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Darth Disney versus Obi Wan Jimnobi

Jim Hill fills you in on what actually happened last weekend at Disneyland as well as what he’s been up to these past couple of days. Also: A fond farewell to JHM’s webmaster, Tony Moore.

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There’s a famous Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”


Well, folks, these are very interesting times. At least for me.


I mean, over the past five days, my cell phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I’ve had reporters from all over the country calling to request interviews. I’ve had friends & family checking in to make sure I’m okay.


And the e-mail … My in-box has been crammed full with all these wonderful notes. JHM readers writing in to express their outrage, offer their support, asking me what they can do to help (Their ideas run the gamut from sending in protest letters to Disney Company management to holding a sit-in at Disneyland’s Tour Guide Garden … FYI: That latter idea? I think that’s an incredibly stupid plan. Which is why I strongly urge the handful of JHM readers who are reportedly toying with this ’60’s style protest to abandon it ASAP. OK?)


I’ve also had a couple of hundred requests from people who want me to give them a “heads up” when the CD version of my “JHM Disneyland Tour” becomes available. So that they can then get to hear the stories that Disneyland Security thought were too racy or too rude to be told in public. (And — yes, all you iPod users out there — your message has come through loud & clear. Jeff and I will definitely look into prepping an iPod-friendly version of the tour).


And all of this because those three women got confused… <OW>


About that. A number of JHM readers have written in, wondering how that ever could have happened. To be honest, this innocent misunderstanding was more than partly my fault.


To explain: When people sign up for a JHM tour, they’re told to show up 15 minutes prior to the official start of the tour. Which — in this case — was 2 p.m.


Well, as I sat at the entrance of Disneyland’s Tour Guide Garden (I.E. The traditional meeting spot for the start of the tours), I kept hearing from tour participants who had just come in to the theme park’s main entrance that the lines at the turnstiles outside were incredibly long. Which is why it might take a while for the other tour participants to make their way through that crowd.


So 2 p.m. arrives and I’m still short three people for my afternoon tour. Meaning that three individuals (who I won’t name here) who had actually signed up for the 2 o’clock Saturday tour had yet to show up.


So I figured that I’d just hold in the area for a while. I began telling the story about how Disneyland actually came to be right there in the Tour Guide Garden, with the hope that my three no-shows would eventually turn up.


So 2 p.m. becomes 2:15. Which becomes 2:30. And — since I’m about to run out of Main Street-related stories — I’m getting ready to move my 2 p.m. tour group out of the Tour Guide Garden and into the walking portion of the tour … When who appears at my elbow but three ladies.


The diminutive blonde of the group asks: “Is this the tour?”


I’m in mid-story when these women come up to me. Rather than stop my story and formally check them in, I say: “Yes, it is. We’ve been waiting on you folks. Welcome!” Then plunge right back into my story.


The three ladies then proceed to follow along with the rest of the JHM tour group. They listen attentively to my stories, laugh in all the right places. Generally, they seem to be having a good time.


Of course, there were warning signs that things weren’t quite kosher. Like when the older member of the trio asked: “When do we eat?” Given that we don’t usually stop for a meal break on a JHM Disneyland tour, I just shrugged that comment off. Off-handedly saying that maybe we could grab a snack after the tour had formally concluded. So that I could then bring the three ladies up to speed on the portion of the tour that they’d missed out on because they had arrived late.


But it wasn’t ’til the very tail end of the tour (around 4 p.m.) that the diminutive blonde pulled the “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps” brochure out of her purse and said: “But I thought that we were supposed to see Club 33 on this tour …”


Immediately realizing what had happened, I apologized profusely to the trio. Explaining that there’d been some sort of mix-up. That what I was giving wasn’t an official Disneyland tour. But — rather — an unofficial one. Which was why I was able to tell a number of stories that the Walt Disney Company traditionally cuts out of its own recap of the Anaheim theme park’s history.


I then directed the three ladies back to Disneyland’s City Hall. Where I told them to speak with the park’s Guest Relations staff. Who (I was sure) would quickly grasp what had happened and immediately schedule the trio for another “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps” tour.


What I hadn’t counted on was that (and this info comes straight from an unnamed Guest Relations staffer who was working at City Hall this past Saturday afternoon when these three ladies came in) was that the park’s tour staff was initially quite unsympathetic to this trio’s complaints. That — since these ladies had specifically been told where & when to meet for their “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps” tour when they booked their reservations — that the park was now under no obligation to comp them another tour.


Sensing that they were losing this battle, the older woman in the party then became to complain quite loudly: “But the man who was leading that tour. He was telling such awful stories about Walt. How can you allow someone like that to wander around inside your park and say such vicious things about Mr. Disney?”


You see what was going on here, folks? It wasn’t so much that the stories that I was telling were actually all that offensive. But — rather — that three ladies had to really press this point in order to convince the staff at City Hall to agree to give them another free “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps” tour.


So — on the strength of this trio’s complaint — Guest Relations called Disneyland Security. And the rest of the story, you know …


Now Disneyland’s PR department will tell you that the reason that my Sunday afternoon tour got shut down was because I was an outside vendor on private property giving an unauthorized tour. And I’m not going to dispute that point. Why for? Because the Mouse is right.


But — that said — I’m still somewhat bothered by the way this whole thing went down. Like the very first thing that the lead investigator from Disney Security (this sweet, grandfatherly-looking guy) said to me: “We hear that you’ve been saying some pretty nasty things about our theme park.”


