Connect with us


Monday Mouse Watch 1

Jim Hill rolls out a brand-new column today. Where he’ll attempt — in a somewhat breezy manner — to bring us all up to speed about what’s been going on lately at the Mouse House. This time around, Jim talks about what’s going on at WDI, seagulls at Disneyland, shipping crates at MGM as well as elephants at DAK



Okay. So we now all know that Steve Jobs, John Lasseter and Ed Catmull are officially riding to the Walt Disney Company’s rescue. But what does the Disney / Pixar merger actually mean? Will the Disney theme parks now be over-run with Pixar characters?

Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC

Well, not exactly. But what this does mean is that — from here on in — we’re probably going to be seeing a lot more impressive attractions being added to the Disney theme parks. At least that’s the word coming from all the Imagineers who heard John Lasseter speak during his first official visit to their Glendale headquarters last Wednesday. During this talk, WDI’s new Principal Creative Advisor reportedly told everyone within earshot that ” … the Walt Disney Company isn’t going to make any more mediocre attractions.” Which (I’m guessing here) means that we’ve seen our last “Heimlich’s Chew-Chew Train.

Of course, one wonders where Jay Rasulo now fits into this new (Disney) world order. As the newly appointed Chairman of Parks & Resorts, Rasulo’s main job was to keep cost down. Pull even more profits out of the Disney theme parks by pushing the clone agenda (I.E.: Why spend money developing new rides & shows when it’s just as easy — and, more importantly, more cost-effective — to clone pre-existing attractions?).

But now here’s John Lasseter. A man whose WDI battle cry isn’t clones or cost containment. But — rather — quality. That the Disney theme parks have to return to their tradition of innovation & quality. And given that Lasseter doesn’t actually have to report to Rasulo (Under the terms of the Disney / Pixar merger agreement, John only reports to one man. And that’s Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger) … One wonders what Jay is thinking right now? Will he be the next Disney exec to pull a David Stainton (I.E. The former head of Disney Feature Animation who stepped down on the very day that the Pixar acquisition was officially announced. The way I hear it, Stainton was smart enough to recognize that it’s far better to willingly climb down into the lifeboat than to suddenly be heaved over the side)?

Anyway … One wonders who else is feeling nervous at WDI these days? Imagineering president Don Goodman, executive vice president Tom Fitzgerald and/or vice chairman Marty Sklar? Surely this trio — which rode herd on WDI this past decade as it slowly drifted toward becoming a management company that out-sources all creative projects — will feel some heat when Mr. Lasseter starts asking those really difficult questions. Like: “How could you let construction of DCA and Walt Disney Studios go forward? Theme parks that you knew were fatally flawed right from the get-go? Why didn’t one of you stand up and say ‘This isn’t going to work? We need to fix this before construction gets underway. Not after we throw open the gates and charge the public to come inside’? “

Mind you, I’ve heard that Tony Baxter, WDI’s senior VP of design, may be safe. Mostly because Tony was smart enough to reach out on his own and forge his own relationship with the artists and technicians at Pixar prior to this merger. Of course, the fact that Mr. Baxter is currently riding herd on Disneyland’s “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” attraction doesn’t exactly hurt Tony’s chances of staying on either.

Speaking of the “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” ride … Some Disneyland guests reportedly got a surprise late last year when they strolled into Tomorrowland early one morning. Right after that theme park had opened for the day.

“What exactly did they see?,” you ask. Well, there — sticking up over the construction wall that surrounds the old Submarine Voyage lagoon — were two seagulls from “Finding Nemo.” You know, the ones who continually cried “Mine! Mine! Mine!” in that motion picture?

Anywho … I’m told that the sculpting of these two test figures was particular impressive. But what really amused those early morning Tomorrowland visitors was when someone down in the still-dry lagoon accidentally hit the wrong switch. And then suddenly these two robotic seagulls began moving. More importantly, they began loudly squawking “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

Evidently, what had happened is that the Imagineers had brought the two seagull figures into Disneyland to do a little after-hours testing. To see if it would be really annoying for theme park guests walking through this area to continually hear these robotic birds start squawking “Mine! Mine! Mine!” everytime a new submarine started sailing around the lagoon.

