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Bob Iger talks up “Star Wars” franchise & “Frozen” sequel at Disney’s annual shareholders meeting

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When Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger took the stage Thursday
at The Walt Disney Company's annual shareholders meeting in San
Francisco, he was surrounded by smiling faces – from
the toe-tapping, grinning Mickey Mouse on his new iWatch to nearly all of the 800-plus
people gathered at The Palace of Fine Arts.

Iger said the iWatch "is going to be in the market real soon
and I just have the idea that it's going to be a big hit. I have an original
Mickey Mouse watch from the 1930s and I usually wear it on special occasions
like this. I just love its link to Disney's heritage and the watch is a prized
possession.

"But," he continued, "the symbolism of Mickey Mouse on this
new device just spoke to me. … The original watch reminds me where Disney
comes from and I think this one surely reminds me of where Disney is going. It
just seemed fitting to wear it here in San Francisco
where creativity and innovation intersect and actually change the world."

Following his praise of the Bay Area, Iger reported Disney's
fourth straight year of record results, assuring shareholders and Disney fans
that there were plenty of reasons for the cheerful mood as he recapped
highlights of the past year and offered a very optimistic projection for the
future growth and earnings.

Disney revealed more details about its plans for the "Star
Wars" franchise and announced a sequel to the studio's box-office animated
juggernaut "Frozen," featuring a story idea by its directors, Jennifer Lee and
Chris Buck.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Driven by extraordinary creativity, innovative technology
and global expansion, 2014 was in fact the biggest, best year in our history," Iger
said. "Our revenue was up 8 percent to $48.8 billion, our net income was up 22
percent to $7.5 billion, and our earnings per-share was up 26 percent to and $4.26.

"Total shareholder return for the year was 38 percent – almost
double the 20 percent return delivered by the S&P 500 during the same
period – and we also paid our 59th straight year of dividends, increasing the
dividend per share by 34 percent."

He recounted a few recent highlights:

Disney's Studio Entertainment division found gold in the
silver screen. With some of 2014's biggest movies, "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Big
Hero 6" and others, the company surpassed $4 billion in global box office for
the second year in a row.

"You know that animation is incredibly important to this
company and that it has always been the very heart and soul of Disney," Iger
said. "Throughout Disney's history our most successful time as a company has
been when our animation is strong and thriving and that's certainly the case
today. The Walt Disney Company is once again home to some of the best animation
in the world with the box office and awards to prove it."

With nearly $1.3 billion in global box office, "Frozen" is
the most successful animated movie in history. Disney's second- and third-most
successful animated movies are "The Lion King" and "Big Hero 6."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

And, Iger proudly noted the studio recently became the first
to win Oscars the same year for Best Animated Feature, "Big Hero 6," and Best
Animated Short, "Feast."

More guests visited Disney's parks and resorts than ever
before. The historic expansion of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World was recently
completed as well as the roll out of My Magic Plus. "So far more than 10
millions guests have used our Magic Bands," Iger said, "and we're getting rave
reviews."

ESPN continued to reign as the "No. 1 sports brand." The
college football playoff coverage "is a perfect example of ESPN at the top of
its game," Iger said, "and the 'Megacast' gave fans unprecedented access to the
action, offering more than a dozen different ways to watch their teams battle
it out on air, online and on just about every mobile device you can imagine.

"For the final, more than 33 million fans tuned in to see Ohio
State beat Oregon
for the National Championship – the largest single audience in the history of
cable television," he added. "No one but ESPN could do something so big, so
well."

ABC launched its "best season in recent memory and 'Good
Morning America' completed another year as the No. 1 morning show." Iger said
the network is "thriving with compelling programming that sets it apart,
especially when it comes to reflecting the rich diversity of the world around
us. … Thanks to the winning combination of inclusion and quality, ABC is the
only network to grow its audience this season."

Iger also reported that "11 separate franchises at Disney
Consumer Products generated more than $1 billion each in global annual sales."

Disney Interactive achieved its first year of profitability.



Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And, Disney's stock price continues to climb.

Iger noted Thursday morning that shares were trading above $105,
compared to about $80 a year ago, giving the company a market cap of just about
$180 billion – around $40 billion higher than it was at the 2014 shareholder
meeting.

Disney is "consistently recognized as one of the world's
most admired companies, respected for our product and our people, as well as
our performance."

