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Finally! A new “Why For”!

After taking the summer off, this JHM favorite make its triumphant return. Today, Jim fills you in on what’s been going on with the Disney Store sale, Disneyland’s “Finding Nemo” ride as well as announcing all of the winners of our “Ghost in the Shell” contest!



Perhaps this note from Martin M. best sums up the mail that I’ve been getting lately.

Jim —

Why no new “Why For”? It’s been months since you last did one of those columns. And I loved those! Have you discontinued “Why For”? If so, that was a big mistake, Hill. You answering all of those JHM readers’ questions. That was my favorite thing at your site. Please bring that column back!

Ask and ye shall recieve …

Actually, “Why For” never really went away, Martin. I just pulled a “Puzzler” with this piece.

To explain: Surely, some of you are familiar with that extremely popular NPR show, “Car Talk”? That weekly radio program where Ray and Tom Magliozzi (AKA Click & Clack, the Tappet Brothers) dispense car repair advice and generally behave like goof-balls? Well, one of the more popular features of that show is “The Puzzler,” this weekly brain-teaser-of-a-contest that “Car Talk” listeners are regularly invited to take part in.

Unfortunately, “The Puzzler” takes a lot of time to properly prepare. Either that or the Magliozzis are incredibly lazy (It’s probably the latter). Whatever the reason, Click & Clack have made it a tradition that — whenever summer rolls around — their show’s popular brain teaser feature goes on hiatus for a while. Then — once the weather cools down again in September (Making it okay to wrack your brain without fear of blowing a gasket) — “The Puzzler” returns.

This — to me — seemed to be a frankly ingenious plan. Deliberately avoiding something that involves an awful lot of effort during the hot summer months. (FYI: This is also the same excuse that I use when I don’t want to mow the lawn. “It’s too hot.” Which is why our back yard now looks like the African Velde.) Which is why I quickly swiped … er … “borrowed” Click & Clack’s idea and quietly put “Why For” on hiatus ‘way back in late May / early June.

But now that the weather has cooled down considerably (More importantly, now that Tom & Ray have actually gone back to work), I guess I can’t trot out my tired old “Car Talk Puzzler” excuse to Tony Moore (JHM’s webmaster) anymore. Which is why I guess it’s time for the fat man to go back to work and answer a few questions from JHM readers.

First though, here’s a bit of news from someone of the retail side of things at the Mouse House:

Jim —

I just want to give you a “heads up” that word came down today (Thursday, September 16th) that the sale of the Disney Store chain has finally been completed. Disney’s expected to make a formal announcement about the sale to Children’s Place sometime late on Friday. More likely on Monday as part of next week’s Board of Directors meeting.

Yeah, I’d been hearing some rumblings about this over the past week or so. Particularly with the notion of this sale being announced at part of Disney’s Board of Directors meetings next week. With this news hopefully being viewed by Wall Street as yet another sign that Mickey’s finally getting his financial house in order.

But what does this all mean to the managers & staff who work at the 300+ stateside “Disney Stores” that are changing hands here? To be honest, it doesn’t look good. I’ve been hearing that Children’s Place is looking to bring a lot of its own people in to run the troubled retail chain. Which undoubtedly means another round of layoffs. Plus I told that not every store in the chain will survive this transfer of power. Which means even more closures.

On the other hand … Some of this news will probably be viewed as a relief to Disney Store cast members. Who have been living with the unsettling news that the retail chain that they work for has reportedly been up for sale for over two years now. Not to mention the news that the sale of the chain was allegedly been “imminent” for the past six months. Now at least the other shoe has finally dropped. So these people can finally get on with their lives and find out what happens next.

And — speaking of what happens next — here’s a question from CarolinaWinds about what’s going on with Disneyland’s sub attraction:

Jim —

Alright, what’s the deal with Disneyland’s subs. I keep hearing all these rumors about a “Finding Nemo” redo and work secretly being done after hours in the Tomorrowland caverns. Is this story really legit? Or just another case of some idle internet speculation being totally blown out of proportion.

