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Mickey (finally!) plays it smart

Tired of writing about how the Mouse is always screwing up, Jim Hill tells a tale about how the corporation’s recent clever business dealings with KirchMedia may actually give the Walt Disney Company the inside edge when it comes to acquiring the Jim Henson Company.

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Let me be honest here, kids: I’m really getting tired of writing stories about how the Walt Disney Company keeps screwing up. Last week (and yesterday), it was that article about how Buena Vista Home Entertainment dropped the ball with the release of the 2-disc collector’s edition of the “Lilo & Stitch” DVD.

Today, my choices were 1) write about the REAL reason that Walt Disney Studios executives have been so eager to talk with the press about “Treasure Planet”‘s failure (I.E. They’re allegedly going to use this film’s under-performance as an excuse to make another significant staff cut at Walt Disney Feature Animation. By seeking out reporters and aggressively spinning this situation [making it seem as if “Treasure Planet” is a bigger flop than it actually is], these suits are just laying the ground for the next round of lay-offs. Making it seem like downsizing WDFA yet again is just the smart, reasonable, adult thing to do … which will [hopefully] prevent the reporters from uncovering the REAL story. Which is: That these alleged “creative” executives are just ramming through this latest round of job cuts with the hope that it will allow them to hang onto their own cushy positions at WDFA) OR 2) write about what a waste it has been for Disney and ABC to pour ten of millions of dollars down a special effects rat hole in their desperate attempt to turn “Dinotopia: The Mini-series” into “Dinotopia: The Series.” (To date, the series has performed so poorly that – just three episodes into its run – ABC executives are already allegedly talking about cancelling the series).

But – like I said – I’m getting really tired of pounding on the Mouse. I mean, there’s just no sport in it for me anymore. Which is why today, I’m going to do a story about something that I think that the Walt Disney Company is doing right. Something that Mickey is handling in a really clever way … which is: making another play for the Muppets.

Yep, you heard right. The Mouse is supposedly after the Muppets again. Of course, nothing’s official yet. But over the past few weeks, I have heard from a variety of sources associated with the Walt Disney Company, the Jim Henson Company and KirchMedia that Mickey’s been nosing around Kermit’s door once more. Kicking the tires, if you will. Crunching the numbers. Trying to figure out (once and for all) if it would really be a smart move for the Walt Disney Company to actually acquire the Jim Henson Company.

Of course, Disney wants to limit its risk here. Make sure that – if the corporation actually makes a play for the Muppets – that they have a really good shot at acquiring the Jim Henson Company.

Toward this end, just last month, one of Disney’s international arms – Buena Vista International Television – cut a deal with KirchMedia, Germany’s biggest television group. (Kirch – for those of you who don’t know – is the company that swallowed debt-laden EM.TV back in March of 2001. And EM.TV & Merchandising AG – again, for those of you who don’t know – is the German-based corporation that purchased the Jim Henson Company for $680 million ‘way back in February 2000.)

Now keep in mind that KirchMedia has also had more than its share of money troubles. That this major player in European media actually had to file for bankruptcy protection last spring. And there were many in this field who doubted that the insolvent German broadcasting giant would ever survive this ordeal.

But then here comes the Walt Disney Company to Kirch’s rescue. Through their Buena Vista International Television arm, the Mouse signs this enormous deal with KirchMedia. A multi-year pact that will give Kirch the exclusive German TV rights to such hit Disney films as “The Santa Clause 2,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Signs” as well as popular Touchstone Television programs like “Alias,” “Scrubs” and “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter.”

Now keep in mind that the Walt Disney Company is the very first major western media outlet to step up to the plate and sign a deal like this with KirchMedia since that media consortium had to file for bankruptcy protection last spring. By signing this deal, the message that Disney seems to want to get across to the international business community was that: “We know that Kirch has had some financial problems. But we believe in this company. More importantly, we believe that KirchMedia will be here, broadcasting in Germany, for many years to come. Which is why the Walt Disney Company is perfectly happy to enter into an multi-year pact with the Kirch corporation.”

To give the deal some further heft, Disney also awarded ProSieben (a commercial German television channel that’s controlled by KirchMedia) the rights to begin airing two blocks of Disney Television Animation programs (to be specific, the “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command” animated series as well as the “Legend of Tarzan” animated series) starting in 2003. The Mouse also gave Kirch the rights to air a number of older hit films from the Disney library, including “Pretty Woman,” “Armageddon” and the live action version of “101 Dalmatians.”

Naturally, KirchMedia was absolutely thrilled that the Walt Disney Company had done something like this. Made such a public gesture of support. Demonstrating that – in spite of all of Kirch’s money problems – the Mouse still wanted to do business with them. By signing these multi-year pacts, the Walt Disney Company had effectively said to all of its competitors (AOL / Time Warner, Viacom, Vivendi Universal et al) that Mickey thought that KirchMedia would be around for many years to come.

The German executives of this firm were obviously quite grateful that Disney would make a gesture like this. But just HOW grateful? … Well, I guess we’ll find out sometime over the next four weeks.

