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Debunking Big Thunder Rumors

Jim Hill and Chuck Oberleitner team up today to bring you the second in our occasional series articles about Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain tragedy — an article you’ll want to read, particularly if you’ve been hearing some sensational stories about the alleged real cause of this awful accident.



It used to be something that theme park fans would consider a comical cliché. How you’d board a Disney theme park attraction and then … Something would go horribly wrong!?

I mean, think about it, people. Isn’t this the exact same story point that drives the action in Disneyland’s “Star Tours” and “The Indiana Jones Adventure” as well as the now-closed “Alien Encounter” attraction at WDW’s Magic Kingdom? That things initially start out seeming safe … but then something untoward happens. And then that’s when the fun begins.

Well, in the wake of the September 5th Big Thunder tragedy (where something actually DID go horribly wrong, resulting in the death of 22-year old Marcelo Torres as well as the injuring of 10 other Disneyland guests), now much of the humor has gone out of that Disney theme park cliché. Particularly given some of the rumors that have been circulating about this awful accident.

“What sorts of rumors?” you ask. Well, I know that a number of JHM readers were somewhat taken aback when they saw this headline back on Friday: “Police find no sabotage in Disney ride crash.” If you’d like to read the Reuters story that actually went along with this sensational headline, you can do so here.

“So was that Reuters report right, Jim? Was sabotage ever actually seriously considered as a possible cause of the Big Thunder tragedy?” you continue. Well, based on copies of the official Anaheim Police Department report that has been able to obtain, I’m sorry to say that the answer to that question is yes.

Now — before we go any further here — I want you to keep in mind that this sabotage story was one of many theories that were initially floating around as a possible cause of the Big Thunder Mountain accident. And that it was the responsibility of the AHD officers who were investigating this tragedy to make sure that they followed every lead. To leave no stone unturned, so to speak. So it was in this spirit that the Anaheim Police Department began its investigation. Which was why they had at least to look seriously at even the possibility that the Big Thunder Mountain accident was the result of sabotage.

“But why was the idea of ‘sabotage’ even brought up in the first place?” you persist. Well, let’s remember that we live in post-9/11 America, people. Where terrorism — particularly at a place like Disneyland (which in the past has reportedly been considered by Al Qaeda operatives as a possible target for terrorist activities) — must at least be taken into consideration.

But — given the very nature of the Big Thunder accident (and the fact that Disneyland guests have extremely limited access to the ride vehicles, not to mention that all guests entering the theme parks nowadays must have their bags checked before they’re allowed to go through the turnstiles) — the possibility of terrorist activity being the real cause of this tragedy was fairly quickly dismissed. But not the notion of sabotage itself.

Instead, the Anaheim Police Department turned its attention to Disneyland’s own employees. Thoroughly investigating the possibility that this accident could have possibly been caused by a disgruntled cast member.

“But why would a Disneyland employee want to cause an accident on Big Thunder Mountain?” you query. Well, how many of you recall that story that David Koenig did for MousePlanet back on August 12th? Which detailed how unhappy many Disneyland employees were with a new staffing policy that was about to go into effect at the theme park which would keep them “land locked.” (I.E. Prevent them from working on multiple attractions in different parts of the theme park. Rather, locking them into one specific area, so that these cast members can only work the rides and attractions located in that land.)

Given that this new staffing policy was reportedly wildly unpopular among Disneyland employees, it’s been suggested that — in an effort to get this policy repealed — that some cast members may have taken matters into their own hands. And what better way would there be to get this “land locking” system repealed than to be able to show that it adversely effected hourly ride capacity at the park?

This is the story that we had been hearing repeatedly here at over the past few weeks. That the Big Thunder Mountain accident may have actually been caused by an employee who was upset with Disneyland’s new staffing policy. That this cast member allegedly took this action with the hope that it would shut down this Frontierland attraction for a few hours (thereby lowering the theme park’s ride capacity for a few hours with the hope that doing something like this might eventually result in Disneyland’s “land locking” system being repealed). Never realizing that this action might result in tragedy.

“So why has been sitting on this story ’til now?” you ask. Because — in spite of how popular this story may have been among Walt Disney Company employees — we suspected that this oft-told tale was just a rumor. What was particularly troubling was — whenever we tried to pin down someone down, find out who the real source of this story was, it was always the same refrain: “I heard it from a friend of mine. Who heard it from a friend of his. Who knows somebody who’s close to the investigation and/or works on the attraction.” You know the drill.

So anyway … given that FOAF (AKA “Friend of a Friend”) stories always make me nervous, we opted to sit on this info. Sure, it would have been nice for the site to break a story like that. Grab some headlines. But — given the immediate negative impact that an article like this would have had on the Walt Disney Company’s reputation — it just didn’t seem right or responsible to rush this sensational information into print. At least without having some sort of corroboration that this alleged sabotage had actually occurred.

So — over the past few weeks — Chuck Oberleitner made some discreet inquiries. Talking with Anaheim Police Department public information officer Sgt. Rick Martinez, as well as members of Disneyland’s own publicity department. In both cases, while no one was willing to go on record, both Martinez as well as the Mouse’s spokespeople poo-pooed the sabotage idea. Which at least made us feel better about not rushing to put this sensational-sounding story up on the site.

But — given that both Reuters as well as the Los Angeles Times both published stories last week that touched on the possibility that cast member sabotage was initially thought to play a part in the Big Thunder Mountain tragedy — it’s clear that Chuck and I weren’t the only people who had been hearing these rumors.

