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Looking for some concrete information on Disney’s World of Color? Then check out this week’s Why For

Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, he talks about DCA’s lack of advance planning, what Dick Nunis once called Walt and why it’s important to take a two-tiered approach when discussing Disney World these days

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Jerry C. writes in say:

Jim,

I really enjoyed that photo you ran last week of the empty
Paradise Bay. Do you have any stories to share yet about DCA’s night-time water
pageant, “Disney’s World of Color” ?

Dear Jerry –

At this point, we’re only about ten weeks into this multi-million
dollar construction project. The draining of Paradise Bay actually began back on November 3rd
and it took more than two weeks to reach the bottom of this man-made lagoon.

As of right now, most of the on-site survey work has already
been completed. So what lies ahead now is several weeks of serious
deconstruction. As crews rip up concrete at various spots along the bottom of
the now-empty Paradise Bay.  In
preparation for those hundreds of high pressure nozzles and pieces of supply piping that are
about to be installed.

While all of this work is going on, the Imagineers
will also be ripping that amphitheater that they built along the north side of
Paradise Bay to then make room for that tiered 9,000-person viewing area that
they’ll be adding to DCA. Which will (hopefully) be able to accommodate those
huge crowds that will turn out nightly to watch performances of “Disney’s World
of Color.”

Given that California Adventure is about to get a brand-new
night-time water pageant that will reportedly put the Fountains at Bellagio to
shame, I know that it may seem somewhat ungracious – if not downright rude – to
begin carping about “Disney’s World of Color.” But me? I can’t help but wonder
how much money the Disneyland Resort would have saved if they’d just done even
the bare minimum  preparatory work for California Adventure’s new water pageant when this theme park was first
being constructed back in 1999 / 2000.

Copyright Tokyo Disney Resort. All Rights Reserved

I mean, that’s what WDI did at Tokyo DisneySea. Long before
all those parade barges for BraveSEAmo! first floated out onto  Mediterranean Harbor, back during the initial construction
phase of the Tokyo Disney Resort’s second theme park, the Imagineers had a lot of
the plumbing and electrical necessary to support this sort of show placed at the bottom of
that concrete harbor. Which made it that much easier to get a night-time water
pageant up out of the ground … er … water when BraveSEAmo! finally got the green
light.

Of course, the Oriental Land Company was okay with this sort
of expenditure. Given that they realized that it would be far cheaper in the
long run to lay the groundwork for a TDS lagoon show while that theme park was
still being constructed. Whereas the executives who were riding herd on the
construction of Disney’s California Adventure were trying to do everything related
to that theme park on the cheap. So any suggestions about doing prep work in
Paradise Bay for a future waterfront show was quickly dismisses as “We can’t
afford to do that right now. “

Which is why The Walt Disney Company is now forced to spend
tens of millions of dollars ripping up the bottom of that concrete lagoon to
make room for all of the underwater equipment needed to present & support
“Disney’s World of Color.” All because of WDI’s penny wise / pound foolish attitude 10 years ago.

Mind you, there is an upside. Because all of this work is now being done in 2009, rather than back in 1999 or 2000, DCA will have a totally state-of-the-art fountain show. One that features the latest & greatest equipment
when it comes to high pressure hoses and fine spray nozzles. So when you see
a full-sized replica of Sleeping Beauty Castle sculpted entirely out of water
suddenly rise up out of Paradise Bay and/or the wildebeast stampede sequence from
The Lion King” play out on a series of 80-foot tall mist screens … Hopefully, all of the extra
time & expense involved here will have been worth it.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved 

But last month, as my daughter and I looked out over the
now-empty Paradise Bay … Well, as much as I was looking forward to seeing
“Disney’s World of Color” in 2010, there was a part of me that still wished
that Dick Nunis had gotten his way.

You see, Dick always felt bad that one of the attractions
that Walt had originally proposed for the 1955 version of Disneyland (Which was
a Monstro-the-Whale themed Shoot-the-Chutes attraction) had never made it off
the drawing board. Which is why – when Nunis learned that DCA was supposed to
have a recreation of California’s beachfront amusement piers – he proposed that
the Imagineers add a Shoot-the-Chutes to Paradise Pier’s line-up of
attractions.

Unfortunately, given the “Less is More” attitude that pervaded much of the design & construction phase of DCA, WDI humored Nunis by having some concept art
drawn up for a Shoot-the-Chutes attraction for DCA (Which – FYI – is still on display over at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel). But they never actually had any
intention of building a recreation of this 1900s-era thrill ride as part of Disney’s
California Adventure.

 And speaking of Dick
Nunis … Christopher S. writes in say that …

It just makes me sick the way the modern Walt Disney Company
continues to cut corners at its stateside theme parks. You can bet that, if Walt
were alive today, that the Disney Company wouldn’t dare pull the sort of cr@p
that they’re pulling today. Cutting back on the number of performances of
Fantasmic!” that they present every week. Eliminating prime rib from all the
restaurants on property …

Christopher’s e-mail goes on and on like this for another
couple of paragraphs. There’s no real point in reprinting the rest of his
e-mail. Given that it keeps going over (and over and over and over and over … )
the same very idea that Walt would have never compromised the Guest experience at
his theme park just to save a few bucks.

Which isn’t exactly true. I mean, Disney was a showman. But he
was also a businessman. And as much as he may have prided himself on delivering
a top quality Guest experience to all those who paid to enter Disneyland,
Walt still couldn’t bring himself to spend money on projects for the Park that wouldn’t then bring about some sort of financial return.