And then there was the Mouse’s decision to hijack my afternoon tour group. As in: Stop my 2 o’clock tour 20 minutes in, then take these people off on a “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps” tour instead.


Now some people will tell you that this was just good guest service. But me … I can’t help but think that this was Mickey’s way of trying to get these people to forget any of the somewhat darker tales that I may have told them about that theme park’s origins. So that they’d just go away with only happy memories of “The Happiest Place on Earth.”


But — then again — it’s really hard for me to complain. Given that all of the publicity that’s resulted from the ham-handed way that Disneyland Security handled this whole incident has resulted in enormous traffic for JHM. By singling me out for this sort of treatment, the Mouse may have actually done me a huge favor.


At least, that’s what my friends over at WDI & WDFA are telling me. Perhaps it was one unnamed Imagineer who best summed up this whole silly situation by saying:



Didn’t these people pay attention to what happened to you in Philadelphia last year? Disney kept you from covering the shareholders meeting. And — as result — you wound up on CNN & MSNBC.


Now they kick you out of Disneyland. And, as a direct result, you land in the media spotlight again.


It’s like you’re becoming the Disneyana equivalent of Obi Wan Kenobi, Jim. “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”


Maybe you should have that put on your business cards.


Well, I don’t know about that “… more powerful than you could possibly imagine” stuff. I’m not really a “delusion of grandeur” kind of guy. Most mornings, I’m lucky if I can have delusions of adequacy.

More importantly, if I had to pick a “Star Wars” character that I thought I looked most like, I think I’d pass over Obi Wan and go straight for Jabba the Hutt.


Anyway … I won’t lie to you, folks. The attention these past couple of days has been nice. As has been the boost in traffic at JHM. But — that said — I still feel bad for friends like David Koenig. Who was originally supposed to give two walking tours of Disneyland as part of his “Mouse Tales” book signing event (Which will be held Sunday, April 17th at the Compass Bookstore in Downtown Disney). Now that Disneyland Security has insisted that some sort of official policy be put in place regarding unauthorized tours of the theme park, I’m guessing that David’s hour-long “1955 Guided Tour” is off too.


And I’m also kind of embarassed for people like Bob Tucker, the director of Media Relations at the Disneyland Resort. Who — in response to repeated media inquiries about what had happened to me this past Sunday — was forced to issue the following statement:



Only qualified Disneyland Resort cast members are authorized to provide tours of Disneyland. Since Mr. Hill’s tour was not authorized he was asked to leave the property.


As I said earlier in this article, I really can’t find fault in the Mouse’s over-all approach to this situation. Given that I was basically in the wrong. I even managed to find the humor in this comment by an unnamed Disneyland PR flak:



“You wouldn’t go to a ball game and start selling hot dogs,” he continued, “and not expect the ball park to ask you to stop.”


Given the quality of the stories that I sometimes grind out for this site, I find the use of the hot dog analogy to be rather appropo. No. Wait Maybe a cheese dog would be more appropriate.


So — just to recap here:


1)  No, I’m not mad at Disneyland Security for doing what they did to me. The people that I dealt with this past Sunday afternoon were unfailingly polite and professional. Even though all of their talk of issuing trespassing warnings and/or having me arrested nearly scared the crap out of me.

2) No, I haven’t gone into hiding because of what happened last Sunday and/or because of some of the more colorful things that have been written about me on other Disney websites. I’ve actually been out in Hawaii these past three days, having a wonderful time visiting with my daughter, Alice. Which is why I haven’t contributed a new story to JHM ’til just now.

3) That said, I’m still somewhat bothered by that “We hear that you’ve been saying some pretty nasty things about our theme park” comment. I can’t help but think that Disney’s need to keep a pro-Disneyland agenda going (particularly as the Anaheim resort gets ready for its upcoming “Happiest Homecoming on Earth” celebration) played a fairly big part in the Mouse’s decision to put a formal “no unauthorized tours” policy in place.

4) And — finally — no, JHM didn’t go dark yesterday because Disney’s lawyers had suddenly descended upon us and shut the site down. But — rather — because there was a bit of miscommunication between Flux Services (I.E. The company that provides & maintains JHM’s servers) and Tony Moore, JHM’s webmaster.

Speaking of which … It is with genuine sadness that I report that Tony Moore has suddenly decided to step down as JHM’s webmaster. I’ve known Mr. Moore for a number of years now (He and I actually worked together at DCACentral.com back in my “Remembering Light Magic” days) and he’s always been a hard worker & a good friend.

There’s no way that JHM would have come so far so fast in the past year or so without all of Tony’s tireless efforts. Which is why we’re really going to miss Mr. Moore around here. Best wishes on your next project. Don’t be a stranger, okay?

So — as Tony Moore rides off into the sunset — JHM now begins its search for its next webmaster. Mind you, I already have a number of candidates in mind. As soon as I get all that behind-the-scenes stuff sorted out, I’ll be sure to let you know.

In the meantime … Nancy just called. We just got another four inches of snow back in New Hampshire. Which I’ll undoubtedly have to deal with once I get back home next Wednesday.

But — for now — my daughter is campaigning to go down to the pool again. So I guess I’d best go find my swimming trunks, then head downstairs.

Anywho … I hope that you folks enjoyed all the unnecessary drama this week. Here’s hoping that things quiet down a bit here at JHM come next Monday.

Til then … You folks take care, okay?

jrh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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

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

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

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

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

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

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

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

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