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



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

Jim Hill

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.

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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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



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

Jim Hill

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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WDW’s “Be Our Guest” restaurant really is putting its servers to the test



When many Guests enter New Fantasyland at The Magic Kingdom and see the Beast’s Castle looming in the distance, their initial thought is “Ooh! I wanna go on that ride.”

Which explains that trio of Cast Members that you’ll typically find stationed along the bridge that leads up to this impressive-looking structure. As these folks cheerily explain to all those looking to enter this building’s queue (especially when lunch is being served), “Be Our Guest” isn’t really an attraction. But — rather — a dining experience.

Mind you, the Imagineers hadn’t planned on staffing “Be Our Guest” ‘s entrance bridge when they initially designed this enormous eatery. But as has been the case with a lot of the day-to-day operational issues associated withnthis New Fantasyland restaurant, “Be Our Guest” has been kind of a learn-as-you-go experience for everyone involved with the official launch / initial break-in period of this massive new restaurant.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to theming & detailing (not to mention the amazing cutting-edge technology that powers the lunchtime dining experience at “Be Our Guest”), this New Fantasyland restaurant is second to none. If anything, the Imagineers may have done the whole theming & detail thing a little TOO well.

Case in point: This restaurant’s West Wing area. In order to accommodate the numerous light-driven effects (which happen on a 15 minute-long cycle, by the way) that happen in this section of “Be Our Guest,” the West Wing is deliberately kept dark. How dark? So dark that the servers who work in this room during dinnertime were recently issued flashlights, so that they can then help Guests who have been genuinely struggling to read their menus in the extremely dim lighting in this part of the restaurant.

And speaking of that 15 minute-long cycle … Guests who get seated in the West Wing tend to linger a lot longer over dinner (i.e. two hours versus an hour and a half. Which is how long a WDW visitor who’s seated in “Be Our Guest” ‘s ballroom area typically dawdles over their dinner at this elaborately themed eatery). If only because these Guests want to be sure that they’ve see all of the effects in action (EX: the petals dropping off of the enchanted rose, the lightning strike that transforms the Prince’s face in that painting to the face of the Beast) before they then vacate the premises.

Photo by David Roark. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which wouldn’t be a problem (After all, the Imagineers put all of these details in here because they wanted people to soak up this romantic atmosphere, feel like they’d walked straight into this classic Disney animated feature). Except for the fact that when Walt Disney World began taking dinner reservations for “Be Our Guest” back in August, the assumption was that the longest that people would typically take to do dinner at this New Fantasyland restaurant was an hour and 15 minutes.

So as you can imagine, with people hanging on at “Be Our Guest” for 15 – 45 minutes longer than expected, the impact that this is having on WDW visitors who have reserved the later seating times at this highly themed eatery is pretty significant. I’ve heard stories of some Guests who were finally seated an hour and a half to two hours after their original seating time.

So what is management of “Be Our Guest” doing to try and alleviate this issue? To be honest, given that Walt Disney World’s dining reservations can now be booked six months in advance, there isn’t a lot that they can do right now other than just muddle through. Do what they can to accommodate the Guests who have already booked reservations for this New Fantasyland restaurant (EX: If you show up at 3:30 p.m.  for a 4 p.m. dinner reservation, the staff at “Be Our Guest” will then make every effort to seat you and your party immediately. With the hope that this will then get you in & out of their eatery that much quicker) while at the same time cutting back on the number of seatings that will be available for booking at “Be Our Guest” starting in mid-2013.

Photo by David Roark. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Now what’s kind of interesting about this extra 15-to-45 minutes that people have been dawdling over dinner at this New Fantasyland restaurant is that many Magic Kingdom insiders believe it’s the alcohol that’s making them do this. That — because “Be Our Guest” is the only restaurant at the Magic Kingdom where beer and wine is now being served — a lot of people aren’t automatically bolting their dinners so that they can then go out & get back in line for Space Mountain & The Haunted Mansion. If anything, they’re lingering so that they can then order a second $6.25 mug of Kronenbourg or another $16 glass of Lasseter Family St. Emilion Red Blend.

