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For Why?

We’re doing things a little bass ackwards today, folks. Instead of having Jim Hill answer your Disney-related questions … This time around, it’s JHM readers who are actually going to provide intriguing new information about various stories that have run on this site over the past week or so.

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You know what I love about the Web? This whole give-and-take thing.

I mean, here I thought that I had come up with a fairly interesting pile of new stories to post on the site this week. But leave it to JHM’s readers to come up with tales that actually top my own.

Take — for example — last week’s “Why For.” Where I wrote about how the former Chairman of Disney Attractions, *** Nunis, had once wanted to bring Disneyland’s Matterhorn to WDW’s Magic Kingdom. Now — as part of that article — I revealed that *** had originally wanted to build this thrill ride right on top of the same parcel of land that Mickey’s Toontown Fair currently occupies. And — given that it was Mr. Nunis himself (Who I was lucky enough to interview ‘way back in the early 1990s) who was my source for this piece — I was fairly confident in my information.

Well, imagine my surprise when I began getting notes from longtime WDW cast members. Who told me in no uncertain terms that I had the proposed location of the Magic Kingdom’s proposed Matterhorn wrong. Take — for example — this e-mail from Hooch, which said:

Hello Jim,

I read your “Why For” column today and actually a while back I contacted Dave Smith about the Matterhorn rumor at WDW. He responded (by saying) that footers (had been) installed behind “it’s a small world” in preparation for the construction of the Matterhorn in Fantasyland. They are there to this day.

I am not disputing what Mr. Nunis planned to do. However this is another piece of the Matterhorn puzzle that I feel should be mentioned.

Thanks!

Hooch

Then Steve stepped forward to back-up Hooch’s story:

Hey Jim,

Just one small correction to your recent “Why For” column. The original intent for the Matterhorn at WDW was not in the Mickey’s Toontown area, but behind It’s a Small World.

The mountain would have been in that corner of the park, complimented by the Swiss Chalet themeing and architecture of both Pinocchio Village Haus and The Skyway Station at either end. The entrance would have been in the area of that little alcove where the Pinocchio restrooms are.

In fact, If you go backstage near the entrance to the Utilidors and the Cast member bus stop, on the Small World side, about halfway up the wall you will see exposed rebar sticking out of the wall where the Matterhorn structure was intended to tie in. A friend of mine once questioned my sources on this information, and he now has in his possesion a signed letter from Marty Sklar verifying this information.

Keep up the great work.

Steve

Given what Dave Smith told Hooch and what Marty Sklar told Steve’s friend, I’m now wondering if what *** Nunis told me was right. I mean, given all the Swiss themed material that’s already in place over in that corner of Fantasyland, it now makes perfect sense now that the Imagineers had once planned on building a Matterhorn in this part of the Magic Kingdom.

So now one has to wonder: Why did *** tell me something different? Could it be that Nunis didn’t really agree with the Imagineers about where this mountain should be placed?

Hmmmn … Given that *** doesn’t really like to talk about his days at Disney anymore (I’ve heard that Nunis — who once ran the entire Walt Disney World resort like it was his own personal fiefdom — left the Mouse House on fairly bad terms. And — given that ***’s one of the guys who was raised to believe that “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” — Nunis has pretty much refused to talk with the press since he officially retired from the Walt Disney Company in 1999), I seriously doubt that I’m going to get another chance to quiz him about WDW’s version of the Matterhorn.

So — for now — given the logic of what Hooch & Steve have been telling us, why don’t we now go with their explanation about the Matterhorn’s location? And — instead of dropping this Disneyland thrill ride on top of Mickey’s Toontown Fair — let’s go instead with  Fantasyland, somewhere behind the Pinocchio Village Haus restaurant and “it’s a small world”?

Okay. So that’s one story that I sort of got wrong. Mind you, I do occassionally get a story right.

Case in point: This week’s “The short, short life of WDW’s STOLport” piece. Particularly where I talked about how that long-abandoned runway was once used in the field test of some very interesting speed bumps. This part of the story actually brought back a lot of fond memories for many WDW cast members. Among them MH, who wrote in to say:

Hi Jim.

Thanks for all your wonderful articles. The article today about Walt Disney World’s STOLport reminded me of the day I actually got to experience the “Zip-a-dee Strips.” (That’s what I was told they were called.)

I was in a company vehicle with a supervisor one day and on a lark we drove out onto the runway to experience the strips. I could definitely tell that the strips sounded like “Zip-a-dee Doo Dah.” I had the biggest grin on my face, and couldn’t wait until they were installed in a guest area (I was told that they would be installed on a section of World Drive as you neared the Toll Plaza.)

I never heard why they were not installed.

Thanks for taking me down memory lane.

MH

Then there was TR, who sent me an e-mail that sort of explained how these musical speed bumps actually worked … As well as offering some additional information about how — long after WDW’s STOlport had officially been closed to the public — Walt Disney Company officials still found ways to use this abandoned airfield.

Jim:

I also remember the “musical roadway” during my time in the WDW cast. I met the man who designed it, and for his first test, he created a roll-up mat, into which he inserted plastic pieces about the size of standard wooden rulers (come to think of it, they may have been rulers) between the layers of this mat. They were set at varying intervals to change the frequency (note) of the song. It was only about 12″ wide and he drove over it with just one side of the vehicle. He explained to me that the main difficulty was that there was a slight delay, caused by the front tires and rear tires running over the “notes” due to their distance from each other. I always thought this was a neat idea, and told my mother about it (she was a civil engineer with the Alabama DOT) and suggested that we do the same on the interstates at the state line, using the song “My Home’s in Alabama.”

One note about the STOLport; it has been used on occasion by helicopters. After a shareholders meeting, I drove MDE and his assistant there to take a hop to Orlando Executive Airport via Bell Jet Ranger.

