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Disney Does Dean

Wondering what Roy Disney and Stanley Gold might be up to next? Then Jim Hill suggests that you go take a look at the playbook of Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean.

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While 99.9% of JHM readers seem to have enjoyed the Roy / Stanley / Michael coverage that I’ve cranked out over the past two weeks, there are — of course — the occasional dissenters:

Jim:

You can’t seriously believe that Stanley Gold and Roy Disney are going to succeed in their efforts to unseat Michael Eisner. I mean, take a look at the cold hard facts, Hill:

– Eisner’s got the board in his pocket.
– Disney’s stock price is trending upwards.
– Disney Studios has had a run of hit films at the box office this year.
– Attendance is up at the stateside theme parks

Roy and Stanley can rant and rave all they want about how Eisner’s let quality slide and that he’s ruining the Disney name. But none of that is going to matter to Wall Street analysts. All those guys care about is how the stock price is doing and whether Disney meets its quarterly projections. And — as long as Wall Street stays in Eisner’s corner — he’s not going anywhere.

So write all the pro-Roy and Stanley articles you want, Jim. In the end, none of these stories is going to make a bit of difference. Michael is going to hang onto his job as the head of the Walt Disney Company for as long as he possibly can. Which means September 2006 … and beyond (If Eisner can find a way to finagle a contract extension).

So maybe it’s time to switch to another subject, Hill. For I’ve found the stories that you’ve being doing lately to be laughable. Nothing that you’ve written to date has convinced me at all that Roy Disney and Stanley Gold have a chance in hell in ever ousting Michael Eisner.

Jenna M.

I have two words for you, Jenna: Howard Dean.

11 months ago, Dean’s campaign for the presidency was also thought to be a joke. At least in political circles. No one in the Democratic Party leadership gave any serious consideration to the idea that the former Governor of Vermont might have a shot at landing the nomination. Which is why they put most of their money behind more “sure thing” presidential candidates like Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman.

Dean’s campaign staff knew that they had to do something different to distinguish themselves from the rest of the herd of candidates. Which is why they decided to pin their hopes on this new means of communication. Maybe you’ve heard of it, Jenna? The internet?

And the rest of the story … Surely you’ve heard by now about how those first 537 online Dean supporters eventually became a half a million strong. How in just 11 short months, Dean’s internet operation — MeetUp.com — became this major political force to be reckoned with. How major? Well, let’s talk about that million dollars in campaign contributions that the Dean campaign received by May via e-mail?

To date, no one has ever seen a cyber campaign for a presidential candidate take off like this. An internet-based grassroots operation that excited the voting population so. Which is perhaps why last week former Vice President Al Gore gave Howard Dean his endorsement. Which gave Dean’s campaign a huge PR boost as his team headed into next month’s Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary.

Now — ‘way across the country — we have Roy Disney and Stanley Gold. Who — while they may not share Howard Dean’s political leanings (Roy once got in trouble with Michael Eisner at a Disney PR for saying that Mickey was “… a good Republican mouse”) — know a good thing when they see it.

So — borrowing a page from the Howard Dean playbook — Roy and Stanley set up www.savedisney.com, a website where they hoped to get the word out about their campaign to oust Eisner. They’ve also been using e-mail as the main method to help their message. Take — for example — this letter that Roy sent out to 200 members of the senior staff of Walt Disney Feature Animation:

Dear Disney Cast Members,

It was nearly 20 years ago that a small group of us recognized that dramatic changes were necessary to reinvigorate and reenergize the Disney Company. We changed the composition of the board and assembled a new leadership team headed by Frank Wells and Michael Eisner. I returned to the Disney cast and, working as a team, we planted the seeds that rekindled the spirit and creativity that is synonymous with Disney. Those efforts paid off handsomely in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Once again, Disney was admired for the wholesome family entertainment it brought to millions of people of all ages. Together we created the dreams and excitement that made Disney respected and beloved throughout the world. We succeeded in recapturing the dream born of Walt and my father and the heritage they left us.

Sadly, times have changed. Michael Eisner has lost sight of the vision upon which this Company was founded. The focus has shifted to the chase of the quick buck instead of a dedication to new and high quality ideas, the development of enduring value. This has lead to division within the Disney workforce, a revolving door of managers, and an exodus of too many of our most creative and inspired employees.

For the last several years, Michael Eisner has done his utmost to isolate me from the members of Disney’s Animation Department and exclude me from participation in decision making regarding the Department. Most recently, I was prevented from even attending the Animation Department screening of three pending feature animation projects. The collegiality and openness that once typified the Disney workplace has been destroyed.

It is against this backdrop that I had no choice to resign as Chairman of Disney’s Animation Department and as a member of Disney’s Board of Directors. This has been a very painful decision. I am torn between my duties and loyalties to all of you who have made my journey so memorable and special, and the need to preserve the Disney heritage for future generations. However, I cannot stand idle as the heart and the soul of this Company is being systematically eliminated by senior management protected by an ineffective Board of Directors. This is a Board that seeks to avoid the constructive tension necessary to guide management through difficult times. Instead, it is a Board that seeks to stifle dissent and, to that end, has asked me to leave the Board of Directors.

