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Finding Mickey Mouse at Disney World

As a special weekend treat for readers, Wade Sampson shares a special gift from JHM’s old pal, Jim Korkis. Which is the ultimate Mouse scavenger hunt for Florida-bound Disneyana fans.



Was anyone else as disappointed as I was that the 75 statues celebrating Mickey Mouse which were supposed to be on display at Walt Disney World through April got pulled early for the Disney stockholder’s meeting? I had planned to visit Walt Disney World over Spring Break and take some photos since I am a big Mickey Mouse fan (Even though cast members told me that not all of the statues were on display at the Magic Kingdom. Apparently, some did not survive the trip to hot and humid Orlando well and were backstage being touched up.)

Actually, there were 77 statues made. “We created two additional statues to substitute for the official 75 in case something terrible happened to them,” said Maria Gladowski, spokesperson for Disney Consumer Products. Those two extra were “Circle Vision” by Luis Fernandez, an employee of Disney Consumer Products, and “Chocolate Mouse” by Randi S. Johnson, president of TivoliToo which was the company that was involved in creating the statues. So when there was the Janet Jackson controversy and her Mickey statue, “Rhythm Nation 1928”, got pulled, it was easy to substitute “Circle Vision”.

These 700-pound, 6-foot-tall Mickey statues kicked off an eighteen month celebration honoring Mickey Mouse’s 75th Anniversary and they are now touring the country to be reunited at Disneyland for a Sotheby’s auction in 2005.

So I postponed my trip to Walt Disney World and last week I was listening to KOST radio out here in Los Angeles when they were broadcasting from the Disney/MGM Studios and to my surprise they interviewed Disney historian Jim Korkis, who always manages to be charming and informative even when he has to be “Disney correct/” That interview reminded me that over the Christmas holidays, several cast members at Walt Disney World had sent me a scavenger hunt designed by Jim for cast members that I was going to take with me on my trip.

To celebrate the 100 Years of Magic, Jim put together a hunt entitled “Where in the World is Walt?” which is archived elsewhere at this site. Jim found Walt photos and references at the various theme parks at Walt Disney World and put together this hunt so that cast members (and their family and friends) could re-discover the magic in the parks even if they had been there hundreds of time. This last December, to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s birthday, he put together a version entitled “Where in the World is Mickey?” So for all those Disney fans like myself who lost out on the chance to see all the Mickey statues, here is another way to celebrate Mickey’s 75th birthday. I’m sure Jim won’t mind it appearing here since he loves promoting the parks and having people re-discover all the details and this encourages guests to pay that higher admission price to find these secrets hidden in plain sight.

Where in the World is Mickey?
A Special Disney Heritage Adventure
created by Jim Korkis

Magic Kingdom

1. In 1929, one of the earliest of the Mickey Mouse black and white cartoons was released: “Mickey’s Choo-Choo,” which featured Mickey as the engineer on a small town railroad. In fact, he is still wearing his engineer’s cap and checkered shirt when he posed for this photo with Walt Disney who is also wearing a checkered shirt. What is the number on the train engine? (Main Street)

2. There are certainly a lot of “Steamboat Willie” images throughout the parks since this was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon theatrically released but this is the only color reproduction of a “Steamboat Willie” anywhere in the WDW theme parks. In fact, in the small lettering at the bottom of this reproduction, it is listed as a limited edition celebrating what number anniversary? (Main Street)

3. “Canine Caddy” with Mickey & Pluto playing golf was released in 1941 and featured a Mickey Mouse with two-tone ears in an attempt by animator Freddy Moore to make Mickey’s ears more three-dimensional. This short-lived experiment only lasted for two cartoons. While the short is in color, you can view a black and white version of it at this location. What is the title that flashes on the screen immediately after this Mickey Mouse short? (Main Street)

4. “The Cactus Kid” and “Two Gun Mickey” were popular black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons with Mickey as a cowboy. However, this seems to be the only location where guests can purchase an image of Cowboy Mickey in his ten gallon hat and holding a six shooter in his left hand. Of course, you can’t see the rest of his body. Where exactly would you be able to purchase this image? (Frontierland)

5. The picture to the left of the picture of Clarabelle Cow being wooed by a suitor with a flower shows a special outfit for Mickey Mouse for one of his cartoons that was nominated for an Academy Award but lost that year to “Ferdinand the Bull.” On the picture it says “Suit For Gentry”. What is the other two word phrase on that picture? (Fantasyland)

6. Mickey Mouse’s space adventures were primarily limited to his comic book appearances but here a three-dimensional Mickey Mouse dressed in a silver space suit stands proudly behind a flashing light as he looks at Minnie. What is the color of the light? (Tomorrowland)

