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“Enchanted” ‘s long, long journey to the big screen

It’s an ambitious project that will combine live action and animation. It’s a Disney Studios production that has already consumed three directors and five different screenwriters. Which is why Jim Hill is wondering: Will Kevin Lima finally be the guy who can turn this romantic fantasy into a reality?



With this week’s announcement that Amy Adams had officially been cast to play Princess Giselle in “Enchanted,” it looks like this oft-postponed project (Disney’s first feature-length film to combine live action and animation since 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit“) is finally getting ready to go into production.

And yet … Even though “Enchanted” already has a director attached (I.E. Kevin Lima. The co-director of Disney’s 1999 release, “Tarzan.” Not to mention being the guy who helmed 2000’s “102 Dalmatians“), there are still those in Hollywood that say: “I’ll believe that the Mouse is actually making this movie when it finally turns up at my local multiplex.”

Why do industry insiders have such a downbeat attitude about a project that’s supposed to be a lightweight romantic fantasy? You don’t understand, folks. Disney execs have been trying to get this film made since they first optioned Bill Kelly‘s screenplay back in September of 1997. But each time they’ve attempted to put “Enchanted” into production, the project has fallen apart.

I’m serious, people. This Kevin-Lima-directed version of “Enchanted”? If it actually makes it before the cameras,


this will be the fourth time that Walt Disney Studios has tried to get this motion picture made. Only to have the project stall out just as production is supposed to be getting underway.

“But — if this is really such a troubled project — then why does the Mouse keep trying to make this motion picture?,” you ask. Well, it’s because this movie has an absolutely killer premise. In which a Disney princess is magically banished from the animated world. Forced to make her way through the real world (I.E. modern day Manhattan) as a flesh-and-blood human being.

Mind you, Kelly’s first pass at his “Enchanted” screenplay still had a few kinks in its tale. In that early version of this script, Bill sent his Disney Princess to Chicago. Where she wound up at a bachelor party and — because of her royal get-up — was mistaken for the party’s entertainment (I.E. The stripper).

But even with these obvious story mis-steps, it was still clear that “Enchanted” had great potential. That — with just a wee bit of tweaking — Kelly’s screenplay could be turned into a clever family-friendly comedy. Just the sort of thing that wouild go over big with moviegoers.  Which is — of course — just the sort of movie that the Mouse likes to make.

Which is why the Walt Disney Company eventually wound up out-bidding Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox for the rights to produce “Enchanted.” Paying $450,000 to acquire Bill Kelly’s screenplay. Which was then supposed to be produced by Barry Sonnenfeld (I.E. The director of “Men in Black” and “The Addams Family“) & Barry Josephson (I.E. Executive producer of “The Last Boy Scout” and “Wild Wild West“).

After carefully reviewing Kelly’s script, the two Barrys realized that — in order for “Enchanted” to work — the first 20 minutes (I.E. The portion of the picture that was supposed to be animated) had to come across as a legitimate animated feature. Which is why they wound up hiring “Pocahontas” co-director Eric Goldberg to supervise the movie’s animation, while Academy Award winner Alan Menken was then recruited to write several songs for the film’s score.

Then Sonnenfeld & Josephson hired Rita Hsaio (Best known as one of the writers on “Mulan” and “Toy Story 2”) to do a polish on Bill’s original screenplay. And then — to helm the project — the two Barrys grabbed the guy who’d just directed ABC’s highly acclaimed remake of “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” : Broadway vet Rob Marshall.

With this much talent on its production team, “Enchanted” looked to be a sure-fire hit. And — if all had gone according to plan — this ambitious live action / animated fantasy would have actually gone into production in late 2000 / early 2001. With the idea that “Enchanted” would then have been Walt Disney Studios’ big release for the 2001 holiday season.

But then in June of 2000, Disney execs (strictly as a cost-cutting move) decided not to renew the studio’s production deal with the two Barrys. Which left “Enchanted” in a bit of the lurch … at least temporarily.

Well, rather than wait around to see if this ambitious animated / live action feature would actually ever get produced, Rob Marshall decided to find himself another film to direct. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Miramax Pictures’ “Chicago“?

Once the dust settled, Sonnenfeld & Josephson were still on board as “Enchanted” ‘s producers. But now the picture needed a new director. Someone who was really familiar with the Disney house style. Which is why — in January of 2001 — studio execs decided to recruit Jon Turteltaub.

Turteltaub (for those of you who don’t know) is the helmer behind some of the Mouse Factory’s bigger hits of the past decade. He’s the guy who rode herd on “3 Ninjas,” “Cool Running,” “While You Were Sleeping,” “Phenomenon,” “The Kid” and — most recently — “National Treasure.” Given his track record (More importantly, given Jon’s commercial instincts), Disney execs thought that Turteltaub would be the perfect man to direct “Enchanted.”

And at first, Jon did seem to be the right guy for the project. By that I mean: He certainly leaped in with both feet. Turteltaub quickly set Goldberg to work on the first 20 minutes of “Enchanted.” Which Eric intended to have traditionally animated by the artists working at Disney Studios in Paris.

