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Disney Deja View: Sorting out the sequels III

JHM guest columnist Dan Weckerly continues his multi-part series on the various film series that Walt Disney Studios has produced over the years

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In the 1970s and beyond, the Disney revisits (remakes and sequels) experienced a lull of sorts. The reasons seem to be twofold: Output in general was down during this period of transition from the Miller years to the Eisner reign. And by the mid-1980s, the feature animation engines were sparking to life, capturing a portion of the studio’s creative resources and bringing Disney to yet another renaissance. That next wave of animated classics would produce a whole crop of sequels themselves (examined in the final installment to this series).

Apples Don’t Fall Far…

Jack M. Bickham’s 1971 novelThe Apple Dumpling Gang” was purchased by the Disney Studios and came to the screen in 1975. In rustic (and aptly named) Quake City, CA, gambler Russel Donovan (Bill Bixby) is asked to pick up a package coming in on a stage, driven by sassy (and beautiful) Dusty Clydesdale (Susan Clark). The “package” is a trio of moppets, Clovis, Bobby, and Celia Bradley, who have been left in Donovan’s care, without his foreknowledge. The town and the plot get shaken up when an earthquake reveals a multi-carat hunk of gold to the kids, and numerous parties attempt to steal it. The most inept of the robbers are local swindlers Amos and Theodore, played to the hilt by Tim Conway and Don Knotts.

Conway and Knotts saddled up one more in “The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again” (1979), minus the romantic subplot between Donovan and Dusty. *And* absent the three kids. What’s left is a rather episodic, somewhat humorous, 88 minutes of revenge-seeking lawmen, foiled bank robberies, and an entire fort that’s torched.

Enjoyment of “ADG Rides Again” probably hinges on the age and maturity level of the viewer; for the under-10 set, it’s a laff riot. For adults… not so much.

Which Witch?

In “Escape to Witch Mountain” (1975), Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann are Tia and Tony, respectively, two orphans with extraordinary powers of telekinesis. Evil millionaire Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland) wants his henchman Lucas Deranian (Donald Pleasence) to capture the kids for his own benefit. The kids latch on to widower Jason O’Day (Eddie Albert), who delivers them safely to Witch Mountain, where we learn the secret behind their powers.

The film is a mixed bag of good and bad: The central performances from Eisenmann and Richards are very good — in fact, they outshine the teeth-gnashing villains handily. The technical aspects could have been better handled, too, as several wires are visible in the camera trickery of moving objects around on their own. And the blue-screened climax looks unlikely and cheesy by today’s standards.

But there was apparently enough interest in the story to continue it, hence “Return from Witch Mountain” in 1978. Tony and Tia are now teenagers on vacation in LA. Tony is kidnapped by a world-domination-plotting scientist Professor Gannon (Christopher Lee) and his greedy sponsor Letha (Bette Davis). Tia, with the help of the scrappy Earthquake Gang, helps him escape, with the chase climaxing at a plutonium plant.

The charm that “Escape” generated ebbs from the sequel, for reasons that include the age of the two leads. They’re stuck in that awkward-*** stage, making their “dramatic” scenes a little tough to swallow. Christopher Lee is appropriately black, but Bette Davis has little (if anything) to do. The SPFX are adequate, best rendered when Tony, under the mind control of Prof. Gannon, attempts to steal gold bullion from a museum.

The Witch Mountain franchise tried a cross-over to serial television in 1982, with “Beyond Witch Mountain.” Eddie Albert reprised his Jason O’Day role, but Tia was played by Tracy Gold and Tony was Andrew K. Freeman. The gist of the show was the weekly rescue of other Witch Mountain strandees, but the concept never made it beyond its premiere.

The original Disney Witch Project received a complete re-do and a major dumbing-down for a TV remake in 1995. Tony and Tia were Danny (Erik von Detten) and Anna (Elizabeth Moss), and their special abilities are named “purple power,” which sounds like a soft drink Barney the Dinosaur would sell. Robert Vaughn played evil Mr. Bolt.

Casual Friday

Annabel and Ellen Andrews are at odds with each other; Annabel is in a rebelling teenager phase, and her mother Ellen pines for her lost youth. When they both wish to swap places at precisely the same moment, the Powers That Be grant the request, and Ellen must navigate a day in daughter Annabel’s shoes, and vice versa. This was the plot of “Freaky Friday” (1976), a fish-outta-water comedy starring Jodie Foster as Annabel and Barbara Harris as mother Ellen.
The comic implications of the swapping of a 40-something with a teenager are played to the hilt, as Annabel/Ellen gets mauled on a lacrosse field, blows up a typewriter, and must face the prospect of waterskiing in a show for her real-estate dad’s clients. Ellen/Annabel, on the other hand, must cook, navigate the washer, and deal with an unending parade of repair and cleaning people arriving at the home.

The original is sweet, very funny, and contains two dead-on performances. It’s tough to decide who is the better delight: Foster-as-Ellen, trying to gulp down an ice cream sundae when she really craves a cigarette, or Harris-as-Annabel, wooing neighbor-boy Boris (Marc McClure) and skateboarding.
“Freaky Friday” got the TV treatment in 1995, but Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffman as Ellen and Annabel can’t hold a candle to the prior cast. It’s a by-the-numbers outing at best, containing little of the wit of the original.

