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May we please have another … Dale Ward’s Mouse FACTory?

JHM got so much mail about Dale’s first trivia column that we just had to invite Ward back to share even more interesting factoids from the Mouse FACTory.

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I know, I know. Everyone’s eyes are on Anaheim today. Waiting breathlessly to hear which new attractions are going to officially be announced (Gee, do you think those rumors about a new “Monsters, Inc.” ride for DCA will actually pan out?), etc.

But — while everyone else obsesses about what the future will hold for Disneyland & California Adventure — me … I’m more interested in looking back. In seeing what came before. Like …

May 1, 1989

The Disney-MGM Studio theme park (“The Hollywood That Never Was and Always Will Be” … or so it says on the studio’s dedication plaque) is finally officially opened to the public.

Though most folks are quick to credit Michael Eisner with coming up with the idea for MGM, truth be told it was Walt Disney that had always wanted to build a studio tour. As early as the late 1930s, Walt was toying with the idea of taking two acres of his brand-new Burbank lot and turning it into an attraction for Hollywood tourists. Among the fanciful structures that that Disney wanted to have built as part of his version of a studio tour were full-sized walk-through versions of Snow White’s cottage & Geppetto’s toy shop.

Unfortunately, Disney’s Burbank studio tour (which would have also featured a glassed-in corridor which would have allowed visitors to watch the girls in the Ink & Paint Department at work) barely got past the talking phase when World War II broke out. And — by the time the hostilities in Europe & Asia were over — Walt’s dream had already outgrown that two acre parcel on the Burbank lot. Which is why Mr. Disney began eyeballing that 16 acres of open land on the other side of Riverside Drive.

That version of the attraction that Walt was toying with building still had some of the same elements of the two acre plan. Including a carousel that was to have featured Disney characters to ride. But that version of project eventually outgrew the spot that Walt had picked out for it too. So Disney had to find a new site for his dream project …

As I understand it, Walt eventually found some property out in Orange County. An orange grove in Anaheim, if I’m remembering correctly. But — after that — the story gets kind of vague. At least to me.

I wonder if Mr. Disney actually ever did anything with that dream of his? (Just kidding.)

Anyway … It took another 34 years, but the Walt Disney Company did finally get around to building what Walt originally wanted. Which was a place where he could show people how he put his films & cartoons together. (FYI: Walt never really gave up on this dream. In the earliest version of the press releases for Disneyland, Disney talked about how the theme park was going to feature a glassed-in corridor where visitors could watch animators at work. Later on, there was also talk of turning the Main Street Opera House into a broadcast facility. Where Disneyland guests could be the live audience for a broadcast of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” But obviously neither of these two concepts made it off of WED’s drawing board …)

Though I think that even Walt (who was known for being a forward thinker) could have ever predicted that his Disney studio theme park attraction would eventually be built on some swampland in Florida.

Here are some fun facts about the Disney-MGM Studio Theme Park:

 

  • Cost to build park: $500,000,000 plus
  • Size of park: 231 acres, (about ½ the size of Epcot) which includes 77 acres of parking;
  • Rides/Attractions on opening day:
    • The Magic of Disney Animation
    • Backstage Studio Tour
    • Superstar Television
    • Monster Sound Show
    • The Great Movie Ride
  • Theme park staff 5,100; not including production and animation crews.

Kind of a thin assortment of attractions, don’t you think? Yep, isney actually opened the Studio with only six rides and attractions. I’ve heard that the theme park’s opening day brochures actually listed MGM’s information booth as an attraction. But I don’t know if this is actually true.

To be fair, on this same day — May 1, 1989 — the Walt Disney Company did also open WDW’s Pleasure Island, a highly theme array of nightclubs, shops & restaurants. Among PI’s initial assortment of attractions was Videopolis East, The Rockin’ Rollerdome and The Adventurers Club (Which was patterned after the Explorers clubs of the 1930’s). Sadly, Videopolis and the Rollerdome are no longer with us. But the Adventurers Club soldiers on. Kungaloosh!

The Imagineers created a wonderful and complex backstory for Pleasure Island. If you’d like to more about WDI’s made-up mythology for this odd collection of warehouses & storefronts, then follow this link to Wade Sampson’s excellent two part story about the plaques that you used to find all over PI.

May 4, 1977

Space Mountain at Walt Disney World officially opens to the public: As far back as the 1960s, Walt had an idea for an indoor “Space Port” ride in Tomorrowland. Unfortunately, it took technology more than a decade to catch up with Disney’s imagination.

The first Space Mountain opened at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World on Jan 15, 1975. Two years later, when this indoor roller coaster finally opened in Anheim, the VIPs on hand included Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Betty Grissom (widow of “Gus” Grissom), Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald “Deke” Slayton. All members of NASA’s Mercury project and the first Americans in space.

FYI: Until Space Mountain opened in 1977, the Matterhorn was the only roller coaster at Disneyland. Oh, sure. “The Happiest Place on Earth” had quite a few thrill rides. But can you imagine Disneyland actually remaining competitive in Southern California’s cut-throat theme park market if the Mouse had actually stuck to that schedule? As in: Only adding a new coaster every 15 years.

