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Hollywood creatives and theme park fans appreciate the Universal difference



It's often been said that if you build a better mouse trap,
the world will beat a path to your door.

Harry Potter fans race up the red carpet to be among the first to experience The
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley when this new "land" at
Universal Studios officially opened to the public on July 8, 2014.
Copyright NBCUniversal. All rights reserved

Well, when Comcast reported its third quarter results last month, it wasn't
a mouse trap that turbo-charged that corporation's theme park-earnings. But —
rather — the successful opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter –
Diagon Alley
at the Universal Orlando Resort. Which — as a direct result of the
higher guest attendance and per capita spending that came on the heels of the
July 8th opening of this new "land" at Universal Studios Florida — caused
revenue from Comcast's Theme Parks segment to jump 18.7% to $786 million
compared to $661 million in the third quarter of 2013.

And no one could be more pleased with this development than
Tom Williams, Chairman and CEO of Universal Parks & Resorts. Thanks to some
very smart additions / strategic moves that the Theme Park segment of Comcast
NBCUniversal organization has made over the past five years, guests, their
families — and the entertainment industry —  are now very aware of what Universal can do.

"We've always worked with top talent.  It was Steven Spielberg himself who came up with
the creative concept for Universal Studios Florida – which was to create a
place where you can ride the movies. 
Then, he helped us develop cutting-edge attractions that backed up that
idea.  They included experiences like
JAWS!, and the E.T. Adventure and Back to the Future," Williams explained
during  a recent interview.  "But since we created and opened The
Wizarding World of Harry Potter, many more people have seen just what we can do
and how collaborative Universal Parks
and Resorts can be.  All of our guests
and much of the entertainment industry saw just how far we were willing to go
to create an immersive environment from the world that J.K. Rowling and Warner
developed.  And that has been
helpful, both in terms of growing our business and opening doors to talk with
people about potential future projects."

Less than one month after The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, the
Hogwarts Express celebrated its one millionth rider. Copyright
NBCUniversal. All rights reserved

"We've also seen tremendous, enthusiastic, support from
the entire Comcast NBCUniversal organization and particularly from Steve Burke
and Ron Meyer," Williams said. 
"We really feel the power of the entire organization behind us as
we move forward."

Mind you, not all of the phone calls that Williams has been
receiving from would-be collaborators have been coming from outside of

"One example is Chris Meledandri, the founder and CEO
of Illumination Entertainment – and the creator of the blockbuster Despicable
Me film franchise," Williams continued. 
"Chris came to Universal in 2008. 
And the first week he was there, called me out of the blue. He said: 'You
don't know me, but I would be excited for the chance to work with you in the
future. I want to create some great films that I think would make great theme
park attractions.'  I told Chris, 'That is music to my
ears.  Bring it on.' "

A show scene from "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem." Copyright NBCUniversal.
All rights reserved

Now jump ahead to 2012. Where — on the heels of the
enormous success of "Despicable Me" (This Universal Pictures /
Illumination Entertainment production grossed over $500 million worldwide) —
Gru, Edith, Agnes, Margo and the minions made their theme park debut in the
"Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" simulator ride. And this Universal
Studios Florida attraction proved to be so popular with tourists vacationing in
Orlando that it was immediately fast-tracked for Universal Studios Hollywood.

"And you know the best part?  Chris stayed actively involved with 'Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.'  He was at
Universal Studios Hollywood to attend the grand opening of the attraction –
walking the red carpet and doing interviews. 
He also personally helped create the TV commercial we used to promote
'Minion Mayhem' at that park," Williams continued.  "If you had told me ten years ago that
people like Chris would be involved in helping us create attractions based on
their films and that they would attend our grand openings, do interviews with
media that supported our business and help us with our TV commercials,  I would have said: 'Wake me up.  I must be dreaming.' "

Speaking of Hollywood,
Universal Creative is once again working with the folks at Warner Bros. — not
to mention Gracie Films (i.e., the production company behind Fox's long running
animated series, "The Simpsons") — on an epic transformation of that
theme park's Upper Lot area.

What the skyline of Springfield at Universal Studios Hollywood will eventually look
like. Copyright NBCUniversal. All rights reserved

"I know — thanks to Diagon Alley — that a lot of attention
has been focused on Universal Orlando lately. But while we were building the
Wizarding World in Florida, we were also investing heavily in our Hollywood
theme park," Williams stated. "Just as Comcast was coming on board as
NBCUniversal's new owners, we were finishing up King Kong: 360 3-D out there.
And that drove such big numbers  that we
immediately committed to Transformers: The Ride – 3D and Despicable Me Minion
Mayhem for Hollywood."

