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Monday Mouse Watch: Tis a pity that he’s a “quote whore”

Jim Hill has noticed something interesting about the TV commercials that the Walt Disney Company is now using to promote “The Wild.” It appears that all three of the quotes that are being featured in these ads are attributed to a single film critic: KNX’s Jim Svejda. Who has quite a history of being overly-enthusiastic about Disney Studio releases

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Okay. You remember that classic piece of parental advice from “Bambi,” right? As in: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

And maybe you know Alice Roosevelt Longworth (I.E. Teddy Roosevelt’s outspoken daughter)’s somewhat mean-spirited variation of this axiom: “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, come sit over here by me.”

But how many of you know about the Hollywood version of this saying? Which is: “If you can’t get a legitimate critic to say something nice about your new movie, maybe it’s time to find a ‘quote whore.’ “

Case in point: “The Wild.” How many of you have seen those new TV commercials for this upcoming Walt Disney Pictures release? You know, the ones where that very baritone off-screen announcer emphatically states that:

“Critics are calling ‘The Wild’ … ‘uproarious,’ ‘… with stunning state-of-the-art graphics,’ ‘… it’s a leading contender for the year’s best animated film.’ “

And — as you can see by the image grabs that I’m using to illustrate today’s JHM article — there actually do appear to be critics out there who have praised this CORE Digital production.

Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC

Until you look a little closer at these commercials, that is. And then you realize that it’s not critics. But — rather — critic. As in: It’s a single person who has said all of these nice things about “The Wild.”

“And who might that one person be?,” you ask. Jim Svejda, who reports on film for KNX Newsradio.

KNX (for those of you who don’t know) is a key West Coast station in the CBS Radio network. And as for Mr. Svejda … Well, Jim is probably best known as host & producer of that nationally syndicated radio show, “The Record Shelf.” Which is a weekly one hour program where Svejda rather wittily talks about classical music and composers.

Now given that Jim is a notoriously tough grader when it comes to contemporary music (It’s been said that Svejda has yet to hear anything that’s been written by a 20th Century composer that he actually likes) … Me personally, I find it curious that Jim seems so easy to please once he puts his movie critic hat on. Particularly when it comes to the motion pictures that the Walt Disney Company produces.

“What do I mean by that?,” you ask. Well, Svejda appears to be the Magic Kingdom’s equivalent of Will Rogers. In that it seems that Jim has never seen a Disney Studios film that he hasn’t liked.

Don’t believe me? Then let’s take a look back at 2002. When Mr. Svejda took a shine to seven of the motion pictures that the Walt Disney Company released over the course of that year.

2002

  • Big Trouble” — “One of the year’s funniest comedies”
  • The Country Bears” — “A sheer delight and the summer’s best family film.”
  • Moonlight Mile” — ” ‘Moonlight Mile’ is a stunning acting tour de force.”
  • Signs” — “One of the best movies of the years. Engrossing, terrifying and intelligent.”
  • Snow Dogs” — “Warm, charming and very, very funny!”
  • Treasure Planet” — “A rare and amazing film that illuminates and improves upon a classic.”
  • Tuck Everlasting” — “A magical fantasy, beautifully acted and beautifully filmed.”

Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC

Or how about 2003. When Jim seemed to be extremely fond of six of the films that the Mouse sent off to the multiplexes that year:

2003

Picking up on a pattern yet? How virtually every Disney film that Svejda sees seems to be “entertaining,” “the funniest” or “the best”?

What’s that you say? Maybe it’s possible that Jim Svejda actually liked all of the Disney movies that I’ve listed above? … Well, that very well could be, folks.

But — if that were truly the case … Then what are the odds of KNX’s film critic having nice things to say about 13 of the Walt Disney Pictures & Touchstone Pictures films that Mickey put in theaters back in 2004?

2004

  • The Alamo” — “Powerful!”
  • America’s Heart and Soul” — “One of the most inspired movies ever made!”
  • Hildago” — “Magnificent! A film with the look, sweep and heart of a masterpiece.”
  • King Arthur” — “A rip-roaring adventure with action, excitement and energy to burn!”
  • Ladder 49” — “One of the year’s best films! Heroic, heart-wrenching and utterly inspiring!”
  • The Ladykillers” — “Early candidate for best picture of the year. Tom Hanks’ best performance since ‘Forrest Gump.’
  • The Last Shot” — “Wonderfully funny, delightfully off-kilter.”
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” — “Hilarious. ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ confirms Bill Murray’s status as the great comic actors of our time. It’s also Wes Anderson’s best film to date.”
  • Miracle” — “The year’s first great film!”
  • Mr. 3000” — “Hilarious!”
  • National Treasure” — “The year’s best action adventure!”
  • Teacher’s Pet” — ” ‘Teacher’s Pet’ is the year’s first big surprise: a charming, imaginative, laugh-out-loud winner!”
  • The Village” — “More gripping than ‘The Sixth Sense.’ More frightening than ‘Signs.”

Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC

Again we have Mr. Svejda piling on the “the year’s bests” and the “hilariouses.” All sorts of phrases that seem ready-made to be pulled out of Jim’s reviews and then dropped directly into Disney’s TV commercials and/or the newspaper & magazine ads for these particular films.

Then when you consider that the Walt Disney Company only released 18 films in all of 2004 … And yet Svejda found more than 2/3rds of Disney’s movies for that year to be praiseworthy … That does raise some red flags, don’t you think?

Well, the folks over at eFilmCritic.com certainly think so. Which is why they’ve repeatedly placed Jim in their “Criticwatch” list. Insisting that Svejda is among the worst “quote whores” currently working in Hollywood today.

To explain that (admittedly) offensive term: A “quote whore” is a critic who specializes in writing reviews that have extractable quotes. Which is a short sentence or phrase that has deliberately been placed in each review with the hope that this ready-made marketing-tool will then be pulled out of that particular review by the studio’s own marketing staff. Which will then use this extractable quote to help advertise the very same motion picture and/or television show that this “quote whore” just reviewed.

I know, I know. This all sounds so circular. Like a snake eating its own tail. But a perfect example of an extractable quote would be (to borrow one of Mr. Svejad’s pet phrases) “the year’s best.” A snippet of a sentence that could then be prominently displayed in the TV commercials, newspaper ads and on the posters of a particular movie. With the hope that this phrase would then be enough to convince more moviegoers to go see this movie.

As I mentioned earlier, the eFilmCritic crew takes this sort of stuff very seriously. In that they keep very close tabs on all of Tinseltown’s worst offenders as well as urging their site’s readers to sign eFC’s online petition. Which asks the major studios to stop using these blurbmeisters & the quotes that they manufacture as part of their motion picture promotional efforts.

And you’d think — given that eFilmCritic.com has thrust Jim & his fellow “quote whores” out into the spotlight — that Mr. Svejda might at least try to moderate his behavior a bit. Maybe cut back on his ready-to-be-prominently-displayed-on-the-cover-of-a-DVD phrasing. But Noooo … In 2005, Jim was still out there, blurbing up a storm:

2005

  • Flightplan” — ” ‘Flightplan’ confirms Jodie Foster’s status as the finest actress of her generation: An endlessly intelligent, gut-wrenching performance.”
  • The Greatest Game Ever Played” — “One of the year’s best films.”
  • A Lot Like Love” — “Smart, funny and edgy! It’s this generation’s ‘When Harry Met Sally‘ ”
  • The Pacifier” — “Vin Diesel’s best movie ever! A funny, warm-hearted surprise.”
  • Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” — ” ‘Pooh’s Heffalump Movie’ is a wonderful addition to Disney’s Pooh saga. A movie that kids and parents will love!”
  • Shopgirl” — “It’s the finest performance of Steve Martin’s career. She’ll be hard to beat at Oscar time.”
  • Sky High” — “One of the year’s most delightful surprises!”

 

Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC

And even though we’re only only three-and-a-third months into 2006, Mr. Svejda is already aggressively talking up Walt Disney Studio’s most recent releases:

 

2006

  • Glory Road” — “Exciting and inspiring.”
  • The Shaggy Dog” — “Hilarious! ‘The Shaggy Dog’ is Tim Allen’s funniest movie yet.”
  • The Wild” — “Uproarious with stunning state-of-the-art graphics. It’s a leading contender for the year’s best animated film.”

Now — to be fair — I guess I should mention that Jim Svejda isn’t the only guy in Hollywood who does this. According to eFilmCritic.com, there are at least 20 other film critics out there who aggressively blurb. Who deliberately drop extractable quotes into their reviews. With the hope that the studios will then then use their names (More importantly, what these critics have written) as part of the promotional efforts for that studio’s upcoming motion picture or TV show.

It should also be noted here that I’m not the only entertainment reporter out there who finds these blurbmeisters to be very intriguing. Timothy M. Gray of Variety just did an article about these guys back in January. And Tim found Jim so entertaining that he actually started his story off by quoting from a few of Svejda’s reviews.

And — again, trying to be fair here — over this past weekend, I sent a note off to Mr. Svejda at his KUSC e-mail address. Asking Jim for some additional information about “The Wild.” In particular, where & when he got to see this CORE Digital production.

“And why would you want to know something like that, Jim?,” you query. Well … According to a news item that film reporter Eric Lurio sent along to CartoonBrew.com earlier this month:

For the first time in its history, Disney will NOT, I repeat, will NOT be screening an animated feature for critics. As you know, they’ve screened even live action $#!% like “Meet the Deedles.” I’ve been going to all-medias for Disney animated films for over ten years. This has never happened before.

Now if this story turns out to be true and the Walt Disney Company really isn’t screening “The Wild” for film critics before this new CG feature debuts in theaters later this week … Well, then one has to wonder why Disney allowed Mr. Svejda to see this film.

Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC

I mean, it couldn’t be because — say — Jim has a particular gift when it comes to turning a camera-ready phrase, now could it?

Your thoughts?

Special thanks to the nice guys over at eFilmCritic.com and CartoonBrew.com for allowing JHM to make use of information that originally appeared on each of those web pages respectively.

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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