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Did you hear? Jim Hill is a con man!

Yep. Hill – and an estimated 80,000 of his close, personal friends – are all attending Comic Con. As he fights his way through the crowded aisles at the San Diego Convention Center, Hill reports in on who he’s already seen at this year’s show.



My friend (and JHM Photographer / Archivist) Jeff Lange has a favorite saying when it comes to describing events that are just a little too crowded, a little too busy, but still fun (Like – say – some concert or a theme park ride opening). When you ask Jeff how things went, he will smile and say: “It was bedlam. Absolute bedlam.”

Well, when Jeff called me this past Wednesday night to find out how things were going here in San Diego, I had to tell him: “This is absolute bedlam squared.”

My apologies for being AWOL this week, folks. I know it must have seemed kind of weird to have JHM rolling out its new look, only to have Jim Hill himself drop from sight for a couple of days. But there’s a logical explanation for my prolonged absence: Nancy & I were trying to get ready to attend this year’s Comic Con International in San Diego.

The only trouble is … The Comic Con vets that I spoke with said that there’s just no way to get ready to attend an event like this. As Ken P. kept telling me:

“Prepare to be frustrated & disappointed. No matter how early you get there, no matter late you stay, you’re never going to be able to see everything. The show’s too big. It’s seven days worth of events crammed into a four day slot.”

And – in a way – Ken was right. It certainly was frustrating on Wednesday afternoon (particularly after that long flight out from New Hampshire) to have to keep circling around the San Diego convention center as we tried to find a place to park. Not to mention those long lines in the lobby that Nancy & I encountered as we tried to get registered for this show.

But all that frustration and disappointment simply melted away once we walked through Entrance D and found what seemed to be a never ending exhibit hall. Row after row, booth after booth filled with truly cool stuff.

Not to mention tons of cool people. To put it bluntly, I was totally blown away by the number of talented artists who have set up shop at this show. Folks who I’m sure will be familiar to JHM readers. Like our own Floyd Norman, who has set up shop down in the “Artist’s Alley” section of the hall. JJ4 in Row 4900, to be exact. Where Floyd will be signing & selling copies of his great new “Son of Faster, Cheaper” book.

But then there are artists that you never ever thought you’d see in person. Like master illustrator Bill Stout and Dave Stevens, the creator of “The Rocketeer.” Who are actually sharing a booth — Booth 4703 – as they kindly commune with their fans.

That’s the thing that has really kind of impressed me (so far) about Comic Con. That – no matter how crazy & crowded the hall may get – the artists & illustrators who are attending this event could not be nicer. These folks genuinely seemed pleased to be out & about. To meet with the people who buy their comic books and/or watch the TV shows that they work on.

Take – for example – Chris Bailey. A longtime Disney vet (I.E. Chris directed that great Mickey Mouse short, “Runaway Brain,” as well as the pilot episode of “Kim Possible”), Bailey’s attending this year’s con to help promote a project that’s rather near & dear to his heart: “Major Damage“. As we chatted at Booth 1873, Chris kept talking about how nice it was to talk with folks who were such fans of his somewhat-inept-but-still-loveable super hero. How supportive these people were being as they quickly purchased copies of “Major Damage” books, comic books & DVDs.

I’ll say this much. It was definitely a buying crowd this past Wednesday night. I watched as people pressed in around Booth 4414, where Tracy Lee’s wonderful “Electric Tiki” merchandise was up for sale. Where folks were “Ooohing” & “Aaahing” at all the amazing maquettes that WDFA vet, Ruben Procopio, had sculpted for this firm.

Speaking of WDFA vets … What a pleasure it was to bump into Tom Bancroft & Rob Corley at this year’s Comic Con. Tom & Rob are in San Diego this year to promote the fourth issue of “Opposite Forces” as well as talk up their new title, “BoyRobo.”

But picking up copies of those two great books isn’t the only reason that you should probably make a point of dropping by Booth 2206. For – over the length of this four-day long convention – some truly talented artists & animators will be stopping in to do signings at the FunnyPages Press booth. People like Tom’s brother, Tony Bancroft (Best known to Disneyana fans as the animator of Pumbaa in “The Lion King” as well as co-director of “Mulan.” Nowadays, Tony’s heading up his own production company, Toonacious Studios). As well as some of the talented folks behind “Veggie Tales”; Chuck Vollmer, Greg Hardin and Paul Conrad.

Of course, I should also probably point out that the Comic Con’s 2200 area is a real hot spot when it becomes to getting face time with some of your favorite artists & illustrators. Take – for example – Booth 2200. Where one of my own personal favorites, Kyle Baker has set up shop. Selling copies of his wonderful new book, “Kyle Baker: Cartoonist” as well as its sequel, “Kyle Baker: Cartoonist – Vol. II.”

Just across the way from Kyle – in Booth 2201 – is Mike Kunkel. Another Disney Feature animation vet who made good in a huge way with his best selling comic book series, “Herobear and the Kid.” Mike’s in San Diego this year – pressing the flesh at the Astonish Factory booth to help promote his latest project, “The Land of Sokmunster.”

You’re going to find lots of great stuff on sale at this booth, folks. Stuff like genuine Sokmunster plush as well as a “Herobear” flipbook that Kunkel personally drew. (Proving – once and for all – that the Mouse made a huge mistake when they let Mike walk out the door). Plus – as a special San Diego Comic Con promotion – the Astonish Factory is giving away free copies of NCSoft’s “City of Heroes” game to those people who buy $50 worth of merchandise.

