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Monday Mouse Watch : Wanna peek at Bob Iger’s vision for the future of the Walt Disney Company? And is “Ratatouille” really starting to fade in the Hollywood rat race?

Jim Hill has noticed something interesting about the title sequence for ABC’s new “Wonderful World of Disney” movie anthology series. He also sees some disturbing trends in the new box office numbers for Brad Bird’s latest film

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You want to be able to look into the future? Particularly the Walt Disney Company’s future?


Okay, then. What you need to start doing then is staying home on Saturday nights and watching ABC‘s “The Wonderful World of Disney” movie anthology series. During which you should pay particularly close attention to that TV show’s title sequence.


“And why should I do that?,” you ask. Well, for over 50 years now, Disney has been using the title sequences of its weekly TV series to give viewers a brief glimpse of the future. Beginning with the “Disneyland” series (Which originally began airing on ABC back in October 1954) …



 Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved


… which gave the public its first up-close look at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”


Given how quickly the public was to embrace Disneyland, Walt and his staff at the studio were quick to recognize the promotional power of television. Which is why they used weekly series like “The Wonderful World of Color” (Which debuted on NBC in September of 1961) to help keep the company’s Anaheim theme park in the spotlight. Always making sure that Sleeping Beauty Castle was the first thing (and then the last thing) that viewers would see each week when they tuned in to catch Disney’s latest show.



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But again, recognizing that TV was a great medium for getting people excited about future projects …  Once the corporation committed to spending $100 million to build a brand-new Vacation Kingdom down in Central Florida, Mickey not only changed the name of its Sunday night show to “The Wonderful World of Disney,” it also swapped out the shots that you saw in that TV program’s title sequence. Now — instead of seeing fireworks behind Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle — you saw shells exploding over Cinderella Castle at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. All with the idea of showing TV viewers where they plan on spending their future vacations.


 
Cinderella castle (right) — Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved


This “glimpse of the future” tradition continued with the next incarnation of Disney’s weekly TV series. When this program changed its network, name and night in September of 1981 (Now airing on CBS on Saturday nights, the show was then simply known as “Walt Disney“), its title sequence featured a CG Cinderella Castle which then transformed into this wireframe version of Epcot‘s Spaceship Earth.



 CG Spaceship Earth (right) — Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Then — in the late 1980s, as the Mouse was getting ready to open Disney-MGM Studios — the title sequence of the company’s weekly TV series was changed yet again. This time around (For an ABC-based revival of the show), as the camera zoomed around the world, visiting various Disney resorts, it eventually finds Sorcerer Mickey from “Fantasia” standing high atop Spaceship Earth. With a flick of the wrist, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice then sends a magical lightning bolt streaking across the night sky. Which transforms a regular old water tower into Disney-MGM’s original icon, the Earfel Tower.



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Which bring us to the latest incarnation of “The Wonderful World of Disney.” Which continues one of the long standing traditions of a weekly Disney TV show, in that — as part of this program’s “Disney Extra” bonus feature — …



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… it hypes recently-opened theme park attractions like Disneyland’s “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage,” Epcot’s “The Seas with Nemo & Friends” ride-thru & “Finding Nemo — The Musical” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and/or promotes upcoming releases like the 2-disc Platinum Edition of “The Jungle Book,” which be debuting on DVD on October 2nd.


 
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But you know what I find particularly fascinating about this most recent revival of the “Wonderful World of Disney” TV series? The title sequence for this weekly movie anthology is really our first up-close look at Bob Iger’s vision for the future of the Walt Disney Company. Which isn’t so much tied to the physical world (i.e. Building new theme parks in Asia). But — rather — built on trying to persuade the company’s worldwide customer base to go online and enjoy Disney’s vaste array of characters there.


Obviously, we’re not talking about Walt Disney (or even Michael Eisner) ‘s version of the Mouse House. Though — as this TV show’s title sequence gets underway — you do see one tiny little screen that features an image of Steamboat Willie, the images that are shown here (More importantly, the order in which these pictures are presented) suggest a very different agenda is being serviced these days.


Take — for example — the first real image that you see in this title sequence for the revived “Wonderful World of Disney” TV series. It’s a brief clip from “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” in which Will Turner says “They’re coming” to Capt. Jack Sparrow. This (of course) serves as an example of all those family-friendly franchises that Iger and Disney Studio head Dick Cook are so anxious to put into production these days.


Right after that, it’s a veritable parade of Pixar characters, with Crush telling Squirt that “You so totally rock” and Mr. Incredibles saying “It’s showtime.” Then Lightning McQueen winks to the crowd as he soars through the air in slow motion. Which demonstrates Bob’s resolve to make the most of Disney’s $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios.


   
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Mind you, the real giveaway that we’re now looking at Bob Iger’s vision for the future of the Walt Disney Company comes at the very end of this title sequence. When all of these little computer screens that were previously showing memorable moments from Disney & Pixar films now fly through a starlit sky and form a perfect recreation of the home page for Disney.com.


