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Arrrr you ready for an all-Pirates edition of Why For?

There’s plenty of POTC-related info to be found in this week’s column. Including the current status of “Pirates 4,” news on Disney’s “Legends of the Brethren Court” book series as well as a review of that I-Drive favorite, the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure



R. Noble writes in to ask:

Jim –

I just read your article about Disney’s decision not to go forward with that “Pirates of the Caribbean” character dining experience at the Magic Kingdom. That is very disappointing news for me personally. My kids are obsessed with Disney’s “Pirates” movies as well as the attraction at the Park. That’s why we had to do that Pirate tutorial as well as the “Pirate & Princess Party” the last time we were down in Orlando.

We’ll be heading down to Disney World again next year. And I’m hoping that there’ll then be some sort of new “POTC” –related attraction for my children and I to enjoy the next time we visit the resort. So do you have any good news for me?

R. Noble

Dear R. Noble –

Um … No.

Please don’t get me wrong, R. It’s not that the Walt Disney Company is actually getting out of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” business. Far from it. Disney’s long term plans for this franchise is that they want POTC to be for little boys what Disney Princess has become for little girls. Which is why the company spent tens of millions of dollars over the past few years developing that “Pirates of the Caribbean Online” massively-multiplayer game. And why Disney Press will be rolling out a brand-new “Pirates” book series — “Legends of the Brethren Court” — this Fall.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But that said … All you have to do is drop WDW Property Control and see all of those racks & racks of severely-discounted-and-yet-still-unsold “Pirates” merch … And then you realize that the Mouse severely over-estimated the public’s desire for more POTC paraphernalia back in 2006 & 2007. That supply definitely exceeded demand.

This is why the company is now pulling back its “Pirates” -related efforts a bit . As they try and get some sense of what fans of this new Disney franchise really want. Other than — of course — to see “Pirates of the Caribbean 4” released to theaters ASAP.

Speaking of that eagerly anticipated film … Earlier today, I spoke with some friends in Development at Disney Studios. And given that “Pirates” director Gore Verbinski just signed to do “Bioshock” for Universal … It looks like the Black Pearl won’t be setting sail again anytime soon.

Mind you, Disney could do “Pirates 4” with another director … I guess. But given that Johnny Depp — in all of the interviews that he did for “At World’s End” last year — was very emphatic about how he’d only agree to do another POTC movie if Verbinski and the series writers — Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio — were also on board. So to Johnny’s way of thinking: No Gore? No more “Pirates” pictures.

(L to R) Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp
on the set of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”
Copyright 2006 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But — to be honest — given that Mickey is still trying to get a handle on what the actual demand for new POTC merch might be, they’re perfectly happy to let this film franchise lie fallow for another year or two. Especially since Walt Disney Pictures — with the help of Jerry Bruckheimer — is now trying to launch two new potentially franchisable, high profile projects, “Prince of Persia” & “The Lone Ranger.” Which (Mouse House executives hope) will be considerably less expensive to produce than “Pirates 4.”

So long story short, R : What with the company deliberately pulling back on its “Pirates” -related efforts for a while … Well, there’s no real incentive for Disney Parks and Resorts to go forward with that Tortuga restaurant project that I discussed. Or — for that matter — that long-rumored “Pirates of the Caribbean” -themed water park for WDW. Not to mention the idea of adding Elizabeth Swann & Will Turner AA figures to “POTC” itself.

“But what about Mickey’s Pirate & Princess Party?,” you ask. Well, the jury’s still out on this Magic Kingdom hard ticket. Given the number of these after-hours events that were held back in April which wound up being severely under-attended due to heavy rains … Many WDW officials feel that MP&PP still hasn’t gotten a fair shake. They want to track attendance levels for May & June, see if adding Mickey’s name to “Pirate & Princess Party” really did have a positive impact on ticket sales before making a final decision here.

That said, given the huge amount of “Disney’s Pirate & Princess” merch that’s been remaindered at Property Control … One wonders how much longer the company’s going to try & keep this particular hard ticket afloat. I mean, sure. Disney spent an awful lot of money on the development of the “Magic, Music & Mayhem” fireworks show as well as on construction of those new floats for the “Enchanted Adventures Parade.” But how long do you keep throwing good money after bad? How long ’til you see “We’re not getting a big enough return on our investment. It’s time to pull the plug.”

Copyright 2006 Disney. All Rights Reserved

More to the point, WDW insiders think that it’s pretty significant that — while tickets are already on sale for this year’s editions of Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party — there’s been no word yet about another round of Mickey’s Pirate & Princess Party being held at the Magic Kingdom later this summer. And given that — back in 2007 — Disney announced as early as May 3rd that they’d be holding another set of these hard ticket events … Well, that doesn’t exactly bode well for the future of Mickey’s Pirate & Princess Party.

Though — to be fair here — I guess I should share what I heard from yet another WDW official. Who said that Mickey’s Pirate & Princess Party will mostly likely return in 2009. As to why this hard ticket will not be presented in August and September … Well, that’s supposedly because the Magic Kingdom will be completing its long-overdue Liberty Square Bridge repair project right about then.

So — in theory, anyway, R — if you and your family would like to attend another Mickey’s Pirates & Princess Party … This hard ticket event should be held again at the Magic Kingdom starting in January. Provided — of course — that ticket sales for the May & June editions of this after-hours event justify the continuation of this Party (How’s that for a wildly waffling response ?).

