the “Adventures by Disney” pilot program?

Well, just so you know, Disney employees still have to pay for the privilege of taking part in the “Adventures by Disney” test tours. The “Quest for the West” test (which departs on June 30th) is charging cast members  $1,699.00 per person for a single reservation, $1,399.00 for a double, $1,299.00 for a triple and $1,249.00 for a quad. Children 17 & under get to experience this text tour for just $100.00 per child.

The “Escape to Paradise” tours (Disney actually running two tests of its proposed Hawaiian itineraries. One that departs on June 15th and another that departs on June 25th) are even pricier. A single reservation for cast members goes for $2,299.00, a double goes for $1,699.00, triple goes for $1,499.00, quad goes for $1,399.00 and children 17 & under still get to do the tour for $100 per child.

It should be noted here that — as snazzy as these “Adventures by Disney” tours sound — they’re not actually all inclusive. While the packages that Disney put together DO include:

Accomodations at hotels & resorts
transportation and baggage handling

  • All scheduled meals
  • All scheduled group activities
  • Gratuities for bellmen, housekeepers, drivers and dining room staff

The “Adventures by Disney” tour package does NOT include:

  • air transportation between destination and home
  • gratuity for Adventures Guide

Also — due to the nature of the active intineraries that the Mouse has put together — Disney was recommending (at least on these initial test tours) that travelers be at least five years old to take part in the Hawaii “Escape to Paradise” tour and at least six years old to take part in the Yellowstone “Quest for the West” tour.

So what happens now? Well, we all sit back and hope that some of the cast members who actually signed up to take part in this test program eventually get back in touch with JHM and share some stories about their “Adventures by Disney” vacation experiences. As I understand, the Mouse will be using the feedback that they get from these Disney employees and their family members to help fine-tune these vacation packages. So that “Adventures by Disney” will be virtually bug-free by the time Mickey begins offering these same vacation packages to the general public later this summer.

Anyway … That’s your detailed look at the proposed “Adventures by Disney” intineraries. So is anyone else out there up for a trip to the islands and/or a journey ‘way out west?

Your thoughts?

Special thanks to Cent for sharing all this snazzy “Adventures by Disney” info with JHM readers.

 

 

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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