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Disney goes to the Rose Parade

Just in time for tomorrow’s Tournament of Roses Parade, Wade Sampson looks back on the Walt Disney Company’s participation in this Pasadena tradition.

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According to their official website, the first Tournament of Roses was staged in 1890 by members of Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club, former residents of the East and Midwest eager to showcase their new home’s mild winter weather. “In New York, people are buried in snow,” announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting. “Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”

More than 2,000 people turned out on New Year’s Day to watch a parade of flower-covered carriages, followed by foot races, polo matches and tugs-of-war on the town lot. The abundance of flowers prompted Professor Holder to suggest “Tournament of Roses” as a suitable name for the festival. During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and motorized floats and today it is a New Year’s Day tradition that is broadcast around the world.

In a ceremony held Tuesday, November 16, 2004 at noon at Tournament House (the beautiful Wrigley Mansion in Pasadena, California), Mickey Mouse was revealed as the Grand Marshal for the 2005 Tournament of Roses that has the theme “Celebrate Family”. Tournament of Roses President Dave Davis was joined on stage by Disney Legend Julie Andrews to announce Mickey Mouse would lead the family-themed New Year’s Day celebration in Pasadena, Calif. As Grand Marshal, Mickey Mouse will represent the Tournament of Roses theme to a worldwide television audience as he rides in the 116th Rose Parade, and as he tosses the coin before the 91st Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2005.

“Mickey Mouse has brought entertainment, joy and laughter to families around the world for 75 years, and we couldn’t think of a more ideal Grand Marshal to help us ‘Celebrate Family’ in 2005,” said Davis. “Mickey Mouse became a part of the Tournament of Roses family when he accompanied Walt Disney on his Grand Marshal ride in the 1966 Rose Parade, and we are delighted to welcome him back once again to help us spread New Year’s cheer on Jan. 1, 2005.”

“Gosh, it sure is swell be named the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade and I can’t wait to see everybody on Jan. 1 in Pasadena,” said Grand Marshal Mickey Mouse when accepting his role as the 2005 Tournament of Roses ambassador. “It’s a big year for me with big doings for Disneyland’s 50th and all, but being in the Rose Parade is a great way to start the New Year!”

“We have been good friends for many years and I congratulate Mickey on being named Grand Marshal of the 2005 Rose Parade,” said Andrews, Honorary Ambassador of Disneyland’s upcoming 50th anniversary celebration. “Mickey has touched the hearts of families everywhere, and I look forward to watching him on January 1st and to joining him next May as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disneyland.”

Actually, Disney has a long connection with the popular Pasadena parade. Marge Belcher who had done live action reference modeling for the part of Snow White in Disney’s first animated feature and who later married dancer Gower Champion adorned a Disney “Snow White” float in 1938. She was dressed as Snow White and accompanied by performers costumed as the Seven Dwarfs.

In my collection is a 1955 postcard showing the Helms Bakery float in the Rose Parade held in Pasadena the year Disneyland opened. The back of the postcard states, ” HELMS OLYMPIC BAKERIES 1955 PASADENA TOURNAMENT OF ROSE FLOAT WINNER OF THE JUDGE’S SPECIAL AWARD! DESIGN FEATURES THE NEW DISNEYLAND”. The float had Mickey Mouse at the front and a rose pink Sleeping Beauty’s castle at the back circle. In the middle circle were flying pink Dumbos. There was a long curved pole with a silver balloon ball that has red lettering proclaiming: ” DISNEYLAND”. Helms Bakery was a very popular Southern California bakery that at one time even had bakery trucks that went through neighborhoods like an ice cream truck.

The 1955 Disneyland Float from the Tournament of Roses Parade.

50 Years Later.
The 2005 Disneyland Float for the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Someday I hope that Disney Historian Jim Korkis talks in print about his misadventures decorating the City of Glendale float for the 1984 Rose Parade. It was designed to salute Donald Duck’s 50th birthday and Clarence “Ducky” Nash rode on it. Probably unknown to Disney pin traders is that a special limited edition, Disney approved Donald Duck Rose Parade float pin was distributed to those involved with the float. Jim showed me his pin which was actually presented to him by his late father, John, who was part of the Glendale city government at the time. And how many remember the Rose Parade that helped celebrate one of Disneyland’s birthdays that started with a huge song and dance production number produced by Disney?

