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“Hocus Pocus” cast & crew return to the Disney lot to reminisce about the making of this Halloween favorite

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D23 members got a treat (rather than a trick) earlier this
month when the Official Disney Fan Club celebrated the 20th anniversary of "Hocus
Pocus"
by holding two screenings of this Kenny Ortega film on the Burbank
lot back on October 19th.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

According to Billy Stanek, D23's web editor, the Studio really
went all out for this celebration. Not only digging down deep into the Company's
Archives
to unearth iconic props & costumes that were actually used in the production
of this Walt Disney Pictures release but also by inviting members of
"Hocus Pocus" 's cast & crew to come take part in this on-the-lot
event.

"For many of these people, it was the first time that
they'd all been together again since filming wrapped back in February of 1993.
So it was great to see all of them kissing, hugging and reminiscing,"
Billy enthused. "It was kind of surprising how many of the people who worked
on 'Hocus Pocus' actually came out to this event. At our first screening that
day, the first three rows of the theater were filled just with people who'd worked
on the movie."

Mind you, one of the many reasons that so many Disney vets turned out was that
— after the 2 p.m. screening —
"Hocus Pocus" creator & producer David Kirschner along with
numerous members of this film's cast (among them Kathy Najimy, Thora Birch, Doug
Jones
, Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw) and this movie's production team (composer
John Debney, production designer William Sandell and make-up artist Tony
Gardener
) all took part in a Q & A to discuss how this Halloween favorite
actually came together.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"For David Kirschner, 'Hocus Pocus' was a very personal
project. It actually started out life as this bedtime story that David once
told his daughter about this boy who'd been turned into a cat by a trio of
witches as he was trying to protect his little sister," Stanek explained.
"Kirschner then turned the legend of the Sanderson Sisters into a short
story for Muppet Magazine and then — over time — decided to turn this Halloween-themed
tale into a full-fledged film script."

And when it came time to try & convince Walt Disney
Company executives that their studio should be the one to produce "Hocus
Pocus," David put together a very clever pitch for this project.

"The first thing that Kirschner did was to cover the table in this
conference room with candy corn. So that the room itself smelled like
Halloween," Billy continued. "Then he hung a handful of carefully
chosen props on the wall. Two brooms & a vacuum cleaner. Which — of course
— is what the Sanderson Sisters rode in modern times when they went after the
children of Salem."


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

And — obviously — Disney execs must have liked David's pitch. For the next
thing you knew, Soundstage 2 (i.e., the largest one on Disney's Burbank
lot) was filled with all sorts of elaborate sets. Everything from an over-grown
New England graveyard to a full-sized version of the
Sanderson Sisters' house.

"During the Q & A session, Thora Birch talked about
how working on 'Hocus Pocus' was her favorite time ever working on a movie set
and how — during breaks in filming — she'd go into the Sanderson Sisters house and
explore, opening drawers, seeing what she could find," Stanek said.

Kathy Najimy also spoke fondly on her time on Soundstage 2. How — because of
the earth & fake cobwebs that were used in the creation of this particular
set — it had a very unique smell. And these days, Kathy just has to be
someplace that smells like that set and she's immediately taken back to all
those happy days that she spent working on "Hocus Pocus."


(L to R) Kathy Najimy, Thora Birch,
Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All
rights reserved


"And for Kathy Najimy, because she was such a huge Bette Midler fan, to
get the chance to work side-by-side with her idol on a big budget studio
fantasy film with elaborate costumes & sets & make-up was kind of a
dream come true," Billy said. "Kathy actually made a joke to this
effect during the Q & A session. Explaining that — since her character is
kind of like a blood hood, given her ability to sniff out children — that's why
if you sometimes see something that looks like drool dribbling out her
character's mouth, it's not because Kathy's character is supposed to be
dog-like. But rather because she's just so happy to be up there, sharing screen
time with Better Midler."

Which isn't to say that every aspect of working on
"Hocus Pocus" was a pleasure. Due to the many safeguards that
Hollywood now has in place to protect underage performers, Birch, Katz and Shaw
were only able to work so many hours a day. Which is why production of this
Kenny Ortega film stretched from mid-October of 1992 all the way through to
early February of 1993. But the upside of this longer-than-usual shoot is that
it then gave the "Hocus Pocus" team the chance to get the details on
this fantasy film just right.

"Peggy Holmes — the choreographer on this movie — was
able to choreography everything in this movie. From the way that the Sanderson
Sisters walked right through to the individual flying styles of each of the
witches," Stanek stated. "Kathy talked about how Peggy asked this
actress for a drive around the Disney lot. So that Holmes could then base the
way Mary Sanderson flew her vacuum cleaner on the way Najimy drove her
car."

