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Jake Gyllenhaal was game for all the challenges he faced while filming Disney’s “Prince of Persia”

Leo N. Holzer reports in on what the star of “The Sands of Time,” director Mike Newell and producer Jerry Bruckheimer had to say about this upcoming Walt Disney Pictures release at WonderCon



Super Mario Bros.,” “Doom,” “Resident Evil: Apocalypse.”

The battleground for films based on video games is littered with the corpses of artistic and commercial flops. Even Angelina Jolie couldn’t save “Lara Croft – Tomb Raider,” although that’s considered among the best in a pretty mediocre group of movies.

But there’s a lot of excitement for “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the Walt Disney Studios.

Bruckheimer, director Mike Newell, game creator Jordan Mechner (also credited for the screen story) and star Jake Gyllenhaal talked up the film during a news conference and panel appearance at WonderCon in San Francisco.

Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“I’ve been making games for 20 years and I love games, but not every video game should be a movie,” said Mechner, who launched the popular “Prince of Persia” game franchise in 1989.

“But I think ‘Prince of Persia’ lends itself well for a lot of reasons,” he continued. “One of them is that it’s set in this fantastical world of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ that hasn’t been brought to film in this way in a long, long time. And, of course, there’s this dagger that can turn back time and who hasn’t wished that they could turn back time and do something

“Games and movies are really different art forms. The big difference is that games are written to be played and movies are an experience to be watched by an audience. So it’s really a very different approach to storytelling.”

With help from Bruckheimer, Newell and a screenplay by Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard, Mechner adapted the game into a story for the big screen. The job was a bit easier since the original inspiration for his game was those “great old-fashioned romantic swashbuckling adventure movies” from Hollywood’s golden era.

Jake Gyllenhaal (center). Photo by Andrew Cooper. Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer,
Inc. All Rights Reserved

The film promises action, adventure, a bit of mystery and romance. It’s set in the mystical lands of Persia. A rogue prince — now named Dastan (Gyllenhaal) — reluctantly pairs up with Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and together they race against dark forces to safeguard an ancient dagger capable of releasing the Sands of Time and rewriting history.

The action required a lot of physical work from Gyllenhaal — parcour training with David Belle, gymnastics, horseback riding, swordfighting, even work with a dialect coach to perfect a 6th century English accent, which Gyllenhaal says he now will use occasionally at the dinner table to amuse his family and friends.

“We did all the normal training you’d do to get ready cardio-vascularly and then you listen to all of the experts and they teach you how to do it,” Gyllenhaal said.

“I’ve always found myself inhabiting a role starting from the physical level. Whether you’re changing the shape of your body, losing weight, gaining weight, figuring out what the character would look like … For this, it was very physical, which I love and which I’ve never really done
this intensely before. But I don’t think it’s any different at all (than playing a part in a drama). When you’re committed, you’re committed. Soon as I decide to be in a movie or play a part, it’s 120 percent commitment no matter what. …But I’m an active person anyway. I’m pretty athletic and I enjoy that as part of my daily routine of keeping my sanity. So I do keep it up.”

When asked about the difficulties of working on a film with a number of special effects shots added in post production, Gyllenhaal said it’s simply part of his job as an actor.

Claudio Pacifico (center). Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises,
Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer,
Inc. All Rights Reserved

“To me it doesn’t feel different. From the outside … it probably does look different because it’s such a spectacle. But for me, the work is the same, always,” he said. “Everything as an actor requires imagination, whether you’re playing with someone across from you who is playing another part … (or) if you’re dealing with something that doesn’t necessarily
exist yet. You’re imagining what that is just like you’re imagining that person sitting across from you in that drama … that smaller film, is who they are playing.

“So you’re constantly using your imagination as we all do when we eventually watch the movie.”

One of the few things different about Gyllenhaal’s preparation for the role of Dastan involved playing games from the “Prince of Persia” series.

“Yes, I played this man’s (Mechner’s) video game first when I was a kid” going all the way back to 1989 with side-scrolling action and a soundtrack of beeps and buzzes. “But,” he admitted, “I only started playing the game pretty intensely when we were really doing research, particularly for stunt research.

Jake Gyllenhaal (center). Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer,
Inc. All Rights Reserved

“I’d be in the middle of shooting and we’d go back to the trailer and I’d be playing the game and see something, a move, and I’d call the stunt guys into the trailer to show them and see if we could try it. So I played it and I continue to play it to this day.

“I’ve never played video games as research before. Sometimes, I’ve read books or hung out with Marines, but playing video games was great fun for research.”

The film also gave Gyllenhaal an opportunity to star opposite Academy Award-winning actor Ben Kingsley.

“Well, working with Ben Kingsley was different than a video game, that’s for sure. It was an honor. He is Sir Ben. Working with someone you can play with, someone who is so experienced, so wise” and someone Gyllenhaal called a “fierce competitor” when it came to swordfighting.