However, when we think of Disney and the Rose Parade, most of us think of the 1966 parade when Walt himself was the Grand Marshall.

J. Randolph Richards was the President of the 77th Annual Tournament of Roses and he reviewed over seven thousand suggestions for a theme from the cards and letters that came in from near and far. During his previous twenty-ones years of service he was a member of twenty-nine committees and chairman of fourteen of them. Realizing that the wonders of the present era of 1965-jet plane travel, communications satellites and orbiting space vehicles-“have seemingly reduced the size of the globe”, Richards settled on the theme “It’s A Small World”.

On March 14, 1965, Richards made the announcement of the theme as well as his choice for Grand Marshall, Walt Disney. It was stated that it was very appropriate to so honor Walt because of “the universal acceptance of the Disney creations. He has penetrated barriers and boundaries, lessening the distance between the continents. This master showman has brought joy and laughter to millions in every part of the world. Many of the countries have paid tribute to his genius by singling him out for high honors.”

If I were more cynical, I might point out that even though Disney’s “it’s a small world” had premiered at the 1964 New York’s World Fair the plans had been announced to transplant the attraction to Disneyland with a planned opening of May 28, 1966 so this theme selection was wonderful publicity for the soon to be open new attraction as well as a deserved honor for Walt.

Richards really worked hard to make the local Pasadena parade more global in nature to fit the theme and he traveled extensively, getting commitments from twenty-one foreign countries to participate.

The official press announcement declared: “Mickey Mouse will ride in the Grand Marshal’s automobile along the side of Walt Disney, whose agile pen created the lovable animated character many years ago. The rest of the Disney characters will be close by. A total of twenty-seven of the widely known cartoon creations will be taking part in the New Year’s Day Festivities by walking along behind the automobile of the famed showman or riding on the entry of the city of Burbank, a design of Disney Studios in that community. It was Walt Disney’s choice that if there was to be an entry revolving around his life and his creations that the Burbank float should be the one to carry out the motif. The Walt Disney Studios in that city is closely tied in with the story of this man and his creations. Therefore, in all probability such a choice was a sentimental one, reflecting his esteem for the San Fernando Valley municipality.”

The Burbank float with design help from Bill Justice was entitled “Our Small World of Make Believe”. The official description submitted to the Tournament of Roses was “the setting is an open book, a musical clef and an artist’s palette, representing the three important elements of Disney legend-the story, the music and the creative art work.”

The other floats weren’t themed to Disney characters. In fact the float from the See’s Candy shop was “The World of Red Skelton” with floral recreations of some of his characters like Sheriff Dead Eye and the Mean Widdle Kid.

It is surprising to me that not more photos of Walt and the Burbank float have appeared in print or for sale since the official 1966 program for the 77th Annual Rose Parade featured advertisements from a half dozen photo companies offering “gorgeous slides as well as 8mm and 16 mm color movie film. Each company offered free bonuses from a 33 1/3 LP record with narrative and background music of the parade to another that offered a full script to another that had “six all new Disneyland slides”. Unfortunately, the same short familiar clip of Walt in a convertible with Mickey and waving to the crowd is the only one that seems to pop up in compilation clips from the Disney Company.

And how many have forgotten that Roy E. Disney was the Rose Parade Grand Marshall for “Celebration 2000: Visions of the Future” which tied into “Fantasia:2000” but certainly didn’t help that film at the box office?

So this year as you set your TIVO or VCR to record Mickey Mouse as Grand Marshall, you might smile knowingly that since you are a reader of jimhillmedia that you know this is part of just a long tradition of Disney’s involvement with the Rose Parade.

To order a copy of either of these two photographs, please call the Tournament of Roses Public Relations Department at (626) 449-4100.

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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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