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It’s not easy being (ever) green

The Muppet Holding Company’s announcement earlier this month that it would hold auditions for new puppeteers in NYC, LA and Toronto has caused some real controversy in the fan community. Jim Hill explains why.

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This auditions announcement has almost become a Rorschach Test among Muppet enthusiasts.

Copyright Muppet Holding Company LLC

The  fine print in this casting notice reads:

Seeking experienced puppeteers with improvisitional and vocal skills. Relocation is not required, however you must be available to travel. Auditions will be held in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. Please call 407-828-1087 for additional information.

Now some folks see this ad as the culmination of a lifelong dream. A chance to audition for a puppeteering job with the Muppet Holding Company. Which could eventually lead to a job working with characters that they’ve loved since their childhood.

While still others see this casting notice as a nightmare. A sign that the Walt Disney Company has absolutely no respect for Jim Henson’s beloved characters. A clear indication that many veteran Muppeteers will soon be out of work.

Well, the truth of the matter is … Neither side is right here. For the lucky few who actually land a job with the Muppet Holding Company (MHC), there’ll be no “standard rich & famous contract” waiting for them after they make their rainbow connection. But — rather — just the chance to perform these much beloved characters on the Disney Cruise Line and/or at one of the Disney theme parks.

And — as much as I know that it’ll disappoint the folks over at the newly created SaveTheMuppets.com website to hear this — the mere fact that MHC is holding auditions in New York City, Los Angeles and Toronto this month does NOT automatically mean that Steve Whitmire (I.E. The veteran Muppeteer who currently performs Kermit), Dave Goelz (I.E. The puppeteering genius who helped create Gonzo the Great) and Eric Jacobson (I.E. The talented young puppeteer who currently performs Frank Oz’s old characters: Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal et al) will soon be out of work.

So what exactly are the long term ramifications of the Muppet Holding Company holding these new puppeteer auditions? With the hopes that I might actually be able to get an answer to that question, I made a call to MHC yesterday. The next thing I know, I’ve got Martin Baker on the line.

“Now who’s Martin Baker?,” you ask. Well, I’m sure that all you hardcore Henson fans out there will recognize Martin’s name, given the number of times it’s appeared in the credits of Muppet-related productions. Starting ‘way back in 1979 (when he was the VP in charge of production on “The Muppet Show“) Mr. Baker has ridden herd on virtually every single major Muppet project over the past 25 years. TV shows like “Fraggle Rock” and “Jim Henson’s The Storyteller.” Feature films like “The Muppet Movie,” “The Great Muppet Caper” and “The Muppet Treasure Island.” Martin even had a hand in this year’s TV movie, “The Muppets Wizard of Oz” … But we won’t hold that one against him.

Anyway … Given Baker’s longtime association with Jim Henson’s characters, the folks at the Muppet Holding Company thought that Martin would be the perfect person to help them tackle a most difficult project. Which was that MHC needed to find some additional puppeteers pronto. Talented performers who could help the Walt Disney Company deal with its growing desire to showcase & promote these classic characters.

“You have to understand that the Muppets are now part of this major corporation that has theme parks and cruise lines. Places where people would really enjoy seeing Jim Henson’s characters,” Baker explained. “So what we’re trying to do with these auditions is find puppeteers with the necessary skills to properly perform the Muppets in these new venues.”

Now it might seem strange that someone who’s had such a long association with the Jim Henson Company would be willing to take on an assignment like this. Which (at first glance, anyway) appears to be seeking out performers that could possibly become replacements for the very people that Martin has worked with & become friends with over the years. Veteran Muppeteers like Whitmere, Goelz and Jacobson. But Baker explained that that’s really not what’s going on here.

“Our core group of performers will still get the high profile jobs. The TV shows, the movie work,” Martin continued. “This new group of performers — as talented as they might be — will only get the secondary jobs. When Kermit needs to appear at the opening of a mall or in a new show at the theme parks.”

It’s actually this aspect of Disney’s plan to up these characters’ public profiles that has some Muppet fans upset. The very notion that — if Miss Piggy & pals should start appearing in every Disney theme park or on board every Disney Cruise ship — that these classic characters will then somehow be diminished, seem less special. That their increased visibility will eventually reduce the value of the Muppet brand.

Baker quickly dismisses this idea. Insisting that Jim Henson didn’t have a problem with Disney wanting to have the Muppets appear in multiple performance venues at the same time. More importantly, that Jim himself was comfortable with the idea that other puppeteers would eventually begin performing his classic characters in his place.

“I remember talking with Jim back in late 1989, early 1990. When it was obvious that all his new creative assignments for the Walt Disney Company were going to prevent Jim from being the puppeteer who always performed Kermit,” Baker explained. “But Jim was okay with that. Just as long as the performer who was replacing Jim gave a consistent performance with Kermit, preserved the integrity of the character.”

