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Another Monday Mélange

Jim Hill starts the week off with some Disney related news, including what Pixar may be looking for in order to extend its current deal with the Mouse House, a brief desciption of “Cars” ‘s plot, an update on Hong Kong Disneyland’s “Autopia” as well as revealing what sort of stage show cruisers can expect to see when the “Disney Magic” makes its inaugural West Coast voyage next summer.

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To the surprise of almost no one, “The Incredibles” continues

to perform mightily. This Pixar Animation Studios film pulled in an estimated

$51 million at the box office. Which was more than double what its CG

competition — Warner Brothers’ much hyped “The Polar Express”

— made over that same three day period (A relative paltry $23.5 million.

Which suggests that this ground-breaking Robert Zemekis film may have

some real problems recovering its reported $165 million production costs).

Anyway … Given that “The Incredibles” has (to date) grossed

an estimated $144 million during its initial domestic release, we can

now expect that the financial press will once again begin to sing the

same old song. About how foolish it is for Michael Eisner not to bend

to Steve Jobs’ will. How Disney’s CEO should do everything within his

powers to try & persuade Pixar to renew its co-production & distribution

deal with the Walt Disney Company.

Well … In the past, Eisner has alluded to the fact that he’s made numerous

attempts to appease Pixar. That he’s put deals on the table that — to

be frank — Disney’s stockholders would have crucified him for. If the

terms for those proposed deals had leaked out, that is.

But Jobs has rejected all of these offers. Not just because Steve personally

dislikes Michael. But — rather — because the Walt Disney Company has

flat-out refused to give up control of the one thing that Pixar’s CEO

truly covets. And that’s the ownership rights to the seven films that

Disney & Pixar have produced together — 1995’s “Toy Story,”

1998’s “A Bug’s Life,” 1999’s “Toy Story II,” 2001’s

“Monsters, Inc.,” 2003’s “Finding Nemo,” 2004’s “The

Incredibles” and 2005’s “Cars.”

You see, right now, this seven titles are co-owned by Pixar Animation

Studios and the Walt Disney Company. Which means that these two corporations

have to split all the profits from these projects — be they from the

films’ theatrical releases, DVD sales, CD-Rom games, theme park attractions

or toys — right down the middle.

And — as it stands now — there’s no expiration date of this co-ownership

deal. Which means that Disney & Pixar could be joined at the hip (Or

should I say “at the wallet”?) for decades yet to come.

And Steve … Well, as anyone who’s even remotely familiar with Mr. Jobs’

career will tell you, Steve’s not really into sharing. Jobs would genuinely

prefer it if he was the one who was calling the shots about Pixar was

going to do with all the previously produced titles in its film library.

Whereas Eisner … Well, given that the Walt Disney Company continues

to make tens of millions of dollars annually off of Mickey Mouse, a character

that made his big screen debut back in November of 1928 … I guess you

can understand why Michael is reluctant to give up the corporation’s co-ownership

rights of sure-to-be evergreen characters like Woody, Buzz, Sully, Nemo

& Mr. Incredible.

Mind you, Michael has been said to be suprisingly flexible in this situation.

Reportedly even going so far as to offer Pixar full ownership of “Cars”

if the Emeryville, CA. based animation studio would just agree to renew

its co-production / distribution deal with Disney for an additional three

movies

And — based on what I’ve heard — the terms of the deal that the Disney

Corporation had been proposing were actually very much skewed in Pixar’s

favor. With Pixar’s getting 60% of the profits from “Cars” ‘s

initial domestic release versus the 40% that the Walt Disney Company would

have received. Then — on each successive picture — the terms of this

deal would become even more favorable toward Pixar. With a 70 / 30 profits

split proposed for Film No. 8, an 80 / 20 split on Film No. 9 and a 90/10

split on Film No. 10.

Yeah, Pixar was to have owned “Cars” and Films 8, 9 & 10

outright. Though — in exchange for handing over its ownership share in

this upcoming John Lasseter film — Pixar would have to agree to award

Disney certain exclusive rights (I.E. The rights to sell these titles

for a certain number of years through Buena Vista Home Entertainment;

the rights to air these films on ABC, the Disney Channel, ABC Family and

Toon Disney for a specific period as well as the rights to create rides

& attractions based on these four films for the Disney theme parks

for a set number of years.)

Based on what those who are familiar with what’s really been going on

with the Disney/ Pixar negotiations have told me, Jobs rejected this proposed

extension of the existing co-production/distribution deal out of hand.

Thinking that — if “The Incredibles” did particularly well

during its initial domestic release — Disney might come back to the table

with an even better offer.

What Steve is supposedly holding out for is a deal where the Disney Corporation

would agree to give up its ownership stake in the first seven Pixar films.

In exchange for this concession, the Walt Disney Company would then reportedly

be awarded the exclusive rights to distribute all of Pixar’s upcoming

releases through 2015.

Mind you, according to Jobs’ version of the plan, Disney wouldn’t be

sharing in the profits of these pictures. But — rather — would just

recieve a distribution fee that would be directly linked to that film’s

performance at the box office. The equivalent of 3 – 5% of the movie’s

total ticket sales.

So now maybe you can see why Uncle Mike — in spite of all the pressure

the financial community has placing on him to do whatever he has in order

to renew Disney’s deal with Pixar — has been reluctant to agree to Steve’s

terms. If Disney — on Eisner’s order — were to give up its ownership

stake in those first seven Pixar films in an effort to appease Jobs …

Well, you can imagine what Wall Street would make of that.