Case in point: Back in the 1960s, Dick Nunis was area
manager for Adventureland. And even back then, this part of Disneyland – due to
its tight, tight quarters and extremely poor layout – was always crowded & congested.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved 

And as Nunis watched tourists struggle daily to make it across Adventureland, he knew that something had to be done to improve Guest flow through this part
of the Park. Which is why Dick proposed pushing the load / unload area for
the Jungle Cruise back 10 – 15 feet. 
Which would then make it possible to add far wider walkways to
Disneyland’s Adventureland section.

The only problem with what Nunis was proposing was that it would
have cost upwards of $3 million. And given that no new food service and/or
retail space was going to be added to the Park as part of shifting the Jungle Cruise’s load / unload
area back, Walt couldn’t justify the cost.

“I’m sorry, Dick,” Nunis remembered Disney saying. “But
unless this change that you’re proposing for Adventureland includes some sort of financial benefit for the Park, I just can’t
allow it to go forward.”

Dick’s response to this news? Well, he sort-of kind-of
called Walt an @$$#0le and then – while attempting to make a dramatic exit from
that particular meeting – accidentally walked into a closet. But the upside is … Disney’s
personal opinion of Nunis really went up that day. Given that Dick had proven that he was
a guy who was willing to fight for what he truly believed in. Which was improving
Park Operations as well as the overall Guest experience.

I know, I know. That sounds like kind of an unlikely story.
But Nunis actually told this tale recently – in front of a hall full of themed
entertainment professionals, no less – as part of Marty Sklar’s “My Ten Best
Tips” presentation at last year’s IAAPA convention. Here’s hoping that Dick
eventually puts this story in print as part of those memoirs that he’s now
rumored to be writing.

Dick Nunis (L) and Marty Sklar (R) during their joint appearance at the 2008 IAAPA Attractions Expo. Copyright 2008 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. All Rights Reserved

And – finally – Kathryn P. writes in to say:

I’m confused. Last week, you posted a story that said things
were looking so rosy at Walt Disney World that they were about to turn those
long-abandoned buildings at Pop Century into family suites. Yet today you run
an article that times are so tough for Disney Parks & Resorts right now
that the Company’s begun offering buyouts to longtime managers & directors.

So which is it, Jim? Are things looking up for the
WDW Resort? Or is Disney World – due to what’s happening with the economy –
going to take a real hit in the coming months?

Kathryn P.

Look, when it comes to talking about the Walt Disney
World Resort these days, it helps if you take
a two-tiered approach: Taking into consideration both the long range and the short term view.

In the short term, WDW is definitely heading into a weird patch.
Where – instead of people booking their Walt Disney World vacations at least
six months out – the window for advance reservations has now seriously shrunk.
These days, people are booking trips to WDW just two & three weeks in
advance. Which makes it extremely difficult when it comes to properly staffing
& scheduling Cast Members at the Resort.

Which is why – as Disney waits for the economy to right
itself. More importantly, for consumer confidence to return – it’s begun to fixate on quick fixes.
And among the many ways that the WDW Resort can improve its bottom line (at
least when it comes to the short term) is by reducing the head count within its
executive suite.

Now if you take into consideration the long range view … Well, Disney feels that it’s already has enough anecdotal evidence in hand to suggest that the U.S. economy will be well
on its way to full recovery by the middle of 2010. Mind you, folks who will be
traveling to the Resort then will still be extremely cautious about how they spend their money.  Which is why
these would-be WDW visitors will seriously be looking for bargains.

And if the Mouse has a hotel within its Disney World inventory
that would then allow large families to all stay together in the same place for
one low price … Well, Disney is betting that a Resort like that will be
extremely  popular with Guests who are
trying to stretch a dollar as far as it can possibly go.

Which is why it makes sense to start work on the Animation
Inn & Suites project ASAP. So that this revamped version of Pop Century will
actually be ready to start taking reservations by this time next year. When
(hopefully) WDW’s advance reservation window will have shifted back to its normal six-months-out time frame.

This is also why – even though many high rollers have had
their portfolios trashed by what happened on Wall Street last Fall – Disney
is still pushing forward with construction of that on-property Four Seasons
Resort. Yes – in the short term – most Guests vacationing in Orlando won’t
really have the  money necessary to stay
at a posh hotel like that. But if you take the long range view – looking two
& three years down the road, when the U.S. economy has (hopefully) finally
fully recovered – people will then be looking to be pampered once more as part
of their Disney World vacation experience. And when this new Four Seasons Resort officially opens in 2012, it will
then be properly positioned to fill that need in the marketplace.

Concept art for the Four Seasons Resort to be built on property at Walt Disney World Copyright 2008 Disney / Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. All Rights Reserved

So long story short
here, Kathryn  … In order to really
understand what’s going on at The Walt Disney World Resort these days, you always have to take into consideration the bigger picture. That the stuff that Mickey is doing in the
short term (i.e. offering buyouts to 619 managers & directors) will then allow
the Resort to better position itself to make some  very serious dough in 2010 and beyond. When
Disney hopes (Hell, we all hope) that the U.S. economy will be on its way to a full
& complete recovery.

Anyway … That’s it for this week’s Why For. Again, if you’d
like to see your Disney-related questions as part of this column, please send
them along to jim@jimhillmedia.com.

Have a great weekend, okay?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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

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

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

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

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

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

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

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

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