Don’t worry. The folks at Walt Disney World will eventually get this all sorted out. If anything, they’re hoping that — when Fast Pass Plus starts to come online next year — that many WDW visitors will just opt to use that program’s order-a-quick-service-meal-in-advance-as-you’re-standing-in-line-at-some-attraction app when it comes to doing lunch at “Be Our Guest.” Which (it is hoped) will significantly cut back on the number of Guests standing in the brutal Florida noonday sun on that bridge as they wait to enter this elegant new eatery.

In fact, just this week, Disney is field-testing Fast Pass Plus at “Be Our Guest.” With WDW visitors who have been recruited to take part in this test being issued gold rose-shaped pagers once they place their lunchtime orders. Which supposedly guarantees these Fast Pass Plus test participants super-fast service.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

But when it comes to New Fantasyland, folks … Well, for all this talk of “New Fantasyland is now officially open at The Magic Kingdom,” the fact of that matter is that this part of that theme park is still very much a work-in-progress. And what with all of the work that still needs to be done on Princess Fairytale Hall and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, it may actually take ’til January of 2014 ’til New Fantasyland is operating the way that WDW management had initially hoped it would. Delivering a top quality Guest experience to all those who venture back into this newly reimagined portion of that theme park.

Which is why — if you arrive at “Be Our Guest” for dinner over the next six months or so and find that they’re not immediately able to seat you — my advice / request is that you cut the Cast Members who are working at this New Fantasyland restaurant a little slack. After all, it’s not their fault that — because of this eatery’s exquisite theming and/or the availability of alcohol — that Guests who are already inside are hanging on in the place 15-to-45 minutes longer than expected. Which really is putting “Be Our Guest” ‘s servers to the test.

Your thoughts?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

EDITOR’S NOTE: My apologies for it being so long between stories here on JHM, folks. But while I was down at Walt Disney World last week taking part in the New Fantasyland media event, I got food poisoning. (And — no — it wasn’t because of something I ate at “Be Our Guest,” Gaston’s Tavern or any of the party food that was served over the course of this three day-long event. If anything, I think I just got a bad orange while I was visiting the Hospitality Center. Which meant — not to get too graphic here — that I then spent most of last week’s media event not eating while I became overly-familiar with dozens of Disney World restrooms). Then — to add insult to injury — once I got back home to New Hampshire, my laptop immediately blue-screened.

Nancy and I are headed out later today to a data recovery service see if any of the photos & interviews that I got at last week’s event can now be saved. As for my Samsung … Since it’s still under warranty (I only bought the thing back in February), I’m sending it off shortly so that its hard drive (which seems to have a bad sector) can then be replaced.

But in the meantime, I’m borrowing Nancy’s laptop to use to file new stories on JHM & the Huffington Post. More to the point, I’ll be steering clear of oranges for the foreseeable future. So please hang in there. Things should get back to normal shortly.

Jim Hill

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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Downtown Disney’s Earl of Sandwich offers a great array of eats

JHM guest columnist Angela Ragno drops in for lunch at Disney World’s newest eatery and gets the royal treatment.



As the story goes: Back in 1762, Lord John Montagu — the 4th Earl of Sandwich — was a very busy man. As the First Sea Lord of the British Navy, John loved exploring. And — because he was always on the run — the guy never really had time for a sit-down meal. So — one day — Montagu cut a couple of slices of bread, put meat between the slices and — Presto! — the “sandwich” was born.

Fast forward to 2004. When the current Earl of Sandwich (also named John) decided to go into business with another Earl. Robert Earl, to be specific. The Orlando area restauranteur best known for his work with the “Planet Hollywood” chain.

The end result is the “Earl of Sandwich,” a brand new eatery which opened up at Downtown Disney back in March. This 10,000 square foot facility (which replaced WDW’s “Gourmet Pantry”) is supposed to be the test site for a brand new chain of restaurants. Given that I always like to get in on things on the ground floor, I recently invited three of my friends to join me for lunch at “Earl of Sandwich.” To see if Robert Earl’s newest restaurant concept really had any legs.

