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Do You Remember … The Disney Channel’s Original Schedule

Wade Sampson takes us back to April of 1983. When the Disney Channel had lots more to offer than just TV shows that were aimed at *** girls. How many of these shows do you remember?



Like many Disney fans, I am still upset that the Disney Channel was highjacked by ‘Tween Programming (programming for pre-teenagers) and that as part of that new philosophy, the late night Vault Disney programming was eliminated. The original concept for the Disney Channel when it began over twenty years ago was to focus on programming for the entire family.

Back in April 1983 with the official launch of the Disney Channel, Peggy Christianson who was Vice President of Program Development for the channel, said, “We really want adults and children to sit down and watch the Disney Channel together. Walt Disney never aimed at children alone. He always aimed at entertaining a family audience with a quality product and positive values that would appeal to people of all ages.”

The plan was to balance the programming with one third existing Disney material, one third original programming and one third material that had been acquired from outside sources but was in “keeping with the Disney identity and values”.

As the Disney Channel launched, Christianson announced the original shows that were planned for the new cable system. So let’s take a look at what was planned for that first year on the Disney Channel. Some shows never made it. Some appeared very briefly. Others are probably old favorites.

WELCOME TO POOH CORNER — “The characters will be played by live actors wearing flexible body suits to give them a full range of movement. And the facial expressions of the characters will be electronically controlled by the actors inside the suits, who will have touch pads in their hands that will allow them to raise their eyebrows, blink their eyes, wiggle their noses and smile. The sound track will be fed through a voice actuator so that the jaw and lip movement are synchronized with the sound electronically,” stated Christianson. The show was to be produced by Frank Brandt with original songs by the Sherman Brothers in this show for preschoolers of the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Woods.

YOU AND ME, KID — “The idea of the show is to give a parent the opportunity to sit down with his/her child in front of the television set and spend time together that is quality time. We’re literally going to give the parents and the children activities that they can do together while they watch the program. There will be dramatic play, exercises, dance and music. But all of these activities will allow the parent and the child to participate as a pair. They won’t just be sitting beside each other, but they will be actually holding on to each other, using each other as counterweights in exercises or playing games together. Many parents today really don’t know how to play with their kids. It’s something that has gotten lost. Television has become the baby sitter. This show will be pure activity and fun,” said Christianson.

MOUSTERPIECE THEATER — “The show will provide some real background information about the cartoons, too, which will appeal to trivia buffs. It’s a way of presenting the cartoons in a fresh format that adults can enjoy, even if they’ve seen the cartoons before,” claimed Christianson. Well, host George Plimpton who was spoofing the popular MASTERPIECE THEATER show on PBS didn’t get around to sharing that background information unfortunately and the joke wore thin fairly quickly which probably helped spawn MOUSE TRACKS and QUACK ATTACK that featured more cartoons and no commentary.

EPCOT CENTRAL — This was to be a daily one hour magazine show based on a variety of human interest topics and would originate from the one year old EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World. Ron Miziker who was Vice President of Programming for the Disney Channel claimed that “EPCOT Center is the world’s most exciting backlot. Where else could you find entertainment based on a presentation of current issues such as energy and environment as well as a ‘stage’ which has scenes and symbols from nine foreign countries?”

EPCOT’s AMERICA! AMERICA! — Another show to emanate from EPCOT Center. “It will focus on the heritage and thoughts and feelings of Americans. It will include segments from Future Choice Theater at EPCOT Center, where members of the audience are given a chance to vote on questions that affect us all. The show will also go out to various locations around America, introduce us to some fascinating Americans, and reveal some aspects of our heritage that are vanishing,” gushed Christianson.

WISH UPON A STAR — Children between the ages of seven to twelve will see their wishes come true during this weekly half-hour program. Children would write in telling about their wishes and each week four wishes would be selected to be fulfilled on the show. “This will be a logistically complex show,” understated Christianson, “In many cases, it will mean meeting the children at their homes and flying all over the country to locations where the wishes are to be fulfilled. Children are sending in their wishes now, and some of them are wonderfully imaginative. Most of them are very positive upbeat wishes. Some of them are fairly big, dramatic wishes, and others are rather simple, but on the show, they’ll be fulfilled in a way that’s fun and visually exciting. This show will have a lot of heart.”