In 2003, the film was again remade theatrically, keeping the same title but adapting a drastically new (but refreshingly funny) viewpoint. This time, it’s Anna (Lindsay Lohan) v. Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis). Anna believes mom is ruining her life by interfering in her romances, criticizing her dress, carping about the noise level of her garage band, and favoring her little brother. Tess is a little distracted: Her practice as a psychologist has her in daily contact with *very* needy patients, and she’s getting remarried after the death of her first husband, Anna’s father. New beau Ryan (Mark Harmon) spends most of the movie with his eyebrows raised, trying to steel himself for what he’s getting into.

The body swap-a-roo takes place at the hands of a well-meaning (but meddlesome) matriarch at the local Chinese restaurant. And the results are hilarious, with Anna-as-Tess facing a panicky interview promoting a book she hasn’t read, and Tess-as-Anna navigating the halls of high school, including a vindictive former gal-pal, a jealous teacher, and a state-mandated aptitude test.

Marc McClure has a nice cameo as Boris, now a Fed-Ex delivery man.

The climax, at Tess’ rehearsal dinner for the wedding where Anna is expected to play at a band audition, is heartfelt and true.

The two theatrical versions of “Freaky Friday” are the rarity in the Disney sequel canon; they both stand on their own as enjoyable, funny, fresh, and interesting character studies, a nod not only to the creative teams that assembled them but also to the strength of the Mary Rodgers source novel.

Down and Out

The entire southern California rich-n-famous lifestyle got a good skewering in 1986’s “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” a Touchstone release. The Whitemans (nudge-nudge) live a completely isolated life in their mega-mansion. Husband Jerry (Richard Dreyfuss) has made a killing in wire dry cleaning hangers (wonder if he’s seen “Mommy Dearest”?), and wife Barbara (Bette Midler) flits from psychoanalysis session to nail appointments to shopping binges in the desire to be happy. Even the family dog, Matisse, is under a behaviorist’s care. It all turns upside-down when a homeless man (grungy Nick Nolte) wanders onto their property to commit suicide in the family pool.

The following year, Fox Television decided to give the concept a whirl as a weekly series. Hector Elizondo and Anita Morris were brought onboard as the Whitemans, and Tim Thomerson filled in for Jerry. Only Matisse remained from the original cast. This sit-com has the distinction of being the first Fox cancellation ever. The writing, audiences found, was down; therefore, the show was soon out.

Men and Babies

Three Men and a Baby” (1987) used a French film as the inspiration to play the “Mr. Mom” card, wondering what laughs could be wrung from three bachelors stuck with a babe. Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson are the titular three men, and while they initially fumble around in sit-com style with diapers and feedings, they eventually find their way.

So in 1990, the melee continues in “Three Men and a Little Lady.” Baby Mary’s now a five-year-old, is in jeopardy of losing her three dads, as her mother (Nancy Travis) is considering a re-lo to England.

“Little Lady” is much more a romantic comedy, with Selleck on the move to Stop That Wedding! The original may have the aww factor going for it, but the sequel appeals if for nothing more than its slightly more mature outlook.

Let’s Get Small

1989’s “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” returned the studio to the wacky-scientist comedies of the 1960s, with Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) taking his proper place among the Merlin Joneses and Ned Brainerds of releases past. His shrinking ray zaps his own children (and a neighbor kid) down to ¼-inch height, and they must battle many backyard adventures (ants, bees, the lawnmower) to return home and to normal size.

Excellent SPFX abound in “HISK,” but the pacing is a little sit-commy, as if the adult cast is standing around waiting for laughs from a studio audience that isn’t there.

In 1992, the “HISK” concept was turned on its side with “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.” Toddler Adam Szalinski and his big bunny get shot by Wayne’s growth ray and shoot up to skyscraper size. They then terrorize Las Vegas, in a bright send-up of every monster-on-the-loose-in-a-big-city Sci-fi action flick. The green-screens are a little grainier and the pacing could still be a little brisker, but there’s fun to be had.

The small screen called twice in 1997, with “Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves” being released direct-to-video. This time, it’s the adults who get small and must navigate their way to safety among the dangers in the household: Hot Wheels, cockroaches, and sleepover girls who gorge on onion dip. (1997). The concept was then serialized, running 66 episodes and winning three Daytime Emmys. Rick Moranis was out and Peter Scolari was in. Often, plots spoofed a number of TV and movie conventions, including James Bond films and “Fantastic Voyage.”

Mia Thermopoli

In 2001, the Pygmalion story got an interesting update, with ugly-duckling Mia (Anne Hathaway) discovering — to her shock — that she’s actually a princess of a tiny pear-producing European country, Genovia. Mia’s grandmother, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) comes aboard to mold the gawky teen into a glamour dream. By the last reel, in accordance with the tagline of the film, she rocks; she rules; she reigns in “The Princess Diaries.”

The sequel in 2004 brings Mia and grandmamma to Genovia, where there is much questioning of her ability to rule. As it turns out, the ruler of Genovia must be married, so the royals scurry for an appropriate mate.

Both films are tweener fantasies, with much being made of the jewelry, gowns, and glam. But thankfully, there’s more weight to these stories, provided by the likes of the regally cool Julie Andrews and the dizzy Heather Matarazzo as best-friend Lilly. The second film also benefits from of a short musical tribute from Julie Andrews, her first on-screen balladeering since a botched surgical procedure silenced her golden singing voice in 1999.

Next up, the Disney animated features and their often not-too-successful sequels.

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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