Thank you for your very interesting articles and your great website.

TR

Well, that’s kind of neat to know how that musical speed bump thing would have worked, don’t you think.

And — speaking of thinking … Every so often, I’ll hear from some JHM reader who’ll say that he thinks I’m lying. Who’ll claim that I’ve spun a story out of whole cloth, invented some controversy, all in an effort to drive up traffic levels at this site.

I got a number of notes like that last week after I posted my “A casino at Walt Disney World?! Don’t bet on it” story. It seems that a fair amount of JHM readers just couldn’t believe that the Mouse would ever entertain the notion of offering gambling at Disney World. Let alone surveying WDW guests to see what they thought of the matter.

Well, thankfully, someone who actually worked for Walt Disney World’s research department finally came forward to address this controversy. And — via e-mail — he explained what Disney was really trying to do when they first began polling WDW guests on this subject back in November of 2004:

I wanted to set the record straight on the WDW Casino rumor. As a member of the staff of WDW’s Research department, I am very familiar with this project.

There was a research project the 1st week of Nov when about 600 1 on 1 interviews (not focus groups) were conducted about gambling in central Florida. The survey was because of the new gambling law and Hard Rock Casino in Tampa. The purpose was to understand how much the potential future presence of gambling in Orlando would damage the WDW brand image.

The possibility of a casino on WDW property was randomly floated in some of the interviews, but strictly to measure response to different kinds of scenarios, and to guage how close to WDW a casino would have to be to hurt our image. The possibility of any casino at WDW was effectively killed forever after a ’94 gambling study showed very heavy negative feelings towards the idea.

So there you have it. Confirmation that Disney really wasn’t toying with the idea building a casino on property. But — rather — the Mouse was just trying to guage how Florida’s changing attitude toward gambling might potentially impact people’s impressions of the Walt Disney World resort.

And — finally — as an interesting sort of sidebar to yesterday’s “Don’t Like the Way your Cartoon is turning out? Just hit ‘rewind’ and recast” article — CK (A WDFA vet) chimes in with some additional information about how Disney’s contracts with celebrity voice talent actually work:

I wanted to respond a bit to your “recasting voice talent’ article. I liked it very much, and what you have said is true. But, unfortunately, when the actor has signed on the dotted line to voice a character, the battle isn’t over. Their contracts are often split into several subsections (or entirely different contracts). One being for the actual voice work in the film, another for their participation in marketing (Katie, Jay and Dave) and still others for additional work to be used with toys, rides, attractions, etc.

As you know, Robin Williams was very concerned about how Disney would use his ‘star power’ and exploit his involvement with the Genie. From what I understand, he even went to the point of having his contract stipulate that posters, trailers and commercials could only feature the Genie to the extent that the Genie appeared in the movie.

For example: if the Genie only actually appeared in 35% of the movie, he could only be featured in 35% of the trailer or 35% of the poster. Oh, and Robin William’s voice was not allowed to be heard on any commercial that was directly created to sell a toy (unlike, let’s say, a Happy Meal spot whose purpose is to sell burgers, but also get people into the theaters.) This ‘Toy Commercial’ stipulation was, I believe, a line that Disney crossed at least one time that I know of, further fueling the bad blood between Williams and Disney. (The commercial I remember was for a projecting View Master.)

Also, sometimes actors simply refuse to do additional work. When approached with the offer to do voice work for Hopper action figures, Kevin Spacey replied: “I don’t do toys.”

Fortunately, Andrew Stanton had been doing the rough ‘scratch’ dialogue for Hopper during the whole production and was often mistaken for official ‘Kevin Spacey’ work. So, in a pinch, they went with Andrew. And that’s his voice you hear in all of those Hopper toys (there were a lot of them) as well as the amazing Hopper figure in the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” 4-D movie. Sounds like Kevin Spacey to me – Andrew is a talented guy.

I was told that later, when Kevin Spacey actually held one of the toys in his hands and saw how cool they were, he was a little bummed that he’d passed on the job.

So there you have it, folks. All sorts of cool little stories that actually expand on some of the columns that we’ve run on JHM over the past week or so. Did you like this version of “Why For”? If so, let me know … And we then might actually use today’s column as a springboard for a brand new feature at the site: “JHM readers respond.”

Speaking of responses … Scott Liljenquist tells me that we’ve gotten a great response to the JHM Disneyland tours that we’ve got scheduled for next weekend. I’m told that both of the tours on Sunday are already virtually sold out at this point. Whereas on Saturday … We’ve still got a few slots left open on both the morning & the afternoon tour.

Sooo … If you’d like to spend some time in Anaheim hearing the sorts of stories that you won’t hear on the official Disneyland tour, then I suggest you click on this link and sign up for a JHM tour ASAP.

Anyway … Normally, this would be the part of the column where I’d say “That’s it for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and we’ll see you again on Monday, okay?” Well, this week, I’d like to try something different.

Just as sort of a let’s-throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of test … We’re going to post some new content up on JHM this weekend. A new column called “Le Plug,” which will talk about many of the books, CDs, DVDs and games that nice people have sent to this site. With the hope that we’ll then say something nice about these new products.

Well, I’ve got a huge pile of this stuff on my desk right now. And — to be honest — I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to say about any of it. So (in theory) this could be a fun, spontaneous column … And/or it could be an awful, self-absorbed bore.

Either way, I’m sure you folks will let me know how you feel about this new column. So — if you get the chance this weekend — drop on by JHM and check out “Le Plug” and then let me know if it “Les Sucks.”

Then … After that column runs tomorrow … We’ll get back on our usual schedule. Which means all new content up on JHM starting on Monday.

Anyway … That’s it for today. Talk to you later, 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  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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