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Looking back at the 2011 D23 EXPO: expectations vs. reality



And how was your weekend?

Mine contrasted sharply with last weekend. Instead of being
inside of the brightly-lit Anaheim Convention Center surrounded by thousands of
Disney fans, I was sitting in the dark here at home with Nancy, Alice and the
cats. What with all the wind & wet weather associated with Hurricane /
Tropical Storm Irene, it took Public Service of New Hampshire upwards of 15
hours to finally get the electricity flowing again in our neck of the woods.

Which – I know – sounds like it could have been kind of
miserable. It actually wasn’t. Even though we were without power for the better
part of a day, the six of us were all inside – safe & dry. More to the
point, we had plenty of food, water, candles & flashlights on hand. Not to
mention the terrific view of this storm that we had through the big picture
window which we have at our place.

So – because we’d done a little advance planning AND had
realistic expectations (i.e. we live way the hell out in the woods. There’s a
hurricane headed our way. Which means that we’re probably going to be without power
for a couple of hours) – Alice, Nancy and I had a pretty enjoyable time

The line outside of Anaheim Convention Center on Friday morning just before the D23
EXPO opened its doors. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I bring this issue up because … Well, over the past week, I’ve
been reading the comments that some people have posted in the wake of the D23
. Where they then vented their frustration about the lines that these
folks encountered and/or groused about the panels & presentations that
these people couldn’t get into.

And what’s kind of interesting about these complaints is
that there’s a constant refrain that runs through many of these comments. To wit:

“Disney has had years & years of experience of dealing
with large crowds thanks to its theme parks. Which is why I’m surprised that they
didn’t do a better job of managing the lines at the D23 EXPO.”

The only problem with that premise is that the D23 EXPO wasn’t
/ isn’t a theme park. It’s a convention much along the lines of Comic-Con

This is just a portion of the line for Hall H at Comic-Con International. The rest of the line
(which typically includes an additional 2,000 – 3,000 people) winds back-and-forth
along the waterfront behind the San Diego Convention Center.

And as anyone who’s ever been down to the San Diego
Convention Center
during the third week of July will tell you, lines are just an
unavoidable part of life – at least as far as Comic-Con is concerned. Like it
or not, you’re going to spend much of your time at this 4 ½ day-long pop
culture event standing in a queue. Waiting in line for hours at a time, hoping
that you can then actually get into a particular panel or presentation.

Which then bring me to another comment that kept popping up
in people’s complaints about the D23 EXPO

“Why don’t they just schedule multiple presentations of
these panels? Or at least stage them in bigger venues?”

Well, not to be blunt here … But you do realize that the
people who were hosting / moderating these various panels & presentations actually
do have lives & responsibilities outside of entertaining & informing
members of the Official Disney Fan Club?

A sleep-deprived Joe Lanzisero (left) soldiers on through Sunday’s Disney Cruise Line,
as he and WDI’s Bob Zalk describe the amenities that will be found on the Disney
Fantasy. Photo by Angela Ragno

Take – for example – Joe Lanzisero, senior vice president of
Walt Disney Imagineering. In the days prior to his appearance at this year’s
D23 EXPO, Joe had been at Hong Kong Disneyland consulting on the three new
lands that are being built at that theme park. Lanzisero then flew back to the
States just so he could then co-host Sunday morning’s “Imagineering the Dream
and the Fantasy: Designing for Disney Cruise Line” panel. Which is why Joe kept
apologizing from the stage about continually having to consult his script for
this presentation, because ” … I’m a little jet-lagged up here.”

You get what I’m saying? That the actual people who worked / are working on
these new movies, TV shows & theme park attractions for The Walt Disney
Company took time out from their busy schedules  to come on down to the Anaheim Convention
Center and then talk about what they’re working on. And since these films /
television series / rides & shows are dynamic, on-going entities … Well,
that’s why these folks then weren’t available to present their panels over
& over again at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. each day. They had to get
back to their actual jobs.

More to the point, the people who run D23 recognize that not
every member of the Official Disney Fan Club is a theme park fan. That there
are those who are just animation enthusiasts. Or those who watch the Disney
Channel & Disney XD religiously. Or maybe they’re a comic book collector
who wants to learn more about what Marvel & the Mouse have in the works for
2012 & beyond. Which is why creating an event that services all of these
needs / addresses all of these interests can be something of a challenge.

Look, as someone who was a moderator at this year’s EXPO as
well as being someone who attended this event as a member of the media, I’m not
going to pretend that my D23 EXPO experience was typical. But that said, I
spent an awful lot of time on the show floor on Saturday & Sunday. And
judging by the huge screaming crowds in front of the Disney Channel / Disney XD
/ Disney Junior stage, the long lines for autographs & giveaways at the
Walt Disney Animation Studios booth, not to mention how crowded Mickey’s of
Glendale and the on-site Disney Store were, there were clearly a lot of people
who had a perfectly fine time at this year’s D23 EXPO.

“Good Luck Charlie” fans line up to get the autographs of the cast of this Disney Channel
series. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

What’s that you say? Your chief complaint about the 2011
edition of the D23 EXPO is that Friday’s Disney Parks & Resorts presentation
was underwhelming? This is honestly one of the more ridiculous comments that I
have ever heard coming from Disneyana fans.

