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Bob Hope and the World of Disney

Today, pays tribute to two giants of the entertainment industry. First up, it’s Jim Korkis with a very informative piece about Bob Hope’s various connections to the vast Disney empire …



“It’s your turn to entertain the troops. I’m going to Disneyland.”

– Bob Hope to honorary Hollywood Mayor Johnny Grant in 1999 when Grant
took over Hope’s holiday tours for the overseas troops while an ailing Hope
participated in the first Disneyland official Christmas lighting ceremony.

With the recent passing of the Bob Hope at the age of 100, I was thinking how often his life brushed against the Disney Universe. Born almost two years after Walt Disney, not only was Bob Hope a contemporary of Walt’s, experiencing and exploiting the same rapid technological changes of the 20th Century, but he was also equally beloved as an American icon.

Probably Hope’s first encounters with Walt Disney were the famous Oscar ceremonies. Hope presented the short subject awards in 1939 at the Biltmore Hotel and personally gave Walt his latest cartoon Oscar for FERDINAND THE BULL. Bob Hope was the host of the entire ceremony in 1942 when Walt picked up several Oscars that evening in addition to the fabled Thalberg award. And, it was Bob Hope who hosted the Academy Awards in 1965 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium when Julie Andrews walked away with her Oscar for the title role in MARY POPPINS.

I have a short newsreel clip from the Forties where Hope personally presented to Walt an award from LOOK magazine for his “wonderful work in producing special training films for the Armed Forces.” After Walt gave a short acceptance speech, Bob Hope quipped, “Say, Walter, before you go, how would you like to have me in one of those pictures?” Walt responded, “No, thanks, Bob, I’m doing all right with a real duck.” This response garnered a big laugh from the audience as Hope feigned being taken aback about a reference to his duckbill nose.

There is no evidence that the Hope family and the Disney family socialized as they seemed to run in different celebrity circles despite having mutual acquaintances like composer Buddy Baker, who had written musical arrangements for Hope’s radio show and later penned memorable tunes for Disney including the music for the Haunted Mansion, and actor Jerry Colona who romped about on Hope’s radio show, troop tours and several movies before contributing his voice to several Disney projects like the March Hare in ALICE IN WONDERLAND and the narrator of CASEY AT THE BAT.

Unlike Warner Brothers, the Disney Studios produced only a handful of cartoons with celebrity caricatures and most of those were done before Hope found fame in films so he doesn’t appear in any Disney cartoons. Interestingly, Hope caricatures did appear in several cartoons for Paramount, the studio that had contracted the comedian for several classic films.

Most fans probably can name Hope’s appearance in POPEYE’S 20th ANNIVERSARY (1954) where a caricatured Hope emcees a special award ceremony for Popeye and which features other caricatured Paramount movie stars like Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Jimmy Durante. However, Hope had already appeared in two earlier LITTLE LULU cartoons: A BOUT WITH A TROUT (1947) where his picture appears in a star as Lulu sings “Would you like to swing on a star?” and THE BABY SITTER (1947) where Bob Hope is just one of several caricatured celebrities at The Stork Club. Hope, who is caricatured this time as a penquin, pops up in the LITTLE AUDREY (Paramount’s version of LITTLE LULU when they no longer owned the rights to the character) cartoon THE CASE OF THE COCKEYED CANARY (1952). Don’t blink or you’ll miss an animated version of Hope in Warner Brothers’ MALIBU BEACH PARTY (1940) along with many other Hollywood stars at Jack Benny’s party.

Another interesting Disney connection is that former Disney artist Owen Fitzgerald designed a classic Bob Hope caricature which he used when he illustrated eighty consecutive issues of BOB HOPE comic books and which was later used as the model by artists Mort Drucker and Bob Oksner when they took over the art chores on the book.

Although with great storytellers it is often difficult to separate the truth from the story, Bob Hope loved to recount that when the Disneyland theme park was in development that Walt Disney tried to persuade Hope who was known as a shrewd purchaser of real estate to buy property around the Disney park in order to help control the use of that land. Hope declined and jokingly shared how he regretted that missed financial opportunity almost instantly when Disneyland became a huge success.

Bob’s wife, Dolores, commented in 1996 that: “Always a thrill to be at Disneyland. We came here when the park first opened. I remember being here with my children. Now, I bring my great-grandchildren.”

Hope also told an alternate version of the famous Khrushchev-Disneyland story. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev only visited Los Angeles for a single day during his eleven day stay in the United States in 1959. The official plans were for the Soviet Premier to visit housing projects in Los Angeles. On September 19, 1959, Khrushchev and his family were at a special luncheon with a host of celebrities at Twentieth-Century Fox studios before his housing tour.

Supposedly Hope was seated near to Mrs. Khrushchev and told her something along the lines of “You should really try to go to Disneyland. It’s wonderful.” Then, according to Hope, she passed a note to her husband telling him that they should all go to Disneyland. Khrushchev asked the Secret Service about visiting Disneyland and was told for security reasons it was too dangerous to arrange.

That response prompted Khrushchev’s famous rant which received world-wide publicity: “Just now I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked, ‘Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there?’ I do not know … What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken over the place that can destroy me? For me the situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people.”

The State Department apparently said that Mrs. Khrushchev and her daughters were free to attend Disneyland but the final decision was that none of the Khrushchev family ended up going to the Disneyland.

So supposedly, it was a harmless compliment about Disneyland by Bob Hope that sparked an international incident. Later, that year, Hope used it as a springboard for a gag when he was entertaining troops in Alaska during one of his Christmas tours when he joked: “Here we are in America’s 49th state, Alaska. That’s halfway between Khrushchev and Disneyland.”