[View:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug2xO1qzOwA]

Which sounds strange, I know. But when you're on an elaborate fantasy film like
this which evolves flying sequences, bewitched cats, and sometimes headless
zombies, a performer can sometimes get asked to do some very bizarre things.
Take — for instance — Doug Jones, who played poor bedraggled Billy Butcherson
in this motion picture.

"Doug told this really funny story about that moment in 'Hocus Pocus'
where Billy finally gets to cut the stitches that Winifred had used to sew his
mouth shut all those centuries ago so that he can then tell this witch what he
really thinks of her," Billy said. "Well, Kenny Ortega thought it
would be funny if — when Billy finally opened his mouth for the first time in 300
years — all this dust and a live moth would come flying out. So with an ASPCA
rep standing by, they placed the moth & all that dust in Doug's mouth and
then got ready to shoot. But then there's some sort of delay due to a lighting
issue. But in the meantime, Doug's mouth begins to fill with saliva. Which is
why — when the camera finally rolled — what came out of Doug's mouth wasn't a
moth & some dust but little bits of a moth-flavored mudpie."

Which makes the shooting of "Hocus Pocus" sound like it might have
been … Well, grueling and gross. But it wasn't. At least not according to
Bette Midler. Who — in a pre-taped appearance for tomorrow's "Katie"
(i.e., that syndicated daytime talk show that Disney/ABC Television Group
produces)  — talked about working on
this particular Walt Disney Pictures release was her favorite movie-making
experience of all time. Looking back on this film shoot, the Divine Miss M told
Ms. Couric that


Copyright Disney / ABC
Television Group. All rights reserved

"Oh, I loved it. We made ('Hocus Pocus') before the
tidal wave of Halloween happened. In the old days, it was 'Oh, Halloween is
Halloween. And the kids will go out.' But now it's huge. The kids, grown-ups,
everybody takes part in it. And this movie was kind of the beginning of the
wave. And Kathy Najimy & Sarah Jessica Parker & I, we laughed the whole
time. We flew. And we got to wear crazy noses and fake teeth. And we just had
the best time."

Here's another "Hocus Pocus" -related tidbit that Bette shared with Katie? You know Winifred Sanderson's unique make-up in this movie? Ms. Midler herself designed that look herself. "And I still have those false teeth," she proudly admitted to Ms. Couric.

Anyway … Getting back to this D23 presentation: After the 3:30 p.m. Q & A session wrapped, everyone
exited the Walt Disney Theater and then gathered in front of the commissary for
an informal meet-n-greet session. Those members of the Official Disney Fan Club
who wanted to talk with and/or get their pictures taken with members of the
cast & crew of "Hocus Pocus" were free to do so. While still
others got on line to go check out the Disney Archives exhibit, where they could
then see props and costumes from this film. Which included Mary Sanderson's
witch dress …


Kathy Najimy poses with her old
"Hocus Pocus" costume. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights
reserved

… a cage from the Sandersons witch house, the Zippo
lighter Max uses to summon the "burning rain of death," Winifred Sanderson's famous
spell book …


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

… the witches cauldron, and Dani's hat, which only just
recently was rediscovered by the Walt Disney Archives staff.


Thora Birch tries on the hat
from her Dani Dennison costume.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights
reserved

 
Once they passed through this exhibit
space, event attendees could then enter the "Hocus Pocus" merchandise
area. Where (thanks to a retail collaboration between D23 & Creature Features) they
could then purchase fun items like a refrigerator magnet version of Winifred's
spell book …


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

… or a limited edition glicee that noted artist &
conceptual designer Miles Teves created for the Sanderson Sisters Back from
the Dead Tour.


Copyright Disney / Creature
Features. All rights reserved

Better yet, event attendees could then purchased a special
reissued version of the "Hocus Pocus" soundtrack
and then get their
CD recorded by this film's composer, John Debney.

And as soon as this meet-n-greet sessions wrapped by 4 p.m., it was time for the first group of D23 members to exit the Lot so that the next set of event attendees could enter the Walt Disney Theater for a second Q & A session with the "Hocus Pocus" cast & crew. And then at 5 p.m., the second screening of this Kenn Ortega movie got underway.

All in all, it was a memorable afternoon on the Disney lot
for these D23 members. Especially since there were a number of Official Disney
Fan Club members who actually came in costume as the Sanderson Sisters …


Things seem to have taken a dark turn at the corner
of Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive.
Copyright
Disney Enterprises,
Inc.  All rights reserved

… who then used this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get
their picture taken with members of this movie's cast.


A trio of Sanderson Sister
lookalikes pose with Thora Birch. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights
reserved

Which made this "Hocus Pocus" 20th anniversary celebration a
perfect prelude to Halloween 2013.


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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