7. This is an interesting picture because even though it is supposed to suggest that it is Minnie Mouse’s father, it is actually based on a drawing done by famed Mickey Mouse comic strip artist Floyd Gottfredson in 1948 for a popular magazine to show what Mickey Mouse would look like in his old age. (Gottfredson’s version had Mickey holding a box of checkers and a checker board.) Anyway, the aged mouse in this picture holds a cane in right hand, wears reading glasses and holds a newspaper in his left hand. What is the name of the newspaper? (Toontown)

8. There is a color picture of Mickey Mouse as a construction worker with a hard hat outside his bedroom. That exact same picture appears in another location in Toontown. When you find that second location, the picture has a number with a fraction. What is the number and the fraction? (Toontown)

9. In Mickey’s letter to Donald and Goofy, what does he write after he says “It sure looks different all right”? (Toontown)

10. Where exactly can you find Mickey Mouse’s big yellow mailbox with his full name in big red letters? (Toontown)


11. When you find the location that has five arrows by each wheel, look up to the top and you will find a classic Mickey Mouse image with his left hand holding how many objects? (World Showcase)

12. This is odd. This is the only country pavilion where one of the pennies in the penny press machine does not have the country name on it. It is also the only one where the image of Mickey Mouse has the classic pie-cut eyes. In what country can you find this unusual penny souvenir? (World Showcase)

13. Mickey is comfortably sitting on his suitcase with a beret on his head and a camera tucked under his right arm. That famous structure in the background was designed by the same man who did the interior structure of the Statue of Liberty. But what is Mickey Mouse holding in his left hand? (World Showcase)

14. Mickey sure looks happy on these signs in his bright yellow shirt but Chip’n’Dale seem to be paying attention to something else. What color buttons are on Mickey’s clothes on these signs? (Nope, not yellow.) (Future World)

15. As you stand in the front of Epcot, looking at SpaceShip Earth, in which hand is Mickey holding his sorcerer’s wand? (It reverses on the other side and by the way, that’s the little finger that is sticking out in the air.) (Future World)

16. This Mickey Mouse phone on the counter is always available for guests to use and has been ever since this air-conditioned location opened. Are Mickey’s feet straddling the phone or are his feet flat on the ground to one side of the dial or is the right foot raised or is the left foot raised? (Maybe if you are nice, the cast members here will point out what they suspect is a Hidden Mickey on the floor carpet.) (Future World)

17. There are two locations in Future World where there are photos of Walt Disney pretending to draw Mickey Mouse as “Steamboat Willie”. Where are those two locations? (Future World)

18. Smiling before the ABC-TV camera, Walt clutches a Charlotte Clark designed Mickey Mouse doll and what other Disney cartoon character dolls also designed by Miss Clark? (Future World)

19. These three dials were obviously meant to resemble Mickey Mouse’s head. Both of Mickey’s ear gauges seem to register approximately “90” on the scale. But the gauge representing Mickey’s head registers just short of what number? (Future World) (Don’t be confused by the dials in another area that register between 120-130!)

20. Mickey’s outline is on a large green gear that twirls periodically between the gears of the outlines of what two other Disney animated characters? (Future World)

Disney – MGM Studios

21. The Carthay Circle Theater was one of only two theaters fitted with Fantasound for the premiere of “Fantasia” featuring Mickey Mouse in 1940. This theater on San Vicente was torn down in 1969 because it was not earthquake safe. In one of the display windows is a reproduction of a poster for the cartoon short, Mickey’s Good Deed.” This exact same poster reproduction is proudly displayed at what other location at the Disney/MGM Studios? (Hollywood Boulevard)

22. What is anatomically incorrect with the big three-dimensional statue of Mickey Mouse as “Steamboat Willie”? The other two statues in the same location are fine. They even got the colors right on the middle one and that doesn’t always happen. (Hollywood Boulevard)

23. What is the word in orange lettering and white neon that is underneath the face of one of the largest Mickey Mouse wristwatches you will ever see? (Hollywood Boulevard)

24. When this star made a lasting impression with his hands (and his nose!), he also wrote “Happy Birthday, Mick!” on 6-26-88. What is the name of that star? (Next time you ride the “Great Movie Ride,” look immediately to your left when you see James Cagney and see if you can find a Hidden Mickey that is not three circles but a body part.) (Hollywood Boulevard)

25. Right between the photo of Walt pretending to draw Bambi and the photo of him being very animated in a pair of suspenders as he acts out in front of the “Pinocchio” storyboard is a photo of Walt reading a book. What is the full title of that book? (Animation Courtyard)

26. “Mickey’s Polo Team” was a 1936 short cartoon inspired by Walt Disney’s love of the game of polo. He had organized a team at the studio and arranged games between some of the other Hollywood celebrities. Unfortunately he had to stop when an accident crushed four of his cervical vertebrae, contributing to an arthritic condition that plagued him the rest of his life. This location features three publicity drawings from that cartoon and in one of the drawings, a helmeted Mickey Mouse is followed by which Disney character carrying Mickey’s bag of polo mallets? (Sunset Boulevard)

