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How Glen Keane & Mark Henn turned some of Disney’s most popular Princesses into toddlers

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Trish D. of Tallahassee, FL. wrote in to say:

I enjoyed reading today's story about "Tangled Ever
After" and how Disney used all of its divisions to make the most of that
animated short. But what really intrigued about today's article was the final
photo, which showed a shelf full of Disney Animator's Collection Dolls. I
haven't been to our local Disney Store in quite a while, so I'm unfamiliar with
this line of toys. What's their story?

The Disney Animator's Collection series of dolls can
actually be traced back to the Fall of 2009. When Mattel produced — as part of
its "Princess and The Frog" line of products — a
Princess Tiana-as-a-toddler-doll
that wound up being a very popular item that
holiday season.


Copyright Disney / Mattel. All rights reserved

The following year, when a Rapunzel-as-a-toddler-doll proved
to be one of the more popular "Tangled" -related items offered over
the 2010 holiday season …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… Well, executives at the Disney Store couldn't help but
notice. Which is why they then decided to create an entire line of dolls that
would reimagine Disney's most popular princesses as toddlers. But to make sure
that this new product line was just as authentic as it could possibly be, the
Disney Store reached out to two modern masters of hand-drawn animation, Glen
Keane
and Mark Henn.

And Glen and Mark were obviously the right guys for this
assignment. Given that — between the two of them — Keane and Henn had been supervising animators on seven of Disney's most-beloved modern princesses
(Glen was the talent behind Ariel in "The Little Mermaid," the title
character in "Pocahontas" and Rapunzel in "Tangled," while
Mark helped create Belle in "Beauty and the Beast," Princess Jasmine
in "Aladdin," the title character in "Mulan" and Tiana in
"The Princess and the Frog").

Mind you, to fill out
the Disney Animator's Collection line, Keane and Henn agreed to make toddler
versions of characters that they themselves hadn't originally animated. Among
them the title characters from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
& "Cinderella" as well as Briar Rose from "Sleeping Beauty."


Glen Keane with the Princess Aurora doll from the Disney Animator's Collection series.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"But given that I knew Marc Davis — the Disney Legend
that had originally created Princess Aurora — and I knew the way that he drew
… Well, I thought that I could handle translating that character into a
toddler. Take the stylization of her hair that Marc had come up with for this
character and then make that work for a doll," Glen recalled in a Fall
2011 interview with JHM.

"And since I was mentored by Eric Larson when I first
joined Walt Disney Animation Studios back in 1980 and Eric was the first
animator to work on the title character of 'Cinderella' for that film … Well,
that's why I agreed to take on the assignment of designing the
Cinderella-as-a-toddler doll for this series," Mark remarked.

And when it came to coming up with an authentic-looking
design for the toddler version of Snow White, Keane found a trip to WDAS's ARL
(i.e. the Animation Research Library)
most helpful.


Glen Keane's drawing of Snow White as a
toddler. Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"I had them pull a lot of the original concept art that
the Disney artists had originally created for this film back in the mid-1930s.
And there — on a yellowing piece of paper — I found some drawings for a
sequence that they'd discarded for this animated feature which showed Snow
White as a toddler right after her father the King had died," Glen
remembered. "So I used those concept drawings as my jumping-off point when
I was designing the Snow-White-as-a-toddler doll."

It was those research trips to the ARL that reminded Keane
& Henn of how far they'd come in the 30+ years that these two had worked
for the Mouse House.

"You gotta understand that — when you're just starting
out as an in-betweener , when you're learning your craft — you spend an awful
lot of time down in the morgue (that's what we used to call the chicken wire
cage down in the basement of the old Animation Building where we kept all of
the drawings & concept art from Disney's earlier features) looking at these
animation drawings for reference and for inspiration," Mark explained.
"So to see these drawings again after all these years, to smell that same
old smell of the old paper that Ollie Johnston & Frank Thomas & Freddy
Moore
drew on … That was kind of a time warp."


Mark Henn back in 1991 working on Princess Jasmine on Disney's
"Aladdin." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But — if these two had to be honest — Keane & Henn's
favorite part of working on the Disney Animator's Collection series of doll was
getting the chance to revisit characters that they themselves had helped
create.

"When you work on a film like 'Beauty and the Beast' or
"Aladdin,' you literally spend years working on characters like Belle and
Princess Jasmine. So they kind of become like members of your family. But once
production of that movie is complete, you then have to send that character out
into the world. And you then rarely if ever get the chance to revisit or
interact with them again," Mark said. "That's what's been so great
about this collaboration with the Disney Store. They've given me the chance to
go back & dust off these characters, talk to them again."

"Of course, the real challenge of a project like this
was to find the toddler version of some of these characters. I mean, take
Pocahontas. Here's this tall confident woman with long beautiful legs. How do
you take a character like that and translate her to toddler form — with those
big eyes and a chubby little belly — and still make this doll recognizable as
Pocahontas?," Glen mused.


