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“Be Our Guest” features an unvarnished take on Disney Company history

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I have to admit that It's been kind of amusing to watch the
reaction (both here and elsewhere around the Web) that Tuesday's "What's really
behind the sudden change in Disney Parks & Resorts' facial hair policy"
story has been getting. With all sorts of would-be Disney scholars weighing on whether
The Happiest Place on Earth actually had an official policy in place in regards
to personal grooming when this theme park first opened to the public back on
July of 1955.

The harsh truth here is that – given that there had never,
ever been a Disneyland before (More importantly, given that Walt could & would
change his mind on how he wanted this place run with little or no notice) – the
initial rules of operation for the world's first theme park were kind of written
on the fly.

Which meant that – often totally by accident – a Disneyland
employee could suddenly find themselves in violation of a policy that hadn't actually
been written yet. In the recently revised and updated edition of "Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service" (Disney Editions, November 2011), Theodore
Kinni
writes about the poor publicist who – back in December of 1955 — ran
afoul of one of Walt's then-unwritten rules.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Walt was always focused on providing a good show, one in
which the audience's attention was never unintentionally diverted or otherwise
interrupted. Marty Sklar, the now-retired Chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering,
remembered walking through Disneyland with Walt. As they reached the Mike Fink
Keel Boats
in Frontierland, a company publicist drove up to the pair. Walt was
shocked. "What," he demanded, "are you doing with a car here in 1860?"

What's fun about this 208-page hardcover is – because this book
is written mostly for people in the corporate world who have now turned to the
Disney Institute for help in improving their company's customer service – there
are lots of stories in here about Mickey's earlier missteps. Moments where – in
order to deliver a more satisfying Guest experience — the Mouse had to change the
rules and/or actually create a whole new policy in order to address a specific
concern.

 And given that "Be
Our Guest" offers more of a warts-and-all take on Disney Company history
(rather than the heavily edited & highly polished version of this story that
Mickey usually foists on the public), there's a lot of genuinely fascinating
material buried deep down in this book. Like that moment when Kelvin Bailey
(who – back in the early 1960s – was one of Walt
Disney Productions' official corporate pilots) reveals that – when he initially flew Walt down to Central
Florida to do a site inspection of all that property which the Company had just
purchased in Orange & Osceola County – Kelvin …


Walt during his onsite inspection of the then-undeveloped Florida Project property.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… was beginning to suspect that his boss might not be
playing with a full deck. "We drove ten or twenty miles and we got into this
nasty, wasted country," he recalls, "Water, swamps, jungle, alligators. I
thought, 'He's got to be out of his mind – this is nothing! Water up to our
knees!' You couldn't have given me the land."


Even though he would not live to see the land developed,
Walt had no trouble imagining it amid the Florida scrub. He pointed out Main
Street, U.S.A., Fantasyland, and other nonexistent features to the thoroughly
astounded pilot.

What's also enjoyable about "Perfecting the Art of Customer
Service" is that – at the very least, in passing – this book discusses those
private moments where Disney's confidence wavered. Where Walt wondered if the
organization that he & his brother had built up over the years actually had
the financial wherewithal to turn  40
square miles of swampland into a vacation destination. Which is why …


WDW's Magic Kingdom still under construction in the
Spring of 1971. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

… In 1966, Walt and Roy briefly considered merging the
company with General Electric or Westinghouse in order to raise the estimated
$100 million in capital needed to build Walt Disney World.

Mind you, not all of the stories in this revised &
updated version of "Be Our Guest" key off of Walt's actions and thoughts in the
late 1950s / early 1960s. There are also lots of great more modern day
observations to be found in this book. Little bits of trivia that are sure to
delight & intrigue even the most dedicated of Disney fans. Take – for example
– the paragraph which talks about all of the care & thought that the
Imagineers put into the positioning of Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

I mean, I've long been a fan of this 728-room resort. I've
been visiting Wilderness Lodge since it first opened back in May of 1994. Hell,
if I'm remembering correctly, I think I actually got to visit this WDW hotel before
it officially opened to the public (To explain: My ex-wife and I were living in
Central Florida at the time. We were friendly with a lot of Disney World Cast
Members, which is how we were then invited to take part in Wilderness Lodge's pre-opening,
Cast-Member-Only "Open Mouse" event. Where – while toting our
then-two-month-old daughter along with us — we then toured this 8-story, log-structured
building from top to bottom).


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Anyway … I thought that I already knew Disney's Wilderness
Lodge Resort pretty well. But leave to Mr. Kinni and his keen eye for detail to
uncover an aspect of this hotel that I had never, ever noticed before.

The Wilderness Lodge is located right next to the
Contemporary Resort, but the modern world never imposes on the Lodge's American
West setting. Guests can't see the Contemporary; the view is purposely blocked.
They enter the lodge along a winding road that is flanked by tall pine trees
and dotted with old-fashioned streetlights and a BEAR CROSSING sign. If you
walk straight through the main lobby and out of the building, you can see a
long view over a completely undeveloped lake that is meant to remind guests of
the open spaces and natural wonders of the U.S. National Parks.