Dear CarolinaWinds —

Oh, the Disneyland “Finding Nemo” project *IS* real. And the prep work for this ambitious Tomorrowland redo project isn’t being conducted in secret anymore. It’s being right out in the open these days. For example, late last week, divers were sighted working in the lagoon. Making repairs to the attraction’s filteration system.

And — earlier this week — a Submarine suddenly appeared in the attraction’s load / unload area.

Photo by David Michael

And please note the banner that’s been draped over the submarine’s conning tower:

Photo by David Michael

It reads “We’re Imagineering a new idea.”

Now the phrasing on that banner is important, folks. “We’re Imagineering a new idea.” NOT ” … a new attraction.” You see, WDI’s still very much in the investigative phase here. They’re trying to get a handle on what it’s actually going to cost to install the “Finding Nemo: Let’s Party!” version of Disneyland’s subs. Which — contrary to popular opinions out there — is *NOT* going to be done on the cheap. This show’s going to have an amazing new finale that — through the use of some frankly incredible technology — will actually extends the show beyond the caverns. You see the way it’s going to be done is …

CRASH! An Imagineering SWAT Team suddenly comes flying in the window and quickly wrestles Jim to the ground. After repeated warnings about how “Walt wouldn’t like it if you leaked information like that,” they finally allow him to get back up and go back over to his keyboard.

Okay. So I can’t talk about “Finding Nemo” ‘s finale. So can I at least talk about what you’re doing in the caverns? The really clever way that you guys are recycling most of this attraction’s previously existing sets? I mean, I think that it’s just great that the Tank Gang has made a home for itself in …

WHAM!! Jim’s back on the floor again. A burly show producer now puts Hill in a headlock and says “Now don’t make us go all Eisner on your ass.” After another couple of warnings about what he can & can not talk about, Jim gets back on his feet and — still gasping for breath — staggers back over to his computer.

Okay. So I can’t talk about what’s going on in the caverns either. Alright. How about this? What if I were to tell them about the first 30 seconds of the “Finding Nemo: Let’s Party” attraction? Or just talk the stuff that you can see out on the lagoon without actually having to go on the ride itself?

The Imagineering SWAT Team quickly goes into a huddle. After quietly conferring for a moment or two, they turn back to Hill and say: “Okay. You can talk about the stuff that we’ll be doing above the waterline, the things that Disneyland guests can see without having to go on the submarine ride. You can also reveal the first 30 seconds of the attraction. But say anything else …and we take your spleen.”

Yikes. Given that I’m pretty sure that I actually need my spleen (If only to vent it on Roy & Stanley and the poor job they’ve been doing lately with their “Save Disney” movement), let me chose my words carefully here, folks

So what can you see above the waterline without actually going on the proposed “Finding Nemo: Let’s Party!” attraction? Not a whole hell of a lot, actually. The Imagineers have really made an effort to make this part of Tomorrowland look just as it has since June of 1959, when Disneyland’s sub ride first opened to the public. So that there’s no real giveaway of the new fun that lies in store.

Oh wait … That’s not entirely true … If you were to walk toward Tomorrowland from Fantasyland, moving along Matterhorn Way, and were you to look out onto the submarine lagoon, you would spy at least one thing that was new: A buoy.

But not just any buoy. A bright red buoy that would have a couple of minimatronic seagulls on it. And — each time a sub would float by — these robotic birds would immediately come to life, screeching “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

But that would be the only outward sign — other than, of course, the “Finding Nemo: Let’s Party!” marquee outside of the attraction as well as the videos playing on the overheard monitors in the queue — that something significantly different was going on with Disneyland’s subs.

Now — as to the attraction itself — this same principle would apply here. That — in order to maximize the surprise for theme park guests — the first 30 seconds or so of this show would be played ridiculously straight. With the attraction’s pre-recorded announcer (in a very serious voice) talking about how happy they are that you’ve chosen to join him on this submarine voyage trip out to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. As the sub glides away from the dock through that bubble field, you’re to be told about the amazing ecosystem off of the Australia coast. How hundreds of thousands of species make their home on the reef, etc.

