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Disney geeks freak because they don’t get a peek of the Peak they seek

As Disneyana fans begin to grumble about the “Brother Bear” story that Al Lutz reportedly got wrong, Jim Hill asks that everyone please show a little restraint.

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Okay. I know. A lot of you folks got to see “Brother Bear” this past weekend during the film’s exclusive NY and LA engagements. And it was gratifying to hear that so many of you really seemed to enjoy Walt Disney Feature Animation’s latest creation.

But, me personally, what I found kind of disturbing was some of the e-mails that I received yesterday. Messages where people would segue straight from singing this picture’s praises to savagely attacking Al Lutz.

Fairly typical of these notes was the one I got from RedRobin, which read:

Dear Jim:

Have you seen “Brother Bear” yet? The reason I’m asking is that I myself caught this new Disney film this past weekend at the El Capitan in LA. And there was something about that movie that really DIDN’T catch my eye.

What am I talking about, Jim? Well, do you recall that Al Lutz “Miceage” story from two weeks? The one where Al said that that the animators working on “Brother Bear” were forced — at the very last minute — to change the main mountain featured in that film so that it would look more like DCA’s Grizzly Peak? So this new animated feature could supposedly have some sort of a strong tie-in with that particular Disney theme park?

Well, did I miss something, Jim? Because I watched this entire movie on Saturday. And NOT ONCE in “Brother Bear” did I ever see a mountain that looked even remotely like Grizzly Peak at Disney’s California Adventure.

So — given that you’ve been harping on Al Lutz a lot lately to clean up his act — I would love to hear your take on this, Jim. Did Lutz flat-out lie to his Miceage readers? Or was he just fed some bad info by someone inside WDFA?

So what’s the truth here, Jim? Did Al actually get this story wrong? Or does Grizzly Peaks really make an appearance in “Brother Bear” which I somehow managed to miss?

Can’t wait to read your reply to this “Why For” question, Jim. Keep up the great work with the site.
RR

Look, gang. Over the past few weeks, I’ll admit that I’ve written a few articles that have taken a few pot shots at Mr. Lutz. Pieces that made fun of the way Al always stresses the most negative aspect of whatever story he’s reporting. Which tends to make the bad news sound even worse.

But — that said — that still doesn’t mean that I actually get my jollies from watching Al Lutz screw up. By that I mean: I’m not a big fan of schadenfreude. Which is a German term which means: “Taking malicious satisfaction in the misfortune of others.”

Me personally? I’m a big believer in what comes around goes around. Which is why you’re going to have to forgive me, RedRobin (As well as the rest of you folks who wrote to me yesterday about this “Brother Bear” brouhaha). Because — if you’re looking forward to reading some sort of column where I joyfully crow that “Al Lutz got it wrong!? Al Lutz got it wrong?! — that AIN’T gonna happen.

And why not? Because sometime in the not-so-distant future, I know that I’m gonna get something wrong too. And I’d genuinely prefer it if Al Lutz weren’t out there, lying in the bushes. Waiting to pounce on me the very next time that I forget that it’s “I before E except after C.”

No — better yet — given how truly nasty some of the e-mails that I received yesterday were, I’m fairly certain that Al is going to get pounded pretty savagely by his critics for getting this particular story wrong. Which is why I think that I’m now going to try and draw some fire away from Mr. Lutz by owning up to a recent error of my own.

“Which error am I talking about?,” you ask. Well, how many of you folks recall that “You Know What Bugs Me” story that I posted on JHM back on October 1st? You know, the article where I said that I was concerned that Warner’s marketing department wasn’t really up to the challenge of properly promoting “Looney Tunes: Back in Action”?

Well, as part of the original version of that article, I said that Eric Goldberg had been an animator on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Which — as Allan Neuwirth (I.E. author of that essential animation text, “Makin’ Toons” as well as all-around nice guy) so graciously pointed out to me later on that same week — was wrong.