But you said that you were looking for ” … some sort of new “POTC” –related attraction” for your family to enjoy the next time that you were all down at WDW. Well, I guess that you could plan on staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. By this September, construction the newly expanded version of Old Port Royale’s feature pool should be complete. And given this pool’s old–tumble-down-Spanish-fort theming (Which is very reminiscent of the POTC attraction), I’m sure that your kids will get a kick out of swimming here.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Or — if you haven’t been over to DisneyQuest to try out “Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold” yet — that’s very enjoyable too. Your whole family has work at a team on this one. You first all put on 3-D helmets. Then one of you has to take the wheel as the rest man the cannons. And then — from there — you cruise around this CG version of the Caribbean. Where you have to sink as many ships as possible (collecting many treasure chests in the process) before you can then begin to battle the ghostly Jolly Roger.

Given that this particular DisneyQuest attraction sort of redefines the term “interactive” (More to the point, given the huge virtual version of the Caribbean that the Imagineers mapped out for “Battle for Buccaneer Gold”), you and your family could easily spend an entire day playing and then getting back in line for this POTC-themed game.

On the other hand, if you prefer flesh-and-blood pirates to the virtual kind … Well, if your family is visiting Central Florida in mid-January, you can head west on I-4 and sample the Gasparilla Extravaganza. Which is this alcohol-free event that celebrates the return of Gasparilla season to Tampa Bay. This day-long “Extravaganza” features a Children’s Gasparilla Parade during the day and a display of “Piratechnics” (i.e. fireworks over Bayshore Boulevard) at night.

If — on the other hand — anyone in your family shares Capt. Jack Sparrow’s fondness for rum … Well, you might then want to return to Tampa the following weekend. Which is when Southwest Airlines Gasparilla Pirate Fest gets underway. Which is a decidedly more adult take of the whole Gasparilla experience.

Vintage postcard of Tampa’s annual Gasparilla Festival

However, if you’re not going to be flying in to Central Florida in mid-to-late January and would still like the kids to see some real-live pirates (and maybe enjoy a beer or two in the process) … Have I got a dinner show for you !

Pirate’s Dinner Adventure (located at 6400 Carrier) is something of an International Drive icon. Advertising itself as “the world’s largest and most interactive dinner show,” this over-the-top eatery has entertaining 2.3 million Orlando visitors since it first opened back in the Summer of 1996.

And if your kids really are Pirates fans, R … Well, they can’t help be impressed as they enter Pirate’s Dinner Adventure’s main theater-in-the-round. Where all 750 seats face a 46-foot-long Spanish galleon which “floats” in a 300,000 gallon indoor lagoon.

Copyright 1996 Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. All Rights Reserved

As for the evening’s entertainment … That actually starts out in Pirate’s Dinner Adventure’s cavernous and elaborately themed lobby area. Where guests are welcome to dine on complimentary appetizers while watching dancers & acrobats perform at the Freedom Festival.

But then Sebastian the Black’s scurvy crew shows up and kidnaps Princess Anita. And as they carry this fair maid back to their ship, the audience is then invited to follow the pirates into the main theater. Where they’re then seated in the Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Red or Yellow section of the hall.

And then — from there — as the audience is served properly Piratically-named entrees (EX: Treasure’s Chicken, Buccaneer Beef or Shanghai Shrimp), the interactive part of the show begins. As the audience is encouraged to cheer for “their” pirate (i.e. the perform who’s wearing the same color as the section that they’re seated in) as these performers take part in various competitions. There’s singing, swordplay and stunts. Not to mention a finale where dozens of children are recruited out of the audience to come play the British soldiers who finally capture Sebastian the Black’s band.

Copyright 1996 Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. All Rights Reserved

Is Pirate’s Dinner Adventure a bit on the loud side? Given the number of times that you’re urged to cheer for “your” pirate? Sure … And is it sometimes difficult to follow the action? Well, given that the performers can be out in the hall, interacting with the audience one minute and then be high in the rigging the next … Yes, it can get kind of confusing.

But that said, given that many of the people who appear in Pirate’s Dinner Adventure are Disney & Universal vets … You do get some top-notch performances along with your West Indies Rice and/or Roasted Red Potatoes. Then top the whole thing off with Princess Anita’s Royal Desserts (as well as complimentary beer, wine, coffee and soft drinks) … And it’s easy to understand why many school groups make a point of either starting off and/or finishing up their trips to Orlando by spending an evening at this I-Drive favorite.

So if you and your family are willing to wander away from Disney World in order to experience some Pirate-related fun, R … A trip to Pirate’s Dinner Adventure might definitely in order.

Copyright 2005 Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. All Rights Reserved

Anyway … That’s all of the POTC-related info that I could dig up. Sorry that I didn’t have better news for you in regards to the Disney Parks. But as I mentioned earlier, R, the Mouse is regrouping right now. As it tries to get a better sense of what the real demand is for “Pirates of the Caribbean” merch.

And speaking of demand … I hope that today’s “Why For” (as belatedly as it might be) will satisfy those of you who have been asking for the return of the weekly version of this column. Of course, in order for that to happen, I do need your Disney-related questions. So feel free to send those along to my address.

Anywho … That wraps up another fun week here at JHM. And we’ve already lots of interesting stories in the works for the site for next week. Including why all of that theme park development that’s going on Dubai right now is having a negative impact on Disney’s DCA revamp.

Wanna know how? Come back on Monday and I’ll explain.

Til then, have a great weekend, okay?


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 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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