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“Ant-Man” director Peyton Reed recalls working with Disney Legend Dean Jones

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As the director of Marvel's most recent summer blockbuster,
Peyton Reed has a lot to be thankful for these days.

" 'Ant-Man' was a fantastic experience. The cast was amazing,"
Reed admitted during a recent phone call. "I'm really pleased with the way
the finished film turned out. And I'm hoping that we get to do a
follow-up."


Peyton Reed (L) confers with Paul Rudd on the "Ant-Man" set.
Copyright Marvel / Disney. All rights reserved
 

Mind you, 20 year ago, Peyton wasn't who Studios hired to
helm their effects-filled franchise films. He was the guy you hired to create
the Special Features that then got tacked on to the VHS version of these sorts
of movies. Behind-the-scenes featurettes like "Through the Eyes of Forest
Gump" and "Secrets of the Back to the Future trilogy."

Speaking of "Back to the Future" : Back in the
early 1990s, Reed co-wrote "Back to the Future — The Ride." And given
how hugely popular that theme park attraction was when it premiered at
Universal Studios Florida back in May of 1991, Walt Disney Imagineering sought
Peyton out and offered him the opportunity to direct certain elements of
"Honey I Shrunk the Audience." And that project turned out so well
that Mouse House managers then asked Reed if he'd be interested in helming some
TV movies for ABC's "Magical World of Disney."

"At that time, Disney was looking to take some of the
films that the Studio had made back in the 1960s & 1970s and reimagine them
as TV movies that then could air on the Disney Sunday Night Movie. And given
that I'd grown up watching 'The Wonderful World of Disney' every Sunday night
on NBC — more importantly, that I'd seen a lot of those movies when they were
originally released theatrically (I think that Disney's 'The Love Bug' may have
been the very first film I ever saw in a theater) — I jumped at the chance to be
part of this project," Peyton enthused.


Dean Jones in 1968's "The Love Bug." Copyright Disney. All rights reserved

Which isn't to say that Reed was immediately given the keys
to the (Magic) Kingdom. These TV movies for ABC's "Magical World of
Disney" were made for very little money ($2 – $3 million each) and on an extremely tight production schedule.

"It was 20 days of prep, a 20 day-long shoot and then
20 days of post. That was fast," Peyton recalled. "But I loved making
these TV movies. They were really great training for a new director like myself
in terms of learning to be prepared and then having to pull together a quality
finished product really, really fast."

But while that 60 day-long production schedule was set in
stone by studio execs, Disney did give Reed considerable leeway when it came to
casting these TV movies. Which is why he & Allison Jones (who is now known
for the brilliant work she does casting Judd Apatow & Paul Feig's projects.
But — back in the mid-1990s — Jones was just getting started in the biz)
really went to town. Loading up the first TV movie version that Disney had hired Peyton to do (i.e., a reboot of that
1969 Kurt Russell vehicle, "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes") with up
& coming comics as well as veteran character actors.


Copyright ABC / Disney. All rights reserved

"So if you look closely at the cast of 'Computer,'
you'll see people like Jeff Garlin from 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' at the very
start of his television career. But at the same time, because Allison & I
are such huge film nerds, we cast Charles Lane
as Regent Yarborough. And Charles' career goes all the way back to Frank Capra
films like 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'
& 'It's a Wonderful Life.' Not to mention his work in television on shows
like 'I Love Lucy'  and 'The Andy
Griffith Show,' " Reed enthused. "If memory serves, Charles
Lane was 90 years-old when we shot 'The Computer
Wore Tennis Shoes.' That was the very last work he did on camera. And Charles
was fantastic. Still really sharp and funny."

But given that Peyton was directing this "Computer Wore
Tennis Shoes" redo for Disney and given who starred in all those movies
that Reed had seen as a kid … Well, there was just no way Peyton could
proceed with this production without reaching out to Dean Jones. Which is why
Reed was thrilled when Jones agreed to play the villain in this TV movie (i.e.,
Dean Carlson, who tries to woo Dexter Riley [played by Kirk Cameron of
"Growing Pains" fame] away from Medfield College to its arch-rival,
Hale University).

"And what was great about working with Dean —
especially when we shot on the Disney Lot — is that he'd then talk about what
it was like to work with Walt. And how he just loved making those movies for
the Studios in the 1960s & the 1970s because they were pictures that the
whole family could go to," Peyton recalled. "The other pleasure — at
least from my point-of-view of sitting behind the camera — was to just watch
this guy work as an actor. There was a real precision there to Dean's timing
and his natural, reactive acting that was just amazing, made him a real
pleasure to watch."


Dean Jones and Walt Disney. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"I got the same sort of feeling as I was watching
Michael Douglas work on 'Ant-Man.' He — just like Dean was — is this
consummate professional," Reed continued. "But then you have to
remember that both of those guys started in TV. Dean did a lot of television
back in the early 1960s before he started making movies for Disney. And Michael
— of course — did 'The Streets of San Francisco' before he started his
amazing film career. And it's not just that these guys were well trained. Jones
& Douglas spent so much time in front of a camera before they started
making films that they knew — almost instinctively — how much is too much. That
just a little can speak volumes sometimes. So when you watch these guys work,
it almost feels like this whole other era of screen acting."