I mean, think about it. The Walt Disney Company just spent
upwards of $1.2 billion (or $1.7 billion, depending on who you talk to) on
reinventing Disney California Adventure. Not to mention the $350 million (or is
it $500 million?) that the Imagineers are now spending on expanding &
enhancing Fantasyland at WDW‘s Magic Kingdom. That’s roughly $2 billion that
the Company has recently invested in its stateside resorts. And let’s not forget about the
work that’s being done on the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Art of Animation
, Aulani, as well as the soon-to-begin-construction Disney Vacation Club
at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

So given the enormous amount of money that the Mouse has just
plowed into the Disneyland & Walt Disney World Resorts (more importantly,
given what’s going on with the economy right now. With consumer confidence back
at November 2008 levels as everyone worries about whether we’re now headed into
a double-dip recession), is it realistic to then expect that Mickey would now be
announcing yet another billion expansion of its stateside properties? I’m
thinking that someone who’s actually been paying attention to what’s been going
on in financial circles lately would likely say “No.”

Which brings me to the part of today’s JHM article that I’m
sure will get me the most hate mail. Which is the unrealistically high
expectations of some Disneyana fans. Who seem to insist that every new
attraction that’s being added to the theme parks has to be this state-of-the-art
E Ticket. Or that an event like this year’s D23 EXPO be completely glitch-free.

Concept art for Disneyland’s new Fantasy Fair area. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Look, I know that the PR department at Disney regularly
tosses around terms like “magic,” “wonder,” “dreams,” “wishes” and “pixie dust”
just so we’ll then get all warm-and-fuzzy whenever we think about the Mouse’s
latest project.  But I myself, I don’t
live in Fantasyland. I live in the real world. Where life is full of small setbacks,
tiny hiccups and little disappointments.

So when I found myself unable to get into Stage 23 for
Friday night’s Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix concert, did I pitch a fit? Did
I immediately get on Twitter and then complain about this year’s D23 EXPO was ineptly
run & how everyone associated with this event should be fired? Nope. Because
I’m an adult who can actually handle disappointment, I got on the escalator and
then headed back downstairs. With my only thought being that I wish that I’d been smart enough to get on
line earlier. That way … Well, maybe I could have actually scored a seat to
this supposedly extraordinary show.

What’s that you say? D23 could have easily avoided this
problem if they’d just had Dick perform in the D23 Arena (which had seats for
4000) rather than Stage 23 (which only had seats for 750 – 1000)? Sorry, but
that wasn’t D23’s call. It was Van Dyke himself who supposedly insisted that the
Vantastix perform in a more intimate venue. With his main concern being that –
what with the acoustics of the cavernous Anaheim Arena – that oversized venue just
wouldn’t lend itself to the sort of close harmony that Dick’s group does.

“Well, D23 should have just insisted that Dick Van Dyke and
the Vantastix perform in the Anaheim Arena,” you say. Look, the Official Disney
Fan Club knows that it was damned lucky to land this 86-year-old Disney Legend
for this year’s EXPO. You see, Dick turns down hundreds of requests each year
when it comes to interviews, appearances and performances. So whatever it took
to keep Van Dyke happy (i.e. have the Vantastix perform in an intimate space
versus an enormous arena), that was what they were going to do.

Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix perform at the 2011 D23 EXPO. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Anyway … You wanna know why I had a great time at this year’s
D23 EXPO? It wasn’t because I was the moderator of the Pixar Shorts panel. Nor
was it because I attended the event as a member of the media.

No, I had a great time at this year’s D23 EXPO because –
just like with this past weekend’s hurricane / tropical storm – I went into
this event with realistic expectations. I knew that there was just no way that
I’d be able to see each & every panel and presentation. Which is why I then
carefully chose those events that I really wanted to attend.

More to the point, because I anticipated that there’d be
lines & crowds for the D23 EXPO’s more popular panels, I did some advance
planning. I found out where I needed to go. More importantly, when I needed to
get on line. And as a direct result, I wound up being able to see about 75% of the
presentations that I really wanted to attend at this year’s event.

Which – I know – if you’re going by Disney theme park
standards, only getting to experience 3 out of 4 of the rides, shows and attractions
that you came out to the park to see … That’s somewhat disappointing. But if
you’re going by Comic-Con standards, getting into 3 out of every 4 panels &
presentations that you really wanted to attend … That’s huge. That’s the pop
culture equivalent of winning the lottery.

Some of the Disneyana enthusiasts who chose to dress as their favorite characters for
this year’s D23 EXPO. Photo by Florence Doyle

So I guess what I’m saying is – if you’ve been reading some
of the negative post-D23-EXPO comments that are out there and are now thinking that you
may take a pass on attending the Official Disney Fan Club’s 2013 convention
… Don’t be a chump. You’ll just be letting those people who are already predisposed
to complaining when it comes to whatever it is that The Walt Disney Company does rob
you of the opportunity to experience something pretty extraordinary.

Which – provided that you do a little advance planning &
walk into the Anaheim Convention Center with realistic expectations – can be a
very entertaining and informative way to spend three days.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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



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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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