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Monday Mouse Watch: The Operations side of the Disney theme park equation

Given all the talk that there’s been lately about possible changes at the Disneyland Resort, Jim Hill decides to give the Ops staff of those two theme parks a chance to speak their mind. Offer up their opinions about the proposed changes to Tom Sawyer Island, the addition of the “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” ride to Disneyland’s ride line-up as well as the planned revamping of DCA’s Sunshine Plaza



For the past few weeks, the Web has been awash with stories about how Disneyland‘s Tom Sawyer Island is reportedly going to be rethemed. How this part of that Anaheim theme park (Which Walt Disney personally helped design, by the way. Numerous Disney biographies talk about how Walt supposedly took the plans for Tom Sawyer Island home with him one weekend. So that Disney himself could then chart out the attraction’s coastline) is going to be reworked so that it can then be marketed to fans of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series.

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Mind you, there are those who will tell you that this “Pirates” -themed redo of Tom Sawyer Island isn’t necessarily a done deal. That it’s just one of many concepts that the Imagineers are currently considering for the Disneyland Resort.

And they’d be right, actually. According to several Disney insiders that I’ve spoken with over the past week, plans for the entire Anaheim resort are very much in flux at the moment.

Take — for example — the DCA overhaul plan. That 10-year, $650 million scheme to reconfigure California Adventure into a more people-pleasing theme park. Week before last, the latest version of that plan was scrapped. As the Imagineers once again try to strike just the right balance between new attractions & shows that will actually get paying customers to come through the turnstiles and changes that can realistically be made to that theme park that are fiscally & operationally sound.

Truth be told, that’s one of the main stumbling blocks to changing Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer Island into a “Pirates of the Caribbean” -themed play area. That — strictly from an operational point of view — this proposed $28 million redo doesn’t make much sense.

As one veteran from Disneyland Operations explained it to me last week:

“You have to understand that Tom Sawyer Island is only reachable by raft. And these rafts can only carry 55 people at a time over to the island. So then — when you factor in the time that it takes to safely load and unload each raft — even when Disneyland has both rafts running and they’re then being operated by veteran cast members who can work at peak efficiency, you can still only get 1,000 – 1,100 guests over to the island per hour.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Now keep in mind that Tom Sawyer Island has to close every day at dusk. Realistically that means that only 9,000 – 10,000 guests will ever get the chance to experience the island each day that this attraction is actually open.

Which seems like a fairly large number. But you have to remember that — on a busy summer day — you can have 60,000 – 70,000 people crammed into the park. Taking into consideration Tom Sawyer Island’s operational hours plus the limited capacity of those rafts, that means that only 15% of Disneyland’s paying customers ever get have the chance to experience the island on a day like that.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Which isn’t really a problem now. Given that you’re talking about a 50-year-old attraction that has limited appeal to today’s guests. But if we were to actually retheme Tom Sawyer Island around the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise … Unless we can significantly expand the island’s operating hours and/or radically increase the capacity of TSI’s main transportation system, we’re talking about a PR nightmare.

I mean, how would you like to be working at Guest Relations when a new “Pirates” -themed version of Tom Sawyer Island opens and be the one who has to explain to all those angry parents that — due to the limited capacity of this new attraction — only one out of every six guests will actually be able to get out to Pirate Island on a busy day at the park?”

Dealing with guests complaints about attractions that have extremely limited capacity is very much on TDA executives’ minds right about now. Given all of the PR problems that they’re anticipating having next summer with the opening of Disneyland’s new “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” ride.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Now keep in mind that — while Tomorrowland’s old subs may have been switched over from diesel to electric power — the actual interior of these eight 52-foot-long vehicles will only be changing slightly. Which means that the Imagineers have supposedly managed to shoehorn in two additional seats into each sub. Which will then change each submarine’s capacity from 38 to 40 guests per voyage.

Soooo … With all eight subs operating on a day when Disneyland is open from 9 a.m. to 12 midnight, that still means that only 17,000 – 18,000 guests will then get to experience the “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” ride … Meaning that only one out of every three guests that are in the park on a busy day will actually be able to board the subs during in that 15 hour period.

Now it’s important to understand here that Disneyland’s new “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” will be the primary focus of the Anaheim resort’s promotional push for the Summer of 2007. That there will be commercials on television, full page ads in newspapers & magazine, billboards along the 5 … All in an effort to get people to come out to the park next year.

But what won’t be mentioned in any of this “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” advertising is that only one third of the guests who buys admission to Disneyland will still actually be able to experience this ride on busy days.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

At least from a PR point of view, this extremely-limited-capacity-of-the-park’s-new-“Finding-Nemo-Submarine-Voyage”-ride-during-its-first-summer-in-operation situation is really causing TDA executives concern. Which is why a number of options to potentially diffuse this situation are reportedly already being considered. These include:

  • Holding several weeks’ worth of special after-hours parties, where limited numbers of Disneyland annual passholders would then be allowed to ride this new Tomorrowland attraction — as well as the new nighttime version of Space Mountain, Rock it Mountain — as often as they like.

