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“Everything by Design” offers a detailed look at the development of Disney World’s never-built Mediterranean Village Resort

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Jody R. tossed me a note over this past weekend, praising
last Tuesday's "Building Tall" story, saying that …

… it's articles like this that keep me coming back to Jim
Hill Media, that keep me listening to that podcast you do with Len Testa. Your
ability to continually uncover pieces of information about the Disney Company
that I had never heard before.

Thanks for your kind words, Jody. But to be honest, I'm not the
only one out there who's doing this sort of stuff. Have you seen the stories
that Todd James Pierce has been posting lately over on the Disney History
Institute
website? Pierce's recent piece about that California Living project
which Walt wanted to build right next door to Disneyland
in the early 1960s is not to be missed. And the same goes for Todd's terrific
"Walt Disney and Riverboat Square"
series
.


Copyright Disney History Institute. All rights reserved

Whenever we get together at various Disney functions (If I'm
remembering correctly, the last time I saw Mr. Pierce in person was at that
Destination D – Disneyland 55 event which D23 staged at the Disneyland Hotel
back in September of 2010), Todd and I compare notes about stories we've heard
(we share a fascination for "The Master Builder of Disneyland,"
wheeler-dealer extraordinaire C.V. Wood). And what Mr. Pierce & I have both
noticed is that — often — the very best stories about The Walt Disney Company
can often be found in books or magazine articles that aren't really about the
Mouse.

Case in point: "Everything
by Design: My Life as an Architect

" (St. Martin's
Press, October 2007) by Alan Lapidus. Nowadays, Alan is probably best known as
the guy who designed the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino in Atlantic
City and/or the Broadway
Crowne Plaza
in Manhattan. Or — better yet —
for being the son of architecture legend Morris Lapidus, who designed the
Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.

Now strictly judging a book by
its cover, at first glance, you wouldn't think that "Everything by
Design" wouldn't have a lot to offer Disney history buffs. But that's
where you'd be wrong. You see, Alan had a hand in designing the Mediterranean
Village Resort, a themed hotel for the Walt Disney World Resort whose main
claim to fame (at least among Mouse House history buff) is that this project
never quite made it off Disney's drawing boards.


Copyright St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved

But just because the Mediterranean
Village Resort (which was supposed to have built alongside Seven Seas Lagoon
near the Ticket & Transportation) never made it past the blueprint &
model phase doesn't mean that this proposed Disney World hotel doesn't have a
fascinating history. Which — to hear Alan tell the tale — began with a …

… phone call … from Mouse Central.


It came in 1979, when the Walt Disney Company was about to
start planning a new eight-hundred-room theme hotel at Disney World in Orlando,
Florida. The hotel would be the first new
one in the park since it opened eight years earlier, and Disney executives had
decided to look outside from Disney headquarters in Glendale,
California, wanted to know whether I would
be interested in making a presentation to the board of directors.



Proposed construction location for Disney's Mediterranean Resort


Youbetcha!


Disney's new resort was to be called the Mediterranean
Village. I was handed a site plan
and the program — meaning, how many rooms, suites, restaurants, conference and
meeting rooms and the like there were to be. I was also given many photos of
the site itself, showing a parcel of totally unremarkable middle Florida
land. No one mentioned a budget.


I also had to sign one of the oddest legal documents of my
career, which stated that I could never let anyone know that I had designed
this structure; I could not use it in my brochure or in any form of publicity.
The Mouse had its own architectural license, and all the documents would list
the architect as WED Engineering. In short, I was to be a nonentity. The
company would even provide me with preprinted sheets of drawing paper,
identifying WED Engineering as the architect, which I would use to produce the
construction documents. This policy was reversed several years later, during
the Eisner regime, when Disney decided to start publicizing its hiring of
prominent outside architects.


Copyright Disney Enteprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Lapidus had worked for some large corporations (Not to mention
some colorful characters. These included Bob Guccione, Aristole Onassis, and
Donald Trump) before. But none of his previous work experience had prepared him
for the way that The Walt Disney Company (at least back in the late 1970s) did
business. Alan was absolutely fascinated by the Mouse's sky's-the-limit /
anything-is-possible approach to the project. Which became clear from Lapidus'
very first meeting …

… with John Hench and a couple of talented young
architects from WED Engineering. At our first session, I asked which type of
Mediterranean architecture they were thinking of — Spanish Mediterranean,
Greek Mediterranean, Italian Mediterranean? John Hench looked at me with an
amused gleam in his eye, laced his finger together, turned his palms out,
extended his arms, and replied in an amused tone, "Alan, we want Disney
Mediterranean!"

"John, if I am doing a Mediterranean
Village, it really should be a sort
of fishing village."


Disney Legend John Hench. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

"I think so too."

"But then we have to have a seaport."

"Absolutely."

"But a seaport has to have a sea."

"We'll build one."

"And a fleet of colorful fishing boats."

An assistant was soon on hand with several books of pictures of colorful
Mediterranean-type fishing vessels.


Marty Sklar (L) and John Hench at WED Enterprises back in the 1970s.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved



"You pick them and we'll build them."

"How about some windmills?"