(L to R) Ben Kingsley, Jake Gyllenhaal and Richard Coyle. Photo by Andrew Cooper. Copyright
2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and
Jerry Bruckheimer,
Inc. All Rights Reserved

Gyllenhaal said he felt an obligation to both diehard fans of the video game series as well as people looking for a great time at the theater. “I just can’t wait for people to be able to see it.

“It really is an honor. … filling the shoes in a role like this,” he said. “This is a character that’s in the living rooms of many people all over the world and has been for decades.

“We had that pressure on our shoulders the whole time. But yet at the same time, transitioning from a video game into making a movie, Mike and Jerry from the very beginning said, ‘anything the prince does has to be based in some kind of reality.’ If fact, there were some times on set when we’d do some sort of stunt that would mimic something in the game and Jerry would say, ‘now, wait a second. Why did he do that? We need to have that be based in
the storyline.’ Everything had to be based emotionally in the storyline.

“So, we’d have to come up with a reason why he’d flip upside down over a horse, and we did.”

(L to R) Alfred Molina, Jake
Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton.
Photo by Andrew Cooper.
2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and
Jerry Bruckheimer,
Inc. All Rights Reserved

Newell concurred. “We wanted to make it emotionally real. So we did a huge amount of work at the script stage, at the rehearsal stage … to make it absolutely real. You should have seen what I saw, which was Jake rehearsing fights to the inch like ballet but, because it’s like ballet, it’s also got to have emotional reality to it as well. And that was always the big
pressure … to take it into an area where a game couldn’t go, while not destroying the game side of it.

“But you mustn’t let Jake’s modesty not say to you that the film would have been infinitely less unless he had done the enormous number of stunts that he actually did. … He’s a wonderful actor and I’m sure that’s why we chose him first. But then he has this extraordinary disposition simply to take that (stunt) stuff on. The number of times that it’s actually him is a lot and it makes it all real.”

Gyllenhaal admitted that the stunt work could get a bit harrowing, but he welcomed the challenge and pushed himself “a bit.”

“It got a little bit dicey toward the end because everybody saw that I liked doing things that were a little dangerous. … There is this one fight toward the middle of the movie that we shot near the end of production with my brother and he has an ax and I’m fighting him with my sword and a shield that I have left. We really got dangerous with that fight and there were a few times when the ax came so close to my face and everyone was saying, ‘oh, that looks so good.’

Jake Gyllenhaal (center). Photo by Jonathan Prime. Copyright
2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and
Jerry Bruckheimer,
Inc. All Rights Reserved

“That ax fight was an intense one and some of the jumps got pretty intense. … There’s a big 35 foot jump I did a couple of times and that got a little hairy, particularly with me saying let me try that again.”

Newell was asked to compare his duties as director on “Prince of Persia” to “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

“It was really different, because with ‘Potter’ I was brought in halfway through a series that was already a franchise, a huge success. Here, we had all the basic work to do from absolutely the ground up with no favors done. We had no idea whether we’d find favor with an audience or not,” he said, adding that “Prince of Persia” required him to “work harder …
to be cleverer and more original and, above all, not to ever let the thing sag. But Jerry’s the boy for that.

“There are also certain factors that simply twist your arm and you have to come along,” Newell said. “If Jerry Bruckheimer, a genre in himself, is going to give me 400 Calvary and 100 camels and get them to charge, am I going to say ‘no?’ ”

Jerry Bruckheimer (center). Photo by Andrew Cooper. Copyright
2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and
Jerry Bruckheimer,
Inc. All Rights Reserved

Bruckheimer, a huge proponent of 3-D, talked about how the desert heat of Morocco led to a decision to make “Prince of Persia” a traditional 2-D film.

“3-D has certainly done very well at the box office, thanks to ‘Avatar.’ It’s a new technology. It’s wonderful and makes the theater-going experience even more exciting. Hopefully you’ll see a lot more movies in 3-D,” Bruckheimer said. “I don’t know if ‘Prince of Persia’ will win the summer box office battle, but it’ll certainly be a contender. It’s a terrific film. So we
hope for the best.”

Asked about whether there was any discussion about trying to launch a new film franchise with “Prince of Persia,” Newell and Bruckheimer bristled just a bit.

“Not one word did Jerry say to me about it. We were just making one movie,” Newell said.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Thomas DuPont and Ben Cooke. Photo by Andrew Cooper. Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and
Jerry Bruckheimer,
Inc. All Rights Reserved

“Absolutely zero (discussion),” Bruckheimer said. “What you try to do is make a really compelling movie with strong characters, great themes, a great story. And, if the audience embraces it, you get lucky and then you think about another one.

“When we made the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie, we had no inclination that the audience would accept a film about pirates with Johnny Depp playing it like he was drunk. So you just go with it. If you get lucky and Disney wants to make another one and people embrace it, then we’ll think about another one.”

Based on the very friendly reaction that followed at WonderCon’s ‘Prince of Persia’ panel — with several women whistling at Gyllenhaal — people are ready to embrace it and make it the first real hit among video game-inspired films.

‘Prince of Persia, the Sands of Time” is rated PG-13. It opens May 28.

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



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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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