Which — on paper — all sound like wonderful ideas. Unless, of course, you happen to work in Operations at Disneyland. Then the very idea that management is toying with the idea of significantly extending the operational hours of this brand-new attraction is enough to give you fits.

How come? Our Ops insider explains:

“They haven’t even finished building the ride yet. But we’ve already got managers talking about reinstating ‘Magical Mornings’ at the park and holding after-hours parties in order to accommodate the crowds. Do you realize how stupid it is to make plans like that when we don’t even know yet what it’s going to take to keep this attraction up & running on a daily basis?

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

This new version of ‘Subs’ features technology that’s never been used in a Disney theme park before. Which means it’s probably going to take a lot of extra effort after-hours in order to keep this stuff operational next summer. When we’ll basically have every ride in the park in continuous operation from 9 a.m. to 12 midnight each day for three months solid.

And yet we’ve now got these managers talking about extending “Nemo’ ‘s operational hours so that this new ride can then meet guest demand. Which is going to seriously cut into our maintenance time.

This is a bad idea. Which I’m hoping they’ll abandon as we get closer to ‘Finding Nemo’ ‘s official opening date. Which — in case you haven’t noticed — has already slid from May to June to now mid-July.”

I know, I know. This Ops vet sounds very grumpy. But you’d be grumpy too if DLR management & the Imagineers kept talking about adding rides, shows and attractions to the theme park that you were expected to maintain without WDI or these Disneyland execs seeming to give much thought as to how these new additions will then be maintained.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Which bring us to that 1920s-era transportation hub idea that the Imagineers have been kicking around as a possible redo of DCA’s “Sunshine Plaza” area. Though the guys in Ops agree that California Adventure’s entrance area really needs some help in order to make this theme park more appealing to the public, they still absolutely hate this idea.

Why For? Our Disneyland Operations old-timer continues:

“They want guests to experience what it was like to be an old-fashioned movie star by traveling in this open-top limousine that’s driven by a uniformed driver. He’d then take guests to and fro from the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area. There’d also be this trolley that would take guests from DCA’s new transportation hub out to Paradise Pier and back. Plus a rumbly old bus that would service both Condor Flats and Grizzly Peak.

It sounds like this would make the ‘Sunshine Plaza’ area a livelier place to visit. But the reality is — given what it would actually cost to turn the front part of the park into a 1920s transportation hub — Disney won’t get a very good return on that investment. You see, very few DCA guests will ever get the chance to enjoy & experience these new attractions.

Photo by Jeff Lange

I mean, take a look at the extremely limited capacity of all of the vehicles that you find on Main Street U.S.A. Disneyland’s horseless carriages carries less than 100 guests per hour. The fire engine? Just over 100 guests an hour.

The horse-drawn streetcar and the omnibus can each handle 400 – 600 guests per hour. But that’s only when they’re running. Let’s remember that you have to suspend operation of all vehicles on Main Street when you’ve got a parade moving through the park.

So Disney’s looking to spend upwards of $30 million to retheme the front part of DCA. Adding all of these low capacity attractions that would then have to suspend operation whenever you were running ‘Block Party Bash’ or the ‘Electrical Parade.’

It seems like an awful lot of money to spend to something that very few California Adventure visitors will actually get the chance to experience and enjoy. Which is why it would make a lot more sense — at least from an Ops point of view — to take all of that money and spend it on a single brand-new high capacity ride for that theme park. Something a whole lot of people could enjoy during their day at the park.”

Mind you, DCA’s newest addition — Midway Mania — will have a fairly high capacity. With a vehicle loaded with 16 guests entering that attraction every 30 – 45 seconds, that new Paradise Pier interactive dark ride will have a THC (I.E. Theoretical Hourly Capacity) of 1,400 – 1,600 visitors per hour.

Which isn’t exactly up there with what “Pirates of the Caribbean” (Which can handle 3,000 guests per hour) and “The Haunted Mansion” (Which can handle 2,500 guests per hour) can carry. But it’s certainly better than Disneyand’s new “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” ride will be able to do.

Anyway … That’s the Ops side of the Disney theme park equation. At least when it comes to the seldom-seen, behind-the-scenes effort that’s involved with operating & then maintaining new attractions once they’ve been placed in the parks.

But what do you folks think? Do you think it’s wise of WDI & Disneyland management not to consult with the Operations staff when they design new rides, shows and attractions for the Anaheim resort?

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 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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