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Emperor’s New Groove Soundtrack

Expecting a book review, were you? Well, too bad. This time around, Jim suggests you pick up a copy of the “Groove” CD so you can hear what “Kingdom of the Sun” might have sounded like.



This coming Sunday night, ABC will be airing “The Emperor’s New Groove” on “The Wonderful World of Disney.” If you weren’t able to catch this incredibly funny film from Walt Disney Feature Animation during its initial theatrical release, now might be a really good time to get into the “Groove.”

Of course, whenever “The Emperor’s New Groove” pops up on ABC and/or the Disney Channel, I (since I’m supposed to be this all-seeing, all-knowing Disneyana expert) invariably get e-mails like this one from Emily E:

Dear Jim:

What can you tell me about “Kingdom of the Sun”? I keep hearing all these stories about how “Emperor’s New Groove” was supposed to be this really ambitious animated film from Walt Disney Feature Animation. But that somehow the production went off the rails. Which is how we ended up with “Groove.”

I had hoped that the Collector’s Edition DVD of “Groove” that I just bought could shed some light on the earlier aborted version of the film. But – with the exception of a small gallery that features a few concept paintings – this DVD doesn’t touch on “Kingdom” at all.

So Mr. Hill – knower of all obscure things related to the Mouse – can you please shed some light on “Kingdom of the Sun”? Let me know what I missed?

Well, Emily, if you really want to know what you missed out on when Disney canceled “Kingdom of the Sun,” you don’t want to look at “The Emperor’s New Groove” DVD; you want to listen to the “Emperor’s New Groove” soundtrack.

Why the soundtrack? Well — after you pop that CD into your stereo — take a close look at the soundtrack’s liner notes. There, you’ll see an odd star shape next to tracks 3, 4, and 7. If you’ll check out the teeny, tiny type in the lower left hand corner of the back of the “Groove” soundtrack, you’ll see that “these songs were written for but not used in the final film.”

That’s right, kids. Right there on your copy of “The Emperor’s New Groove” soundtrack are three songs that were originally written for “Kingdom of the Sun.” If you listen carefully to these tracks — particularly “Snuff Out the Light” (Yzma’s Song) and “One Day She’ll Love Me” — you can get a real sense of the decidedly adult wit and feel director Roger Allers wanted to bring to his version of “Kingdom.”

Let me give you a brief synopsis of where each of these songs would have fit into the original storyline of “Kingdom of the Sun”:

“Walk the Llama Llama” (Track 4) was actually supposed to be the song that would have introduced “Kingdom”‘s central character — Pacha the peasant llama herder — to the audience. Mind you, in this version of the film, Pacha wasn’t some heavyset middle aged man a la John Goodman. In Pacha’s initial incarnation, he was this carefree but good hearted 18 year old llama herder who was a dead ringer for Emperor Manco (which is what Emperor Kuzco was called in the earlier version of the movie). Pacha was to have sung “Walk the Llama Llama” as he lead his trio of llamas down the mountainside and into the marketplace.

As performed by Rascal Flatts on the “Groove” soundtrack, “Walk the Llama Llama” comes across as a pleasant enough ditty. But the animators who worked on the version of “Llama Llama” that was to have been used in “Kingdom of the Sun” actively hated this song. Why? Because they thought that David Hartley’s clever lyrics just didn’t sound right coming out of a mouth of a supposedly unsophisticated peasant boy. Given that Pacha had never been to the big city before, it just didn’t make sense that he’d use words like “panorama” and “the perfect fashion statement.”

The animators felt that “Walk the Llama Llama” was just the wrong way to introduce kindly Pacha to the audience. While they enjoyed the bounce and beat of the song, its lyrics gave the wrong impression about who the llama herder was. That’s why the “Kingdom” / “Groove” production team wasn’t all that upset when “Walk the Llama Llama” ended up getting cut from the film.

“One Day She’ll Love Me” (Track 7) — on the other hand — was thought to be a real loss for the project by the entire “Groove” production team. Here was this beautifully languid love song, loaded with adult emotions, that would have been a great challenge to stage effectively and animate well.

“One Day She’ll Love Me” was originally intended to be used about midway through the movie — after Pacha has switched places with Emperor Manco. You see, “Kingdom of the Sun” was supoosed to have borrowed quietly liberally from that classic Mark Twain tale, “The Prince and the Pauper.” As in: high and mighty Manco has grown bored with being ruler of his mountain kingdom. He discovers that kindly llama herder Pacha is his dead ringer. To get away from the duties of state for a while, Manco proposes that he switch places with Pancha. With the llama herder occupying the throne while Manco cuts loose for a bit. Of course, things don’t go according to plan … and Pacha is forced to stay on the throne, pretending that he’s the Emperor. Why? Because Yzma turns Manco into a llama …

Okay, maybe this story doesn’t have as much in common with “The Prince and the Pauper” as I thought … Anyway …

The uneasy llama herder had fooled just about everyone at the palace into thinking that he really is the Emperor. But the woman that Manco was betroved to — the hand maiden, Nina — has noticed a difference in her soon-to-be husband. Where once he was arrogant and haughty, now the Emperor is thoughtful and kind. Cruelty has inexplicably given way to kindness.

Nina — who was not looking forward to being Mrs. Manco — suddenly finds herself drawn to the seemingly transformed Emperor. Pacha also finds himself growing fond of Manco’s soon-to-be wife. At a party at the palace, the two teens fight their growing attraction to one another.

