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Did Disney make a mammoth mistake?

Is “Ice Age” the big one that got away? Jim Hill reveals how Mouse House executives actually had a chance to acquire this year’s top grossing feature length animated film (to date), but blew it because they didn’t think that this Fox flick was up to WDFA’s incredibly high standards. (Say what?)

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According to legendary screenwriter William Goldman, there is only one constant in Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything.”

TRANSLATION: No one person in the business can actually accurately predict what’s going to happen next. Whether a picture is going to hit and/or turn out to be a flop.

Some senior studio executives at the Walt Disney Company certainly like to pretend that they’re in the know. That their years of experience (not to mention the acres and acres of audience research info that they have access to) gives them some special insight into what movie-goers might actually respond to. But – in the end – these all-knowing Mouse House execs still can’t get it right 100% of the time.

Case in point: Fox’s “Ice Age.” Early last year, executives at Fox were becoming extremely nervous about this still-in-production CG flick. Given that the studio’s last foray into feature animation – their much hyped Summer 2000 release, “Titan A.E.” – had ended disastrously (Fox poured $85 million into the production and promotion of that picture. In the end, “Titan” was only able to pull in a paltry $23 million during its entire domestic release), Fox was giving some very serious thought to getting out of the feature animation game entirely.

Which is why – during the first quarter of 2001 – Fox studio execs reportedly quietly approached Walt Disney Company officials. Their mission? To see if the Mouse might be interested in taking “Ice Age” off of Fox’s hands.

Intrigued by their rival’s offer, senior officials at Disney Feature Animation supposedly screened “Ice Age” at the Burbank lot early last spring. Days later, they discreetly returned the work-in-progress print to the folks at Fox.

Disney’s verdict? “Ice Age” was dreadful. According to the feedback that top level WDFA execs allegedly gave Fox officials: The picture’s character design was butt ugly. The movie’s storyline was predictable and derivative. There was just no way that Disney would stoop to releasing a film that was as flawed as “Ice Age” was.

Extremely chagrined by Disney’s sharp criticism, Fox execs took back that copy of the work-in-progress version of “Ice Age.” After screening the film a few more times in-house (and ordering the animators at Blue Sky Studios to remove some of the more risqué, adult humored moments in the movie), the folks at Fox thought that “Maybe if we put together some big promotion for ‘Ice Age,’ we can con an audience into coming out to see this picture.”

Which is why Fox ended up getting in bed with Burger King as well as buying up all that ad time during the telecasts of this year’s Winter Olympics. All with the hope that the studio – with proper promotion – might be able to get back some of the $58 million that they’d spent on making “Ice Age.”

And what was the end result? “Ice Age” grossed an astounding $176 million during its domestic release earlier this year … not to mention the additional $190 million that this Fox CG flick pulled in during its overseas run.

Now – to put that $176 million domestic gross in perspective – you have to understand that the two films from Walt Disney Feature Animation that preceded “Ice Age” into theaters (2000’s “The Emperor’s New Groove” and 2001’s “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”) only pulled in $89 million and $84 million, respectively. And that – even if the Mouse were to COMBINE the domestic box office grosses of these two extremely expensive, highly promoted WDFA pictures – Disney still wouldn’t be able to equal the money making might of Fox’s mammoth hit.

So what does this prove? That the execs at Walt Disney Feature Animation wouldn’t know a good movie even if it were just HANDED to them? Well, that’s a little harsh. But not too far from the truth.

You want another example? Then let’s talk about Eric Goldberg’s pet project, “The Frog Prince.” For those of you who don’t know, Eric was one of the real powerhouse talents behind Walt Disney Feature Animation in the 1990s. His outstanding work as an animator (EX: Goldberg supervised the Genie in “Aladdin”) as well as a director (EX: “Fantasia 2000″‘s “Rhapsody in Blue” sequence was – start to finish – an Eric Goldberg production) has already made this guy a legend in the industry.

Anywho … Eric was tired of Disney doing these feature length animated films like “Hunchback” and “Pocahontas” (which Goldberg co-directed with Mike Gabriel, by the way) that took themselves WAY too serious. He wanted the Mouse to make a feature length cartoon that was fall down funny. Something that audiences could laugh at all the way through.

Which is why Goldberg (with the help of his extremely talented art director wife, Susan McKinsey Goldberg) developed a satirical version of “The Frog Prince.” Something in the tradition of the “Fractured Fairy Tale” section of Jay Ward’s late, great “Bullwinkle” TV show. Only with a strong enough story to keep the laughs coming for 90 minutes or thereabouts.

But – in the late winter / early spring of 2001 – when Eric and Sue finally showed WDFA’s creative executives all the development work that they’d done on “The Frog Prince,” they were in for a really rude shock. Schumacher’s minions reportedly rejected the Goldberg’s proposed feature in record time. Why for? Well, the alleged reasoning behind the suit’s high speed rejection of the film was that audiences just weren’t going to sit still for a film that spent 90 minutes making fun of fairy tales.

