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Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom event dispelled many myths about Audio Animatronics

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There are many myths associated with Audio Animatronics.
With the biggest one being that these mechanized marvels can do just about
anything that the Imagineers can dream up.

Not so says Imagineer Darrin Hughes. Who's spent the past 20
years programming AA figures for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. Truth be
told, even the most state-of-the-art Audio Animatronic can only replicate 2% of
human expression.

"No matter how much effort we put into them, all of the
talent that's involved, AA figures can only do a few things very well. My guess
of about 2% is probably pretty generous," Hughes stated at last year's
Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom event. "So the trick is to design Audio
Animatronics figures so that they then do these few things very well and that's
all we show. "


Image courtesy of Ape Pen Publishing. All rights
reserved

In some cases, it's actually the lights, sets or costumes that make Disney's AA
figures seem far more lifelike than they actually are. Take – for example – the
picture above. Which shows Darrin and his team reprogramming the Greek Teacher
in Epcot's Spaceship Earth ride.

"Unfortunately, you're not seeing his full costume here. The
Greek Teacher had a beautiful red costume, which really made a huge difference
because — when this AA figure moved his arms —  the sleeves would then move a little bit in
the breeze," Hughes continued. "And by doing that, the movement of the costume
then provides this Audio Animatronic  with a little natural motion. And that then
absorbs a little bit of the non-natural motion that I – as the programmer —
have a hard time getting past due to the mechanical nature of the Greek Teacher
AA figure."

It was this sort of stuff that made Darrin's Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom
presentation so fascinating. The glamor of being an Imagineer who went to
exotic places like Hong Kong and then programmed AA figures in the field …


Image courtesy of Ape Pen
Publishing. All rights reserved

… quickly gave way to the harsh reality of what it was
actually like to program all of the mechanical animals that you see while floating
along on Hong Kong Disneyland's Jungle River Cruise.


Image courtesy of Ape Pen Publishing. All rights
reserved

"This photo was taken just as the monsoon was arriving. The rain's coming at
about a 45 degree angle here. But as you can see, I'm still on the job. Working
under that blue & white plastic tarp, trying to keep the rain from
electrocuting me as it shorts out my control system," Hughes recalled. "What
that photo also fails to convey is the giant cockroaches that were flying
straight at me. As they tried to get out of the rain by seeking shelter under
my tarp."

"And why was Darrin working in the pouring-down rain?," you
ask. Because – as Hughes explained as part of his Marvelous Mechanized Magic
Kingdon presentation – he and his crew of AA figure programmers never ever have
enough time to do all of the work that they're supposed to.

"One of the painful realities of working on a multi-million dollar project like
a theme park ride is opening day. That thing never, ever moves. It never moves
because there's a project manager standing next to that date with a shotgun,"
Darrin smirked. "There is a project plan, a schedule that stretches from here
to San Diego. But the actual animation of the AA figures is the very last thing
on that schedule. I try to make the scheduled animation time as big as it can
possibly be. But it's never enough. So I try and manage things as best I can."


Eric Swapp working on programming the AA figures in Spaceship Earth's
new computer room sequence. Image courtesy of Ape Pen
Publishing.
All rights reserved

Which means that Hughes and his teams have to be pretty ingenious sometimes when
it comes to the way they get their programming equipment in and out of the
various show buildings that they work. Take – for example – the photo above.

"This was taken while Eric Swapp and I were working inside
of Spaceship Earth. Now you may notice that the mobile programming desk that
Eric is using looks remarkably like a wheelchair. Well, that's because it is a
wheelchair," Darrin stated. "You see, Spaceship Earth has a long and winding
track. And given the tight working conditions we were working under back then,
we had to come up with a way to move our programming equipment quickly from
show scene to show scene. And a wheelchair seemed like the smartest way to go."

And it's not just that the working conditions that Hughes and his crew deal
with regularly are tight. They can also be extremely dangerous. As part of his
presentation, Darrin revealed that one member of the "ExtraTERRORestrial Alien
Encounter" show installation team was  badly
injured because of a mistake that was made in the field while they were
programming that Tomorrowland attraction.


Steven Kosakura working in a pretty tight spot while installing an
animatronic in the field. Image courtesy of Ape Pen Publishing.
All rights
reserved

"You see this picture of my friend, Steven Kosakura? This was taken while we
were installing an enormous animatronic figure at a non-Disney park," Hughes
explained. "Now if I had accidentally pressed the wrong button while I was
programming this figure, a big steel thing will come straight up through the
hole where Steve is sitting in this picture. Likewise, if I pressed a different
wrong button, the thing that this animatronic is holding would have come crashing
down and crushed Steve's head. The field can be extremely dangerous. Which is
why we always have to be super-aware of what's going on around us, the show
environment, etc."

