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Encounter Restaurant & Bar remains a Barbaraella-gant way to waste some time while passing through LAX

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LAX's Encounter Restaurant and Bar has encountered some pretty
serious challenges over the past 15 years.


Photo by Jim Hill

For those of you who don't remember: When this WDI-designed restaurant
and bar first opened inside of the Theme Building at Los Angeles International
Airport back in January of 1997, people just couldn't get enough of its
retro-futuristic stylings  (not to
mention that California Fusion Cuisine menu which renown LA chef John Rivera
Sedlar
 had put together for this eatery).
Which is why Encounter quickly became a hipster hangout. The perfect place for
a celebrity's birthday party (John Travolta supposedly celebrated his 40th here.
Even though this Oscar-nominated actor was actually 43 at the time) and/or a studio's
wrap party (The  cast and crew of Austin
Powers
& "Air Force One
" both gathered here for completion-of-production
celebrations).

So back then, Encounter had momentum. More importantly, it
had great buzz. Which is why — if you came by this place in the late 1990s on
a weekend night looking to grab a quick bite before your flight — the hostess
downstairs would then tell you that the wait for a table was now two hours or
longer. Which is why so many of us had to settle for a seat at that moon
crater-shaped bar, nursing a drink (which — FYI — had been poured out of this
super-cool bar gun that resembled a space-age ray gun. Complete with glowing
laser lights and weird whirring sounds) while we wondered what it might actually
be like  to dine at this stylish
establishment.

But then 9/11 happened. And given that LAX closed this
restaurant and bar's designated parking area while it attempted to reevaluate what
the airport's new security needs would be in the wake of this national tragedy,
Encounter had to close as well. And it was almost six months before LAX and the
Department of Homeland Security could finally figure out whether it was wise
(given the U.S.'s new airport security concerns) to allow this restaurant and
bar's patrons to get within close proximity of Los Angeles
International Airport's air traffic control tower.


Copyright Los Angeles World Airports. All rights reserved

By the time Encounter re-opened in the Winter of 2002, the
bloom was off the hipster rose. Despite the obvious
"Barbarella-gance" of this restaurant and bar, the additional levels
of security that people now had to pass through whenever they entered or exited
LAX didn't exactly make it easy to drop in for a quick cocktail. Which is how
Encounter went  from being this celebrity
hot spot that was extremely hard to get into,  to a place where travelers could waste
some time before their flight enjoying a surprisingly fine meal in a stylish
setting with a spectacular view.

Encounter encountered another hiccup in March of 2007 when a
half-ton chunk of stucco
suddenly fell out of one of those spider-like legs
that tower over LAX's Theme Building and then crashed down on this restaurant
and bar's roof. As you might expect, Encounter quickly closed after this
incident so that safety inspectors could evaluate whether it was okay for
diners & drinkers to return to this structure.

By November of 2007, the authorities at LAX had agreed to
let Encounter re-open. But only after a $12.3 million plan was put in place to
restore the Theme Building / make this then-46 year-old structure seismically-sound.
Which is why — for almost two years — this Mid-Century modern structure was shrouded
with all sorts of scaffolding.


Please note the sign in the lower right-hand corner of the above photograph, which says that
the restaurant in LAX's obviously-being-renovated Theme Building is still open for business.

Which (according to what I heard from Encounter insiders)
was incredibly frustrating to Delaware North (i.e. the hospitality company that actually operates
this restaurant and bar). Because tens of thousands of people would walk past LAX's
Theme Building on the way to their flights, look up at all that scaffolding and
then think "Encounter must be closed because of all that construction. I
guess I'll just have to hold off on  visiting that restaurant and bar 'til the next
time I pass through LAX."

Mind you, during this entire time, Encounter is continuing
to rack up all sorts of accolades. With Food & Wine, Esquire.com and Frommers.com
all naming this LAX eatery one of the Top Ten airport restaurants in the
country. Meanwhile Delaware Companies Travel Hospitality Services, Inc.
(working in conjunction with Connie Bass, a Los Angeles entrepreneur) took
advantage of this downtime to revitalize the interior of this restaurant and
bar.

Which (I have to admit) gave me pause. Especially when I saw
that all of the "Meow Collection" chairs that designer Lisa Krohn had
created for Encounter being sold off on Craigslist. Given that — back in the
day — themed entertainment guru Eddie Sotto had put an awful lot of thought
into the design of this restaurant and bar … 
I worried that this LAX eatery would no longer be (to borrow Mr. Sotto's
description) an "  …  intergalactic gateway (which accommodates)
space flights to and from other worlds." A place where " … the
sophisticated sci-fi feel of (its) interior provides the perfect backdrop for
what (Eddie called) 'jet set' dining in a space-age atmosphere." In short,
Encounter restaurant and bar was supposed to be that imaginary watering hole where
 " … George Jetson, James Bond and
Barbarella could (all) drink together."