You see, while researching that piece, I must have had a major brain fart. For Eric Goldberg NEVER ever worked on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” In fact, this master animator wasn’t even offered his first official Mouse House gig (I.E. the position of lead animator on the Genie for “Aladdin”) until after production of “Roger Rabbit” wrapped.

Mind you, ‘way back in the mid-1990s, Goldberg WAS been offered the job as head of animation on the proposed-but-never-produced “Roger Rabbit” sequel. So I guess how you can understand how I might have made this mistake. But the fact of the matter is … I still initially got this story wrong.

So — as you can see, gang — Al Lutz doesn’t have an exclusive when it comes to getting stuff wrong about Disney’s animated features. The key difference between our two situations that is that no one — except Allan Neuwirth, of course — ever caught my original error. Which is why I was able to quietly revisit that story — after it had been posted, mind you — and make a small correction. Set things right, if you will.

Whereas Al … His “Brother Bear” / Grizzly Peak story is still out there for the whole world to see. To add insult to injury, at one point in the “Grin and Bear It” section of his October 15th Miceage update, he actually says “You can’t make this stuff up folks!”

Which brings us to the $64 question: Did Al — in fact — actually make up this entire animators-were-forced-to-redo-“Brother-Bear” story? To be honest, I don’t think so. I’m betting that what really happened here is that Lutz got hoaxed by some cruel jerk inside of TDA and/or WDFA. Someone who deliberately fed Al bad information. With the hope that he’s eventually post it on Miceage.com and then look bad.

Or (Watch now as I try to put an even more positive spin on this pretty awful situation) maybe Al Lutz just innocently misinterpreted something that someone within the Mouse House told him. I mean, perhaps DCA’s Grizzly Peak really DOES make an appearance in “Brother Bear.” Only — instead of the full-blown last-minute change of this picture’s art direction that Lutz so lovingly described in his article — maybe this California Adventure icon only makes a cameo appearance in the finished version of the film.

I mean, you guys know how the artists at Disney Feature Animation love to slip in-jokes into their movies, right? Take — for instance — how Mickey, Donald and Goofy can be found sitting in the audience for Ariel’s concert at the start of “The Little Mermaid.” Or how that tiny toy version of the Beast from “Beauty and the Beast” has a hiding-in-plain-sight appearance in “Aladdin.” Or how Pumbaa from “The Lion King” gets carried through the city square during the “Out There” sequence of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

So — with an eye toward continuing this tradition — perhaps the crew at Disney Feature Animation — Florida quietly DID slip a single image of DCA’s Grizzly Peak into “Brother Bear.” In some quick shot that we’re all only going to discover after we buy the “Brother Bear” DVD next year and then patiently click through the entire film, frame-by-frame.

Hey, I’ve got some friends who still work at WDFA-F. Let me make a few phone calls and see if I can’t get someone from Orlando to go on the record about this. Reveal — for once and for all — whether this Disney’s California Adventure icon really DOES make some sort of appearance in “Brother Bear.”

Because — based on what I personally saw this past Sunday (You see, Nancy, Jeff, Flo and I actually drove down to NYC to catch the 2:45 p.m. matinee of this movie at the Ziegfeld Theatre) — DCA’s Grizzly Peak DOESN’T make an appearance in “Brother Bear.” At least not in any way that really registers with moviegoers.

Mind you, I kept an eagle eye out through the entirety of this motion picture, people. Constantly scanning around to see if this DCA icon was making some sort of appearance. And I honestly never saw anything that looked like Grizzly Peak. (Mind you — at one point — I though that I caught a glimpse of Grandmother Willow from “Pocahontas.” Which is perhaps something else I should ask my pals at WDFA-F about. Anyway …)

So — getting back to the whole point of today’s article — I really don’t think that you folks should be all that hard on Al Lutz for getting this Grizzly Peak / “Brother Bear” story wrong. I mean, if you really knew about all the stuff that Disney Feature Animation actually DID deliberately stick into some of its most recent films …

Like that scene in “Pocahontas,” where Meeko braids Pocahontas’ hair. That scene was actually inserted into the movie in direct response to a request made by executives from the Mattel Corporation. These suits thought that their company would actually be able to sell some more “Pocahontas” dolls if there was footage in the film showing how much fun it was to braid the Indian Princess’ hair.