Although this is not how and when I would have liked to leave the Disney Company, I assure you that I view it not as an isolated and sad event, but part of a process. I hope it is not too late for the Disney Board of Directors to finally recognize that fundamental change is needed to restore the Disney luster, nurture and protect the wonderful characters that together we have developed and, most importantly, to create the environment within the workplace necessary to give life to new Disney icons for the generations to come.

As I now set off on a different course, I cannot fail to publicly and openly again express to all of you my most heartfelt thanks. I am grateful that we have shared this journey. Without you, your contributions and camaraderie we would not have been able to make the magic and wonder that is Disney. I hope that one day soon the Disney Board gets the message.

Yours Faithfully,

Roy E. Disney

Of course, this particular Roy E. Disney e-mail became a living Breck commercial. With these 200 Disney Animation staffers quickly sharing this supposedly confidential message with 200 of their friends, and so on, and so on. Which is how this e-mail quickly flew around the world, giving the public even more information as the exact reasons why Roy Disney decided to resign from the Walt Disney Company.

It was this particular e-mail that supposedly spurred several veteran Walt Disney World cast members to contact Roy and Stanley and offer up their support. In their e-mails, these WDW vets said that there were many other cast members who felt the same way that they did. Who’d be happy to help Disney and Gold in their quest to oust Eisner.

What surprised these WDW cast members was — within a day’s time — Stanley Gold had written back to them, thanking them for their e-mail as well as recruiting them for he and Roy’s cause. The following is a copy of the note that Stanley sent back to these guys:

Hi ********

Thanks for your note of support; both Roy and I appreciate it.

Let me be so bold as to ask you for some help. Would it be possible for you to collect and then furnish to me the names, addresses and e-mail addresses of those you refer to.

I only want the names of those individuals who are comfortable in having their names being made public. Please do not put any “pressure” on any individual who is uncomfortable in having their name being made public.

Quite honestly, I’m trying to determine the depth of feeling of Cast Members.

Kindest Regards,

Stan

My source then reportedly provided Stanley with quite a few names of like-minded WDW cast members. Which Gold then quickly and quietly filed away.

At each turn in the trail here — like last Friday, where Roy and Patty Disney made that surprise appearance at the Animation Guild’s Holiday Open House — people have been coming up to Roy and Stanley and offering their support. And Disney and Gold have been collecting all of these e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Salting them away for … What? Well, that would be telling. But let’s just say that you can’t get a grassroots effort going if you don’t start out by planting a few seeds.

Mind you, Michael Eisner has also been trying to use e-mail to win over the hearts and minds of all the parties involved here. But — to date, at least down in Orlando — his efforts seem to be falling on deaf Mouse ears.

“Why aren’t Eisner’s e-mails winning over more WDW cast members to his side of the argument?” you ask. Well, let’s start with the opening sentence of Michael’s most recent missive, which reads:

“I’m writing to you from a plane on my way to Disneyland for tonight’s annual employee Christmas party, having just wrapped up two days of regularly scheduled meetings with your Company’s board of directors.”

Why would this particular sentence upset Disney World cast members? Well, you have to understand that these folks had just had their annual employee Christmas Party cancelled. So that the Magic Kingdom’s operations staff could sell tickets to two more nights of “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” to the public at $44 a pop. So … I guess you can understand how a message that starts out with “I’m writing to you from a plane on my way to Disneyland for tonight’s annual employee Christmas party …” wouldn’t go over like gangbusters with WDW’s hourly employees.

Said the Disney World vet who forwarded Michael’s December 3rd e-mail to me:

Eisner just doesn’t get it, Jim. He flies from coast to coast in the corporate jet. He never comes through the front gate at any of the parks. He has no idea anymore what it’s like to be a typical tourist visiting the Disneyland and/or the Walt Disney World Resort. So he has just no sense of the impact that all these cut corner and budget cutbacks have had on our guests or us cast members.

I keep hoping that all this Roy and Stanley stuff will serve as a wake-up call for Eisner. But — based on what I’ve seen and heard so far — Michael’s still got his snooze alarm set for September 2006. Eisner’s got himself so insulated, so isolated right now that he just doesn’t have a clue about how truly upset people are.

Michael can continue to delude himself if he wants. Standing up at award dinners and telling people about what a wonderful week he’s had. Looking like the clueless CEO that he is. But mark my words, Jim. This Roy and Stanley thing is eventually going to bite Eisner in the ass.

Of course, Jenna might disagree with you on that point. She might insist that all this Roy / Stanley / Michael stuff is still a pretty laughable matter.

But — then again — 11 months ago, Howard Dean’s presidential campaign was thought to be a joke too. But then his campaign staff (just as Roy and Stanley are doing right now) began collecting e-mail addresses. And the rest of that story, you know.

So — yes, Jenna — some people like yourself may consider what Roy and Stanley are attempting to do (I.E. unseat Michael Eisner and — possibly — Disney’s entire Board of Directors) to be pretty laughable. But — a year or so from now — won’t it be interesting to see who actually gets the last laugh.

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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