You get the idea here, right? Deadly serious. This is a scientific voyage. You shouldn’t expect anything fun to happen at all, alright?

Then — revisiting a classic moment from the old Disneyland submarine voyage — our unseen announcer says: “We’re going to turn on our external hydrophones now. So that you can hear the sounds that the sea creatures all around us are making.”

So he throws the hydrophones on. Not-so-co-incidentally at the very moment our sub finally clears the bubble field. So we peer out the porthole and what do we see? Two crabs standing on an underwater pipe, waving their claws menacingly at one another, as they say “Eh! Eh! Eh!”

And that’s all I can safely tell you guys right now. You see, I can’t really spill my guts about all I know about “Finding Nemo: Let’s Party!” out of fear that the Imagineers will then try to spill MY guts.

But what I can tell you is that — provided that Disneyland management finally gives this project the greenlight — this wittily revamped attraction will make a truly memorable addition to Tomorrowland’s line-up of rides & shows. This will be a undersea voyage that “Finding Nemo” fans will want to experience over & over again, if only to experience that great moment at the end of the ride where …

A woman who works in WDI’s model shop suddenly pulls out a foam cutting tool. She makes a few gestures that suggest that — if Hill doesn’t shut up soon — his daughter, Alice, will be an only child.

… Which I really can’t talk about right now. Maybe later. Much later. Much, much, much later.

Satisfied that they’ve now scared the bejeezus out of Jim, the WDI SWAT s quickly exit his home. Climbing aboard an oddily shaped zepplin (which is piloted by a weird bearded gentleman & his little purple dragon), the Imagineers take to the skies.

As he watches them go, Jim Hill rubs his aching throat and mutters to himself: “I wonder if this ever happens to Al Lutz.”

Anyway … Where were we? Oh, yes. Answering e-mails from JHM readers. Speaking of which, here’s a sad bit of news that I have to share with you all. Following up on a recent question from Monica P.

Where did Chuck Oberleitner go? It’s been weeks since he’s done a new column for Is everything okay with him?

Dear Monica —

Sadly, Chuck no longer works for JHM. Back in August, Mr. Oberleitner suddenly decided that he wanted to pursue other opportunities. Which is why he abruptly resigned from this website.

Me personally, I was sorry to see Chuck go. He’d been a part of the JHM family right from the beginning. And I — along with thousands of readers — genuinely enjoyed his “DizBiz” and “Reporters Notebook” pieces. Which usually featured Oberleitner’s unique & informed take on the business side of things over at the Mouse House.

As to where Chuck might set up shop next … I have no idea, folks. But — should we find out — I’ll be happy to put up a pointer at this site, so that Oberleitner’s legion of fans will then know where to find him.

The entire JHM family wishes Chuck well as he begins this exciting new phase of his career. I’m sure that — wherever Oberleitner lands — he’ll quickly become a valued contributor for some lucky website. Here’s hoping, anyway …

Anywho … Moving on to a somewhat happier topic … BrerBadger writes in to ask”

Jim —

I really loved those SIGGRAPH photos that you posted over on skwigly. You know, the ones about Disney’s upcoming computer animated features? So what can you tell us about these films? I’m particularly interested in hearing any info you might have about WDFA’s return to fairy tales, “Rapunzel.”

Dear BrerBadger —

I am pleased to report that the in-house scuttlebutt on “Rapunzel” has gotten a lot better over the past month or so. Where once people at Feature Animation seemed genuinely concerned about this project, It would now appear that — after years of floundering — that this film’s production team has finally found the appropriate style & tone for this feature length CG animated picture.