"And next year we'll be adding two more attractions to
Universal Studios Hollywood's entertainment roster. We've got Fast &
Furious Supercharged
, which is going to be an exciting addition to the theme
park's tram tour. And then there is Springfield, which is going to take a lot
of the ideas that Universal Creative initially tried out with Universal Studios
Florida's Fast Food Boulevard and expand on them," Williams continued.
"Then in 2016, we will open the West Coast version of The Wizarding World of
Harry Potter. And based on the way our Guests have embraced Harry Potter in
Florida & Japan, we have huge expectations for Hollywood."

And speaking of
huge, how about that $3.3-billion, 300-acre theme park that Universal Parks
& Resorts will be building in Beijing. Williams traveled to China earlier this
month to officially announce this 13-years-in-the-making project. And to give
reporters a hint of what sorts of rides, shows and attractions might be found
at Universal Studios Beijing, Tom was joined onstage by the minions from
"Despicable Me." More to the point, as part of this press conference,
a video featuring Steven Spielberg was played where this Academy Award-winning
director shared that — just as he had done with Universal Orlando's theme park
— he'd be serving as a creative consultant on the Beijing project. The park
will feature several entertainment experiences that will integrate Chinese
traditional and modern cultural elements, not to mention the world's first
Universal-themed hotel.

Tom Williams, Chairman and CEO of Universal Parks & Resorts (L) and Duan Qiang,
Party Secretary and Chairman of the Beijing Tourism Group Co Ltd. (R) with the help
of some minions unveil concept art for the Universal Beijing Resort.
Copyright NBCUniversal. All rights reserved

And speaking of hotels, you'd think that — what with having
just wrapped construction of Diagon Alley & the Cabana Bay Beach Resort
(not to mention the refresh of CityWalk — Universal Orlando's retail, dining
and entertainment district — entering its final phase) — Williams and his
team would be willing to rest on their laurels at least for a little while. But
given that the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort has already begun construction (This
Caribbean-inspired hotel — Universal Orlando's fifth on-property resort — is
slated to open during the summer of 2016), resting really doesn't seem to be
part of the plan that Williams and Comcast NBCUniversal have for Universal
Parks & Resorts.

And then there's Islands of Adventure's mystery project. When
asked about the project, Williams shared, "You can't expect me to give
away all our secrets.  Universal Orlando's
25th anniversary is coming up in 2015 and we'd like to have
something left to talk about as part of that."

"The  world's
storytellers -people such as Jo Rowling,  Peter Jackson,  Michael Bay,   James L. Brook,  Steven Spielberg  and  Chris Meledandri – work with us and are now
vey much more aware of what we can do," Williams continued. "They
know that we're committed to using cutting-edge technology to bring characters,
stories and environments to life in an all-encompassing, very immersive manner.
And all of that has been a great conversation -starter in terms of potential
future projects.' "

Scare-actors inspired by Universal's "The Purge" stroll through Universal Studios
Florida looking for victims during the 2014 edition of Halloween Horror Nights.
Copyright NBCUniversal. All rights reserved

Of course, the irony here is that — given that NBCUniversal
has been on something of a hot streak lately — Mark Woodbury (i.e., the
President of Universal Creative for Universal Parks & Resorts) and his team
doesn't have to look all that far now for compelling fodder for new rides,
shows and attractions for the parks. Which explains the "Dracula Untold –
Reign of Blood" haunted house and "The Purge – Anarchy" &
"Face Off – In the Flesh" scare zones that were featured at this
year's Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida.

At the same time, Universal Parks & Resorts is looking
to build on previous successes. Which is why — in late January / early
February of next year — Universal Orlando will be bringing back its
"Celebration of Harry Potter" event. The 2015 edition of this three
day-long event will feature some additional star power, what with last week's
announcement that Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore) and Robbie Coltrane
(Hagrid) will be joining the film talent in Q & A sessions.

"We have become a real destination resort now and we
create powerful moments for all our guests. 
We've  not only got two theme
parks with compelling attractions and great on-site hotels – but also events
such as Mardi Gras and Halloween Horror Nights," Williams concluded.  "We find that the more people actually
understand and experience what we offer, the more they want to vacation
here.  That's true with guests who come
here for Harry Potter and realize there is so much more.  We also want to believe it's true for things
like our Grad Bash event.  We host tens
of thousands of high school graduates and junior high school graduates.  These kids look back on their graduation
party and remember the great time they had here.  Then, perhaps they will want to bring their
own families and kids here someday."

Copyright NBCUniversal. All rights reserved

So maybe it's not just Hollywood creatives who are newly
aware of what Universal Parks & Resorts can do. But a whole new generation
of theme park fans who have finally learned to appreciate the Universal

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Monday, November 10, 2014

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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