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Does Hollywood actually believe that American audiences have lost their taste for Anglo-style animation?

Jim Hill has stumbled upon a fascinating explanation as to why Disney just shut down production of “Gnomeo & Juliet” and Dreamworks Animation is currently retooling “Flushed Away.” Could it be that certain studio executives actually believe that the type of humor & story-telling that is typically found in British-themed toons doesn’t appeal to American audiences anymore?

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Quick question: How many of you Trek fans out there remember that classic old SNL routine, “The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise” ?


For those of you who can’t actually recall this memorable sketch: “The Last Voyage” made its debut ‘way back in May of 1976 during “Saturday Night Live” ‘s first season. It featured John Belushi doing a dead-on impression of William Shatner, Chevy Chase portraying Leonard Nimoy and guest host Elliot Gould as Herb Goodman, head of programming at NBC.


This routine starts off as a pretty faithful imitiation of your typical “Star Trek” episode. But then the sketch takes a decidedly bizarre turn as the Starship Enterprise finds itself being pursued by a 1968 Chrysler Imperial.


The next thing you know (In a moment that would have done Luigi Pirandello proud), Herb Goldman is standing on the deck of the Enterprise. Where he announces that — due to low ratings — NBC is cancelling “Star Trek.”


Mind you, Shatner & Nimoy are (at this point in the sketch, anyway) refusing to break character. Still playing their roles of captain & science officer, Kirk turns to Spock and says:



Captain Kirk: Wait, Mr. Spock! We have yet to try Vulcan mind meld. Where you actually enter the alien’s brain, merge with his intelligence and read his thoughts.


Mr. Spock: I entered Mr. Goodman’s mind while you were talking to Dr. McCoy, Captain. (As Nimoy talks, he gradually grows more & more hysterical) It was all … all dark and empty in there. And … and there were little mice in the corners. And spiders had spun this web …


Captain Kirk: Spock!


Mr. Spock: I kept bumping my head on the ceiling. And once …


Captain Kirk: Snap out of it, Spock!


I bring up this particular SNL sketch because … Well, over the past 30 years, there have admittedly been many huge changes in the entertainment industry. But one thing (sadly) has remained the same. And that is the empty-headness of most studio execs.


Don’t believe me? Then let’s talk about the rumors that have begun circulating about what many industry executives supposedly believe to be the real justification for “Gnomeo & Juliet” ‘s cancellation? Or — better yet — why Dreamworks Animation‘s November 3rd release, “Flushed Away,” is currently being retooled?


The way I hear it, certain execs are now insisting that the real reason that “Gnomeo” got its plug pulled and “Flushed Away” is being retooled because these two animated projects were just too British.


I kid you not, folks. In today’s Hollywood at certain levels of management, just the mere fact that a new animated project is set in the U.K. and/or that the tone & humor of a proposed film is thought to be a bit too Anglo-centric is now considered to be a real liability.


“What a ridiculous idea,” I can hear you all saying “Why would any executive in Hollywood think something like that?” Well, I can give you four reasons, actually.



It was “The Curse of the Wererabbit” that had a particularly chilling effect on any British-themed animated projects that were then in the production pipeline out in LA … Or so I’ve been told.

I mean, this Nick Park & Steve Box film was one of the more widely acclaimed motion pictures of 2005 (Rottentomatoes.com gave this stop motion movie a 95% rating. Meaning that 95% of the critics who reviewed this Dreamworks Animation / Aardman Animation production thought that this particular motion picture was flat-out wonderful) and then went on to win this year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Feature … And yet — in spite of all of those accolades — “Wallace & Gromit” still only managed to pull in $56.1 million during its initial domestic release.


To be fair, “The Curse of the Wererabbit” did much, much better overseas — pulling in $131.1 million in foreign theaters. Which meant that the combined worldwide box office for this Dreamworks Animation / Aardman Animation release was $187.4 million. Which is (admittedly) a very nice chunk of change.


But Hollywood (as it turns out) is a very small town. And studio execs? They like to be able to brag about how well their film did during its initial domestic release. Not eventually point out how well their motion picture did once it finally reached the cineplexes in Chechnya.


Plus industry execs are  prone to making these profound-sounding blanket statements. Saying things like “Musicals are dead.” Which — given how the movie versions of “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rent” and “The Producers” just performed at your local multiplexes — seems like a very astute observation right about now.

And yet let’s remember that — until just a few years ago — it was a widely held belief in Hollywood that “People won’t pay to see a pirate picture anymore” … And then Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” came along and blew that assumption right out of the water.

When it comes to the way that this industry actually works, perhaps it’s veteran sceenwriter William Goldman who put it best: “Nobody knows anything.” But — that said — that still doesn’t prevent certain studio execs from pretending that they really know what’s going on. That they alone have a finger on the pulse of what moviegoers really want to see.

And given that the cost of producing a film now hovers somewhere between $64 – $80 million (More importantly, that the cost of marketing this same movie now averages between $35 – $40 million) … Well, I guess you can understand why studio executives have grown increasingly cautious. Only greenlighting projects that seem to be pre-sold. Like the recently announced big screen version of “Welcome Back Kotter” (Which will star Ice Cube in the role that Gabe Kaplan used to play). Or — better yet — how about that live action remake of that somewhat popular animated show from the 1960s, “Underdog,” which Walt Disney Pictures recently began casting on?


Now let’s be honest here, folks. Are audiences out there actually clamoring to see big screen versions of “Welcome Back Kotter” and/or “Underdog”? Hell, no.

