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Ever wonder what a toon funeral might be like? Then check out these deleted scenes from “Who Shot Roger Rabbit?”

Jim Hill shares an excerpt from Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman’s early screenplay for this Robert Zemeckis movie. Which deviates in some rather interesting ways from the finished version of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”

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There’s a transition in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” that has always bothered film buffs.


You know the scene that I’m talking about, right? It’s that moment about midway through the movie where Eddie Valiant — after he saws his way out of those handcuffs — entrusts Roger to his longtime girlfriend, Dolores. Eddie then tells Dolores that he’s going back to his office to check on something.



Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Productions


But the next thing we see is … Jessica Rabbit’s silhouette as she slips into the office of Valiant & Valiant. Eddie is clearly surprised to see Roger’s wife as he steps out of his bathroom, shirtless and damp. And the toon and the detective now begin to banter as …


Wait a minute … Judge Doom and his weasels are hot on Roger’s trail. It’s literally life-or-death time for this Hollywood hare. But Eddie choses this exact moment to go and take a shower. Does that make sense to you?


Well, there’s a reason that it doesn’t. In Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman‘s original screenplay for this Robert Zemeckis film, an entire day went by between the time Eddie exited the Terminal Bar & Grill and the moment that Valiant encountered Jessica Rabbit as he stepped out of his office bathroom.


Wanna know what this hardboiled detective was originally supposed to be doing during those missing 24 hours? Well, what follows is an excerpt from Price & Seaman’s September 1986 screenplay. Which was then titled “Who Shot Roger Rabbit.”


The way that Jeffrey & Peter saw the action playing out … After Eddie left Roger with Dolores, the detective climbed aboard a Red Car. Which then took him to …



EXT. FOREST LAWN CEMETERY – RED CAR STOP – DAY




A Red Car pulls up. Valiant climbs off. He calmly crosses the street and ducks behind the cemetery entranceway as Maroon’s Packard ROARS through.



VALIANT:
(impressed) Love that Red Car.


As Valiant starts to walk up the hill … CUT TO:


THE ACME FUNERAL SITE – LONG SHOT – DAY



A hearse, and a line of black limos are parked in the lane. Nearby, Marvin Acne’s funeral is inprogress. Clustered around a gravesite are the mourners … TOONS of every stripe. There’s MICKEY MOUSE comforting MINNIE. TOM AND JERRY. HECKLE AND JECKLE. CHIP ‘N DALE. Everyone from the famous to the not-so-famous is in attendance. The eulogy is being delivered in a familiar blustery Southern VOICE. It’s FOGHORN LEGHORN.



FOGHORN LEGHORN:
Today we commit the body of brother Acme to the cold, I say cold, cold ground. We shed no tears for we know that Marvin is going to a better place. That high, high, I say that high-larious place up in the sky.


Foghorn Leghorn dramatically points skyward.



TOONS:
(in unison) A-men!


NEW ANGLE – VALIANT



is leaning up against a palm tree on the hill. We have been watching the proceedings from his POV. Now he sees Maroon’s car pull up. He moves around to the other side of the tree as Maroon passes and starts wending his way through the crowd.


Foghorn Leghorn nods to the funeral DIRECTOR, a pasty-faced human in a black mourning coat. The Director starts to turn the crank lowering the coffin into the grave.



FOGHORN LEGHORN:
Give us a sign, brother Herman, that you’ve arrived …


Much to the funeral Director’s amazement, the crank starts PLINKING out the tune to “POP GOES THE WEASEL”. Now the Toon mourners pick up on it and join in.



TOONS: (singing)
Round and round the mulberry bush,
The monkey chased the weasel …


The crank and SONG start going FASTER AND FASTER.



TOONS: (continuing: singing)
The monkey said it was all in fun POP!
Goes the weasel.


Suddenly half of the lid to Acme’s coffin flies open and a harlequin CLOWN BOI-YOI-YOINGS out. The funeral Director faints dead away as the Toon SOBS turn to LAUGHTER. The Toons turn and head away from the grave comforted by a funeral befitting a gag king. They climb into their cars and SCREECH off like the start of the Indy 500.


One mourner is left at the gravesite. Sitting in a chair dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief is Jessica Rabbit. Maroon walks up behind her.



MAROON:
So … Trying to pull a fast one on me, huh?



Jessica turns, startled. She stands and faces Maroon.


VALIANT



smiles and leans in. This is the moment he’s been waiting for. Now just as the conversation begins, it is drowned out by the NOISE from a LAWN MOWER. Valiant turns to see a GARDENER riding around on a small tractor cutting the grass. Valiant tries to flag him down as he watches Maroon and Jessica having an argument. There’s accusatory finger pointing. In pantomime. Maroon gestures into his pocket as if describing the position of Acme’s will.


