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Monday Mouse Watch : Busting through the berm

Does any of Jay Rasulo’s talk about building Disney-themed hotels & shopping districts outside of the theme parks sound familiar? It should. Jim Hill reminds you of some of the other times that Mickey tried to build & then operate stand-alone attractions outside of Anaheim & Orlando

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It was the news that sent Disneyana fans everywhere into a twitter last month. The very idea that Mickey was — in the words of Jay Rasulo, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts — seriously considering “broadening our footprint” within the continental United States.


Translation: The Walt Disney Company is looking beyond Anaheim & Orlando for possible construction sites of new stand-alone Disney-themed resort hotels, retail, dining & entertainment districts, even water parks.


Mind you, Rasulo (As he was speaking with investors about this possible WDP & R expansion scenario back on February 7th) stressed that …



“These concepts are (just) blue sky ideas right now … They won’t be executed at all if we don’t believe they would generate the returns on invested capital (that the Walt Disney Company has come to) expect to achieve from our businesses.”


Why is Jay sounding so cautious about this rather ambitious idea? It’s simple, folks. Rasulo’s initimately aware of all of the other times that the Mouse has tried to bust through the berm. To do some sort of stand-alone project outside of the theme parks. Only to have those other enterprises close because they either failed to turn a big enough profit or eventually proved to be an operational challenge.



Copyright 1972 Walt Disney Productions


Take — for example — the very first of these stand-alone projects. Which was the Celebrity Sports Center, built back in 1961 in Denver’s fashionable Cherry Creek section. Truth be told, CSC didn’t originally start out as a Disney owned-and-operated establishment. But — rather — this ambitious sports venue was something that Walt himself went in on as a limited partner. Shouldering the cost of construction with several other well-known celebrities of the day like Art Linkletter, Jack Benny and John Payne.


Of course, the main reason that Benny, Disney, Linkletter and Payne pooled their pennies in order to build this enormous sports center right in the middle of Denver (Which featured 80 bowling lanes, an Olympic-sized swimming pool as well as a high-end restaurant) was that they all hoped to make a huge amount of money off of this complex. However, given its somewhat bizarre mix of elements, the CSC was never quite as popular and/or as profitable as the partners had hoped it would be.



Copyright 1973 Walt Disney Productions


What exactly was the problem? Well, based on what several Disney veterans who actually worked at this complex have told me, Denver bowling fans back in the 1960s weren’t all that interested in fine dining. Which meant that — in order to cover its operational costs — the CSC’s restaurant had to rely heavily on the patronage of the swimmers. But then all of those wet bathing suits destroyed the upholstrey in the dining room.


You see what I’m getting at, right? Given all of its operational issues & additional unexpected expenses, the Celebrity Sports Center quickly became a money pit. Which is why Art, Jack & John eventually sold off their shares in CSC to Walt. And as for Walt … Well, he eventually persuaded Roy that Walt Disney Productions should buy the Celebrity Sports Center outright. Making this Colorado-based sports complex a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mouse House.


Of course, one of the main reasons that the Old Mousetro wanted his company to own CSC was that Walt knew that he’d eventually need someplace to train all of the managers who’d work at that new ski area that Disney Productions was planning on building just outside of Sequoia National Forest. And what better way would there be to learn about how to run a brand-new sport complex then by managing the Celebrity Sports Center for a while?


 
Copyright 1975 Walt Disney Productions


Sadly, neither the Mineral King nor the Independence Lake ski resort projects were ever built. Though Walt Disney Productions did eventually wind up using its Denver property as a training facility. With many of WDW’s original managers getting their first guest service experience in the late 1960s by dealing with all the bowlers & swimmers who frequented CSC.


Unfortunately, even with all of Mickey’s marketing might behind this Denver sports complex, Walt Disney Productions just couldn’t make a go of the Celebrity Sports Center. Oh, sure. The place would be packed on the weekends. And the lanes would do well on most weeknights. But Monday through Friday during the day, the place was basically dead. Which is why the Mouse eventually opted to unload the complex in 1979.


Mind you, this was the very same issue that brought down Club Disney in the late 1990s. Given that this proposed chain of Disney-owned-and-operated children’s play centers would do land-office business on the weekends but then struggle to attract any patrons on weekdays … Well, it just didn’t make sense to move beyond this franchise’s test phase. Which is why all five of the Disney Clubs that had been built were closed down on November 1, 1999.



Copyright 1997 The Walt Disney Company


This is also why Disney Regional Entertainment eventually abandoned its plans to go forward with construction of a worldwide chain of indoor theme theme parks. Given that the Chicago version of DisneyQuest also struggled to draw customers on weekdays, it just made no sense (from a business point of view, anyway) for the company to proceed with this project. Which is why the Mouse pulled the plug on the Philadelphia version of DisneyQuest even after the cellar hole for this 5-story structure had already been dug.