(For a more detailed version on this story, be sure to read Jim Hill’s delightful and informative “Did you ever hear about … ‘Khrushchev at Disneyland?'”)

Another brief brush with the World of Walt Disney occurred on THE JACK BENNY HOUR (November 3, 1965) which featured miser Jack Benny trying to manipulate free tickets to Disneyland from Walt Disney. After receiving the tickets from a bemused Walt, Benny informs him that on his television show as a “thank you,” he’ll be doing an Italian movie but will give it a “Disney twist.” That Italian movie parody was a version of MARY POPPINS with Elke Sommer as the nanny and Bob Hope as a shifty chauffeur! Hope and Disney never had any screen time together although they did appear in the same show.

Hope was also a guest on a pre-recorded ninety-minute special in “living color” on NBC entitled THE GRAND OPENING OF WALT DISNEY WORLD which aired on October 29, 1971 to publicize the opening of the newest Disney theme park. Singer Glen Campbell pointed to the then-innovative Contemporary Hotel and introduced “Bob ‘Ex-Mouseketeer’ Hope” who enters the scene via the monorail and with the famous Mary Blair tile mural in the background launched into a monologue that was obviously prepared by his writers and not the legendary Disney writer/producer Bill Walsh who is credited as the writer of the special.

“It’s really two buildings leaning against each other. And I want to congratulate the architect … Dean Martin. I have a lovely room with complete privacy, except in the bathtub which Donald Duck shares with me. Have you ever tried bathing with a duck who was playing with his rubber man? I ordered lunch from room service. Snow White brought it in and I was afraid to eat the apple. I don’t dare drink the water because that was delivered by Pluto. This is the biggest vacation-entertainment complex in the world. And to think it all started with a gentle mouse, a bad-tempered duck and seven mixed-up dwarfs. It’s a fantastic achievement. They took a swamp and turned it into a Magic Kingdom. It wasn’t easy. Have you ever tried to relocate 8,000 angry alligators?”

Hope ended his monologue on a more serious note when he added: “Walt Disney always believed in the beauty and natural wonders of the world. But he felt as we passed through that we should try to add a little wonder and beauty to it. Maybe you’ll understand that Walt’s dream was just a beginning. The dream doesn’t stop here. This is the start of it. I think you’ll want to tell your grandchildren you were there when it happened.”

Near the end of the program, Hope returned with an even more moving tribute: “Walt Disney World is the culmination of a lifetime devoted to bringing joy and excitement and laughter to children and adults in America and throughout the world. There is a spirit here everywhere. All of this is Walt. This is what Walt wanted for all of us … an escape from our aspirin existence into a land of sparkles and lights and rainbows. Walt Disney loved America. He loved its children and their moms and pops. Walt Disney loved America because his dreams came true. The entire world owes Walt a great debt. He achieved much, but perhaps his greatest accomplishment is that he made children of us all.”

Tom Nabbe, who was in charge of the monorails during the opening of Walt Disney World, shared with me this behind-the-scenes story of the filming of that monolog: “For the filming of the opening special, we drove Bob Hope into the Contemporary Hotel concourse on the monorail to do his bit. I was standing on the platform waiting for him when one of the co-ordinators came up to me. These were the days when the monorails had individual air conditioners in them and they made quite a noise. So this guy says, ‘Tom, the noise is drowning out Bob’s monolog. Can you do something about it?’ And I went over and hit the power button. Then I picked up the phone and called the monorail shop and said, ‘You’d better get over here because we’ve got to haul Bob Hope out of this building in fifteen minutes and you need to re-set the rectifiers because I just turned them off.’ And they got over and were standing by so that the minute Hope finished they could re-set the rectifiers. The only way I could shut off the air conditioning units on the train was to kill the power to the train which I did. Then I had to get it started back up so we could take Hope on his merry way back to the Polynesian.”

Hope was a guest on NBC SALUTES THE 25th ANNIVERSARY OF THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY (1978) and Mickey Mouse’s 50th birthday celebration on THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY (1978). He was at the Walt Disney World Tencennial in 1981 where he helped lead a thousand piece marching band and he spoke at the ribbon cutting Disney-MGM Studios dedication in 1989. (His handprints are in the cement of the forecourt of THE GREAT MOVIE RIDE.)

On January 4, 1998, Cardinal Roger Mahony presided over an Investiture ceremony in Los Angeles for the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great where over sixty Los Angeles citizens were granted papal Knighthood as Knights and Dames of the Order. The honorees were cited for their contributions to the Catholic Church, the Christian faith and their service and charity work. Both Bob Hope and Roy O. Disney (Walt’s brother) were so honored. Hope and Disney were not practicing Roman Catholics but apparently their wives were. (Hope was baptized Catholic and married his wife in a Catholic church.)

Sadly, one of Hope’s last official appearances was also connected with Disney. In 1999, the then ninety-six year old entertainer did not share the holiday season with servicemen overseas as he had for every holiday season from World War II through Operation Desert Storm. Instead, he made a personal appearance at Disneyland on Monday, November 22 at 5:45 pm to inaugurate a new tradition, the first official lighting of the holiday lights at Disneyland.

The lights all along Main Street were dimmed while hundreds of guests, some of them uniformed men and women, heard a tape of Bob and Dolores Hope singing the song “Silver Bells.” With Mickey Mouse at his side, Hope took a short swing with a golf club to tap a large silver golf ball on the small stage where he had been sitting in a director’s chair. Hundreds of thousands of holiday lights instantly lit up Disneyland.

So while Bob Hope never appeared in a Disney film, never voiced a Disney character and never invested in the Happiest Real Estate in the World, he still enriched the World of Disney and Disney fans thank him for those memories.

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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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