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California Misadventure — Part 3

In Part 3 of this fan favorite from the archives, learn about the greatest stateside theme park that the Walt Disney Company never built: Westcot.



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Hoping to turn Anaheim into another Orlando, Disney CEO Michael Eisner proposes adding hundreds of Disney-owned-and-operated hotel rooms to Orange County. Understanding that he needed a way to keep those new hotel rooms filled, Eisner asked his Imagineers to design huge new Disney attractions for Southern California.

Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) came up with concepts for two new California theme parks: Westcot Center and Disney Seas. Since both of these proposed projects carried hefty price tags ($3 billion each), Disney knew that they’d need help covering the total cost of construction. So they began looking for financial partners (AKA a sucker with deep pockets to help pick up the tab). The cities of Anaheim and Long Beach as well as the state of California immediately came to mind.

Setting up a scenario that Machiavelli himself would have admired, the Mouse began playing Anaheim (the proposed location of Westcot) and Long Beach (the proposed location of Disney Seas) off one another in a not-so subtle competition for the next Disney theme park. For two years, Disney manipulated officials in these cities — constantly threatening to cancel that town’s project and take its thousands of jobs (and millions of tax dollars) elsewhere — to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds for highway improvements.

Anaheim ultimately won this corporate butt-kissing contest in December 1991, when the Mouse announced it was abandoning plans to build Disney Seas in favor of developing Westcot. Orange County officials rejoiced, little realizing the headaches and heartaches that lie ahead.

Why do Disneyana buffs constantly complain about Disney’s California Adventure?

It’s not so much about what DCA is, as it is about what that park isn’t.

Imagine if there was an announcement in your local paper that a major company intended to build a world class restaurant, right in your home town. Their plans called for the restaurant to be housed in an elegant building surrounded by beautiful gardens. Inside, they’d serve delicious food while live bands performed.

Wouldn’t you be excited if you heard that a place like that was coming to your town?

Conversely, wouldn’t you be disappointed if you were to learn that — after years of hype — the same company had decided not to construct the elegant restaurant, but were opting instead to build a McDonalds on that site?

One might argue that a restaurant is a restaurant. Food is food. It doesn’t much matter if an elegant restaurant is replaced by a fast food place. You still have somewhere to eat.

This is why Disneyana buffs are so upset. In their minds, they were promised the beautiful restaurant (Westcot) but ended up with McDonald’s (DCA).

It doesn’t much matter that many of the very same Imagineers who dreamed up Westcot also worked on attractions for DCA. Not to the Disney die-hards, anyway. All that they remember — all too keenly — are the plans for Westcot. Next to the greatness-that-might-have-been of that grandiose resort, everything — particularly California Adventure — pales in comparison.

Was this abandoned-but-not-forgotten project worth all this fuss? In a way, yes. Had Westcot been built following the project’s original plan, it would have been the culmination of Disney’s theme park experience. Everything that the Mouse had learned while building resorts in Florida, France and Japan was going to be used back in California.

And how fitting that Disney was going to re-invent the theme park experience — right back in the place where theme parks had been invented in 1955.

Westcot and the original Disneyland Resort plan was truly groundbreaking stuff. It sought to turn Disneyland and the tired collection of motels and fast food joints that surrounded the park as something extraordinary: a lushly gardened, brightly lit urban entertainment center. Had this project gone forward as originally planned, Anaheim could have emerged as one of California’s premier destination resorts.

You want to know what all the fuss was about? Do you long for a taste of the wonders of Westcot? Here, let me take you on a journey to the greatest theme park the Disney Company never built:

Your day at Westcot begins as you zoom off Interstate 5, driving straight in to one of two massive parking garages that border the reconfigured Disneyland Resort. After parking your car, you hop aboard an elevated shuttle (modeled after the automated system that Orlando International Airport uses to shuttle passengers to its outermost air terminals) which takes you quickly and quietly to Disneyland Plaza.

Though it’s only a short trip to the plaza, you still use this opportunity to eyeball the plush new resort. Off in the distance, you spy the Magic Kingdom Hotel — one of three new resorts the Walt Disney Company has built outside the parks. Its red tile roof and stucco stylings remind you a lot of the historic Spanish missions up in Santa Barbara.

The shuttle’s elevated track also takes you past Disneyland Center — a retail, dining and entertainment area located next to a six acre lake. You notice that many of the buildings in this part of the resort are modeled after memorable Californian landmarks: Catalina’s Avalon Ballroom, Venice Beach’s Boardwalk as well as San Diego’s Coronado Hotel. You make a note to do a little poking around here after your day at Westcot.

But now it’s time to disembark. As you stroll down the steps into Disneyland Plaza, you can’t help but think: this used to be the parking lot? Now it’s a tree-lined, fountain-filled open space, which allows guests a moment or so to get themselves oriented before beginning that day’s adventure.

To your left is Disneyland “Classic.” To your right is Westcot, a stylish rethinking of WDW’s Epcot Center. Everything that makes that Florida theme park fun is recreated here. Everything else that made Epcot somewhat creepy and a bit of a bore (“The Future as envisioned by Republicans”) has been left behind.

As you push through the turnstile to enter Westcot, the first thing you see is the park’s icon, Spacestation Earth. A giant 300-foot-tall golden ball reminiscent of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth. Even in the distance, it towers over everything. Sitting on a lush green island at the center of World Showcase lagoon, Spacestation Earth is home to the Ventureport.