Which is why — taking the long view here — it may actually be in the

Walt Disney Company’s best interests to just let the Mouse’s current deal

with Pixar expire in 2005. After all, who knows if the Emeryville-based

animation studio’s current hot streak is going to continue indefinitely?

In the long run, doesn’t it make more financial sense for the Mouse to

hang onto what it’s already got (I.E. Co-ownership of the first seven

Pixar films) instead of just giving back that asset in an effort to appease

Steve Jobs, with the hope that Pixar Animation Studio remains a hit factory?

After all, Pixar’s hot streak has to end sometime, folks. Mind you, I’m

not wishing Jobs & Lasseter any ill-will here. It’s just the law of

averages, people. Not to mention the law of gravity. What goes up must

come down. Eventually, that animation studio is going to churn out a film

that under-performs. If not an outright flop.

(FYI: I hear that Chuck Oberleitner will also be looking into this whole

Pixar situation — with a particular emphasis on which company the Emeryville-based

animation studio may be hooking up with if their distribution deal with

Disney does in fact fall through — tomorrow over at O-meon.com. So be

sure to head on over to that website tomorrow to hear what Mr. Oberleitner has to say.)

Anyway … Speaking of Pixar: Animation fans — even as they sing “The

Incredibles” ‘s praises — have been buzzing lately about how lackluster

that “Cars” teaser trailer seemed to be. How this first look

at that upcoming Pixar release just didn’t have same zing or pop that

the “Monsters, Inc.” teaser (Where Mike & Sully accidentally

wound up in the wrong bedroom) or “The Incredibles” advance

trailer (Where Mr. Incredible struggled mightily to put on his belt) did.

Me personally? I think that it’s a little early in the game — based

just on Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy’s brief performances in the

“Cars” trailer — to totally write off this John Lasseter film

as a flop. The finished film (as I understand it) is sort of an automotive-based

redo of a Michael J. Fox comedy, “Doc Hollywood.” I don’t know

how many of you will recall that 1991 Warner Brothers release. This is

the film where Fox plays this hotshot young doctor who — while he’s driving

out to Beverly Hills to begin a career as a plastic surgeon — has a traffic

accident in the sleepy little town of Grady, South Carolina. In lieu of

paying for all the property damage that he caused with his automobile

accident, Michael J. is sentenced to do several days worth of community

service at the local hospital. And — while Fox interacts with Grady’s

eccentric residents — he learns that there’s a lot more to life than

just big bucks and Beverly Hills.

Well, were you to substitute Lightening McQueen (I.E. that’s the name

of the race car that Owen Wilson is providing vocals for) for Michael

J. Fox’s self-absorbed surgeon, you’d have some idea how “Cars”

‘s story eventually plays out. FYI: There’s another intriguing link between

these two films: Sitcom vet David Ogden Stiers played the mayor of Grady,

S.C. in “Doc Hollywood.” Well — in “Cars” — this

one-time Disney Feature Animation favorite is supposedly voicing the role

of the mayor of Radiator Springs, the sleepy little burg just off Route

66 where Owen Wilson has his accident in the film. That’s a neat bit of

trivia, don’t you think?

Speaking of “Cars” … In a recent JHM column,

I talked about how the characters from “Cars” were initially

supposed to be folded into Hong Kong Disneyland’s “Autopia”

attraction. But now — thanks to the way this Tomorrowland favorite is

being rushed into HKDL — that proposed “Cars” tie-in appears

to have been gone by the wayside.

Well, one Imagineering insider recently wrote to me to tell me that I

may have missed the really big news about Hong Kong Disneyland’s “Autopia.”

Which is:

This is going to be the first all-electric version of “Autopia.”

So no more nasty gas fumes. Plus — for the first time ever — these

cars will have proximity sensors built into them. So that Hong Kong

Disneyland guests will never be able to experience the joy of being

rammed from behind by some 8-year-old who’s never driven a car before.

That’s the aspect of Hong Kong Disneyland’s “Autopia”

that the ops staff at Disneyland and WDW’s Magic Kingdom are most excited

about. Not the proposed “Car” overlay. But new “Autopia”

vehicles that are enviromentally friendly and significantly safer than

the ones we run in the stateside parks right now. Just the idea that

all of those nuisance “Autopia” lawsuits would possibly go

away forever has Disney’s attorneys pushing to have the all-electric

version of this Tomorrowland attraction installed at the stateside theme

parks as soon as possible.

Speaking of Hong Kong … There’s been a lot of talk lately that the

Disney Cruise Line may be looking to follow up next summer’s series of

Southern California cruises by sending the “Disney Magic” out

to the Orient for 2006. With the idea being that this elegant cruise ship

would then play a significant part in Tokyo DisneySea’s 5th anniversary

celebration. And — after that — it would then ferry a whole boatload

of journalists over to Pennys Bay to check out Hong Hong Disneyland.

Of course, that’s just a “Blue Sky” project for now. For the

immediate future, what the folks at Disney Cruise Line are mostly concentrating

on is making next summer’s Southern California cruises just as special

as possible. Which is why they’ve ordered up a brand new stage show. Which

will be presented in the Walt Disney Theater in rotation with the award-winning

“Disney Dreams” and “The Golden Mickeys” stage shows.

Speaking of which … Auditions for this new Disney Cruise Line show

are actually being held today in NYC at the Ripley-Grier Studios down

on 8th Avenue. So — if any of you song-and-dance types out there have

ever dreamed of being in a Disney stage show — Well, now’s your chance.

So go pull on a leotard and head down to Suite 16 between 10 a.m. &

1 p.m. Break a leg, okay?

Anywho … That should be enough Disney-realted news for a Monday morning.

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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