By April of 2001, Jon was already out there trying to hire actors to appear in “Enchanted.” At Turteltaub’s request, Disney offered the role of the film’s villain (I.E. The evil queen) to Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon. And — as for the picture’s comic relief — the Mouse attempted to recruit Emmy Award winner David Hyde Pierce to play the queen’s valet. And as for “Enchanted” ‘s prince … Would you believe John Travolta?

This project was virtually greenlit. Animation was already underway in Paris. But then — on May 31, 2001 — Disney’s “Pearl Harbor” was released to theaters. And this $135 million production under-performed at the box office. To add insult to injury, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” opened wide on June 15th and didn’t do all that well either.

As a direct result of those two films’ under-performing, then-Disney studio head Peter Schneider resigned on June 20th. And the remaining execs at the Walt Disney Company … They suddenly got extremely cautious.

Which was why then-Disney Feature Animation head Thomas Schumacher — rather than put another big budget project into production just then and risk the wrath of Michael Eisner — opted to shut down “Enchanted” … at least for a little while.

Schumacher reportedly shut down the project on July 17, 2001. Not-so-co-incidentally, Goldberg supposedly decided to exit Walt Disney Feature Animation on July 25. Allegedly because Eric was upset at the way that Thomas had shut down this particular production.

Mind you, in a weird sort of way, Disney deciding to put “Enchanted” into turnaround (at least for a little while) might have been the very best thing that could have happened to the project. to explain: In the wake of 9/11, it was going to be a couple of years before Manhattan would seem like a suitable setting for a new romantic comedy.

Of course, just like Rob Marshall, Jon Turteltaub wasn’t willing to just sit around and wait to see if “Enchanted” was ever going to come out of turnaround. Which is why Jon moved on. Opting to tackle another project that Walt Disney Studios had been struggling to produce for quite a while now: “National Treasure.”

Which meant — when Disney execs finally decided to put “Enchanted” back on the production track in early 2003 — they now had to find another director. Luckily, they already had a guy working for the studio — Andy Shankman — who had just helmed a hit, “Bringing Down the House.”

Shankman got offered “Enchanted” in April of 2003. He immediately saw this project as a starring vehicle for someone like Reese Witherspoon or Kate Hudson. Which is why Andy reportedly pursued these two actresses for the role of Princess Giselle.

When both of these performers reportedly expressed their reservations about “Enchanted” ‘s script, Shankman had the screenplay rewritten. First by screenwriter Todd Alcott (Best known for his work on the script for “Antz“), and later by Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle (I.E. The creators of “Kim Possible” as well as the writers of “Sky High“)

But then in early 2004, Disney Studios execs suddenly decided to shut down production of “Enchanted” again. Reportedly because the first 20 minutes of the film (which were supposed to be traditionally animated in the style of “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty & the Beast“) would now be prohibitively expensive to produce. What with WDFA having shut down its traditional animation unit and all.

So — once again — a director that had been assigned to helm “Enchanted” suddenly found himself out of work. Luckily, Disney execs soon found Andy another in-house gig. They hired Shankman to ride herd on Vin Diesel’s new comedy for the studio, “The Pacifier.” Which eventually turned out one of the studio’s biggest hits for 2005.

Which brings us up to the spring of this year. After viewing the test footage that Disney master animator Glen Keane had put together for “Rapunzel Unbraided,” Mouse House executives suddenly realized that it was actually possible to produce a Disney Princess film using only CG. So — once again — “Enchanted” was pulled out of mothballs & put back into active development.

As to why Disney selected Kevin Lima to be the film’s new director … Well, Kevin’s already got a proven track record with the studio. Given his work on “Tarzan” and “102 Dalmatians,” Lima’s obviously comfortable working with both animation as well as films that feature a lot of special effects. More to the point, given that Kevin’s the guy who directed both of those “Eloise” TV movies (I.E. “Eloise at the Plaza” and “Eloise at Christmastime“) for ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney” … Lima’s now knows what it takes to shoot on location in NYC.

So with this week’s signing of Amy Adams to play Princess Giselle, does this actually mean that “Enchanted” is finally officially a “Go” project at Disney studios? Based on what company insiders told me yesterday, it would seem that this Kevin Lima film has been tentatively penciled in to be Disney’s big holiday release for 2006. Reportedly rolling into theaters next year in virtually the same spot that “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” occupies this year. Meaning that this movie should hit the multiplexes during the first week of December.

But given that actresses have supposedly been signed for this film before (I’m told that Susan Sarandon had already inked her contract to appear in “Enchanted” when Disney officially pulled the plug on that version of the project back in July of 2001), I’m afraid that — at least for the time being — I’m going to have to side with the doubters. I’ll believe that “Enchanted” is actually coming to a theater near me when this production officially completes principal photography. Which (hopefully) should be sometime in early 2006.

So what do you folks think? Does “Enchanted” sound like the sort of film that you’d like to see? Are you intrigued by the ideas that Princess Giselle will be the first Disney Princess to be done in CG, even beating Rapunzel to the big screen by at least three years? What are your thoughts on this project?

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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