But even with all the hassles &  the
risks involved, Darrin is still obviously a fan of this commercial art form.
More to the point, he is quick to praise this form of commercial entertainment.
Especially those Disney Legends like Wathel Rogers who actually pioneered the
development of AA figures.

"But it's not just the pioneers who developed Audio Animatronics. I also need
to pay tribute to the other people I work with regularly. The art directors,
the effects people, the figure finishers, the guys who handle the lighting
inside of the rides, the writers who create the scripts for these attractions,"
Hughes continued. "If they haven't done their job to the best of their
abilities, given me everything that I need in order to bring that figure to
life … Well, the Guests aren't going to see this figure come to life either."


Image courtesy of Ape Pen
Publishing. All rights reserved

Besides, thanks to advances in technology, Darrin no longer
always has to go to the field to do all of the programming for the Audio
Animatronics that he's working. Take – for example – Mr. Potato Head from "Toy
Story Mania!
"

"Because we were able to do pre-programming of Mr. Potato
Head in the computer, I didn't actually have to go down to California Adventure
except to put the data onto the real figure. I was able to work in my office,
Which was really cool. I'd like to be able to do more of that," Darrin said.

Unfortunately, not all of the Audio Animatronics that Hughes works on are
NextGen like Mr. Potato Head. Which means – in order to get them to work
properly, to get the sort of performance out of this figure that will really
enhance the ride, get some sort of emotional response out of the audience that's
viewing this attraction … Well, that means hours & hours of work. Often under
in some pretty difficult and frustrating working conditions.


Pre-programming the Stitch figure for the revamped version of Tokyo
Disneyland's "Enchanted Tiki Room." Image courtesy of Ape Pen
Publishing. All rights reserved

"You have to understand that – when we're doing the initial
installation — is that everybody wants to be on that figure. The costumers
want to be making changes, as they try & figure out why their costume is twisting
funny whenever this figure moves. There are mechanical problems that invariably
need to be fixed. Plus the ride guys keep kicking me out for whatever reason,"
Hughes explained. "So it's really hard under those sorts of conditions to stay
on the figure and just keep working."

Which is why – whenever possible – Darrin likes to get some
time with the AA figure that he's supposed to be working on before it's
actually sent to the field and then hole up in some airplane hangar or warehouse
on the WDI campus and  do as much
animation in advance as he possibly can.

"Sometimes we'll do a full mock-up. In the case of Sindbad,
we built all of the sets. It kind of depends on the show. How many risks we've
identified, what we need to prove," Hughes said.  "That's why you always want to try and do as
much programming as you can in advance. So that you don't find yourself in the
field having a big problem. It's mostly about managing risks in my mind."


Darrin Hughes speaking at Last year's Marvelous Mechanized Magic
Kingdom event. Image courtesy of Ape Pen
Publishing.
All rights reserved

Given all of the complex issues that Darrin usually deals
with whenever he's programming a new Audio Animatronic (FYI: That's pretty much
how Hughes describes his job. He doesn't see himself as a figure programmer.
But – rather – as a guy who manages complexity. Someone who – before he gets
the chance to do his job well – first has to " …  get as much done early on to help mediate
risks and talk to all of the other disciplines.) … Well, the fanboy view of the
Disney theme parks then becomes kind of laughable. While some may insist that all
the Imagineers need to do to change the "Under New Management" show in the
Sunshine Pavilion at WDW's Magic Kingdom is upload the old "Enchanted Tiki Room"
programming and then hit a few switches … After hearing Darrin Hughes talk, you
realize that this simply isn't the case.

In fact, I wish that every Disney fan who has ever
complained about the Yeti in "Expedition Everest" at Disney's Animal Kingdom
could listen to Darrin Hughes' talk about the herculean effort that it takes to
install, program and then maintain an Audio Animatronic figure.

Come to think of it, they actually can. On May 1st, Ape Pen Publishing will be releasing a new 2-DVD set. Which will not only feature the
presentations that Darrin Hughes gave at this Marvelous Mechanized Magic
Kingdom event, but also captures the insights that Disney Legends like X
Atencio
, Alice Davis, Kathryn Beaumont, Bob
Gurr
and Floyd Norman shared about the early, early days of AA figures. Not to
mention what Hughes' contemporaries – Imagineers like Larry Nikolai, Ethan Reed
and Josh Shipley – have to say about this form of commercial entertainment.


Image courtesy of Ape Pen
Publishing. All rights reserved

So if you'd like to learn more about the realities of
working with Audio Animatronics, rather than the fanboy fantasies that you'll
find on the Web … Might I suggest that you pick up a copy of Ape Pen Publishing's
Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom DVD. Which goes on sale May 1st.

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  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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