Copyright Delaware North Companies Travel
Hospitality Services. All
rights reserved

Well, George, James and Barbarella couldn't make it this
past Wednesday night. So I was all by my lonesome as I made my way to LAX's
Theme Building to grab a quick dinner before I then flew back home to New
Hampshire.

And I have to admit that things didn't exactly get off to a
great start. I noticed — as soon as I entered the lobby of Encounter
restaurant and bar — that they'd sometime over the past few years discontinued
the downstairs hostess. Who used to set the perfect tone for this space-age
dining experience by standing behind a 1960s-style reservations desk in her
sliver dress and cooing "Have a nice encounter" as you entered the
elevators for the upper dining room.


Photo by Jim Hill

What's more, while the elevator that I rode up to Encounter
in still played that cool Therimin music, its interior was looking pretty tattered.
As if one too many tourists had tried to pry the wood paneling and/or
decorative metal off the elevator's walls to take home as an out-of-this-world
souvenir.

Add to this the extremely low lights level of Encounter
(which is why I nearly walked into this restaurant and bar's
once-white-now-painted-jet-black maitre d stand upon exiting the elevator) and
it did admittedly take me a few minutes to get my bearings after I'd
entered this multi-level eatery.


Photo by Jim Hill

But once my eyes adjusted to the colorful-if-somewhat-dim
lighting provided by Encounter's eight over-sized lava lamps as well as those
strange amoeba-shaped lighting structures embedded in this restaurant
and bar's ceiling, I have to admit that (as a child of the 1960s) it was hard
not to be thoroughly charmed by this place. What with its curving cloud-like
booths …


Photo by Jim Hill

… and its moonstone quarry walls.


Photo by Jim Hill

Of course, what also helped here was that the food which
Encounter's staff served up last Wednesday night was delicious. Given that
Nancy was back home in New England, I then didn't have to abide by her "No
Cute Eyes" rule (Translation: No eating anything that has cute eyes. Which
means no beef or pork, but still somehow allows for the consumption of chicken
and fish). Which is why I decided to treat myself to a steak. And the
flame-broiled Flat Iron Steak that I was served was cooked to perfection. It
was this moist, tasty piece of meat that was accompanied by garlic whipped
potatoes & sautéed broccoli and made for a very satisfying meal.

Better yet, even though I had arrived at this restaurant and
bar at 8:30 p.m. and Encounter actually closes its doors at 9 p.m.,  the staff there told me that I was more than
welcome to linger over my meal. More to the point, after I finished eating, I
was then free to explore the place and check out all of the great details which
made dining inside of LAX's Theme Building such a memorable experience.


Copyright Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services. All
rights reserved

So — once I'd finished that steak — camera in hand, I
wandered around Encounter. Marveling at all the terrific little touches. Like how
the diachronic glass which had been used to make this restaurant's bar top reflected slightly
different colors depending on the lighting level and the angle you viewed it
from.

That said, looking out of that huge bank of windows at all
of the planes which were coming & going at LAX reminded me that I still had
a plane to catch. Which is why I sadly bid adieu to Encounter's romanticized /
highly-stylized version of space travel & air travel from the 1960s and
lugged my carry-on back to the Delta terminal. Where — all too soon — I would
soon be dealing with the harsh reality of modern day air travel, what with its
full body scanners and "Please remove your shoes" rules.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is why — before crossing the street — I found myself
fondly looking back at the Theme Building, as Michael Valentino's lightning
package turned those four 135 foot-tall parabolic arches which rise above Encounter
from magenta to electric blue. I mean, it's hard to believe that — back in
late 1996 / 1997 — the Imagineers were able to deliver this highly stylized
restaurant and bar for just $4 million. Which perhaps explains why — in
1998  — Encounter received the International
Themed Entertainment Award
for Excellence on a Limited Budget / Themed
Restaurant.

So do I miss the downstairs hostess in her silvery space-age
costume? Sure. Not to mention when Encounter's menu used to include this piece
of language:

"Any Spacecrafts with an Interstellar Crew of Six or
More shall have an Automatic Docking Fee of 18% (In other words, an 18%
gratuity will be added to parties of 6 or more."


Copyright Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services.
All
rights reserved

But in spite of some of those small fun details slipping
away, I'm still glad that Encounter has faced down all of those challenges it has encountered
over the past 15 years and has still found a way to stay in business. Give weary
travelers a Barbaraella-gant way to waste
a few hours experiencing some stylized 1960s space-age fun before they then
have to face the grind of real-life, modern day air travel.

So the next time you find yourself with a little free time
while traveling through LAX, why not give Encounter a try? And if you see James
Bond, George Jetson and/or Barbarella seated at the bar when you get off that
elevator, please tell them that I said "Hello," okay?

Encounter Restaurant and Bar is located at 209 World Way at
Los Angeles International Airport. It's open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.,
dinner 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., 7 days a week. For further information, call
310-215-5151 and/or checkout Encounter's website.




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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