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Mouse FACTory 6.0

Well, better late than never. Dale Ward’s back with even more stories from Disney history. This week, he brings us the tale of the Columbia, talks about the “Alice in Wonderland” dark ride, looks back Disneyland’s additions for 1959 as well as paying tribute to Cliff Edwards



June 14th

June 14, 1958 — The Columbia is christened at Disneyland : In spite of the fact that I have spent most of my life only miles from the ocean, I am not what you would call a seafaring man. My first ocean voyage was just last year on the Disney Wonder for a 3 day cruise to the Bahamas. And I found out that — thankfully — I am not prone to extreme seasickness.

Of course, if we had hit the same 30 foot swells on the way home in — say — a ship less than a hundred feet long, I don’t think I would have been able to keep a good meal down. I bring this up (excuse the pun) because the cruise gave me an even greater respect for the crews of old sailing ships like the Columbia.

In the early morning of Sept 30, 1787, the eighty-four-foot sloop — the “Columbia Rediviva” — left Boston Harbor on ger inaugural voyage. The strange last name of “Rediviva” means “revived.” “Columbia revived” pays homage to Christopher Columbus.

The purpose of this voyage was to barter inexpensive goods from Boston for pelts from the Indians of the Great Northwest. The pelts will be traded in Canton China for tea, silk, and spices; all lucrative items to sell to Bostonians. Columbia and her crew were the first to try such an expensive gamble. Which would then take nearly three years to pay off.

The sea passage to the Northwest coast is around Cape Horn, a trip of over twenty thousand miles. Soit’s a years trip just to Nootka Sound, a Spanish settlement on Vancouver Island off the coast of British Columbia. Where the Columbia then drops anchor for the winter.

Spring bartering around theNnorthwest brings over a thousand pelts. And — with their new cargo — Capt. Gray and the crew of the Columbia set sail for China via the Hawaiian islands.

The Columbia returned to Boston Harbor on August 9, 1790 as the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. The good news was the trip opened commerce with China and the pelts netted $20,000. The bad news was that the money bought a cargo of tea that was damaged on the way home.

Since the trip had opened up trade, the investors of the Columbia sent Gray to do it all over again just six weeks later. On this second trip, while he’s in the Northwest trading for pelts, Capt. Gray discovers a river and names it the Columbia after his ship. A few years later, naming the new river helps America claim land up to Oregon and spawns the first push of pioneers out west.

The Columbia is — of course — the same Columbia that sails the Rivers of America at Disneyland today. Walt chose the first American ship to circle the globe as Frontierland’s sailing ship. And he wanted it as close to the original as his designers could muster. $300,000 later, he got his wish.

83 1/2 feet long and 24 feet wide, Disney’s Columbia is an accurate ten gun, full scale replica of the original. More importantly, it was the first three masted ship to be built in a hundred years.

What’s the main difference between the two ships? Disney’s hull is iron and built by the Todd Shipyards, the original was all wood construction.

Now — small differences aside — I want you to think about the scale of Disney’s ship. When you’re standing on the deck of the Columbia with hundreds of other tourists as some cast member points out the plastic deer along the riverbank, remember that a crew of somewhere between 15 and 30 absolutely insane individuals took a ship that size … And sailed it around world 220 years ago. That’s a courage I can’t even fathom.

June 14, 1958 — “Alice in Wonderland” opens in Fantasyland: “Alice” is an unusual ride for so many different reasons. It’s got the most unique outside theming of any Disney theme park attraction. It’s the only 2-story dark ride at Disneyland. It’s the only ride I know where you travel on the back of one of the characters from the film (Okay. Technically, you’re parking your tush where the caterpillar’s squishy innards should be. But work with me, people … ). More importantly, there’s only one Alice dark ride in all the MagicKingdoms around the world.

The ride design and layout are the work of Claude Coats, one of Disney’s best animation background painters. Walt personally asked Claude to help out with the opening of Disneyland. Coats wound up staying at WED for the rest of his career at Disney.

Claude helped design and paint all three of the opening day dark rides in Fantasyland. But “Alice in Wonderland” was the first ride where Coats was given full show design responsibility and he ran with it. Claude designed the ride from concept to completion, the giant flora and fauna outside, the two story ride building, even the caterpillar vehicle were his ideas.

And what great ideas they were. The leafy exterior of the ride building and the pout of your reluctant caterpillar / ride vehicle lets you know that this isn’t a normal ride. Lewis Carroll’s oddball characters were a great choice for the blacklight treatment and a lot had been learned by Claude and company about using this painting technique to its best effect. The 1958 interior of “Alice” felt like the book, looked like the movie and did it in less than 3 minutes.

June 14, 1959 –Dedication Ceremonies for the Matterhorn, the Monorail and the Submarine at Disneyland: What are the odds that *** Chaney will be at the reopening of the new Space Mountain at Disneyland?

No, I’m not trying to start a new rumor. I was just making a modern day comparison. It seems odd to think of the Vice-President, the second in command of the free world (in theory, anyway) coming to a theme park to dedicate a ride. But that’s what happened in 1959. Somewhere between having his car almost flipped over in Venezuela and a month before having the “Kitchen Debate” with Khrushchev, Richard Nixon, then Vice-president of the United States and his family came to open Disneyland’s newest attractions for the summer.

Can you imagine a vice president dedicating a ride today? I think I’d stay home and watch it on the news because I haven’t felt the need to be strip searched. And I think that’s the only way you’d be allowed into the park.

Eisner and Iger dream of such publicity and coverage. But on June 14, 1959 Nixon wasn’t just the Vice President at a “photo op.” Nixon came and opened the first three E-ticket rides as Walt’s friend.