As we entered the “Earl of Sandwich,” there was a greeter there who welcomed us. There is an organized queue line which looked pretty long (To be fair, we chose to visit this new Downtown Disney restaurant over the Easter weekend. When the whole WDW resort was dealing with record crowds). But — that said — we were able to place our orders within 4 minutes of arriving at this eatery.

How were we able to place our lunch orders so quickly? Well, there was a staff member working the line who was asking if anyone had any questions. The problem was with the choices. The “Earl of Sandwich” has 12 different hot sandwiches (“The Hotties.” I love that name). And all of the hot sandwiches are fresh made to order on hearth baked loaf.

Once you place your order, you can continue down the line where there are self service tossed bowl salads as well as grab n’ go cold sandwiches and wraps. For those of you with sweet tooths, the “Earl of Sandwich” offers fresh baked cookies, brownies, scones and turnovers as well as the famous Earl’s Ice Cream Sandwich. This concoction — made with thin biscuits filled with vanilla ice cream, also available edged in coconut flakes or chocolate chips — was very tempting. But — in the end — I passed. Maybe next time.

As we made our way to the cashier (The restaurant had three registers open on the day we visited. Which was plenty to deal with the huge crowds that were visiting Downtown Disney the afternoon we dined with the Earls), we selected the Earl’s Grey Lemonade to drink. This new WDW eatery also offers beer, fountain soft drinks, milk and fresh fruit yoghurt smoothies.

After paying, we were able to watch the “Earl of Sandwich” staff as they made our sandwiches and then placed them in the toaster ovens (just like at Quiznos!). Our total wait time — from placing our order to pick up — was less than 5 minutes.

So what did we think of WDW’s “Earl of Sandwich”? To be honest, the food was great. And — being Orlando area locals — we can’t wait to go back and try something else on the menu.

During our first visit, two of us ordered “The Original” — a fresh roast beef sandwich, smothered in cheddar and creamy horseradish sauce. Well, I opted not to have the horseradish sauce (I am infamous for being a picky eater). But that didn’t deter me from really loving the sandwich.

The third member of our party decided to try “The All American” — a fresh turkey sandwich loaded with cranberries, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato and smothered with buttermilk ranch sauce. She also thought her sandwich was mmm-mmm-good.

“How was the bread that our sandwiches were served on?” Well, the hearth baked loaf was hard to describe but very good. I would call it a biscuitbread.

In short, we all thought that the sandwiches that we purchased at WDW’s “Earl of Sandwich” were delicious and quite filling. And the price we paid ($4.95 per hottie) were very reasonable. As for our beverage, the Earl’s Grey Lemonade was different. It was a lemonade mixed fresh brewed Earl Grey Tea. I don’t know if I would call it a lemonade. It is really an Iced Tea (which is kind of odd … particularly when you realize that the Brits don’t use ice in their drinks). But I would still order it again.

You know what I also liked about this new restaurant? Its ambiance. The “Earl of Sandwich” has a British pub look. Inside, there is a fireplace with bookcases on either side which is loaded with merchandise: British books, teacups, teas and teapots. On the other side of the restaurant, there is “Earl of Sandwich” related merchandise: cups, tee-shirts, magnets, ornaments and PINS (of course). There are booths and tables inside and additional seating outside.

So will “Earl of Sandwich” succeed? I’d have to say yes. The food that they serve there is reasonably priced and delicious. And the place is sure to have great word of mouth. Given that — after our meal — we went shopping at Pleasure Island and told all the cast members there what a great meal we had at Earl’s.

So when might you see an “Earl of Sandwich” open in your neck of the woods? I’ve heard that John Montagu and Robert Earl reportedly have plans to open five to 10 restaurants per year. With the next outlet in the chain supposed to bow on Broadway (in NYC’s Times Square, to be exact) in late 2004 / early 2005.

So — if you’re looking for tasty and affordable eats the next time you’re down at Walt Disney World — be sure to head over to “Earl of Sandwich.” Where you’re really in royal treat.

Angela Ragno

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