Now keep in mind that the brain trust at WDFA made this ridiculous pronouncement just weeks before Dreamworks’ “Shrek” rolled into theaters nationwide. And that CG animated feature – which actually spent 89 minutes making fun of fairy tales – ended up grossing $267 million during its domestic run at the box office. Not to mention scoring the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Which is why – in a stunning reversal on their earlier position – Walt Disney Feature Animation immediately put two projects that made fun of fairy tales in the company’s production’s pipeline during the summer of 2001. One was “Chicken Little,” a wildly comic CG feature that’s being masterminded by the wits behind “The Emperor’s New Groove,” director Mark Dindal and producer Randy Fullmer. The other was “Enchanted,” another satire of the fairy tale genre that was to have mixed animation and live action.

WDFA had hoped that Eric and Sue Goldberg would ride herd on the animated portion of “Enchanted.” But – by the summer of 2001 – the Goldbergs had become extremely disenchanted with Disney. Which is why the husband-and-wife team both opted to exit the Mouse House in August 2001.

After this, Eric toyed with the idea of directing a CG version of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s tale, “Where the Wild Things Are” (This project – which was to have been produced by Tom Hanks’ Playtone Company – would have been released through Universal Studios). But then Goldberg’s dream project came along: A chance to animate Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and all of the other classic Warner Brothers characters in Joe Dante’s live action / animated tour de force farce, “Loony Tunes: Back in Action.”

That much anticipated project is currently slated to hit theaters on November 14, 2003 – at which time “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” will probably end up going head-to-head with Disney’s “Bears.” A situation which could probably have been avoided if WDFA executives had just listened to the Goldbergs in early 2001 and allowed Eric and Sue to go forward with their “Frog Prince” project.

To be fair, it should be noted here that the creative executives who are currently in charge of Walt Disney Feature Animation aren’t the only individuals at the Mouse House to ever miss out on a real opportunity. Case in point: The infamous day in 1980 that Card Walker turned away Steven Spielberg.

You see, ‘way back then, Steven was still smarting over the drubbing that his wunderkind reputation had taken following “1941”‘s disastrous reception at the box office. Having worked mostly for Columbia and Universal Studios up until that time, Spielberg was anxious to make a break from his past. Find himself a new place to call home in Hollywood.

Then-Walt Disney studios head Ron Miller somehow got wind of this situation. Which is why – in February 1980 – Miller asked Spielberg to come by the Burbank lot and literally offered Steven the keys to the kingdom. Ron wanted to set up Steven as the head of production for the studio. Which meant that Spielberg could call the shots on Disney’s entire production slate. Directing the films that he personally wanted to direct. Executive producing the rest.

Spielberg reportedly thought that this was just a wonderful idea. He talked enthusiastically about bringing his other film-making friends on board at Disney. People like “Star Wars” director George Lucas, Academy Award winning composer John Williams, high profile actors like Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford.

So why didn’t this dream deal happen? To put it bluntly, Spielberg likes to share the wealth. He insisted that – were he were to become head of production at Walt Disney Studios – that the company would have to start offering “points” to the creative community. I.E. Giving the actors and key creative personnel who’d worked on particular projects a piece of the profits that those films would generate.

The awarding of “points” had become standard operating procedure everywhere else in Hollywood by the late 1970s. But not at Disney. Walt Disney Productions still treated its extremely talented staff as hired hands. The corporation’s animators, actors and artists all got paid a fairly decent salary. But that was it. In spite of the decades that these talented folks may have put in at the company, they never got to have any financial participation in the pictures that they worked on. All that money went straight to Mickey.

In order for him to agree to accept the position as head of production at Walt Disney Studios, Spielberg insisted that the Mouse had to get with the times. That Walt Disney Productions would have to agree to begin awarding “points” to the creative personnel that he intended to bring on board at the Mouse Factory … or the deal was off.

Then Walt Disney Productions CEO Card Walker realized that having Steven come on board at Disney was a tremendous opportunity. But Card just couldn’t bring himself to share. Which is why he reluctantly ordered Ron to pull the plug on the deal that Miller had set up with Spielberg.

Which just about broke both Ron and Steven’s hearts. Why? Because Spielberg had already told Miller all about the film that Steven had hoped to produce as his very first project at the studio. This very small, cheap-to-make movie that he felt would be just perfect for Disney.

And what was that movie’s story? It told the emotional tale of a lonely little boy from the suburbs who befriends this ugly-but-cute alien who’s accidentally been stranded on Earth.

Yep. Disney could have had “E.T.” But because Card Walker just couldn’t bring himself to spread the wealth around, the Mouse House lost out on having Spielberg as their very own in-house wunderkind.

Which – when you think about it – makes Disney missing out on “Ice Age” seem like a minor mishap. Rather than a mammoth-sized mistake.

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  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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