Or how about that scene in “Mulan” where Mushu is brushing his teeth down by the river. The scene was originally put in the film because Disney was hoping to persuade Colgate to become a promotional partner on the picture. Colgate eventually balked at the idea. Reportedly because the toothpaste that Mushu was using was colored blue. Which — of course — is the color of the toothpaste made by Colgate’s arch rival, Crest.

… Changing the look of a mountain in “Brother Bear” just so it might help promote a troubled Disney theme park doesn’t sound all that far fetched, now does it?

I mean — given how good Al’s sources usually are — I initially bought this story. As did hundreds of you, no doubt. It was only after I saw “Brother Bear” for myself this past weekend and realized that the picture appeared to Grizzly Peak-free that I thought that “Jeese, that story’s really going to come back to haunt Al.”

Well … That and the 23 nasty e-mails that popped up in my in-box this morning. Each and every one of them gleeful about the very idea that Lutz had screwed up in such a public manner.

Anywho … As I said at the start of this article, I’m not a big fan of schadenfreude. Nor do I particularly enjoy the company of people who seem to take great joy in the misfortune of others. I keep thinking that “If they’re attacking Al this week … Next week, it’s going to be me.”

Which is why — whenever I write anything — I always try to keep in mind something that one of my old writing teachers once told me. Which is: “Always make sure that the words you use are sweet and tender. For you never know when you may be forced to eat them.”

In the meantime, let me offer up a little advice here that’s just for Al Lutz: Sorry, Al. You’re in kind of a tough spot here, big guy. My suggestion is just fall on your sword. Admit that you unintentionally made a mistake, then move on.

See? Do just like I’m doing here …

Folks, I’m sorry that I made that stupid Eric-Goldberg-worked-on-“Who-Framed-Roger-Rabbit?” mistake in the initial version of my “You Know What Bugs Me?” article. But I’ve now corrected that error as well as admitting that I initially made that mistake. Which is why I’m hoping that all you JRH readers can eventually forgive me. And that I promise that I’ll try to not make such stupid mistakes in the future, okay?

You see what I mean, Al? One simple, sincere apology and all your troubles are behind you. It’s easy. Really.

What’s more — by admitting that you made an error and then apologizing for that mistake — you totally undercut your critics. They’re the ones who then come across as being aggressive and excessive, should they opt to continue their attacks.

But please don’t make the mistake of stonewalling here, Al. Or — even worse — quietly excising that whole “Grin and Bear It” section out of your October 15th update. Pretending that you never wrote that part of that article. Doing something like that would just give your most vocal critics even more fodder for future attacks. And you don’t really want to give those guys any more ammo, do you, Al?

Okay. That concludes the semi-private communication portion of today’s JHM article.

My apologies to those of you who may feel that today’s is a trifle self-indulgent. One writer offering another writer advice on how to weather a professional crisis. Who the he*ll cares about a piece of cr*p like that?

Well, maybe you’re right. Maybe today’s JHM article is ‘way too self-indulgent. But I figured — if I could actually manage to get out in front of this whole Al Lutz / Grizzly Peak / “Brother Bear” controversy before the story went rogue — I could prevent things from getting too ugly.

I mean, let’s remember, folks: We’re just talking about a feature length cartoon and a theme park here, people. So Al Lutz made a mistake. Big deal. This is NOT a moment that calls for great celebration and/or excessive gnashing of teeth. It’s a non-story, really.

So let’s all just briefly acknowledge what happened here, hope that Al eventually rectifies his error and get on with our lives, okay?

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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