Jessica tries to leave. He grabs her arm. They’re screaming at each other but we don’t hear a word. Valiant waves frantically for the Gardener to cut the machine. But the Gardener misconstrues it as a friendly greeting and waves back. Valiant turns in time to see Jessica kick Maroon in the groin and stomp off to a red Auburn Speedster. She jumps in and speeds away as Maroon staggers back to his car. The Gardener stops the tractor next to Valiant. He SHUTS OFF THE ENGINE. The cemetery is completely still again.




GARDENER:
Somethin’ you want, mister?


VALIANT:
Not anymore …


EXT. INK & PAINT CLUB – ALLEY – NIGHT



A Steinway piano truck is parked next to the stage door. TWO husky PIANO HOVERS are rolling a baby grand up the ramp to the stage door. They knock on the door. The Gorilla opens it and they muscle the piano inside. After a moment, they reemerge. We FOLLOW them back to the truck where a second baby grand stands ready to be moved.



MOVER #1:
I don’t know about you, but it makes me sick to think of these beautiful pianos gettin’ chopped into match sticks every night by those screwy ducks.



Struggling, they push this second piano into the club.


INT. CLUB – BACKSTAGE



They roll the piano over to the wall and park it next to the first.



MOVER #2: (shakes head)
And they call it entertainment.


As they go out the stage door, MOVE IN on the baby grand.


INSIDE THE PIANO – VALIANT



is lying prone — using the Steinway as his own Trojan Horse. He lifts the piano lid to climb out. but then HEARS FOOTSTEPS approaching. He lowers the lid again. Now someone starts testing the keys. We see the hammers strike the strings, RUNNING UP THE SCALES until they reach the one under Valiant’s nose. The hammer whacks Valiant’s nose on the backswing and strikes the string making a terrible SOUR NOTE.



DONALD DUCK (V.0.) (exasperated QUACK)
Phooey! Out of tune again!

DAFFY DUCK (V.0.)
Not to worry, Donald. We can fix that with my sledgehammer.


DONALD DUCK (V.O.)
Never mind. Daffy. I’ve got an axe in my dressing room.


Valiant’s eyes widen.


ANGLE ON PIANO



as the VOICES of Daffy and Donald recede. Valiant raises the lid and quickly climbs out. He eases over to Jessica’s dressing roon. As he starts to open the door, he HEARS SCUFFLING from inside. Valiant puts his ear to the door. More SCUFFLING. Valiant straightens, then suddenly whips the door open and flicks on the light.


INT. DRESSING ROOM



Nobody’s there. Perplexed, Valiant closes the door behind him and checks behind the dressing screen. In the closet. No one. He shrugs and starts to search the room. He goes to Jessica’s dressing table and rifles the drawers. In her purse he discovers a Toon revolver. He examines it.



VALIANT:
Girl’s gotta protect herself.


Valiant puts the gun back in the purse and closes the drawer. As he stands, he pauses to consider a Hurrel-like black-and-white photo of Roger Rabbit in a silver deco frame. He’s dramatically posed with a cigarette like he was Tyrone Power. Valiant shakes his head and turns from the table. Something catches his eye.


ANGLE ON FLOOR



Behind the dressing table, the corner of a piece of blue paper peeks out. Valiant stoops down and fishes it out. lt’s a cover for a legal document. “Last Will and Testament — Marvin Acme.”


VALIANT



stands, pleased. He opens the blue folder. But it’s empty, Valiant puts it in his inside pocket and turns to go when suddenly an unseen hand flicks the lights off.





VALIANT:
Son of a ***…


We can’t see anything in the darkness. But we hear the SOUND of A FISTFIGHT. There’s the CRASHING of lamps and furniture breaking. Now the door opens for a second as the assailant escapes. Light floods in the room, illuminating Valiant on the floor with a curtain wrapped around his head. As he struggles free the door closes. The room is dark again. Valiant scrambles to the door. When he whips it open, REVEAL the Gorilla framed in the doorway. Valiant is frozen. The gorilla flicks on the light. He smiles wickedly.



GORILLA:
And here I tought we had mice.


Valiant tries to make a break for it. WHAM! The Gorilla lays him out cold with a right cross.


BLACKOUT.


FADE IN: VALIANT’S POV FROM FLOOR



As his vision comes INTO FOCUS, Valiant sees the Gorilla, Jessica Rabbit, the Weasel’s and Judge Doom are standing over him.



Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Productions



GORILLA:
… I caught him rummagin’ around in here. Then I called you, Judge, on a counta you be da one we pay juice to.