This is where “One Day She’ll Love Me” would have come in. This song would have been sung over the party sequence, illustrating Pacha and Nina’s inner-most thoughts and feelings. There’s a heartfelt, yearning quality to the ballad that Sting and David Hartley wrote that would have made this a really magical moment in “Kingdom of the Sun.” Folks at Disney Feature Animation say that this song really was one of the better moments in the earlier version of the film.

But — as “Kingdom”‘s complicated Prince-and-the-Pauper-like plotline was dropped in favor of “Groove”‘s simpler, sillier story — there just wasn’t a spot in the film anymore for an adult love song like “One Day She’ll Love Me.” So this genuinely beautiful ballad ended up on the scrap heap — making it the saddest loss for Disney Feature Animation since Alan Menken and Stephen Schwarz’s “If I Never Knew You” got cut from “Pocahontas.”

Another real loss for “Groove” was the decision to drop “Kingdom of the Sun”‘s villain song, “Snuff Out the Light” [Yzma’s Song] (Track 3). This number is considered by many who worked on both versions of the project as the comic highlight of “Kingdom.”

So what was so funny about “Snuff Out the Light?” You start with veteran song stylist Eartha Kitt cutting loose with some really witty lyrics. You then add some amazing visuals, as Yzma — working in a blacklit dungeon that soon fills with wild streaks of color — is backed up by a trio of comic mummies. The song then builds and builds, with great laughs punctuated by a driving beat. Those who worked on the piece compared it to the “Pink Elephants on Parade” number from “Dumbo.” So what’s not to like?

Unfortunately, once “Groove”‘s production team dropped Yzma’s original motivation (in the “Kingdom” version of the story, the aged sorceress had cut a deal with the demon, Supai, to plunge the world into eternal darkness so that the sun could no longer rob Yzma of her beauty), there was no reason for Kuzco’s adviser to still sing this song. So “Snuff Out the Light” ended up getting snuffed — much to the disappointment of the dozens of animators who’d labored for the better part of a year to turn “Snuff” into a comic showstopper.

(Note to Disneyland’s Special Events Office: “Snuff Out the Light” is just too good a comic villain’s song to let it drift off into obscurity forever. The next time you folks stage one of those “Disney Divas” events, please keep this number in mind, okay? If you throw a halfway decent Yzma impersonator up on stage and get a couple of mummies to back her up, I guarantee you’ll stop the show. Don’t believe me? Have Feature Animation unearth the work-in-progress version of this “Snuff Out the Light” for you. You’ll see for yourself that “Snuff” really was the big one that got away.)

Now, I suppose that all you Disney purists out there are wondering what three songs that aren’t actually performed in “The Emperor’s New Groove” are doing on the film’s soundtrack. There are two answers to that question:

The Fake Answer: With only two songs now being performed in the film — “A Perfect World” and “My Funny Friend and Me” — “Groove”‘s soundtrack seemed a bit on the skimpy side. Adding “Walk the Llama Llama,” “One Day She’ll Love Me” and “Snuff Out the Light” to the album helped pad things out, making the recording seem like a better value to retailers.

The Real Reason: The Walt Disney Company really wants to do business with Sting again. They feel badly that most of the songs he wrote for “Kingdom of the Sun” didn’t make the cut in “The Emperor’s New Groove.” By including a few of these dropped numbers on the “Groove” soundtrack, the Mouse is hoping that Sting might look kindly on the Walt Disney Company and be willing to tackle another song writing assignment for an animated feature sometime in the not-so-distant future.

(Memo to Disney Studio Head *** Cook: Did you actually watch “The Sweatbox?” That behind-the-scenes making-of documentary that film-maker Trudie Styler — AKA Mrs. Sting — made about all the turmoil that occurred during the production of “Kingdom of the Sun” / “The Emperor’s New Groove”? That seldom seem film should give you some clue as to when Sting might next be willing to work for the Mouse … several eons from now.)

Anywho … even though these three songs weren’t performed in “The Emperor’s New Groove,” me personally, I still think that they’re a delight to hear. If you really want a clue as to what “Kingdom of the Sun” might have been like, Emily, go pick yourself up a copy of the “Emperor’s New Groove” soundtrack. (And feel free to click the link at the bottom of the article to buy it and help support in the process.) Then listen to “Walk the Llama Llama,” “One Day She’ll Love Me” and “Snuff Out the Light.” These three songs will give you some insight into the wit and style Allers wanted to bring to this project.

Okay. I know, Emily E. This isn’t as cool as — say — having the work-in-progress version of Disney’s “Kingdom of the Sun” folded in with the extras that you found on your “Emperor’s New Groove” DVD. But as the comic Steven Wright once so eloquently put it: “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

Okay. That’s it for today, folks. I’m off to the airport for my flight to San Diego. I’m going to spend the next 12 days getting reacquainted with my lovely daughter, Alice, as well as hooking up with some old and new friends out west. Not to mention hosting the very first round of JHM tours of Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure theme park.

As you might imagine, it’s going to a very busy week-and-five-days. Hopefully, I’ll be able to score lots of great new stories for the site while I’m way out west. But — since my dance card is going to be kind of full now through March 25th — I may not be able to write a new story for the site every day while I’m away.

Not to worry, though. I’ve pulled some very interesting pieces out of the JHM archives and passed them along to David Gasior, our site’s tech guy. If I’m unable to file a new story any day over the next week or so, David will post one of these instead.

So I apologize in advance for the warmed over leftovers, kids. I promise — if and when I find some free time on this trip — I’ll be sure to post a new story. Or two. Or three.

Talk to you later, okay?

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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



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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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