Iger noted that several thousand former servicemen and women
have joined the Walt Disney family in the past few years as part of an
initiative to hire more veterans. "The vets at Disney are in good company
because they're among our 180,000 cast members and employees around the world
who work tirelessly to tell great stories and create magic in the lives of
people everyday," he said.

Iger also paid tribute to San Francisco
as "a great Disney city," home to The Walt Disney Family Museum, KGO TV, some
Disney Stores, Pixar "right across the bay in Emeryville. … And LucasFilm is
right across the street. So the Force is definitely with us."

That opened the door for him to talk about "Star Wars." Disney
is moving quickly to reap the benefits of its $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm
in 2012.

"Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens," directed by J.J.
Abrams and featuring original cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and
Mark Hamill, opens Dec. 18. After unveiling some news footage featuring Stephen
Colbert and others reacting to the release of the teaser trailer, along with
bits of some fan parodies, Iger said the teaser for Episode VII has been "viewed
more than 150 million times and … that response is unbelievable."


Copyright Lucasfilm / Disney. All rights reserved

He then talked about the future for the franchise, sharing a
piece of concept art for the first standalone Star Wars movie, "Rogue One," from
a script being penned by Chris Weitz ("Cinderella") and based on an idea by
Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor John Knoll. "Rogue One" will be
directed by Gareth Edwards and star Felicity Jones. Filming begins this summer
in London and the movie will open Dec. 16, 2016.

Iger also announced that Rian Johnson will write and direct "Star
Wars: Episode VIII," which will hit theaters on May 26, 2017, but offered no other details.

"So, between now and 2017, we're going to bring three Star
Wars films to the world," Iger said. "It's obviously an incredibly exciting
time for our company, but not just because of (Lucasfilm). We have so much to
look forward to.

" … Our studio has been setting the bar pretty high these
days, too. And it only goes up from here. This is a huge year and 'Star Wars: The
Force Awakens' is just one of the fantastic movies on our slate for 2015.

"Let's start with Marvel. Obviously, an incredible success
story since joining Disney. The studio goes from strength to strength to
strength. In fact, the five Marvel movies we've released so far have averaged
almost $1 billion each in global box office and we're planning to release 11
more Marvel films in the next four years."

This year's Marvel's offerings include the second film
pairing Iron Man, Captain America,
Thor and The Incredible Hulk in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" on May 1. "Ant-Man," starring
Paul Rudd, will hit multiplexes on July 17. Iger also mentioned the recent deal
with Sony that allows Disney to bring the iconic web-slinger Spider-Man back to
the Marvel cinematic universe but offered no details as to how and when that
might happen.


Copyright Marvel / Disney. All rights reserved

He said the company has high hopes for its live-action "Cinderella,"
which is already charming critics and delighting audiences. Iger also promoted
the May 22 release of "Tomorrowland," helmed by "The Incredibles" director Brad
Bird, a member of the Pixar brain trust, and starring George Clooney in his
first Disney film.

And expect another great year for animation.

"When Pixar joined Disney in 2006, we were hoping to spark a
creative resurgence in animation across the company and, looking at our recent
stream of successes, I think we can actually say that it worked," Iger said. "Pixar
has always been home to some of the most original and innovative stories in
animation and we're thrilled to share two new Pixar films with the world this
year."

"Inside Out," directed by Pete Docter, will be released on
June 18. "The Good Dinosaur," directed by Pete Sohn and based on a story by Bob
Peterson, will follow on Nov. 18.

"Last summer, I celebrated my 40th anniversary with the
company and I can honestly say that I've never been prouder to be part of
Disney nor have I even been more optimistic about the future of The Walt Disney
Company," Iger said.

Look forward to these things:


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The 60th anniversary of Disneyland
kicks off with a celebration beginning in May.

The fourth D23 Expo, for the ultimate Disney fans, will be
held Aug. 14-16 in Anaheim.

An "Avatar"-themed land at Disney's Animal Kingdom will open
in 2017. An artist's concept drawing shows a Jungle Cruise-like trip through
the panoramas of Pandora. Iger said, "If you thought Pandora looked magical in
the movie, just wait until you see Pandora in person."

Guests to Hong Kong Disneyland be getting the first true
Marvel-themed attraction when The Iron Man Experience opens next year.