Glen Keane's concept drawing and the Disney Store's finished version of
the Pocahontas Animator's Collection doll. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

In Keane's case, he didn't have to look all that far for
reference material. Given that his daughter Claire (who works as a story artist
and designer at Walt Disney Animation Studios) has a three year-old daughter,
Matisse.

"Given that she provided a lot of the inspiration for
Rapunzel-as-a-baby in 'Tangled,' it was great for me to be able to circle back
on Matisse and then hold her in my lap as I drew her little pushed-out lips. I used my own granddaughter for inspiration as I tried to turn these Disney
Princesses into toddlers," Glen laughed.

Which is actually kind of fitting. Given that — when Keane
was Ariel's supervising animator on "The Little Mermaid" — he used
his wife Linda as inspiration for that character. Likewise when Henn was
struggling to get a handle on how Princess Jasmine should look in
"Aladdin," he used his sister Beth's high school photograph as a
jumping-off point for that character.


Mark Henn's sister, Beth Allen Henn. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"That's the real key to a truly successful character.
You have to make them seem real to the audience," Keane said. "Take
— for example — this scene in 'The Little Mermaid' which captures this
beautifully. Ariel has just run into this room, thinking that Prince Eric is
going to marry her. She's hiding behind this column, her fingers are trembling,
you can see her breath going in and out. That scene was a real break-through on
that movie because — thanks to Mark's beautiful animation — Ariel wasn't just
this series of drawings anymore. She became this character that the audience
genuinely cared about. Who your heart ached for when you found out that Prince
Eric was planning on marrying Vanessa instead of Ariel."

As you can see, Keane and Henn have kind of a mutual
admiration society going here. Which is what you might expect from two guys who
have worked together on multiple animated projects at the same studio over the
past 30 years. But then again, Glen & Mark also had kind words for the
folks from the Disney Store that they worked with on the Disney Animator's
Collection doll series.

"I kept figuring — each time they'd then bring us the
prototypes — that this would be it. That it would now be time to put the
Animator's Collection dolls into production. But each time, the people from the
Disney Store would then ask 'Is there anything else that we can do to make
these dolls better?' And Mark & I would  give them our notes,"
Keane continued. "This must have gone on 6, 7, 8 times.  I don't think that the Disney Store and Walt
Disney Animation Studios have ever worked as closely together as we have on
this particular line of dolls."


Glen points out some of the detail work on the finished version of the Pocahontas-as-
a-toddler doll. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And if you'd like to see for yourself how this collaboration
turned out, Trish D … Well, I suggest that you make a special trip to
Tallahassee's Disney Store. Which currently has the entire line of Disney
Animator's Collection dolls on sale.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since I conducted this interview with Glen
and Mark back in November of last year, the animation community was obviously
rocked by Mr. Keane's decision to leave Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Now I know that a lot of people online have used this
occasion as an excuse to bitch and moan about what's going on behind-the-scenes
at WDAS / complain bitterly how the Studio could let a huge talent like Glen
Keane just walk away like that.


"Family Circle" creator Bill Keane (1922 – 2011)

But you have to remember that Glen is a guy in his late 50s
who had a pretty serious health scare four years ago. Not to mention losing his
father — "Family Circle" cartoonist Bill Keane  — last November.

It's moments like these that make a man reassess the path
that he's on. And if Keane has decided to step away from WDAS so that he can
finally work on his long-gestating passion project (which is reportedly an
animated version of Beethoven's 9th symphony. Which — given that Walt Disney
Animation Studios is unlikely to put another "Fantasia" follow-up
into production anytime soon — won't be funded with Mickey's Moolah) … Well, I say
more power to him.

Besides, given that Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston both
retired from Walt Disney Animation Studios on January 31, 1978 and then spent
the next 25 years writing books about Disney animation, speaking at events like
the Official Disneyana Convention, being interviewing for Special Features on
VHSs , DVDs and Blu-rays,  attending signings
at the Disney Store and the Disney Gallery, consulting for The Walt Disney
Company and Pixar Animation Studios … Well, I suspect that — should he chose
to — Glen can have the exact same sort of retirement that Frank & Ollie did.


(L to R) Glen Keane, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas and Mark Henn in a
1988 photo celebrating Mickey Mouse's 60th anniversary.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But as for right now … Given that Keane seemed to
genuinely enjoy collaborating with the Disney Store on its Animator's
Collection series of dolls, I'd suggest that other arms of the Company
discreetly reach out and see if Glen is up for tackling any other Mouse-related
projects.

I'd especially urge the folks at Disney Publishing to
contact Keane. Given that I'd love to see what's in that book that Glen's
allegedly been working on for the past 8 years.

Your thoughts?






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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