Books of windmills were produced.

This was fun!

During this whole process, no one ever mentioned a budget. And no idea was ever
dismissed as being impractical, unattainable, or undoable. In those days,
Disney truly was a world to itself, an asylum run by the inmates.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Working within The Walt Disney Company's truly unique design
parameters, Alan began dummying out the Mediterranean
Village.

The resort began to take shape as a series of streets with
multicolored waterfront "houses" (actually, rows of hotel rooms of
various heights). There was a waterfront walkway with a mosaic serpentine
design, a harbor entrance with a lighthouse, windmills, a breakwater, a
marketplace, olive groves, and trellis-cover walkways leading to streets of
"tavernas," market squares, and many hidden courtyards with a variety
of fountains and outside cafes.

Doesn't that sound like a terrific place to stay. So why
didn't Disney go forward with construction of the Mediterranean
Village? Well, as it turns out, a
similar sort of project was being prepped for a piece of property on the other
side of Seven Seas Lagoon


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

During the course of my work (on the Mediterranean
Village), I observed the Imagineers
designing a companion hotel to mine. It was just as large, and it looked great.
Called the Grand Floridian, it was quite a bit more elaborate, with such inside
architectural reference as the Addison Meisner Room, in honor of an architect
who established the classic 1920s Palm Beach
architecture that symbolized the good life to the F. Scott Fitzgerald
generation. Meisner was not exactly a household name, but it would be
perpetuated by some very clever folks.


Seven months after I began, my design for the hotel was
finished and Disney enthusiastically approved it.


It never got built.


Then newly-installed Disney CEO Michael Eisner
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

After Michael Eisner took over as CEO in 1984, it was a
whole new ballgame. The people I had been working with told me Eisner had
decided to delay the Mediterranean Village
until the Grand Floridian was up and running and ad a year or so to demonstrate
whether it would be a success. No one ever told me the village project wasn't
going forward, just that it was being put on hold. Two or three years later, by
the time the Grand Floridian had opened and started performing well, the
Mediterranean Village had long since been forgotten.

Which had to have been frustrating for Alan. Both on a
professional & personal level. But on the other hand, Lapidus had some very
memorable experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort while he was on property
doing onsite survey work for the Mediterranean
Village project:

After many months, while I was attending some meetings in Florida,
someone up the chain of command judged that I was worthy of being let in on the
innermost secret of the Magic Kingdom.
Like a mother who has decided to tell her pubescent daughter about sex, Dick
Vermillion announced that he had authorization to show me "the tunnels."
Trembling with excitement, I was led around to the back of the park, to what
looked like a hole in the side of a large earthen mound. Once we passed the
security checkpoint, my jaw dropped. There was a world beneath the World: an
underground city straight out of a science fiction film.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved


The first thing I saw were three Goofy characters walking
side by side. In the (tunnels), a fleet of maintenance trucks constantly
cruised along. Since the roof of this structure was actually the subfloor of
the park, all of the piping, electrical conduits, sewer lines, and other
utilities were hung in plain view of the repair vehicles. All these lines were
being constantly monitored, inspected, maintained, fixed or replaced from
below, so nothing disturbed the peace and tranquility of the kingdom up above.


(Just above the tunnels), a vast network of hidden entrances
to the park was concealed in various aboveground structures and landscape
features. This is why you never see any of the employees go on break. Mickey or
Goofy or Donald ducks into a building and then quickly reappears — except it's
a new Mickey or Goofy or Donald. The setup also makes it possible for emergency
vehicles to reach any part of the complex unseen by the vacationeers above. A
medical emergency can be attended to swiftly, without the ambulance having to
navigate through the crowds or alarm the kiddies. I was dumbfounded.


"Dick, this is the most brilliant piece of urban
planning I have ever seen. Why hasn't the company shown this as an example of
what is possible?"


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

He looked at me as he would at a slow child. "Alan, this is the Magic
Kingdom, and magicians never give
away their secrets."


This is why I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of "Everything
by Design: My Life as an Architect." Alan Lapidus (who's an absolutely
magician of a memoirist) isn't afraid when it comes to revealing secrets.
Especially The Walt Disney Company's secret.

I mean, in what other book are you going to be able to read about that time
when construction mogul  John L. Tishman
(best known in Disneyana fan circles as the guy who supervised the construction
of EPCOT Center
for Tishman Realty & Construction) …



(L to R) Michael Graves, John L. Tishman, Micheal Eisner and Frank Wells check out
the model for the Dolphin & the Swan hotels. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved


… sued Disney! For $2 billion! Not only did (Tishman) sue
(The Walt Disney Company), but he also brought a RICO charge. RICO is the
federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, originally enacted
by Congress in 1970 as a tool to use against organized crime … The
possibility that the Mouse would become a convicted felon was enough to bring
Eisner back to the table.


 

This is the sort of juicy stuff that you'll only be able to
find in a book like "Everything by Design." Which offers some really
great insights & observations on The Walt Disney Company and how it
operates all because this really isn't supposed to be a book about the Mouse.
So go pick up a copy if you're looking for a juicy, business-related Summer
read.


 

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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