And it's not just the Disney theme parks & resorts that
you'll be viewing differently after reading "Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art
of Customer Service." As you dig the revised and updated edition of this Disney
Institute
-authorized book, you'll also come away with a renewed appreciation
for films like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "WALL-E." More importantly, how
these particular Touchstone Pictures & Pixar Animation Studios productions continue
something that Walt used to do with the full-length animated features that Disney
Studios produced in the late 1930s & early 1940s. That extra little bit of attention-to-detail
which then made the movie magic seem that much more real. This now-decades-old
practice …


Copyright Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved

… has been referred (in modern times, anyway) to as "bumping
the lamp."

Bumping the lamp was born during the filming of the Walt
Disney Pictures film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." The film was an innovative mix
of live action and animation. In one scene, the movie's leading man, Bob
Hoskins
, bumps into a lamp hanging from the ceiling. The lamp swings back and
forth, and so does its shadow. During the making of the film, the lamp appeared
in the live-action setting the same way it would in the natural world. But what
happened when the animated star, Roger Rabbit, was added to the scene? That's
right – no shadow crossed our wisecracking hero's face.

Most of the film's viewers would not notice the difference,
and certainly the scene could have been shot without Hoskins bumping into the
lamp. But the film's animation artists made sure that the shading on Roger
Rabbit accurately reflected the moving shadow cast by the live-action lamp in
each of the twenty-four frames in every second of the scene. They paid
attention to the details and took that extra step in their commitment to a quality
guest experience.


Concept art for the interior of WALL-E's home. Copyright Pixar Animation Studios.
All rights reserved

A more recent example of bumping the lamp can be found in a
scene in "WALL-E," a Pixar film about a lonely little robot that is left behind
to clean up Earth after humans have abandoned the planet. Nearly six miles of
cityscape were designed and built in a computer to make WALL-E's world
believable to audiences. WALL-E is a collector; in one scene, he returns to his
home after a day's work, and the audience sees this firsthand. In this single
scene, Pixar's animators populated WALL-E's home with 827 poker chips,
sixty-six license plates, 290 fake eyeballs, etc. The lighting sources in his
home include 798 Christmas lights, two chords of forty-eight chili lights, four
bug zappers, five paper lanterns, and ten tiki lights. No viewer could possibly
see all of these items. So why did Pixar include them? "It's the little
whispers that speak to an audience," explained director Andrew Stanton.

So if you're the type of person who actually enjoys hearing
those little whispers. Or – for that matter – if you like learning about those
moments where Walt flat-out yelled at his employees. Take – for example – what happened
back in 1956 when …

… it was suggested that an administration building be
erected for the management of Disneyland … Walt was vehemently opposed (to this
idea. He said that)"I don't want you guys sitting behind desks. I want you out
in the park, watching what people are doing and finding out how you can make
the place more enjoyable for them." When he found out that the staff was
leaving the property to eat, Walt steamed, "Stand in line with the people, and
for god's sake, don't go off the lot to eat like you guys have been doing. You
eat at the park and listen to the people."


Walt practicing what he preached, getting out and interacting with the
public at Disneyland Park in the Fall of 1962.
Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

If a book like this – which offers a far more unvarnished
take on Disney Company history than you usually get to read — sounds like something
that would appeal to you, that I urge you to pick up a copy of "Best Our Guest:
Perfecting the Art of Customer Service."

Just be aware that this Disney Editions publication is really
aimed more at the corporate crowd, rather than at Disney fans. Which is why you
may find yourself wading through pages & pages of self-serving corporate
speak like …

Clearly, all organizations need customer-friendly employees.
In fact, the number-one question that Disney Institute's corporate clientele
asks us is "Can you make our people nice?"


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… before you'll then come across a gem like this which then
gives you a renewed appreciation for how the original Disneyland Park was designed.

John Hench, one of the original Imagineers (the folks who
design and build all of Disney's theme parks), remembers watching Walt finesse
a setting. "I was so astonished by the way Walt could create a kind of
live-action cross-dissolve when passing from one area of Disneyland to another.
He even insisted on changing the texture of the pavement at the threshold of
each new land because, he said, "You can get information about a changing
environment from the soles of your feet."

So if you want to get a better sense of how the first Disney
theme park actually came together, all of the trial & error involved with
getting The Happiest Place on Earth up out of the ground (More importantly,
what went into getting Disneyland's first set of Cast Members properly trained
and motivated), then get yourself a copy of "Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art
of Customer Service."


Disneyland's dedication ceremony on July 17, 1955.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

EDITOR'S NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, I guess
that I should note here that I did not actually pay for this copy of Theodore
Kinni's newest book. Disney Publishing provided me with a review copy of "Be
Our Guest" back in November for gratis.

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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