CONTRAPTION — A life-sized three-dimensional game board is the framework for the show which is aimed at stimulating children’s observation and retention skills. The competition itself is derived from questions about Disney film clips shown on the program. Successfully answering those questions will advance participants across the colorful game board and accumulate the points necessary to win. “This will be a very visual show,” claimed Christianson, “The contraption itself is very elaborate with lots of bells and whistles. There’s a physical element to the game as well. For example, children might be required to bicycle to one station and row to the next to advance on the board.”

NEW! ANIMAL WORLD — A daily half hour show hosted and produced by Bill Burrud to introduce the audience to intriguing animals like the snow monkey of Japan or walking catfish or the great spotted cats. Each show also will feature a quiz (which was to tie in with a special section in the Disney Channel magazine).

DISNEY STUDIO SHOWCASE — An hour long weekly show which would be a showcase of different things. This is the show that had a episode of animation historian John Culhane going behind the scenes at the Disney Studio and meeting a very young Tim Burton working on “Vincent”, discovering special effects for “Baby” and seeing Mike Giamo and Darryl Van Citters working on the first version of “Roger Rabbit”. “The showcase will be completely different from one week to the next. One week it might visit the Ringling Brothers College of Clowns and the next week it might present the best commercials seen at Cannes. It really is intended to allow a lot of room for creative experimentation,” emphasized Christianson.

THE SCHEME OF THINGS — “This will be a highly technical show. It is intended to help people relate to science and see it in a meaningful context in their own lives. It will be a show that the whole family will be able to enjoy together,” stated Christianson. The show was to be hosted by James McArthur.

DREAMFINDERS — This is the show that I mentioned in a previous article and still no one came forward with any new information about this show that featured actor Jack Kruschen as Dreamfinder. The show was aimed at children from ages six to twelve and was to focus on problem solving, imagination and creativity. “We hope this show will help children become more aware of their own creative resources. The main characters are Dreamfinder and Figment, a little dragon, who travel in the dream machine at Epcot Center to explore the creative process. The show will have elaborate sets and a variety of characters and story lines to convey to children some of the elements involved in creativity, imagination and problem-solving in the largest sense,” said Christianson.

COMING ON! — This show was designed to travel to college campuses all over the country to showcase the young talent in the various performing arts departments. The show would provide a look at some of the stars of tomorrow as well as offering a view of the various colleges visited.

MOUSERCISE — Based on the then popular record album of the same name, “This will be an exercise show with lots of Disney music. It will have Mickey Mouse and Goofy leading exercises with children in the Mickey Mouse Health Club setting and will encourage the audience at home to join in,” said Christianson.

DO-IT-YOURSELF DETECTIVE — An interactive show that provides clues that will enable participants on the screen and those viewing at home an opportunity to solve various complex and intriguing cases.

ANIMATE — This show was intended to give the viewing audience a behind-the-scenes look at the animation process. It was to include interviews with well-known Disney animators, show how voice tracks are made, and provide the opportunity for looking at never-before-seen pencil tests of favorite Disney films as well as showing viewers how they can do simple animation themselves. “We know that we have a built-in audience for this show,” stated Christianson, “One thing kids always ask us is ‘Teach me to draw Mickey’.”

FIVE MILE CREEK — An original adventure series based on the history of Americans who settled in Australia in the 1870s. “The series portrays the struggle of both the Americans and the Australians in that period. It shows the contrast between the American and the Australian approach to a challenging environment,” stated Christianson.

Peggy Christianson was certainly enthusiastic about the launch of the Disney Channel in April 1983 and was already looking forward to even more original programming: “The majority of the ideas for the present shows have been generated internally, and we have sought outside producers to do the actual production. Disney owns the shows including all the rights. We are a little different from most of the other services in this respect. But this is not an absolute rule. I think we’ll probably be more receptive to ideas from the outside now. We’re always willing to look at good concepts that have the values we know our audience is looking for. We are going to provide viewers with a real alternative.”

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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