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How long should theme parks & movie studios wait when dealing with projects & products that have been impacted by tragedy?

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Six times a day, Louis the Alligator is up onstage at WDW‘s Magic Kingdom. Performing in front of Cinderella Castle as part of the cast of characters featured in “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire.”

Which wasn’t always the case. When this new theme park show officially debuted at the Walt Disney World Resort back on June 21st, this trumpet-playing gator from Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” was nowhere to be seen.

Which is perfectly understandable. Given that – just one week earlier – little Lane Graves had been pulled into Seven Seas Lagoon by an alligator as this 2-year old was playing at water’s edge at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Since it would seem insensitive to have “The Princess and the Frog” ‘s goofy gator character entertaining the crowds at the Magic Kingdom right after the Graves had just lost their son in the worst way imaginable, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Creative Entertainment decided to temporarily cut Louis out of “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire.”

Concept art for Louis’ appearance – along with Tiana & Prince Naveen from Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” in “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire.” Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved 

Not only that, but given that – in the wake of this tragedy – Mouse House managers felt that the crowds at Walt Disney World might find any attempts at crocodilian-related humor to be poor taste, orders came down to temporarily remove the Tick-Tock the Crocodile (i.e., the croc who has been chasing Captain Hook ever since Peter Pan cut off that pirate captain’s right hand and threw it overboard for Tick-Tock to eat) float from the Magic Kingdom’s daily “Festival of Fantasy” parade.

WDW officials also ordered cast members who worked as skippers on the Jungle Cruise to alter the spiel that they’d been using on this Adventureland attraction for the past 45 years. Temporarily removing any reference to that ride’s “crocodile country” section and its two mechanical residents, Old Smiley (who’s ” … always looking for a hand-out”) and his girlfriend Ginger (who ” … doesn’t bite. But she does snap”).

Mind you, this isn’t the first time that cast members who work at WDW’s Jungle Cruise have been asked to remove jokes from that Adventureland attraction’s spiel. Immediately following 9/11, Magic Kingdom managers ordered all skippers to stop pointing out the wreckage of a cargo plane that the Imagineers had placed in this faux forest back in the early 1990s. These cast members were also told to hold off on using any of their tried-and-true plane crash jokes for a while (i.e., “How did I land this job?” As the skipper now points to the cargo plane wreckage at water’s edge, he says “Well, it’s kind of plane to see. I took the crash course”).

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And it wasn’t just Disney theme park employees who had to make adjustments in the wake of 9/11. On the heels of reports that the hijackers who had taken American Airlines Flights 11 & 77 and United Airlines Flights 93 & 175 had overwhelmed the crews of those airplanes by using knives & box cutters, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner reportedly came into work later that same week and ordered that all knives, guns & swords be removed from the Studio’s then-still-in-production animated feature, “Treasure Planet.” Which led one wag who was working on this John Musker / Ron Clements movie to allegedly say ” … Michael understands that this is a pirate movie, right? If he makes us get rid of all the guns, swords and knives in ‘Treasure Planet,’ how are the characters then supposed to battle one another? With cutting remarks?”

Musker & Clements had to deal with a similar sort of editorial suggestion for a Disney executive on an earlier project, “Aladdin.” As John recalled in a 2015 interview with E! News, that animated feature was originally set in Baghdad, but ” …  then the Gulf War happened — the first Gulf War. Roy Disney said, ‘This can’t be in Baghdad.’ So, I took (Baghdad) and did a jumbled anagram (of that Iraqi city’s name) and came up with Agrabah.”

“Aladdin” needed a relatively minor tweak to keep the real world at bay. “Lilo & Stitch” (which was just nine months away from being released theatrically when those airplanes hit the Towers) needed a major makeover. As you can see by the video below …

… the original version of this Chris Sanders / Dean DeBlois film climaxed with Experiment 626 hijacking a 747 and then flying it through the concrete canyons of downtown Honolulu in an effort to rescue Lilo from Captain Gantu. On the heels of American Airlines Flight 11 & United Airlines Flight 175 plowing into the North and South towers, what had once seemed outrageously funny & exciting was now in appalling bad taste. Which is why staffers at Walt Disney Feature Animation – Florida spent the next six months frantically reanimating “Lilo & Stitch” ‘s action-packed finale. Changing this action scene’s setting from downtown Honolulu to a far-less populated part of the island. Not only that, but swapping out the vessel that Stitch flies to Lilo’s rescue. Changing that hijacked 747 to Jumba & Pleakley’s spaceship.