You’ll have to cross a pedestrian bridge out over the water to reach Spacestation Earth and the Ventureport. But here, you’ll get your first taste of the Wonders of Westcot. Many of your old favorites from Epcot’s Future World — the “Journey into Imagination” ride with Figment and Dreamfinder, the “Body Wars” ride from the”Wonders of Life” pavilion as well as the “Horizons” ride — will be waiting for you here, where you can “Dare to Dream the Future.”

Well, the Future’s a fun place to hang out for a while. But suddenly your stomach’s growling. Maybe now would be a good time to sample all that international cuisine that’s available around World Showcase Lagoon. So you walk back around that pedestrian bridge and begin exploring the Americas.

(Westcot’s World Showcase is a little different than the Epcot version. Here, you won’t find separate countries, but countries grouped by regions. So, if you want to check out the international area, you have a choice of heading to the Americas, Europe, Asia as well as Africa & the Far East. Four distinct districts that try to span the globe. Today, you’ll begin your journey in the Americas.)

As you walk back across the pedestrian bridge, you can’t help but notice how cleverly Westcot is laid out. The buildings that form the Americas area (which also double as the main entrance to the park) have been done in an early 1900s style, reminiscent of the way New York City must have looked like at the turn of the century. Architecturally, these buildings have just enough in common with the buildings that make up Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. that the two theme parks blend together effortlessly. There are no jarring transitions for guests who are exiting one park to visit the other. It all flows together seamlessly.

Inside World Showcase, this sort of architectural blending continues. Instead of doing what the Imagineers who designed the original Epcot did (i.e.: building large, free-standing international pavilions with wide swaths of greenery separating each building from its neighbor), the team that designed Westcot put its buildings right next to one another. That way, you can — for example — see how Japanese architecture borrowed from Chinese design, which — in turn — influenced Indian ornamentation.

You also notice that Disney has obviously learned from the other mistakes it made with Epcot. There are fewer travelogue films to be seen here, but a lot more rides. Kids won’t complain about there being nothing to do in this park, particularly with attractions like “Ride The Dragon.” This steel coaster roars across the rooftops of the Asian section of World Showcase, following a track that’s designed to look like the Great Wall of China.

As you explore the many shops and exhibits you find in the park’s international area, your eye keeps being drawn to the top three floors of the six story buildings that ring World Showcase Lagoon. What a thrill it must be to have a room up there — in one of two new Disney Resort hotels, where guests can actually “live the dream” of staying inside a theme park.

I bet those rooms offer a great view of the nightly fireworks extravaganza.

Speaking of night, where did the day go? It seems like you just got to Westcot, yet it’s already time to head back home. You barely got to see half of this hyper-detailed theme park. I mean, how did you end up missing taking a trip on “The River of Time,” the park’s signature attraction? That 45 minute boat ride would have taken you all the way around the park, past elaborate audio animatronic recreations of great moments in history.

Oh well. I guess you’ll just have to catch that the next time.

You walk out of Westcot. And — while you are sorely tempted to catch that rock concert that’s currently playing in the Disneyland Arena (a 5,000-seat venue located just outside the entrance of Westcot, right next to Harbor Boulevard) — you know it’s really time to go home. That’s another one of the many attractions that will have to wait ’til the next time you visit the new and improved Disneyland Resort.

But — given all the new stuff that there is to see here — you’re sure you’ll be back soon.

You see. THAT’S what we missed out on. NOW do you understand all the endless griping you read about California Adventure as you’re out trolling the Internet?

This was a version of the Disneyland Resort that you could never have seen in one day. You would have — at the very least — needed three days: One to visit Disneyland “Classic,” one to visit Westcot, as well as an additional day to explore the new hotels, and to shop and dine at Disneyland Center.

This was exactly what Eisner wanted: Walt Disney World recreated in Anaheim in miniature. A world class resort built on a postage-stamp sized parcel of land. Best of all, in spite of the number of attractions the Imagineers had crammed into the project, the Disneyland Resort would not have seemed cramped. All the plazas, trees and fountains would have given guests the illusion that there was plenty of open space.

One of the things that really excited Eisner was that “Live the Dream” program, which would have allowed guests to stay in hotel rooms that were actually located inside Westcot’s World Showcase. Extensive survey work at Disneyland had showed that guests were willing to pay top dollar — $300 to $400 a night — to stay in these rooms. That would have made this part of the resort a tremendous money maker for the Walt Disney Company.

The beauty of this plan was that — in designing six story structures for World Showcase that housed shops, shows and restaurants on their first three floors and guest rooms towards the top — is that the Imagineers created a unique variation on Disneyland’s berm. The very height of these combination show buildings / hotels prevented guests from seeing out into the real world, perfectly preserving the sense that they had been transported to a different place.

The Westcot project seemed to have everything going for it. It had looks. It had style. It had the potential to make massive amounts of money, which to Michael Eisner’s way of thinking, is a lot more important than looks and style. It had Orange County officials drooling over the idea of hundreds of thousands of people putting off that WDW vacation in favor of visiting Disney’s newest resort in Anaheim.

There was just one slight flaw in this plan: No one had bothered to ask Disneyland’s neighbors — the folks who actually live in homes off of Katella and Ball Street — what they thought of all this development.

As it turns out, they had plenty to say.

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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