What mattered most to Henson (Back then, anyway) was that his characters would live on long after he was gone. This is actually one of the main reasons that Jim approached Michael Eisner back in 1989 with the idea that the Walt Disney Company should acquire the Jim Henson Company. After all, given the Disney corporation’s proven ability to keep core characters like Mickey Mouse, Snow White & Pinocchio relevant to each new generation of children, Henson knew that the Mouse had what it took to keep the Frog evergreen.

Which brings us back to what the Muppet Holding Company is trying to do today. Which is helping Kermit & Co. connect with a generation that doesn’t really know the Muppets. Kids who don’t necessarily think that this group of puppets is anything special. Funny or cool.

The new Muppet-based shows that currently are in the works for the Disney theme parks & the Disney Cruise line will hopefully go a long way toward dispelling the notion that Miss Piggy & pals are merely nostalgic figures. Characters that wouldn’t really appeal to today’s audiences. Which is why it’s crucial that the Muppet Holding Company finds just the right performers to bring Kermit & Co. to life in these new settings.

Of course, should a particular puppeteer in one of the theme park or cruise ship shows prove that they have real promise, Martin suggests that there might be the possibility that this performer could then eventually work their way up into the “A” team. Join the core group of performers who portray the Muppets in all the movies and on TV shows.

“Not because we’re anxious to replace anyone, mind you. But — rather — because our core group of performers is aging,” Baker explained. “Just over the past few years — due to career commitments and health reasons — we’ve had to find replacements for both Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson. Recruit performers to cover the characters that these two used to portray.”

“And I’m certain that we’re going to have to do that again in the future,” he continued. “So why wait? Isn’t it better if we’re proactive now? Set up a situation where at least we have a few options should we ever need to replace a performer. Rather than scramble, to try & cover for someone at the very last moment.”

“Don’t get me wrong. We have complete respect for what our veteran performers do with their characters. Which is why we hope that they continue to work for Muppet Holding for many years yet to come,” Martin concluded. “But — at the same time — we want the Muppets to live on long after this core group of puppeteers is gone. Which is why it’s important now to do some advance planning. To think about where the next generation of Muppeteers is coming from.”

Which is why Baker really enjoyed taking part in last Thursday’s auditions at Ripley-Grier Studios in NYC. Watching as over 80 young talented puppeteers went through their passes as they tried to win a spot at last Friday’s callbacks.

“Jane Henson (Jim’s widow) actually came by for that first day of auditions,” Martin recalled. “She had such fond memories of when Jim used to hold auditions that she decided to drop by, just to sit in for a few minutes. Well, that few minutes stretched out to a few hours. Jane had a really great time watching those kids work.”

After an unspecified number of puppeteers were called back to Ripley-Grier on Friday, Baker & his team then set their sights on the next round of auditions. Which will be held next week in North Hollywood at Screenland Studios. The first round of auditions will be held on September 23rd, while call backs are scheduled for Sept 24th.

As for the Toronto auditions … No information regarding dates and locations has been released about those yet.

Speaking of which … If you’d like some more information about the next round of auditions that the Muppet Holding Company will be holding for replacement puppeteers, then I suggest you give the MHC hotline a call at 407-828-1027.

I know, I know. Given the number of  negative stories that I’ve written about MHC over the past year or so, I bet that a lot of you folks thought that I’d throw in with the conspiracy theorists. Join the people who were saying that — just by holding these auditions — Disney is irrepairably damaging  the Muppets. And that what the Muppet Holding Company is doing must be stopped at all costs.

Well, to be honest … I kind of like what MHC is doing here. Which is helping to bring new Muppet-based  shows to the Disney theme parks & cruise ships. Shows that will feature actual puppeteers performing the Muppets. Rather than some 16-year-old who walks around in a Miss Piggy costume as they pose for pictures & sign autographs.

And as  for the concept that this new group of puppeteers could eventually become MHC’s “farm team,” the place where Muppet Holding could turn to if they needed talented performers to help out with new TV shows & films … Well, that appeals to me as well.

Mind you, this is not to say that I don’t have concerns that MHC might eventually see these kids as the lower priced alternative to the older, more highly priced seasoned performers like Whitmere & Goelz. And that someday Steve & Dave may not get a call to come into work to portray their characters. All because Muppet Holding is trying to save a few bucks on a particular project.

For now, I’m just going to try & stay optimistic as I think about what MHC is trying to do with the Muppets. Which is basically bring a once-legendary entertainment brand back from the dead. Make the Muppets seem relevant to today’s audiences. Grow the fan base for these classic characters beyond the diehard Muppet fans. Win back over the mainstream audience again.

Of course, given the size of this project, it may take some time & involve some real risk. Which is why — for now at least — I’m inclined to cut the Muppet Holding Company a little slack.

But how about you folks? What do you make of the Muppets Auditions rorschach test? Is it really a good thing that the Muppet Holding Company is now holding auditions for puppeteers to serve as understudies / alternate performers for these classic characters? Or will MHC’s effort here continue to undermine what is already a pretty fragile franchise?

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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