And — if you were going to dedicate something at Disneyland — July of ’59 was a pretty good time to do it. The list of attractions that came on line at the Anaheim theme park that month were pretty impressive

The Matterhorn was the park’s first roller coaster and it was a marvel. Disney and Arrow Development from Northern California came up with a tubular track with urethane wheels. And the system changed roller coasters.

The new design meant a smoother ride and the ability to have more than one car on the track at the same time. More than one car meant more people could ride in an hour and more money could be made. It also meant faster lines and less wait time. But the real revolution was the potential for speed. The new technology meant later coasters would go really–really fast.

The Matterhorn was no speed demon. Its 18 mph was hardly a breakthrough. But the experience of dips and curves and riding in and out of a mountain (A mountain!), coupled with the spray of water at the end was a pretty cool rush. The addition of a ground breaking, state-of-the-art coaster meant Walt had now reinvented every old school ride in the amusement park arsenal and raised the bar on every try. Walt’s park was obviously more than a novelty.

By itself, the “Submarine Voyage” would have been an expensive undertaking. Add the Matterhorn and the Monorail and their engineering challenges and all three cost the Disney company a huge steaming pile of cash.

The statistics for the submarine ride was impressive: A 4,000,000 gallon lagoon, a watertight show building designed under the Autopia, $80,000 dollars were spent just on the custom submarines, all to create an 8-minute-long show. Did Walt really need to spend all that money? No. But that’s what people loved about Walt’s park whether they knew it or not.

In the 1950’s, Walt was doing well and he finally had some expendable income. His movies were earning a few bucks, the animated characters he had developed generated good revenue, his shows on television were well received and people were coming to Disneyland.

So what did he do with his new money? Did he buy expensive cars? Yes. Did he throw crazy parties? Yes. Did he build a big pool? Yeah, it was so big, he bought a couple subs to put in it and for 5 dollars American, you could experience every one of his wildly extravagant purchases.

Logic says the submarine ride should have been a dark ride. Walt could have shaved a few million off the construction of a lagoon and watertight show building and saved millions on maintenance, because a ride on land is much easier to maintain than an underwater one.

Would the ride have been as successful if it was a dark ride? Why wouldn’t it? If there’s no submarine ride to compare it to, you’re going to compare it to the dark rides. Do you need a submarine to enhance the underwater scene in Small World? Do you need a remote controlled helicopter to feel like you’re flying over London in Peter Pan? Logically you didn’t need a lagoon and iron subs. But Walt did it anyway.

Did traveling in water actually enhance the submarine experience? Oh, yeah. In fact, Walt had an early run of the ride with Naval officers aboard. And they wanted to know how deep they were diving. The experience fooled the experts. That had to be a defining and reaffirming moment.

The Monorail is another example of Walt’s wonderful extravagance. When it opened, it traveled in a circle above the park. That’s it. It didn’t go to the hotel and it didn’t have any other stops. A cool looking vehicle with an Imagineer-designed front cab. Smells kinda like a mid-life Ferrari to me.

But Walt spent millions on the Monorail instead of a Ferrari because — to him — a Monorail was cooler. He put a huge pool in Tomorrowland instead of in his backyard because the pool could be bigger at Disneyland. The park was Walt’s extravagance and he lavished it with every extra he could afford to. It was his expensive toy and his exotic car and his wild party all rolled into one.

Sure, it can be argued that Walt saw the transportation value of the Monorail and he wanted to say to cities all across the world: “Isn’t this great looking? Don’t you want one of these in your neighborhood?” But he could have made a documentary and run it on his TV show and made the point to a larger audience. But he didn’t.

And Walt didn’t really need to redesign the original boxy German Monorail cab. But he did.

And that’s what showed in 1959. Disneyland was full of bold, inventive and futuristic new rides packed with details so cool, it got the Vice-President of the United States and his family to come out to Anaheim and come take a ride.

Oh, if you’d like to know why Walt may have built three expensive rides at the same time, you can read Jim’s article here.


Cliff Edwards (June 14, 1895 – 1971): Cliff Edwards was born in Hannibal Missouri, the hometown of legendary author Mark Twain. He left home at 14 and began to perform in clubs, bars and saloons. Since he was on the move, Edwards decided to learn an instrument he could carry with him. Cliff chose the ukulele because it was the cheapest instrument in the store. A club owner who could never remember his name called him Ukulele Ike. And — for the next two decades — the name stuck

Since Cliff didn’t have any formal training, he did what came naturally. So Edwards began to play around with a form of scat singing popular with jazz singers. The main difference with Ukelele Ike’s approach was his nearly three octave singing range. Which gave Cliff some pretty impressive high notes. The combination of the Ukulele and Edwards’ jazzy style made Ukulele Ike a big hit in the 1920s. In fact, “Ike” made the ukulele so popular that publishers started adding ukulele chords to sheet music.

In the 1930s, Cliff had his own radio show and had made numerous movie appearances when Walt cast him as Jiminy Cricket. In 1940, “Pinocchio” was released and “When You Wish Upon a Star” won the Oscar for best song.

Sadly, Edwards life had a dark side. He drank heavily, gambled constantly and married easily. In spite of money and fame, Ukelele Ike declared bankruptcy 3 times in his life. In his later years, Cliff would hang around the Disney studios waiting for voice work.

While his declining years may have left him penniless, Edwards’ voice is anything but forgotten. “When You Wish Upon a Star” has become the Walt Disney Company’s unofficial theme song and Cliff can be heard inside the castles of Magic Kingdoms around the world every day.


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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