27. In the Disneyland ferris wheel, the design of each of the individual cars has Mickey Mouse sharing his ride with Pluto and what other Disney animated character? (Nope, it is not Minnie.) (Sunset Boulevard)

28. Mickey Mouse’s very own red director’s chair has a very battered and probably collectible marionette clinging to one of the arms. Who is that marionette character? (Nope, it is not Pinocchio.) (Sunset Boulevard)

29. So many things have changed in the park since it opened but thank heavens this yellow map with a red banner proclaiming: “Los Angeles and Vicinity Freeways” still hangs where it did when this area first opened. In fact, there is a little red square to identify the location of Disneyland. However, immediately to the upper left is another red square almost directly above the green San Diego Freeway sign that identifies something that helped out the opening of Disneyland. What popular location is the little red square representing? (Look at the little black arrow above the square as well.)? (New York Street)

30. This magazine has what is known as an “infinity cover” which means the cover is repeated on progressively smaller covers to infinity. Mickey is smiling on this color cover and while he is celebrating 75 years today, when this magazine came out, it proclaimed the 75th anniversary of what other achievement? (One Man’s Dream)

Don’t LOOK! Here are the Answers! WARNING!










Magic Kingdom

1. 2 (Two). This photo is in the locker area at the front of the park between lockers B255-295.

2. 70th. This small reproduction is in the first display case in the Kodak Exposition Hall near the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” sheet music.

3. “Hockey Hijinks.” Several sports related cartoons are shown on the big screen in the back of the Main Street Athletic Club.

4. The Penny Press Machine in the lobby of “Country Bear Jamboree.”

5. “Giant Savings.” This picture is in the display window of “Sir Mickey’s” and the phrase is a reference to Mickey as a giant killer in “Brave Little Tailor.”

6. Blue. This is in the center of the “Mickey’s Star Traders” shop.

7.The Cheese Report. This picture is on the mantle of the living room in Minnie Mouse’s house.

8. 23 and 3/15. The picture with the number is on the cover of “Minnie’s Cartoon Country Living” which hangs on the wall in Minnie’s house right before going in to the kitchen.

9. “Let’s Talk”. This letter appears on the counter of the remodeled kitchen in Mickey’s house.

10. On the shelf of Mickey’s garage. It is right above the license plate “MIK’N’MIN”.


11. Three (3). This is the white pin trading cart in front of “The American Adventure.” Mickey is holding three geometric, colorful pins in his hand.

12. Morocco. This penny press machine is located in the merchandise shop near the restaurant. The penny of Mickey has him with his left hand on a globe and a suitcase behind him.

13. His passport. This image of Mickey is in the penny press machine in the “Les Halles” merchandise shop in France.

14. Orange. There are three signs for Character Dining in front of the “Garden Grill” Restaurant in “The Land” pavilion and they all feature Mickey in a yellow shirt, blue overalls and orange buttons.

15. Left hand.

16. Right foot raised. This phone is located on the counter of the Guest Relations lobby.

17. The display window of “The Art of Disney” and the south wall mural in Innoventions East.

18. Goofy, Donald, Pluto. This picture is located on the photo wall mural in Innoventions East.

19. 110. These dials are in “Mouse Gear” right underneath the silhouette picture of Scrooge McDuck in his office with Daisy Duck taking dictation.

20. Goofy and the face of Minnie Mouse. These huge gears are in the “Mouse Gear” location, north wall.

Disney – MGM Studios

21. “Sweet Success.” The poster is hanging high on the wall with other posters above the embroidering area known as Head To Toe.

22. Steamboat Willie is missing his tail. This statue is in “Mickey’s of Hollywood.”

23. Jewelry. This wristwatch is a huge sign that is on Hollywood Boulevard between the second and third entrance to Mickey’s of Hollywood.

24. Alan Alda. In the forecourt of the “Chinese Theater” on the upper left side if you are facing the theater.

25. “The Adventures of Mickey Mouse.” This photo is on a filmstrip that winds above the heads of guests in “The Studio Store.”

26. Donald Duck. This photo is on one of the north walls in the “Mouse About Town” store.

27. Donald Duck. This is one of the antique toys in the Carthay Circle merchandise shop near where the artist draws.

28. Minnie Mouse. This is one of the antique toys above one of the doors of the Carthay Circle merchandise shop.

29. Knott’s Berry Farm. This map is located on the wall in Disney’s Writer’s Stop coffee shop. Knott’s Berry Farm lent Disneyland an old rifle to be carried by Fess Parker as Davy Crockett’s “Old Betsy” when it was discovered the real one was left behind in Burbank.

30. Flight. The “Life” magazine from November 1978 is in the display case next to the standee of Roy O. Disney and celebrates “75 Years of Flight”.

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



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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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