DOOM: (clears throat)
You did the right thing, Bongo.


THE WEASELS



pull a groggy Valiant upright and plop him in a chair in front of Doom.



DOOM:
Being caught breaking and entering is not very good advertising for a detective. What were you looking for, Mr. Valiant?


VALIANT:
Ask her…


Valiant nods toward Jessica, who stands coolly smoking a cigarette.



JESSICA RABBIT:
Last week some heavy breather wanted one of my nylons as a souvenir. Maybe that’s what he was after.



Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Productions



VALIANT:
Look, doll, if I wanted underwear, I woulda broken into Frederick’s of Hollywood. I was lookin’ for Marvin Acme’s will.


DOOM:
Marvin Acme had no will. I should know, the probate is in my court.


VALIANT:
He had a will, all right. She took it off Acme the night she and R.K. Maroon knocked him off. Then she set up her loving husband to take the fall.

JESSICA RABBIT:
You, Mr. Valiant, are either drunk or punch drunk. Probably both.

DOOM:
These are bold accusations, Mr. Valiant. I hope you have some proof?

VALIANT:
I found the cover the will came in behind the dressing table.



Valiant reaches into his pocket. But the blue envelope is gone.



VALIANT: (continuing)
They must’ve taken it off me

DOOM:
They?

VALIANT:
The other people who were in here lookin’ for the will. I woulda caught ’em if Cheetah here hadn’t interrupted me.


The Gorilla makes a move for Valiant. Doom stops him.




Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Productions



DOOM:
Take it easy, Bongo. We’ll handle Mr. Valiant our own way … downtown.


VALIANT:
Downtown? Fine. Get ahold of Santino, I’d be more than glad to talk to him.

DOOM:
Oh, not that downtown. Toontown.



The mention of Toontown has a visible impact on Valiant.




VALIANT: (nervous)
You’re not takin’ me to downtown Toontown?


DOOM:
Indeed we are. We’ll continue the interrogation there.


VALIANT: (very agitated)
I ain’t tellin’ you nothin’! Get me Santino.

DOOM:
You’re a very stubborn man, Mr. Valiant. Very pig-headed. Boys. show Mr. Valiant how we handle pig-headed men at the Toontown station …



The Weasels drag Valiant out of the room …



VALIANT: (screaming)
No… you bastards! Leggo of me!



EXT. STREET – NIGHT



The Toon Control Wagon streaks along with the cat SIREN WAILING. It flashes by then slams on the brakes at the entrance to an eerie tunnel. A sign next to the tunnel says: “Toontown”.


INT. WAGON




The Weasels look over at the bound and gagged Valiant. One of them turns Valiant’s head to look at the Toontown sign.



WEASEL #1:
What’re you shakin’ for? Didn’t you have a good time last time you were here?


With a wicked WHEEZE, the driver floors it.



Copyright Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Productions



EXT. TUNNEL



The wagon disappears into the murky darkness. PAN UP to the night sky.


DISSOLVE TO:


THE SKY – MORNING




PAN DOWN to the Tunnel. We can’t see into the darkness but we HEAR HOOTING and HOLLERING from within, GUNS going off, FIRECRACKERS EXPLODING, WHIPS CRACKING, all accompanied by the WHEEZING LAUGHTER of the Weasels.



WEASEL #1: (0.S.)
Soo-eey! Soo-eey!

WEASEL #2: (O.S.)
Let him go, boys. I think he’s got the message.


After a beat, Valiant comes staggering out of the tunnel. He’s got a burlap sack over his head tied around his waist. Behind him, the Weasels emerge holding paint cans and brushes. They watch as he trips and falls by the side of the road. The Weasels GIGGLE victoriously and head back inside.


Valiant lies there for a moment, catching his breath. Then he struggles to free his hands. Finally he rips the sack off his head and sits up.



Copyright !988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Productions



CLOSE – VALIANT



We see he’s got a huge Toon pig with a goofy grin painted over his head. Valiant pulls and tugs on it, but this is a costume that won’t come off. Valiant curses, gets to his feet and stumbles down the road.


EXT. RED CAR STOP



Valiant gets in the back of the line of PASSENGERS boarding the Red Car.


INT. RED CAR – VALIANT




steps aboard. The Trolleynan, who we recognize as Earl from the Terminal Bar, does a double-take when he sees the ridiculously silly looking man/Toon.




EARL:
Here’s one for the books … a Toon wearin’ human clothes.


VALIANT:
Earl … it’s me, Valiant.


EARL:
Eddie? Jesus, what happened?


VALIANT:
Toon cops worked me over.