But studio executives … They like to try & remove any elements of risk involved with the projects that they’re producing. They want to make sure that — if they’re actually greenlighting production of a ridiculously expensive motion picture — that there are at least some safeguards in place that will  guarantee that the studio will eventually get a return on its investment.


And in today’s Hollywood, these “safeguards” can often amount to little more than following a trend. Soooo  … If American movie-goers seem to have temporarily lost their enthusiasm for any animated films that feature British settings and/or rely far too heavily on English-style storytelling and humor … Well, then that’s now considered to be a good enough justification for development executives to steer their studios away of these sorts of projects. At least for the time being.


Which (I know) sounds rather ridiculous. Particularly to those of us who live in the outside world. But you have to remember that this is Hollywood that we’re talking about here, people. A place where consistency and logic are (at best) abstract concepts.


You know who else finds this sort of top-studio-brass-group-think mentality to be particularly laughable? “The Incredibles” director Brad Bird. While taking part in a panel discussion on “The Animated Performance: Art Meets Technology” (Which was held at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater back in July of 2005), Bird really tore in the corporate decision makers that currently populate Tinseltown. Saying things like …



“You have to understand that Hollywood is like this big dumb shark. It doesn’t want to be bold or innovative. It just wants to make money. Which is why studio executives so aggressively follow trends nowadays. They’re always trying to figure out what it was that made that last film so popular with ticket buyers. So that they can then duplicate that exact same formula and have a hit film of their very own.


I swear that — if there were two hit movies where the hero wore a red shirt during the bulk of those motion pictures — that there then would be some stupid studio exec in this town who’d proclaim: ‘Audiences now love heroes who wear red shirts. Make sure that all of the heroes in all of our studio’s movies all wear red shirts from now on.’ “


Does Brad’s quote give you a better understanding of the sort of corporate mindset that we’re dealing with here, folks? I hope so …


Anyway … Getting back to this whole “Hollywood-seems-to-be-trying-to-get-away-from-making-animated-films-that-feature-British-settings-and-characters” scenario: You’ve got to feel sort of sorry for the guys who are currently retooling “Flushed Away.” Given that this is an Aardman Animation film that’s actually set in the sewers under London … Well, it’s going to be pretty damned difficult to de-British-ify that particular animated feature.


And — as for Disney … Well, they’re supposedly being very selective about which projects they actually de-Anglo-ify. Take — for example — “My Friends Tigger and Pooh.” That new CG series that’s due to debut on the Disney Channel as part of that cable channel’s preschool block in the Spring of 2007.

The reason that the Christopher Robin character was dropped from “My Friends Tigger and Pooh”  & replaced by a cute little American girl who likes to bike was … Well, Disney Channel executives supposedly felt that this energetic new character might have a much broader appeal to “Playhouse Disney” viewers than pale & passive old Christopher Robin.


And as for the upcoming stage musical version of “Mary Poppins” that Disney Theatrical Productions will begin presenting at the New Amsterdam Theatre starting in October … Well, there’s a strong belief in-house at DTP that the London version of this show may be just a bit too dark & Anglo-centric for American audiences to really enjoy.


Which is why (it’s been strongly rumored) that many of the “improvements” that were made to the London version (I.E. Folding in large chunks of the original P.L. Travers stories into that musical’s libretto) will now be removed for the Broadway version. With Disney Theatrical Productions opting instead to make the NYC version of this new musical more closely resemble the 1964 Academy Award-winning film.


Of course, the real irony of this increasingly bizarre situation is  … Well, here we have Disney executives who are supposedly deliberately steering their company away from including too much British-style humor and story-telling in its upcoming movies, TV series and stage plays … And yet what was the highest grossing film that Walt Disney Pictures was involved with (I.E. Disney co-produced this motion picture with Walden Media) last year? That very, very English fantasy, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Which — to date — has sold over $718 million worth of movie tickets worldwide.


Mind you, the DVD version of this C.S. Lewis novel goes on sale today. And given how popular the first “Chronicles of Narnia” film was, I would imagine that (just as Brad Bird said they would) that the film-makers who are making this “Narnia” sequel (I.E. “Prince Caspian,” which is expected to begin production later this year and finally be released to theaters in December of 2007) are going to try & follow the exact same formula that made that first film so popular. Which means — in essence — embracing the very British nature of the original source material.


And don’t even get me started on the whole “Harry Potter” phenomenon. Which is arguably the most successful series of books & movies that have ever been produced. Which are aggressively (some might even say obnoxiously, in a charming sort of way) English.


Now as to why we could have these two hugely popular motion pictures in 2005 (I.E. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”) that seem to celebrate British culture … And yet — at the same time — we still have studio execs saying things like “The American movie-going audience just doesn’t seem to get British humor. So — if you really want your film to be a huge success — you’d better get that Anglo-centric stuff out of there” … I don’t know what to tell you, folks. Other than to repeat what I said earlier. Which is that this is Hollywood that we’re talking about here. A place where consistency & logic are — at best — abstract concepts.


But what do you folks think? Do you think that the British subject matter and/or the Anglo style of humor actually prevented “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Valiant,””Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit” and “Doogal” from reaching a wider audience here in the U.S.? Is this a valid excuse on the part of studio executives? Or just another case of empty-headed people-in-power attempting to explain away something that really can’t be explained?


What are your thoughts on this matter? Would you care to “beam up” an answer to JHM’s discussion boards?

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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