Mind you, you may still want to save your pennies ’til you get to Booth 2202. Where you’ll find master designer Stephen Silver selling copies of his brand new book, “The Art of Silver.” Some might balk at this handsome hardcover’s $40 asking price. But – when you open the thing up as see all those wonderful sketches that Stephen did for “Clerks” & “Danny Phantom” (As well as that truly funny foreword by Kevin Smith) – you’re still going to find yourself reaching for your wallet.

The same thing’s going to happen when you go around the corner to Booth 1907, where noted effects animator & illustrator Michael Gagne has a wide variety of his beautiful – if somewhat bizarre – books for sale. Like it or not, you’re going to pick up a copy of “Zed: Vol. I” – with its snazzy introduction by Brad Bird – and think: “I’ve got to buy a copy of this.”

Mind you, not all the fun at this year’s Comic Con involves reaching for your wallet. There are some truly fun freebies to be found along the way. Like that Walt Kelly museum that you’ll find at Booth 4501. Where you’ll find this wonderful display of “Pogo” merchandise.

Or – if you’d prefer to learn about some animated characters of a more recent vintage – then head on over to the Dreamworks display at Booth 4321. Where you can flip through detailed presentation books that show you just what the studio’s upcoming animated releases – “SharkTale” (Fall 2004) and “Madagascar” (Summer 2005) will look like.

Or you can head on over to the Disney Comics booth and get yourself a free toy. (That’s right. I actually used the words “Disney” and “free” in the same sentence.)

Of course – this being Disney and all – there is a catch. You CAN get a free Disney toy – a Donald Duck car, if I remember correctly – but ONLY if you drop buy Booth 3945 for four days in a row. As in Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday of this week. Where – each day – Disney Comics reps will hand out one piece of the car.

So – if you go to the Disney Comics booth for all four days of the San Diego Comic Con – you got yourself a free car. If you miss a day … Well, I guess that means that Donald has to walk to work.

Speaking of walking & working … some folks who are taking part in this year’s event really make you sweat in order to qualify for some (admittedly) very cool prize. Take – for example – the folks at Palisades Toys. As this year’s convention exclusive, Palisades is selling a Kermit the Frog action figure, which is dressed as Indiana Jones. (Which – some of you may recall – is an outfit that Kermit actually wore when he & his felt friends starred in that “Wonderful World of Disney” episode from the early 1990s, “The Muppets Go to Walt Disney World”).

Well, as part of this Kermit-dressed-as-Indiana-Jones action figure set, they’ve included a tiny little golden idol – just like the one that Indy was going after in “Raider of the Lost Ark” ‘s opening sequence. Only this version of the statue has a hooked nose and is unmistakably modeled after that inept entertainer, the Great Gonzo.

Which – all by itself – is admittedly pretty cool. But that’s not enough for the folks at Palisades Toys. They have to up the ante. Which why they’ve created a full-size version of the Gonzo-as-golden-idol figure. Which is proudly on display at Booth 3919.

Mind you, this Gonzo-as-golden-idol figure can’t be bought. It only be won … By San Diego Comic Con attendees who A) first drop by the Palisades Toy booth, B) pick up an official entry form and C) then walk around virtually the entire convention center getting this form stamped at 8 separate booths scattered around the hall.

Which is a pretty degrading way to make people earn a chance to win a prize, don’t you think? Which is why I’m now encouraging all you folks attending this year’s Comic Con NOT to take part in this contest. (Which – of course – will improve MY chances of actually snagging the Golden Gonzo.)

Now … If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back down to the convention center. As I try to find those eight booths … as well as maybe pick up a copy of Lynne Naylor’s new sketchbook.

Remember that name, folks: Lynne Naylor. She’s the very talented designer behind hot Cartoon Network shows like “Samurai Jack” and “Clone Wars.” And Lynne’s just finished working on a show for a Disney that I’m sure you’ll be hearing about this Fall. If only for its extremely unusual title. Which is:

“Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!”

You know, when I first heard the name for this Jetix show, I did the exact same thing I did four years ago … When a friend – who was working on the yet-to-be-aired “SpongeBob Squarepants” – told me the name of the show that he was working on. I must have made this guy say the name “SpongeBob Squarepants” about 300 times. Because I just couldn’t believe that a TV show could be called that.

Speaking of SpongeBob … You Squarepants fans out there are really going to want to stop by Booth 2813. Where the nice folks at Animated Animations are announcing that they’ve landed the rights to sell really-for-real “SpongeBob Squarepants” production art. As in real “SpongeBob” cels!

Of course, for those of you Disneyana fans who don’t actually care for SpongeBob: Not to worry: Animated Animations also offers some very cool Disney-related stuff. Like limited edition “Nightmare Before Christmas” giclees as well as some “75th Years of Mickey” cels.

Plus there’s all the cool stuff over at Booth 2410, where the staff of Gemstone Publishing is currently hawking their new line of “Disney Comics” reprints. Or – if you’re a serious “Love Bug” fan – then you’re going to want to stop by Booth 4237. Where Playing Mantis is displaying the two Herbie toys – a classic looking “Love Bug” as well as a pretty battered looking VW from “Herbie Goes Bananas”) that this company will soon begin selling.

You want to hear the scary part? I learned all of this info from just 2 ½ hours of blind stumbling around the San Diego convention center during “Preview Night.” So can you imagine how much fun stuff I’ll uncover once I start attending the full-blown version of Comic Con. This four-day long festival of seminars and sales and schmoozing …

Of course, given the crowds that Nancy & I encountered Wednesday, I have to admit that Ken P. is probably right. There’s just no way that you can really do it all, see it all, or experience it all.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t at least try.

Look for a full report on “absolute bedlam squared” once I get back home to New Hampshire next Monday night. For now … You folks have a great weekend, okay?


Are you in the San Diego area and would like to get in on this coming weekend’s festivities. Or would you just like to learn more about Comic Con International? Then follow this link.

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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