EARL:
Boy, I’ll say. They gave you a real Toon-a-roo.


VALIANT: (apprehensively)
What am I, Earl?



Earl breaks the news to Valiant soberly.



EARL:
You’re a pig… a happy-go-lucky pig.

VALIANT:

No …

EARL:
Does it hurt?

VALIANT:
Not much. lt’s hard to talk.

EARL:
Uh, Eddie, do me a favor. Could you sit in the back so you won’t cause as much of a commotion.


Valiant tries to pull the brim of his hat down. But it’s comically small on the huge head. He makes his way down the aisle past a veritable gauntlet of RAZZING, poking, tripping PASSENGERS. Finally he finds an empty seat in the back as the Red Car starts up,



A LITTLE KID




wearing a baseball cap is sitting a few seats away with his MOTHER. The Kid looks back at Eddie and laughs. He leans over and whispers something to his Mom.




KID:
Can I, Mom?


MOM:
Go ahead, darling.Take your bat.



The Kid takes his baseball bat and approaches Valiant innocently.



KID:
Hi, Mr. Pig. If I hit you on the head, will you make me a cuckoo bird?


The Kid starts to take a swing with the bat.



VALIANT:
Kid, if you hit me on the head. I’m gonna throw you out this window.


The Kid’s eyes widen in terror. This is not a typical Toon response.



KID: (crying)
Mommy!



INT. VALIANT’S APARTMENT – BATHROOM – DAY




We hear the SOUND of the SHOWER. Valiant’s hand reaches out past the shower curtain and grabs for a bottle. But it’s not shampoo. It’s turpentine.



Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Productions




VALIANT:
Damnit!



CLOSE – TUB DRAlN



The water swirling down the drain is tinged with paint of different colors.





Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Productions



CLOSE – VALIANT



He scrubs manically until the last of the pig head is gone. He rinses off and he feels around his face. The absence of the Toon mask seems to bring him some relief. He shuts off the shower and slides the shower curtain back.


VALIANT’S POV – JESSICA RABBIT




is leaning up against the door jam, dressed as usual, in a black cocktail dress with elbow length gloves and pearls.




JESSICA RABBIT:
Hello, Mr. Valiant. I rang the doorbell, but I guess you couldn’t hear it.


VALIANT:
That’s because I don’t have a doorbell.



Jessica, caught in her lie, flutters her eyelids nervously.




JESSICA RABBIT:
Oh… well, I … I just had to see you …


VALIANT:
Okay, you’ve seen me. Now give me a towel.



As she hands him a towel, she stares down at his anatomy.



JESSICA RABBIT:
What’s that thing?


Valiant looks down at what she’s referring to.




VALIANT:
Come on, lady, haven’t you ever seen a mole before?

JESSICA RABBIT:
Toons aren’t given imperfections.

VALIANT:
No? I guess we’re not counting lying, stealing and murder.





Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Productions


And after that exchange … This screenplay’s story pretty much plays out the way the finished version of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” does.


Me personally? I have to admit that I find some of the ideas that Price & Seaman included in their script (Which was the third draft of the “Roger Rabbit” screenplay, by the way) to be pretty provocative. The idea that Eddie (once he had that pig head painted onto his body) was asked to sit at the back of the trolley … Well, if that had remained in the finished film, that would have really nailed home the idea that Toons were second class citizens in Hollywood.


Likewise having Eddie pull back the shower curtain and find Jessica waiting there for him in the bathroom … Well, it would have been interesting to see what the folks at the MPAA would have made of that whole “What’s that thing?” exchange … Whether they would have really hammered on Disney for daring to include that sort of double entendre in an animated film.


FYI: Several of the sequences featured in this version of the script (To be specific: Valiant & Doom’s confrontation scene in Jessica’s dressing room, Eddie being chased out of the Toontown tunnel by the weasels as well as his shower with turpentine) actually were shot and fully animated. But due to studio concerns about “Roger Rabbit” ‘s tone (Many Disney execs felt that this Steven Spielberg co-production was ‘way too dark for what was originally supposed to be a family-friendly film) and the movie’s length, these scenes were eventually cut out of the picture.


But the good news is … Those scenes that were cut out of the theatrical release of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” eventually found their way into the 15th anniversary edition DVD for this film. So if you’d like to see more than just the image captures that I used to illustrate today’s article, then I suggest that you pick up a copy of this disc.


Anyway … That’s a look at “Roger Rabbit” could have been like. So what do you folks think? Do you prefer the finished version of the picture, or would you like to have seen some of the excerpted elements from Jeffrey & Peter’s screenplay folded into the film.


Your thoughts?

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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