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Ken Anderson and the Haunted Mansion — Part II

New JHM contributor Wade Sampson returns with the conclusion of his debut column. Which goes into great detail about Disney Legend Ken Anderson originally envisioned for Disneyland’s “Haunted Mansion.”



In the last installment (of this JHM series), I gave (you) a little bit of background about Ken Anderson’s approach to the Haunted Mansion concept. In this installment, let’s join a walking tour of Bloodmere Manor as it was conceived in 1957.

For the front porch of the mansion, Ken had written a one and half minute speech to be recorded by Walt Disney (some of which I included above when I first mentioned “Bloodmere Manor”in the previous installment) which would have explained the strange history of the house and ended with Walt explaining:

“The guide is made necessary by another strange characteristic of the house. It has rotted so long in the dank fastness of its lost hiding place in the swamps that not even Southern California sunshine or the best efforts of electricians and illumination engineers can dispel the dimness of the bayous…it mysteriously remains always night within the house…the night in which all ghosts are condemned to live. Now we cannot promise you that anything at all will occur during your visit…since it is usually in the wee small hours that the departed ones live it up…However, be prepared to see and hear something or other, and take whatever precautions you please. We recommend that you stay close together during your visit and please…above all…obey the guide’s instructions. Thank you.”

Once inside the house, the guests would immediately experience some sound effects and even an invisible ghost writing on the wall: “Foolish mortals…go home!” However, a butler appears and assures the guests they don’t need to worry. “He’s only a ghost writer!” The butler explains that the last group he took through had the good fortune to see a good deal of ghostly activity.

As the butler talks, a panel in the wall behind him opens and a “huge, hairy arm gropes menacingly” but the butler easily avoids it and warns the guests not to get too close to the walls and to stay with the group at all times during their visit “because Hairy the Arm, who was the insane brute of a man servant for the old Blood family, delights in picking off stray visitors”.

The group then passes through a gallery of portraits leading into the Library. The butler instructs the guests to come to the dead center so he can describe the portraits of the infamous ghosts because “the unfortunate Blood Family which inhabited the house in life had a tremendous circle of acquaintances and an international reputation as hosts. The supreme tragedy of the house occurred while the Blood Family was hosting numerous friends on the eve of the real life wedding of their beautiful daughter. An event too horrible to mention prevented the wedding and it has been rumored that on every anniversary for the last 150 years the ghosts have been attempting to complete the ceremony which would lift the curse on the house.”

An amazing thing about these portraits are that at first glance they appear quite normal “but on second glance, the eyes of each portrait appear to stare back directly at the viewer and follow him relentlessly wherever he moves.”

The guests are then led into a huge dimly lighted library. As the butler points out some of the items in the room, the group is joined by the “Lonesome Ghost” who is shunned by other ghosts because he likes people better than his ghostly peers. At first, the group only hears the ghost but then the butler directs them to look at the huge mirror hanging over the fireplace and the guests see not only their own reflection but the image of the Lonesome Ghost apparently moving through the group as he speaks.

The Lonesome Ghost is excited because “two of our ghosts from prominent old ghost families are getting married” today. The ghost directs the guests’ attention to more portraits in the library. As he talks about each portrait, an eerie light illuminates it and the portrait changes.

Here are some of Ken Anderson’s suggestions from 1957: “As a typical example of the type of reaction, a portrait of the blue-blooded relative will seem to fill up with blue blood like a bottle filling with liquid, sound effects and all. Also a maiden aunt with an austere face will coyly wink and the portrait of a gay blade will disintegrate ala Dorian Gray, etc.”

Does any of this sound familiar? While my admiration for Marc Davis is boundless, Ken Anderson’s descriptions of humorously changing portraits was suggested before Marc even became involved with the project.

Hairy the Arm makes another grab for the butler who tells the group they will need to wait in the room for a bit but the Lonesome Ghost suggests another alternative and suddenly the group hears his voice from an adjoining room beyond the walls.

“Oh dear me,” moans Lonesome, “I forgot you mortals can’t walk through the walls…you’ll have to use the bookcase…”

A bookcase creaks open allowing the guests to enter a room called the “Gallery” where they get to experience a screaming female ghost whose head separates from her body. It is the ghost of Anne Boleyn who was beheaded by her husband. “Of course she’ll have to pull herself together in time for the wedding,” remarks Lonesome who will now disappear from the group for awhile when the guests start to leave.

As the butler tries to lead the group out a large double door, the shadowy figure of Hairy the Arm is seen as it throws a knife which sticks in the wall panel across the room, forcing the guide to take the group through a secret wall panel.
In this new room, the butler is on the bedroom level when the group arrives in the bedroom at one end on a raised platform separated by a railing from the main floor. Originally, this platform was only a foot or two above the rest of the room…but now it has three separate levels so all the guests can see equally well into the bedroom.

There are a series of ghostly gags that take place in the bedroom including “five hideous little Charles Addams type children monsters who sit up in bed and glower at the visitors as they chorus: ‘EEK! PEOPLE!’…a door opens revealing an invisible bather taking a bath using a visible sponge, brush and wash cloth…and singing ‘I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You’…” (It’s our old friend, Lonesome, getting prepared for the wedding.)

During these displays, Hairy the Arm pulls the butler into the wall and the room goes pitch black with only the sounds of fighting and then silence. The lights come back on with a disheveled butler appearing to usher the guests into a large oval room called the “Salon”.