The month of May also includes the birthdates of two men whose skill with music has entertained many a Disney theme park goer: Howard Ashman & *** Dale.

Howard Ashman (1950-1991) was born in Baltimore on May 17, 1950. He moved to New York in 1974 and became an editor at Grosset & Dunlap. By day, Howard edited. By night he wrote plays.

One of Ashman’s earliest plays, “Dreamstuff” was actually a musical version of Shakespeare’s “Tempest.” It was produced off-Broadway at the WPA Theater. Howard’s association with WPA was a happy one. Which is how he became the theater’s Art Director from 1977 to 1982.

As for Ashman’s legendary partnership with Alan Menken: Howard & Alan first collaborated on a musical version of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, “God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.” But it wasn’t until they tried to turn Roger Corman’s so-bad-it’s-good horror film, “Little Shop of Horrors,” into a musical set in the early 1960s that their collaboration really clicked.

The success of the off-Broadway show eventually got Hollywood’s attention. Ashman & Menken were flown out to Tinseltown, where they wrote a brand-new song — “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space” — for the 1986 movie version of their “Little Shop” musical. Howard & Alan’s new song got an Oscar nomination. Which brought the song writing team to the attention of the Walt Disney Company’s new management team.

And the rest of the story … Ashman & Menken’s amazing work on 1989’s “The Little Mermaid,” 1991’s “Beauty & the Beast” and 1992’s “Aladdin” … you know.

But here’s something that you may not have known: Because Ashman tragically passed away on March 14, 1991 due to AIDS-related complications, he never actually saw a finished print of his last two films for Disney.

While their creative partnership was relatively short-lived, Howard and Alan still received dozens of nominations as well as a half dozen awards. To be specific: 2 Grammys, 2 Golden Globes and 2 Oscars. Interesting little side note here: When “Beauty and the Beast” won the Oscar for Best Original Song in a film, Howard’s posthumous award was accepted by his longtime partner, Bill Lauch.

*** Dale (1937- ) –What makes someone the “King of Surf Guitar”? Talent and timing. There were two things that *** Dale liked to do in the 50’s; surf and play guitar and *** Dale was good at both. A left hander, Dale taught himself to play without changing anything on a right handed guitar. That means he taught himself how to play holding a guitar upside down and backwards, one of the things which contributed to his very unique sound.

In spite of his unusual way of holding a guitar, Dale could shred. He liked his music fast and loud, long before metal was invented. Being good got him talked about and that buzz lead to a meeting with Leo Fender.

Leo owned an electronics store in Fullerton California. He had started by selling handmade radios and fixing electronic equipment. Guys started to bring their guitar amplifiers around for Leo to fix. And — in doing so — Fender noticed ways he could improve these amps.

So Leo and his partner Doc Kauffman began to build amplifiers. And — given that Doc had also designed guitars — these two created the first guitar that actually went with an amplifier. This new guitar (called the Telecaster) was selling well. So the partners built a second model. And Leo was just beginning to test his second guitar design when he first heard about *** Dale.

Fender gave Dale his new Stratocaster & amp to test. For those of who aren’t guitar people (myself included), there are only two guitars that matter: the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul. Many fight over the merits of each (like they were a Ford or Chevy). But I think it’s safe to say these two are the yin and yang of 50’s guitars. In short, the very heart of rock & roll.

Fender couldn’t stop laughing when he saw that Dale played the thing upside down and backwards. The guitar felt good and Dale gave it a try but he blew the amp in no time … and then another … and another. Leo (who didn’t actually play guitar) couldn’t understand why Dale wanted it so loud until he went to one of his concerts.

*** Dale and his dad had bought an old ballroom at the end of the Balboa pier that had been closed for a while. They applied for a permit which the city approved. With the stipulation that all the guys who attended concerts at this facility had to wear ties. The Dales agreed and *** would show up at his early concerts with a box of ties for his barefoot surfer buddies. So that no local ordinances were broken and that he could then proceed to play … Loud.

Leo Fender finally shows up in the middle of a concert with *** onstage and 4,000 screaming teenagers on the ballroom floor and he immediately gets it. Forty some amps later, Leo comes up with an amp and speaker combination that rocks and *** Dale uses it to make surf guitar history.

What’s that you say? Where does the reverb come in? Well, *** didn’t like his voice. He felt it was too flat. So Dale hunted down an old Hammond organ with a reverb. *** got Leo to build him a reverb tank to make his voice sound better and he was happy with the results. It didn’t take long for him to plug his guitar into it to get a long sustain on his guitar notes. And the last piece of *** Dale’s surf guitar sound was born.

In 1997, Imagineers decided to “plus” Space Mountain. They installed a speaker system in each car and got *** Dale to do the music for the revised Tomorrowland attraction. Until the current rehab, *** Dale performing “Aquarium” from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns, was what accompanied you as you flew through space. Which wasn’t a bad way to fly. *** Dale will be 68.

And that concludes this week’s “Mouse FACTory.” I’m glad to hear that you folks seem to like all of this trivial stuff. And — given that Jim has given me the thumbs up — I’m guessing that I’ll be back with other columns in this series very soon.

Talk to you later, 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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