While, prior to the first guests being allowed into the park that day, this “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” sound test was supposedly completed and the seagulls were then shut off. But then — by accident — these robotic birds suddenly got turned back on right after rope drop.


I’m told that those guests who actually got to observe this event found it to be doubly amusing. Both because of the squawking seagulls as well as the sight of Disneyland managers frantically talking into walkie-talkies, saying things like “Can we please get someone to go down into the lagoon and shut off those birds? The guests aren’t supposed to be seeing or hearing this.”

Evidently, after 20 minutes of repeatedly shouting “Mine! Mine! Mine!,” the “Finding Nemo” seagulls were suddenly silenced and then quickly pulled out of sight. Those folks who actually saw these figures in action said that they were a great coming attraction for the “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” attraction. Which (just so you know) still isn’t due to officially set sail ’til the late Spring of 2007.

Speaking of Pixar-related coming attractions … As of this moment, WDI actually has a significant number of Pixar-related projects currently in the works. Beyond the obvious stuff (I.E. The “Finding Nemo” -based retheming of Epcot’s “The Living Seas” pavilion), these projects  reportedly include:

  • The “Woody’s Round-up” expansion area for Disneyland (Which is supposed to be built where “Big Thunder Ranch” currently stands)
  • The “Incredibles” Super Hero Training Facility (Which is reportedly supposed to built out behind DCA’s Pacific Wharf area, right where the X-Games moto-cross arena once stood).
  • The “Crush’s Turtle Twister” coaster and the “Cars” -themed “Radiator Springs Spin Out” spinner attraction for the new “Toon Studios” addition to the Walt Disney Studios theme park in Paris
  • The “Finding Nemo” stage show (Which slated to go into DAK’s “Theater in the Wild” once that building is enclosed and extensive renovations to the interior have been completed)

There’s also supposedly a lot of Pixar-related blue sky stuff out there too:

  • The “Cars” -based retheming of both Disneyland & the Magic Kingdom’s Autopias
  • The “Little Green Men” -themed redo of that classic Disneyland attraction, the Flying Saucers (Tentatively slated for WDW’s Tomorrowland as a possible replacement for either “Carousel of Progress” or “The Timekeeper”)
  • Epcot’s Pixar-themed Future World pavilion (I.E. The possible retheming of the “Wonders of Life” show building)

But — as of this moment — all of these projects are currently on hold.

“Why on hold?,” you query. Well, getting back to Mr. Lasseter … Given that John has reportedly proclaimed that WDI has produced its very last mediocre attraction, everyone at WDI is now revisiting the plans for these proposed Pixar-based attractions. To see if there are any ways that they can make these still-in-the-planning rides & shows seem even snazzier.

Speaking of WDI trying to make things even better … Do you remember that story I did last Friday as part of my latest “Why For” column? You know, the one where I talked about those shipping crates that are stacked next to Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner? And what a clever job the Imagineers had done with this particular piece of theming at Disney-MGM?

Well, as it turns out, the story here is even more involved than I originally thought. Here — courtesy of MiceAge columnist Ian Parkinson — are some shots of these packing crates as they appeared back in 2001.

Photo by Ian Parkinson

Please note that — while these crates do feature some movie-themed addresses (EX: A bicycle that’s being sent to a Miss Dorothy Gale in Kansas …

Photo by Ian Parkinson

… as well as some camel saddles that are being shipped to a Mr. “T. E. Lawrence.” Who’s evidently based in Arabia) — some of these gags are kind of obscure.

I mean, who but the most dedicated film-and/or-history-buff is going to realize that “T.E. Lawrence” is actually a reference to that classic Peter O’Toole motion picture, “Lawrence of Arabia“? Or that — by putting Dorothy Gale, Kansas and a bicycle (As in: Mrs. Gulch’s bicycle) in close proximity — that people were automatically supposed to make the cognitive leap to “The Wizard of Oz“?