You see, at one time, this was going to a really satirical fairy tale film. You know, something along the lines of “Shrek” & “Shrek II.” But now … “Rapunzel” producer Phil Lofaro & director Glen Keane seem to have decided that imitating these two Dreamworks hits may not the smartest way to go (Particularly since it’s now looking quite likely that this WDFA film will be making its initial big screen debut just about the same time that “Shrek III” will be going up for sale on DVD). Sooo … Phil & Glen are now said to be taking a more traditional approach to this project. In other words, making a real modern fairy tale film — something more in the tradition of 1991’s “Beauty & the Beast” and 1992’s “Aladdin.”

Toward that end, Lofaro & Keane have signed Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth to provide both the singing & speaking voice of the film’s title character. Also “Legally Blonde” star Reese Witherspoon is said to be playing a rather significant role in this production. Both as one of “Rapunzel” ‘s producers as well as voicing a contemporary character who (in the course of this picture) somehow gets sucked into the fairy tale world.

By the way, this upcoming animated feature isn’t actually the first time that this long-haired beauty has made an appearance in a Disney project. How many of you out there remember seeing this picture while you were on an Orlando vacation?

Photo by Jeff Lange

This picture of Rapunzel & her strategically placed strands used to be found in the “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” attraction in WDW’s Magic Kingdom. If I’m remembering this correctly, you could briefly see this nearly naked young lady as your car rolled through Winky’s Pub. This picture was a decoration somewhere near the bar … Or so I recall.

Something tells me that the “Rapunzel” that we see from Disney in 2006 / 2007 won’t look a lot like this. Which I know is gonna disappoint a lot of you guys out there.

Speaking of disappointed … I’m sure that a lot of JHM readers would be disappointed today if I didn’t announce the results on this week’s “Ghost in the Shell” contest. Of the 200+ entries that we recieved, these were the ones that made me laugh the most:

  • Paul Webb’s borsht belt-like riff: “What do you call an albino tortoise? A Ghost in the Shell!”
  • Phil Conley’s: “Ghost in the Shell: The Harvard Rowing team finally finds a coxswain of perfect weight.”
  • “Dan Weckerly’s long but good: “Two competing gas stations are across the street from one another; one is deserted, except for a hearse at the lone pump, an unseen hand pumping gasoline into the tank. The other has a crowd of wild-eyed patrons lined up, fearful of buying gas across the street. Why for? Well the one with the hearse is haunted. Yes, there’s a Ghost in the Shell.”
  • Tom McAndrew’s absurd but brilliant Disney related joke: “Ghost in the Shell: The tragic result of a boiling water accident on the set of ‘101 Crustaceans.’ ”
  • Donald Laird’s (who evidently channels for Steven Wright): A Ghost in the Shell is what you hear when you put up to your ear a conch that you found along the Dead Sea…

The above five folks will each recieve a copy of the “Ghost in the Shell: Innocence” poster … Just as soon as Dreamworks’ promotional departments finally sends them my way (Hint! Hint!)

As for who will recieve our grand prize, that “Ghost in the Shell” DVD … I don’t know why. But this entry by MagicO really just cracked me up:

  • GHOST IN THE SHELL: 2(nd floor).. Cyberbrains, Cyberware, Cyborgs, Hackers, Fuchikomas and Com-m-mputers! Watch your step, puhlease!”

I want to thank everyone who submitted an entry for this inaugural JHM reader contest. In fact, this one went so well that we’re thinking of making contests a regular feature at “And what sort of prizes will you offer?,” you query. Well — for starters — I hope you folks like coffee.

Before we close up shop for this week, let me make a few quick acknowledgments:

Thanks to Dreamworks’ promotional department for providing the posters for this week’s “Ghost in the Shell: Innocence” contest. With an extra special thanks to Manga Entertainment for providing our grand prize, that “Ghost in the Shell” DVD.

Remember that “Ghost in the Shell: Innocence” opens in theaters today. If you’d like to get a sneak preview of this Mamoru Oshii film, you can see the first eight minutes of “Innocence” by following this link.

Alright. That’s it for this week, folks. Have a great weekend. And we’ll see you all again on Monday, okay?


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

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“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.

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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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