And just so you know: It wasn’t just Walt Disney Animation Studios that found itself scrambling in the wake of 9/11. You may recall that – in the weeks & months that followed those attacks on Towers & the Pentagon – letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to two Senate offices and several news organizations. And that – as each of these incidents were investigated – the nightly news would then be filled with images of people in yellow hazmat suits at the scene of the crime.

This genuinely concerned the folks at Pixar Animation Studios. Since “Monsters, Inc.” was scheduled to open in theaters on November 2, 2001 and that one of the main plot threads of this Pete Docter movie had to do with the CDA (i.e., The Child Detection Agency. Which investigated any reports of a child being spotted in Monstropolis by rushing in wearing the exact same sort of yellow hazmat suits that the law enforcement officials who were investigating those anthrax spores wore).

Copyright Disney / Pixar. All rights reserved

Given that the first incident involving an anthrax-laced letter happened on September 18, 2001, executives at both Disney & Pixar spent much of that month (not to mention the first two weeks of October) fretting about this soon-to-debut animated feature. Wondering if they should put off “Monsters, Inc.” ‘s release for a few months so that they could then retool this film. Come up with a whole new look for this movie’s CDA agents so that they didn’t look just like those people in yellow hazmat outfits who were investigating all of these anthrax incidents. Or – worst case scenario – cutting any & all references to the Child Detection Agency from this soon-to-be-released Pixar Animation Studios production.

Luckily the last of these anthrax-laced letters were mailed on October 9, 2001. And as images of people wearing yellow hamzat suits investigating crime scenes faded from the nightly news, Disney & Pixar execs gradually stopped worrying about “Monsters, Inc.” This Pete Docter film – in its original form – arrived in theaters as scheduled and quickly became one of the top grossing films of 2001.

And just so you know: Disney & Pixar weren’t the only studios who found themselves having to make changes to movies that they then had in the works because of 9/11. In August of 2001, Sony released a teaser trailer for “Spider-Man” that – as you can see from the video below …

… ended with a helicopter full of crooks being trapped in a web that Spidey had spun between the North & South Towers. Given that using the World Trade Center as a punchline in a promotion for an upcoming superhero movie just wasn’t going to fly with moviegoers post-9/11, Sony quickly pulled this particular teaser trailer for that Sam Raimi movie. They also ordered all theaters who were then displaying a “Spider-Man” advance poster that showed the WTC reflected into Spidey’s eyes to immediately pull down said poster.

If you look closely at Spidey’s eye piece in the above poster … Copyright Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved. Spider-Man and associated characters copyright 2001 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

… you can see a reflection of the World Trade Center’s North and South Towers. Copyright Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved. Spider-Man and associated characters copyright 2001 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved

And just to be fair here: It isn’t just the Disney theme parks who have had to suddenly make changes on the heels of a tragedy. Take – for example – what happened at Universal Studios Florida back in February of 1998. Universal Creative had spent millions retooling the interior of that theme park’s “Ghostbusters Spooktacular” show building so that it could then become home to a brand-new attraction based on Universal Pictures’ summer 1996 blockbuster, “Twister.”

But then – on the night of February 22-23, 1998 — the deadliest tornado event in Florida history happened. By the time these F3 (and – in some cases – near-F4) storms finished passing through Central Florida, 42 people were dead and another 260 were injured. And obviously – in the wake of this much death & destruction – opening a theme park attraction which was then supposed to give USF visitors a sense of what it would be like to come face-to-face with a tornado would be incredibly poor taste. Which is why the Universal Orlando Resort decided to push off the opening of “Twister … Ride It Out” for three months.

It wasn’t ’til May 4, 1998 that this effects-filled attraction finally officially opened to the public. Universal Orlando hoped that enough time had passed at that point that “Twister … Ride It Out” could then be experienced by theme park goers without seeming insensitive to all the suffering that Central Florida residents had gone through during The Night of the Tornadoes.

Concept art for Universal Studios Florida’s “Twister … Ride It Out” attraction. Copyright Universal Studios. All rights reserved

Which brings us back to what’s been going on at Walt Disney World this past summer. How long do you think that Resort should have waited after the Lane Graves incident before they then began bringing all of the gator-themed entertainment at their Florida theme parks back online? Do you think that Disney did the right thing by only waiting 3 weeks?

Because – by July 13th of this year – as I mentioned at the very start of this article, Louis the alligator was up onstage, playing his trumpet for the crowds at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. And Jungle Cruise skippers had gone back to using their standard spiel. Warning tourists as they climbed aboard this Adventureland attraction to keep an eye on their children ” … because – if you don’t – the crocodiles will.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on September 3, 2016

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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