What’s so important about the next four weeks? Well, even though this media group is now basically just a division of KirchMedia, EM.TV & Merchandising AG is still struggling to resolve its own money problems. In fact, the debt laden company has until December 31st to repay a $64.5 million loan or risk having the German bankruptcy courts step in.

EM.TV executives are earnestly hoping that they’ll be able to take the money that they’ll make off the sale of the Jim Henson Company and use those funds to retire this $64.5 million debt. Which is why the pressure is really on right now for this almost defunct corporation to quickly close a Kermit & Co. acquisition deal with someone – ANYONE – before the end of the month.

As of right now, there are reportedly five different groups actively working toward acquiring the Jim Henson Company. These groups are (in no particular order):

1) Dean Valentine. Once the president of Walt Disney Television, Touchstone Television and Walt Disney TV animation. More recently the president and CEO of UPN. Valentine is said to be looking into forming a production partnership with Mort Marcus (another Disney Television veteran) and using the Muppet stable of characters as fodder for a new line of direct-to-video projects.

2) Entertainment Rights PLC. This London-based firm – best known for the creation (and exploitation) of such popular U.K. children’s shows like “Postman Pat,” “Merlin the Magic Puppy” and “Tracey Beaker” – is also looking to acquire the Jim Henson Company with an eye toward making some serious money off of licensing the Muppets.

3) Classic Media LLC. A NYC-based company that has already acquired the feature film, TV, home video and consumer products rights to characters like Mr. Magoo, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, The Lone Ranger, Lassie and Lamb Chop. Classic Media is looking to acquire the Jim Henson Company so that it can add Miss Piggy and pals to its stable of saleable stars.

4) Billionaire Haim Saban. Whose Saban Capital Group (while working in partnership with Evercore Partners, Inc., a New York based private equity company) was reportedly rebuffed earlier this fall when it made a $128 bid on the Jim Henson Company. But despite that setback, Haim’s supposedly still in there, swinging. (It’s been reported that – just like Dean Valentine, Entertainment Rights PLC and Classic Media — Saban’s chief interest in acquiring the Jim Henson Company was so that he too would be able to license the Muppets.)

5) A buy-back of the Jim Henson Company led by Henson CEO Charlie Rivkin. (With an eye toward proving that the Muppets were still a viable and valuable franchise [with the hope that it would help him acquire all the financing necessary to buy back the company], Rivkin personally masterminded this year’s spectacular comeback of the characters. The Denny’s deal. The Mastercard ad. Kermit’s appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The “It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie.” That was all Charlie’s doing.)

And lurking – somewhere ‘way in the background – is the Walt Disney Company. Hoping that their recent dealings with KirchMedia might compel EM.TV to give them an especially good deal on the Jim Henson Company.

Or – if that gambit fails – Disney’s also reportedly toying with the idea of licensing the rights to use Henson characters in movies, TV and/or a theme park setting … should it be Dean Valentine and Mort Marcus, Entertainment Rights PLC, Classic Media LLC or Haim Saban’s group who ends up acquiring Kermit & Co.

But make no mistake, kids. The Walt Disney Company is reportedly quite serious in its interest in acquiring the Jim Henson Company. Or at the very least, acquiring the rights to use the Jim Henson characters. I’ve heard talk that the Mouse is actually thinking of applying the money that the corporation will make off of the sale of the Anaheim Angels toward the cost of buying the Muppets.

“And what’s the sense of selling an ultra hot sports team like the Angels in order to acquire a bunch of moldy old Muppets?” you may ask. Well, the harsh reality is, kids: Owning a sport franchise like the Angels or the Mighty Ducks has been a lot more costly (not to mention infinitely more aggravating) than Disney had ever anticipated. EX: In order to keep the roster for its World Series Champion team intact (which – hopefully – will make the Angels that much easier to sell), Disney had to agree to a steep payroll increase. 43% over the next two years.

This means that Disney will have to spend $84 million next year to run the Anaheim Angels organization next year. With little hope of ever recovering that cost through ticket sales.

Whereas the Muppets … This is something the Walt Disney Company actually has had some experience in: Brand management. Taking an already established group of characters (Like Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo and/or Mickey, Donald and Goofy) and creating new projects for them. Finding new ways for these much beloved characters to reconnect with consumers. Keeping these assets evergreen.

This is what Disney is hoping that they’ll eventually be able to do with the Jim Henson Company’s stable of characters. Provided of course, that Buena Vista International Television’s recent dealings with KirchMedia DID actually help set the stage for the Walt Disney Company to successfully acquire the Jim Henson Company. Or at the very least, see to it that the Muppets ended up in the hands of people that Disney had had prior dealings with – like Dean Valentine, Mort Marcus and/or Haim Saban.

Either way, the next four weeks are going to REALLY interesting for Muppets fans and/or those of us who (occasionally, anyway) like writing about how the Walt Disney Company did something smart for a change.

Like cutting a deal with the KirchMedia gruppe which (hopefully) will give the Mouse the inside edge when it comes to talking with EM.TV & Merchandising AG about acquiring the Muppets.

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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