Then there are those mysterious projects like Mickey’s Kitchen (You know? That fast food chain that the Walt Disney Company launched back in April of 1990?) which seemed headed for great success. Only to suddenly get its plug pulled in the Spring of 1992.


For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Mickey’s Kitchen concept, it was actually a pretty ingenious design. This fast food restaurant was built right next door to a pre-existing Disney Store. And — given that the wall that originally separated these two businesses had been torn out — shopping at the Disney Store and then dining at Mickey’s Kitchen (or visa versa) was a pretty seamless / flow-thru experience.


Best of all, because the Imagineers had deliberately designed this shared space to be a split level. So that hose who were eating in the raised dining area in Mickey’s Kitchen could then peer down into the Disney Store next door and have a clear view of all the merchandise that was on sale. Which clearly had an impact on some consumers. Given that gift sales at this retail-restaurant hybrid (Which was build in Montclair, CA) were 20% higher than at other Disney Stores in the area.



Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company


Given that Disney executives quickly greenlit construction of a second Mickey’s Kitchen prototype (Which was built right next door to the Disney Store in the Schaumburg, IL. mall), it seems obvious that the company was eager to move forward with this franchise. But then in April of 1992, the Mouse suddenly pulled the plug on the whole operation.


So what happened? Well … There’s always been this rumor that the Burger King executives — who had just signed a seven figure deal with Disney to promote the studio’s upcoming releases as well as a few theme park events through its Kids Club meals — insisted that the Mouse get out of the fast food business. That BK didn’t think it was kosher that Mickey was horning in on its action. Particularly given that Burger King was going to be spending tens of millions of dollars to heavily hype movies like “Beauty & the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”


The only problem with that explanation is that the dates don’t exacty line up. You see, Disney signed its sponsorship deal with Burger King in August of 1991. But then the Mouse didn’t bail out of the fast food business ’til April of 1992. Given the eight month lagtime between signing with BK and then shutting down MK … I personally think that this particular story is more of an urban legend than an established fact.


Okay. So you’re picking up on the pattern, right? How the Walt Disney Company will first announce an extremely ambitious plan for its latest outside-of-the-berm project … Only to eventually retrench, regroup and/or just cancel the project outright.


I mean, sure. The Disney Vacation Club still operates its satellite resorts at Vero Beach (Which opened back in October of 1995) and Hilton Head (March of 1996). But let’s remember that DVC originally announced that it would be building beyond-the-Disney-theme-park units in Newport Beach, CA., Beaver Brook, CO. and even just off of Times Square in NYC. But all of those projects were eventually cancelled in favor of safer, on-property resorts like the Villas at Wilderness Lodge, the Beach Club Villas, the units at the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, even the recently announced Animal Kingdom Villas.


Of course, some of these “Blue Sky” concepts sound like safer bets than others. Take — for example — those stand-alone “Downtown Disney” retail, dining & entertainment districts that the Mouse is allegedly toying with building around the country.


But let’s not forget that — back in the early 1990s — that then-Chairman of Walt Disney Attractions Dick Nunis supposedly put the kibosh on the roll-out of a nationwide chain of Pleasure Islands. Reportedly out of concern about what might happen to the company’s good name if some family eventually wound up being killed by a drunk driver who had earlier been drinking at a Disney-owned nightclub.


So obviously this is trickier than it looks, folks. Given that Jay Rasulo was actually senior vice president for Disney Regional Entertainment as well as general manager of the entire Club Disney chain back in the late 1990s … Well, let’s just say that this guy is very much aware of how truly difficult it is to first get one of these projects off the drawing board, then get it built & keep it open. Which again explains the caution that Rasulo used when describing all of this “Blue Sky” stuff to investors last month.



Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Though — that said — I am told that Jay does have one project that he’d really like to see make it all the way through to completion. And that involves building a Disney flagship hotel (Something along the lines of the Grand Floridian or the Grand Californian resorts & spas. Which would then be built in a U.S. city that is already a major tourist destination for families) which would have an indoor water park attached to it.


Of course, one hopes that Rasulo can learn from the mistakes that were made at the Celebrity Sports Center back in the 1960s and make sure that all of the upholstrey that’s used in this resort’s restaurants is water-resistant …


Anywho … What do you folks think? Do you like the idea of Disney broadening its footprint in the United States? Building new stand-alone hotels, retail, dining & entertainment districts and/or water parks? Or would you prefer that the company concentrate most of its efforts inside of the berm? Making sure that its pre-existing theme parks and resorts in Anaheim & Orlando are revitalized?


Your thoughts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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

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

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

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

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

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

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

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

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