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New Disneyland parade mixes unique new look with tributes to great theme park parades of the past

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As you watch Mickey's Soundsational Parade roll through
Disneyland Park, this feeling of Disney déjà-vu is bound to come over you.

By that I mean: While this is obviously a brand-new parade
with a look, style and sound all its own, there are just enough elements here
that harken back to great Disney theme park parades of the past (EX: "America
on Parade
," which was this stylized celebration of the country's bicentennial
that ran at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 1975 & 1976) that
watching a performance of Mickey's Soundsational Parade has a pseudo-nostalgic
feel.


Original paper model for the lead float in "America on Parade." Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which – believe it or not – is just the feel that Kevin
Kidney
& Jody Daily were going for when they initially took on this
assignment back during the Summer of 2009. Speaking earlier this month at the
Disneyana Fan Club's annual convention, Kevin walked event attendees through
their design process. As these two tackled their biggest project to date.

"Steve Davison (i.e. Vice President for Parades and
Spectaculars at Walt Disney Imagineering) came to Jody & I and told us that
he had this idea for a parade based on Disney music. He wanted something that could
effortlessly blend the old & the new, the music of 'Snow White' with songs
from Disney's more contemporary films like 'The Princess and The Frog' and 'Tangled,'
" Kevin explained. "Plus he wanted something that – while it referenced the
classic Disneyland parades of the past – wasn't the usual collection of giant
fiber glass floats rolling by."


The Disney Princess unit in Mickey's Soundsational Parade
features Snow White, Briar Rose from "Sleeping Beauty,"
Cinderella, Belle from "Beauty & the Beast" as well as
the newest Disney Princess, Rapunzel from
"Tangled."  Photo by Shelly Valladolid

"And why did Davison reach out to Kidney & Daily?," you
ask. Well, it wasn't just because Kevin had been a float designer on Disneyland's
Party Gras parade, The Lion King Celebration, The World According to Goofy
parade
, The Hercules Victory parade and the Mulan parade. Or because Jody had
recently designed the Pixar Play Parade for Disney California Adventure theme
park
. But – rather – because of Kevin's talent with paper sculpture.

"This is something that I started doing when I was back in
high school, back when I was designing sets for the school plays and had no
money," Kidney recalled. "Steve loved the paper sculptures that I do. And since
he wanted something lighter, more lyrical for Disneyland's new parade … Well,
we looked at some of the parades of the past, took Steve's paper sculpture idea
and then came up with a look for Soundsational."


Walt Disney and Mary Blair in the model shop at WED in early 1964. Please note
the sculpted paper model of a set from "it's a small world" on that worktable
directly behind Walt & Mary. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Just so you know, though: Paper sculptures / paper models
have played a crucial role in the development of new rides, shows and
attractions for the Disney Parks & Resorts for nearly six decades now. And
in some cases (EX: Mary Blair's distinctive design work on "it's a small world"),
the paper model was thought to be so charming & evocative that this
cut-out-of-paper look then heavily influenced the final art direction of that particular
attraction.

Anyway … Getting back to Mickey's Soundsational Parade now …
Getting the balance of elements just right here – deciding which parts of the
floats should be done dimensionally while determining which characters &
elements lent themselves to 2D treatment (more importantly, how would these
two dimensional characters would then move) – meant months of hard work / trial
and error for Kevin & Jody. When Kidney often putting in long hours at his
kitchen table, using Exacto knives and really strong glue to create detailed paper
models of proposed floats for Mickey's Soundsational Parade.


Some of the paper sculptures that Kevin Kidney built while developing the look of
Mickey's Soundsational Parade. Photo by Paul Schnebelen

One of the very first models that Kevin built for this
parade was the Mickey Mouse drum. That was one of those elements that Steve
insisted be in Soundsational. That – as a callback to all of those Disneyland parades
from the 1960s where Mickey rolled through the Park, beating on a 10 ½ foot-tall
base drum – that Soundsational had to feature a Mickey Mouse drum unit. Only
this time around, Mickey was going to be traveling with a drumline. More
importantly, that – for his appearance in Mickey's Soundsational Parade – that
this parade character really had to be able to play the drums.