And, Iger also indicated "there's growing excitement about
the Shanghai Disney Resort. This is the largest investment we've ever made
outside of the United States
and it well may be the single most creatively ambitious project that we've ever
attempted. … We're going to wrap up major construction by the end of this
year and we're already planning a spectacular grand opening celebration for the
spring of the next year."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

After this, the meeting moved to the business at hand, which
included the election of 10 members of the Board of Directors; hiring
PricewaterhouseCooper LLP as the company's independent accountants for the
fiscal year ending Oct. 3, 2015;
and approving an advisory resolution regarding executive compensation.

A majority of the shareholders voting by proxy followed the
recommendations of the Board and rejected two proposals by shareholders: The
first would have separated the CEO and chairman roles after Iger steps down. The
second would have limited accelerated executive pay.

Of the 1,694,975,006 common shares of Disney stock, 87
percent (representing 1,468,276,676 common shares) had voted by proxy on or
before Jan. 12 It seems few people wanted to do anything that might throw a
monkeywrench into Disney's engine. The company is operating on all cylinders
with lots of fuel to propel it into the future.

After the quick business session, Iger opened the floor to
questions from shareholders for more than 50 minutes.

In response to a young boy named Gideon, there was an
apparent tip-of-the-hand confirmation that Disney Hollywood Studios would soon
be getting a new name, but Iger learned the company was not ready to reveal it.


Copyright Marvel / Disney
All rights reserved 

After a pediatric nurse and a doctor praised Disney for its
stance limiting smoking in most films marketed to children but reporting that
Marvel's films haven't had the same compliance rate, Iger declared that the
company will "absolutely prohibit" depictions of tobacco use "across the board:
Marvel, Lucas, Pixar and Disney" in all films rated PG-13 and under.

Sorry, that means no more cigars for the character of Tony
Stark in the "Avengers" and "Iron Man" movies. The only exception, Iger
pledged, will be in films which involve historical figures known for smoking.

Responding to a Disneyland cast
member who relayed that his wife has been working as a custodian at the resort
for four years but still isn't making $10 an hour, Iger said the company has
already agreed to raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016.

Some of the other questions are responses:


Copyright Marvel / Disney. All rights reserved

Despite being "blown away" by the success of a recent
graphic novel series featuring Dreamfinder and Figment from Florida's Journey
into Imagination, Iger said there's currently no plans to bring the characters
back to Epcot.

Answering one man's questions, Iger relayed that his favorite attraction
is Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean. He also indicated that
there's room for growth at both Disneyland and Disney California
Adventure and no plans to add a third gate to the Anaheim Resort anytime
soon.

And Disney's new Chief Operations Officer Thomas Staggs
came to Iger's rescue when Brooke, a six-year-old girl asked who was the
first princess aboard a Disney Cruise Line ship. Staggs told the girl:
"We couldn't chose just one, but Cinderella was certainly there."

After the meeting, I talked to Kathleen Eddy of Elk Grove
and Steve Segal, both attending their first Disney shareholder event.

"I was very impressed with Bob Iger and how he handled all
of the questions, especially those on major issues," Eddy said. "I also enjoyed
seeing John Lasseter in person. He just seems like the nicest, most interesting
person. 'Frozen Fever' was great fun and it was good to hear that 'Frozen 2' is
in the works. I want to see how the standalone Star Wars film comes together,
but I'm intrigued by it."

"One of the best things about it was meeting all these other
like-minded Disney fans in line," she added. "I talked with some of the nicest
people."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"It was more or less what I expected," said Segal, an
animator who worked on the landmark "Toy Story" and now teaches animation at a
college in San Francisco. "I don't
know that I'd come from Utah for
a shareholders meeting in San Francisco,
but I enjoyed myself.

"I thought Bob Iger was very smooth on his feet and he did a
great job responding to questions from the audience," he continued. "But I also
thought the guy seeking approval for the shareholder initiative on the
separation of CEO and Chairman made a good case and I would have liked to learn
more why Iger and the Board opposed it."

Segal was also "excited to learn that the 'Avatar'-themed
land was going to become part of Animal Kingdom because that park could use a
little more fantasy."

As for the questions from the children, Segal said, "I
thought the kids were great, but Disney is a kid-friendly company if there was
ever was one."

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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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