Anyway … Given how much Peyton had enjoyed working with
Dean, when Disney — as a follow-up to Reed's highly successful reboot of
"The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" — asked him to do the same with
1968's "The Love Bug," he immediately reached out to Jones to see if
he'd be interested in reprising his role as race car driver Jim Douglas.

"But we almost didn't get Dean for this 'Love Bug' TV
movie because whoever was running the TV movie division of Disney / ABC back
then was very cost conscious. For his role as Dean Carlson in 'The Computer
Wore Tennis Shoes,' the Studio had provided Dean with these three beautifully
tailored suits.  And I remember Dean
saying that 'I'd love to get these suits.' That used to be a thing, by the way.
That the Studio would allow actors — especially those who played the lead
roles — to take home certain wardrobe pieces upon completion of
production," Reed explained.


Walt Disney and Fred MacMurray on set for "Follow
Me, Boys!" Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Having interviewed dozens of Disney Legends
over the past 35 years, I can verify Peyton's story. More to the point, Jones
asking that he be allowed to take home those three tailored suits was nothing
compared to what Fred MacMurray used to do when he worked for the Mouse House.
People who worked on "The Absent-Minded Professor" and "The
Happiest Millionaire" still talk about how — once these Walt Disney
Productions were complete — Fred would not only take home all of his wardrobe
but also the hairpieces that the Studio had created for his character to wear.
I've even been told of a time where MacMurray (who was notorious for being one
of the thriftiest guys in Hollywood) — after presiding over a scene where
Thanksgiving dinner was being served — insisted that he then be allowed to
take home the cooked prop turkey that his character had just carved.

Getting back to Dean Jones and his tailored suits now …
Jones was understandably miffed when Mouse House accountants wouldn't allow him
to take home these three wardrobe piece. Especially since — back when Walt was
running the Studio — this was standard operating procedure.

"And the real irony of this whole situation was — that
very same year — The Walt Disney Company declares Dean a Disney Legend. So
there's this elaborate ceremony on the Lot when Dean
gets to put his handprints in cement. And all of Disney upper management turns
out to tell Dean how much they appreciate his contributions to the Studio's
history. And yet there's still this one accountant somewhere who won't allow
Dean to have those tailored suits. Who's insisting that three pieces have to go
back to Wardrobe and be warehoused," Peyton continued. "This
seriously caused Dean to have bad feelings towards Disney. In fact, if he
hadn't had such a good time working on 'The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes,' if he &
I didn't have such a good personal working relationship, I doubt that he would
have come back to work on that 'Love Bug' TV movie."


Bruce Campbell and Herbie in the 1997 TV movie version of "The Love Bug."
Copyright ABC / Disney. All rights reserved 

And Reed … Well, he wanted to do right by Jones. As did cult
movie favorite Bruce Campbell, who'd been cast to play Hank Cooper, Herbie's
new owner.

"As soon as I told Bruce about how stupid the Studio
was being about Dean & those tailored suits, he and I then came up with a
plan to liberate those suits from Disney's wardrobe department so that we could
then get them back to Dean. As I recall, Bruce and I bought three brand-new
suits that we then swapped out for Dean's three tailored suits. So as far as
Disney was concerned, if the Wardrobe department were to ever do an inventory,
they'd still have the exact same number of pieces hanging there," Peyton
smiled. "And let me tell you: Dean really appreciated getting those three
tailored suits back, not to mention all of the effort that Bruce & I had
put in in order to get those suits back. Which is why — I think, anyway — he
did an especially good job on that 'Love Bug' TV movie."

Reed can still recall what it was like to be behind the camera as Dean climbed
into the Love Bug and started talking to Herbie.


Jim Douglas talks with Herbie with the 1997 TV movie version of "The Love
Bug." Copyright ABC / Disney. All rights reserved 

"I remember shooting this slow dolly shot as Dean got
behind the wheel. And to me, at least at that point in my career, this felt
like an iconic moment. Dean Jones sitting in the Love Bug. As a kid who grew up
on these movies, it's hard not to feel this intense nostalgia when you're
shooting something like that," Peyton said. " But then Dean actually
began talking to Herbie, it was just … Bruce and I used to marvel at him. We
loved watching Dean work. He really was this old-school Hollywood
actor."

"Dean could turn it on whenever the cameras were rolling. He just had
it. You couldn't take your eyes off of him," Reed continued. "It's a distinctly
different style of acting than actors have today. It's precise, not fussy. Dean
had clearly done his homework as an actor and then comes in and just does it.
And it was really magical to watch."

Which perhaps explains why — when it came time for Jim Douglas to exit this TV
movie of "The Love Bug" — that Peyton decided to give Dean's
character have a classical Hollywood send-off. Have Jim
hand the keys to Herbie off to Hank and then walk off into the sunset.


Jim Douglas strolls off into the sunset. Copyright ABC / Disney. All rights reserved

"That was a deliberate choice on my part. Though I
remember — as I was shooting that scene — I suddenly had all of these
questions like 'Where is Jim Douglas going? Did he drive there in a car? Where
is he walking to now?," Reed concluded. "In the end, it didn't
matter. It just felt like such a great movie moment that this real Disney
Legend was walking off into the sunset."

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Monday, September 7, 2015

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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