Sooo … When it finally came time to redo these movie-themed packing crates in 2001, the Imagineers decided to make things a little easier for Disney-MGM visitors. They did so by making the film references displayed on these boxes a lot more obvious. As in this particular crate, which is clearly intended to remind you of that Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” …

Photo by Robert Bish

… Or how about this one? Which (to be honest) gives away far too much about the main plot point of Orson Welles’ cinematic masterwork, “Citizen Kane.”

Photo by Robert Bish

But do you know what I like best about this next generation of shipping crates? How deep the in-jokes here go. By that I mean: As part of last week’s “Why For” column, I mentioned that both the “Casablanca” -themed box as well as the “Gone with the Wind” -themed crate both featured veiled references (in their return addresses) to each of those film’s directors. Which were — respectively — Michael Curtiz and Victor Fleming.

But let’s take another at that box that’s addressed to Scarlett O’Hara? Do you notice anything strange about that particular street address?

Photo by Robert Bish

121539 Mitchell Lane. That address is actually a two-fer. It references the day that “Gone with the Wind” had its world premiere at the Loew’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta (December 15, 1939) as well as the author of the novel on which this Academy Award winning films was based, Margaret Mitchell.

And as for that “Casablanca” -themed crate. Let’s take another look at the shipping address on that box, shall we? Particularly the street address of Rick’s Cafe Americain. Which reads 112642 Rue Renault.

Photo by Robert Bish

That address is also a two-fer. It references both “Casablanca” ‘s opening night (This Humphrey Bogart film premiered in NYC on November 26, 1942) as well as the character that Claude Rains played in the picture, French Police Capt. Louis Renault.

Speaking of things that you’d expect to find on the side on a trunk (A word of warning: The following may be the most labored transition ever attempted in the history of the English language) … You know who has a cute trunk?

Photo by Florence Lange

Nadirah, the newest member of DAK’s herd of elephants. Nadirah (which means “rare” or “precious gift” in Swahili) was born back on December 19th. Weighing 233 pounds at birth, she can now sometimes be seen with her mom, Donna, wandering through “Kilimanjaro Safari” ‘s elephant enclosure.

Anyway … I just thought that I’d share this photo with all you Disneyana fans out there. To remind you that there’s more to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom these days than just ride “Expedition Everest.” Like — for example — taking a look at all of the real animals that you’ll find inside of that theme park.

Sooo … What do you think of this new JHM column? You like? More importantly, would you enjoy seeing something like this posted every Monday here at JHM? If so, let me know, okay?

Your thoughts?


EXTRA ADDED BONUS CONTENT! Arguably, no one artist had as much impact on the look & design of Disney’s animated features of the 1940s & 1950s as the late Mary Blair did. Her bold use of color & keen sense of composition influenced such films as “Saludos Amigos,” “The Three Caballeros,” “Make Mine Music,” “So Dear to My Heart,” “Melody Time,” “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan.” Even today, on CG projects like “Chicken Little,” Mary’s work continues to inspire the next generation of Disney filmmakers. Suggesting dramatic new ways to color & light scenes.

Which is why I think that it’s great that Steve Worth — the director of ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Archive project — has recently scanned in some illustrations for a Little Golden Book that Ms.Blair illustrated back in the 1950s,”Little Verses.” Allowing us all a glimpse of her non-animation related work.

If you’re as big a fan of Mary’s artistry as I am, I’m sure that you’ll be charmed by the selection of images Steve chose to digitize. And while you’re over at, be sure and do a little poking around. Check out all the other great stuff that Mr. Worth has stashed away here.

Better yet, why don’t you just go ahead and bookmark the animation archive site? Make a point of regularly checking out this website.

After all, the animation archive is a truly worthwhile organization, folks. Steve and his crew are doing some really important work when it comes to preserving film history. Which is why I think that it’s important that animation fans have to continue to support the archive project. Either by making donations and/or helping out with the on-going scanning project.

Okay. I’m getting off my soapbox now. But be sure and go check all of that great Mary Blair stuff that Steve scanned in, 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.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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



Listen to the Article

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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading


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



Listen to the Article

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

Continue Reading


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



Listen to the Article

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

Continue Reading