Well, Kevin & Jody figured out how to make that concept
work. Also taking into account the number of times that Southern California residents
will be returning to Disneyland over the projected three-year-run of Mickey's
Soundsational Parade, they created highly-detailed parade floats which had all
sorts of cool design elements. So that – depending on which side of the street
you were standing on – you could then see something new each time you watched
Soundsational.


The Canary Sisters from Disney's 1953 "Adventures in Music" animated short, "Toot,
Plunk, Whistle and Boom." Photo by Shelly Valladolid

"We've placed all sorts of obscure Disney characters on
these floats. Professor Owl and the Canary Sisters from 'Toot, Plunk, Whistle and Boom,' Evinrude from 'The Rescuers
'  and the
Aracuan Bird from "The Three Caballeros,' " Kidney continued. "And speaking of 'Three
Caballeros,' we've got José Carioca and Panchito back in a Disneyland parade
for the first time since 1990. Which is when these characters appeared in the
Party Gras parade. So that was a huge win for us."

And speaking of huge … from Rapunzel's 31-foot-tall tower in
the middle of the Disney Princess float to that enormous Penn-Farthing bicycle
that the Fox Hunter from "Mary Poppins" is pedaling out in front of this parade's
finale unit, Kevin & Jody have never worked on anything as large as Mickey's
Soundsational Parade. Though that may soon change, given that their next
assignment appears to be Tokyo Disneyland's 30th anniversary parade.


Photo by Shelly Valladolid

"That's actually why Jody couldn't be here today. He's in
Japan having meetings with the Tokyo Disneyland people about this new parade
for 2013," Kidney explained. "We're actually kind of freaking out right now because
those meetings have been going so well. So far, they've said 'Yes' to
everything that we've proposed. So we've now got to figure out how we're
actually going to build this thing."

And if going straight from the debut of Mickey's
Soundsational Parade back in May to designing a brand-new parade for Tokyo
Disneyland weren't keeping these two busy enough, Kevin & Jody also have
their Disney-themed collectibles business. In fact, they'll be down at Walt
Disney World on October 1st to unveil some new items that Kidney
& Daily have just created to commemorate that Resort's 40th
anniversary.


Kevin Kidney holds up a prototype of that Mary Blair / Contemporary Resort ceramic-tile-
mural vase which he and Jody Daily designed, which will go on sale at the Disneyana
Shop in WDW's Disneyana Shop on October 1st. Photo by Paul Schnebelen

"We'll be doing a signing at the Disneyana Shop on Main Street,
U.S.A. We've got a ceramic vase which recreates that tile mural that Mary Blair
designed for the Contemporary Hotel," Kevin continued. "We've also done some
dinnerware, four plates that feature artwork from the old Preview Center guide
map, a set of tin signs that duplicate those silk-screened poster for the
Tropical Serenade, The Haunted Mansion and the Monorail plus a ceramic
recreation of a WDW beverage cup from the 1970s."

But all of that stuff was off in the future somewhere. As
Kidney wrapped up his Mickey's Soundsational Parade presentation for this year's
Disneyana Fan Club's annual convention, he was asked what his favorite memory
of this particular project was.


Photo by Shelly Valladolid

"I think that that would be the day that the
Bert-and-Mary-Poppins carousel horse bicycles arrived from Michael Curry's
studio
up in Oregon. Once we took the bubble wrap off of those things and the
bikes we so beautiful … Well, you had to ride them," Kevin remembered. "Everyone
who worked on this project took turns riding them around backstage. For a while
there, those Mary Poppins carousel horse bicycles were the most popular rides
at Disneyland."

Special thanks to Paul Schnebelen & Bob Welbaum of the Disneyana Fan Club for
providing much of the material necessary to complete today's JHM article.

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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