But now comes the really intriguing question: Who exactly was the person within the Disney organization who initially clued the Anaheim Police Department into this possibility? That cast member sabotage may have played a part in the Big Thunder Mountain tragedy? To date, Chuck and I haven’t been able to uncover that man or woman’s identity. But we continue to work on that aspect of the story.

Anywho … thanks to last Friday’s Reuters story — JHM is finally free to write about all those Disneyland sabotage rumors that have been coming our way. If only to say: “You know that rumor that’s been flying around the web about how a Disneyland employee supposedly deliberately caused the Big Thunder accident? Well, it’s wrong.”

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that the Mouse is totally out of the woods yet. There’s still the matter of the Disneyland employees who were manning Big Thunder Mountain on September 5th. Who — for perhaps as long as 45 minutes — noticed that Train No. 2 on this attraction was making an odd “clanking” noise, but opted not to pull that train out of service.

In the spirit of fairness, it should be pointed out here that (according to the APD reports on the BTMRR accident) — while Train No. 2 was making this odd “clanking” noise — the Big Thunder Mountain Railway cast members who were operating the attraction were reportedly actively debating what they should do. Should they leave the train running or take it out of service and see what was causing that noise? In the end, they allegedly made the decision that they’d pull the vehicle out of service once it had completed its next run. Sadly, it was during that trip around the mountain that Big Thunder Mountain Train No. 2 derailed. Which resulted in the death of Mr. Torres.

So — strictly from a liability point of view — Disneyland managers may have some awfully tough questions to deal with in the future. As in: Did the cast members who were operating “Big Thunder Mountain” on September 5th behave responsibly? Given that Train No. 2 is reported to have been making those odd “clanking” noises for as long as 45 minutes, wouldn’t the smarter thing to do have been to pull BTMRR ride vehicle out of service much earlier that morning?

Hey, hindsight’s 20/20, folks. So it’s always easy to say what should have happened after a tragedy’s occurred. But in this case, if the info that’s contained in those APD reports is correct … well, 45 minutes seems like an awfully long time to leave a train in service that’s been making an odd “clanking” noise. At least to me.

As for what’s been happening since Chuck first spoke with the Anaheim PD and what may have been causing that noise … why don’t I hand the story off to Chuck Oberleitner for a moment. He can fill you in on the particulars:

Last week I again spoke by phone with Anaheim PD media relations officer, Sergeant Rick Martinez. I reminded Sgt. Martinez that in a earlier interview with JimHillMedia and in remarks he made to the Los Angeles Times, he had said that the criminal investigation would stay open as long as the DOSH investigation continued.

“That’s right,” he said. “And when I was told our investigation was being closed (prior to the conclusion of the DOSH investigation) I asked our officers the same thing.”

Sgt. Martinez went on to say that the officers conducting the investigation, working closely with the DOSH investigation team had concluded that there was no evidence of criminal negligence or culpability. Therefore there was no reason to keep the criminal investigation open. “If new evidence were to come up,” he added, “we can always reopen the investigation.”

With the closing of the criminal investigation more information about the events of September 5, are coming out. Just a little over two weeks before the accident, state inspectors had examined Big Thunder Mountain. Nothing out of the ordinary was found.

Transcripts and recordings of the frantic 911 calls made by passengers on the ill-fated train have been released. They show an instant recognition by passengers that one of the train’s occupants was seriously injured in the accident.

This past week, has learned that attention is now being focused on the metal pins used to link the cars of the BTM mine trains together. Investigators want to know how and where these pins are made.

Sources familiar with the history of Big Thunder Mountain tell JHM that at one point these pins and indeed all the major metal components of Disneyland rides were milled on site in Disneyland’s own “mill shop.” Now as part of cost cutting measures put in place by Disney management in the late 90s these pins are no longer produced by Disney craftsmen but rather by outside contractors who presumably produce them for a lower cost than Disney’s own maintenance department.

In an e-mail dated October 6 of this year Bob Tucker, Disneyland Resort Director of Media Relations had the following to say in response to questions about the operational status of the various wood and metal “mill shops” backstage at Disneyland:

“I followed up on your inquiry about the machine shop and sheet metal shop. Just like the mill shop, they also continue to be fully operational. As for contracting out work, we have always operated that way depending on the scope of the job.”

A key figure within Disneyland familiar with the investigation continues to insist that these pins and the relatively recent decision to acquire them from outside contractors remains a prominent part of the ongoing investigation. Furthermore, while the Walt Disney Company will in all likelihood end up paying out millions of dollars in legal settlements, it now appears that Disneyland Resort maintenance may bear the full brunt of responsibility for the accident.

DOSH investigators are on record saying that it could take another four to six weeks to conclude their investigation. In the meantime, questions still remain unanswered about the odd noises heard by BTM CMs prior to the train’s final run and the exact way in which the locomotive partially derailed and became detached from the rest of the train.

In the course of preparing this story Walt Disney Imagineering was asked for information regarding Big Thunder Mountain’s design. Because of the ongoing nature of the investigation they declined to comment.

So there you have it, people. One Big Thunder Mountain rumor put to rest. But there are still many troubling questions that continue to swirl around this tragic accident and its investigation. As we here at learn more, we’ll be sure to pass that info along.

Your thoughts?

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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