The room slants toward a large bay window which displays a windy moonlit scene of distant bayous. As the guests watch, clouds obscure the moon, there are flashes of thunder and lightning and ghostly skeletons seem to rise from marble tombs and float towards the guests. There is a distant sound of pounding hoofs that signal the approach of the Headless Horseman who is eventually seen galloping through the tops of the small trees and overgrown shrubs.

A fireplace near the guests mysteriously rises and Lonesome reappears to invite the guests to follow him to the wedding. The guests enter an octagonal shaped room with rough unfinished walls and ceiling and windows on three sides with broken panes. Suddenly the storm breaks outside in full intensity with rain drenching the windows and more arriving ghosts (some with skeleton umbrellas).
A series of brilliant lightning flashes reveal the transparency of the ceiling…as it goes transparent guests can see at the highest point in the peaked ceiling is the ghost of a figure in full dress clothes…hanging by the neck. Does that sound familiar?

Since the room seems to be filling up, the guests are ushered into another short mirrored hallway and as guests look in the mirrors they see not only their reflections but the transparent reflections of ghostly visitors heading in the same direction. Ken actually wanted some of those ghosts to be famous like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Phantom of the Opera, Scrooge and Marley, Little Eva and Simon Legree, Jack the Ripper, the Canterville Ghost, Captain Hook, King Tut, etc. According to Ken’s notes, apparently blacklight would be used in this effect as well.

Eventually, the guests would be in a large octagonal shaped room with mirrors on all sides. Even the doors are mirrored so that guests can clearly see in the mirrors all the ghosts who are attending the wedding and chattering away about gossip like the wedding gifts of a matched set of poisoned darts, guillotine bookends, etc. The Lonesome Ghost mingles through the group of ghosts.

The sound of wedding bells causes all the ghosts to disappear, leaving only the reflection of the guests who move into “The Great Hall” where the wedding is to take place. On the lower floor is a long table with a wedding cake, candles and flowers all covered in cobwebs. An invisible ghost plays an old pump organ. Well, all of this is starting to sound familiar as well.

The groom appears as does the bride on the opposite side who floats toward him. He tenderly reaches out and takes her head off and kisses it. She retaliates with a resounding slap. This action is repeated several times. This causes lights to flash, thunder claps, rattling shutters. The groom kisses her again and is slapped again. Suddenly the music gets faster and faster to crazy rhythm. Footprints run all around the floor and walls below while furniture is upset and the organ is now joined by various floating jazz instruments. The storm builds to a climax. The ceiling collapses and rain pours down to the floor below.

As things intensify, the butler leads the guest into the “Trophy Room” where the skulls of ghostly animals on the wall stare back at the group as the portraits did in the “Portrait Hall”. The group is rushed through a fireplace, still hearing the pounding rain and the loud chaos behind them. As they are led outside, they are surprised to see that it is not raining at all. (Remember this is years before the Tiki Room as well.)

The butler attempts to discuss the Blood Family crypt and graves which the guests still have to visit, but Hairy the Arm grabs the butler and pulls him back into the house with a bloodcurdling yell. The tour is finished and apparently so is the poor tour guide.

In the garden crypt, “visitors will be given the opportunity to buy pieces of ghost wedding cake neatly wrapped in shroud material, and tied with a bow of ribbon…suitable for placing under the pillow for inducing dreams, or Lonesome Ghost lapel buttons which plug a visit to the Ghost House…or Lonesome ghost balloons, complete with floating China silk shrouds (and Ken drew a quick sketch to show what this might look like)…In the high walled and fenced garden, the visitors may take many paths all leading to the exit. There will be knee bones, foot bones, and skulls protruding occasionally from the silent paths. A statue in a secluded spot in the unkempt, overgrown garden animates mysteriously at timed intervals. In one corner of the garden is a typical graveyard with epitaphs to be inspected, while closer to the exit gate is a wishing well with an echo effect.”

Ken Anderson moved back from WED to the Studios in the late Fifties for a variety of reasons and spent much of the next years working on the Disney animated feature films. In 1964, Walt Disney assigned the task of the Haunted Mansion to Marc Davis, Claude Coats and X. Atencio while Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey developed a “Museum of the Weird” which would have been a “spill area” near the attraction where guests could enter and exit at their leisure before going through the main attraction.

In later years, Marc Davis was quite vocal about how Walt didn’t want a storyline for the attraction and that when Walt died, there was a struggle over the direction. Most Disney fans agree that the first part of the attraction with its spooky elements reflect the contributions of Crump, Gracey and Anderson while the second part of the attraction, especially the graveyard scene, is indicative of the more humorous approach of Davis.

This disjointed approach has resulted in cast members and guests creating their own cohesive storyline for the attraction utilizing bits and pieces of the various different storylines from the original proposals. However, looking over Ken Anderson’s concepts from the late Fifties, it becomes instantly apparent that he should receive greater recognition for his contribution to the attraction. Just a short summary of one of his proposals reveals many elements from the transparent ceiling revealing a hanged gentleman to portraits which transformed humorously before your eyes to looking in a glass reflection to see both a guest and a ghost which are some of the most memorable experiences in one of Disney’s most popular attractions. So all of these ideas were in place before other talented Imagineers were assigned to the project nearly five years later.

Even the best researcher in the world relies on the contributions of others and for this article I would like to give my thanks to Ken Anderson, Paul Anderson (no relation but the guy who should be writing a biography of Ken Anderson), Jim Korkis, J. M. Ryan and most especially John Richard McDermott who introduced me to the world of Disney nearly three decades ago.

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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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