Iger is really committed to making sure that the Mouse takes advantage of every opportunity to get the Disney.com web address out there. Don’t believe me? Then take a closer look at those two photos of the Disney castle that I’ve posted above. In the bottom third of both of those image captures, you’ll notice that the Disney.com/wonderfulworld address has deliberately been positioned for maximum exposure.


Anyway, getting back now to how the title sequence for the “Wonderful World of Disney” ends with a perfect recreaction of the Disney.com home page …



 Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved


… Which (appropriately enough for Iger’s vision of a perfectly vertically intergrated corporation, where all divisions of the company now work together to help support Disney’s latest projects & products) is hyping “Ratatouille.” Which — to be honest — could actually use a little extra hype right about now.


To explain: What with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” dominating at the box office this past weekend (That Warner Bros. release took in an estimated $140 million during its first five days in domestic release) and “Transformers” still coming on strong (That Paramount Pictures / DreamWorks release sold $36 million worth of tickets this past weekend) … Well, that didn’t leave a whole lot of elbow room for Brad Bird‘s latest at your local multiplex.


“Ratatouille” did manage to pull in an estimated $18 million over its three weekend in domestic release. Which normally would be considered a very respectable amount. But then when you compare how this Brad Bird film is doing right now in comparison to how other Pixar productions were doing at this point in their initial domestic run …































Film Title

Initial Domestic Gross
17 days into theatrical run


“Finding Nemo”

$191.4 million

“The Incredibles”

$177.5 million

“Cars”

$156.6 million

“Monsters, Inc.”

$156.3 million

“Ratatouille”

$143.0 million *

“Toy Story 2”

$126.2 million (wide)

“A Bug’s Life”

$83.4 million (wide)

“Toy Story”

$72.3 million

* Includes estimated box office totals for this past weekend


… not to mention what’s going on with the number of theaters that “Ratatouille” is now being presented in …








































Film Title

Number of theaters film
is playing in during
its first weekend in domestic release

Number of theaters film
is playing in during its third
weekend in domestic release

“Toy Story”

2,281

2,476 (+195)

“A Bug’s Life”

2,686

2,748 (+162)

“Toy Story 2”

3,236

3,257 (+21)

“Monsters, Inc.”

3,237

3,461 (+224)

“Finding Nemo”

3,374

3,425 (+51)

“The Incredibles”

3,933

3,683 (-250)

“Cars”

3,985

3,949 (-36)

“Ratatouille”

3,940

3,625 (-315)

… We’re not exactly talking about conditions that lend themselves to films that then go on to break box office records. Then when you factor in the per-theater averages that other Pixar films saw during their third weekend in domestic release …































Film Title

Per-theater averages for film’s
third weekend in domestic release

“Finding Nemo”

$8,287

“The Incredibles”

$7,201

“Monsters, Inc.”

$6,563

“Cars”

$5,896

“Toy Story 2”

$5,603

“Ratatouille”

$4,970 *

“Toy Story”

$4,341

“A Bug’s Life”

$4,073

* Includes estimated box office totals for this past weekend


… You have to admit that “Ratatouille” isn’t exactly cooking on all burners right now.


The good news is … The earlier, much bleaker box office estimates for this Brad Bird film (Which suggested that the initial domestic gross for this new Pixar film would top out somewhere between $150 – $170 million) were wrong. Having already sold an estimated $143 million worth of tickets to date, “Ratatouille” should have no problem blowing through the $170 million barrier.


The bad news is … It’s now looking less & less likely that “Ratatouille” will be able to equal “Cars” domestic box office total. In fact, in an interview with Reuters yesterday …



Disney’s domestic distribution chief, Chuck Viane, said the movie now appears on track to top $200 million, overall.


… But how far above $200 million? … No one at the studio really wants to say at this moment.


Look, let’s be honest here, folks. At this point, all that really matters is what “Ratatouille” earns by Labor Day. If this Brad Bird movie can (to borrow a phrase from “Finding Nemo”) “just keep swimming” for the next seven weeks and eventually makes almost as much as “Cars” did domestically last year, Wall Street isn’t going to raise a fuss. The investment community will be happy to give Pixar a pass, not really question that animation studio’s “Eight Hits in a Row” box office record.


If — on the other hand — the stubby little legs that “Ratatouille” has developed to date don’t actually carry this film past the $200 million point … Well, this Pixar production started off life by missing its opening weekend box office estimates by 20%. If it ends its domestic run by doing 20% less business than “Cars” did back in 2006 … There’s no way that Wall Street will overlook something that significant. Those are the sorts of numbers will get the investment community asking questions like “Is Pixar spreading itself too thin these days?”


So if you really want this Emeryville-based animation studio to avoid the scrutiny of the investment community … Now would be a very good time to buy another ticket to “Ratatouille.” Otherwise, this Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios film may really have a tough time coming out ahead in this year’s version of the Hollywood rat race.


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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