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No foolin’. Here’s a story about that Star Wars-themed dual track coaster which Imagineers thought about building back in the 1980s

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Given that April 1st is typically the day when a number of Disney news sites post these elaborate prank stories where they then try & convince a few poor April Fools that their obviously bogus article is legit,  I thought that JHM should go the other way today. In that I'm going to post a story that may sound bogus but is — believe it or not — absolutely true.

Better yet, given all the chatter that there's been out there on various discussion boards around the Web about that Star Wars-related survey which the Disneyland Resort has been sending to various annual passholders, asking for their input …  today's story will actually be kind of newsworthy.

But before we get started here, I need to remind you all how miserable things were for the Mouse back in the early 1980s. During this time, Walt Disney Productions was deliberately trying to reinvent itself. The executives in charge of the Studio at this time had decided that the Mouse Factory needed to stop churning out charmless sequels like "Return from Witch Mountain," "The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again " & "Herbie Goes Bananas " and instead start producing far more ambitious films that would then (in theory, anyway) help the Studio broaden its box office appeal. Allow Disney to finally bust out of the family film ghetto, so to speak.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The only problem was that the ticket-buying public just wasn't buying what Disney was trying to sell then back then. Moviegoers turned up their noses at "Midnight Madness ," the Mouse's ham-handed attempt at making a raucous "Animal House " -like comedy aimed at young adults. Likewise adults balked at the idea of buying tickets for "Night Crossing ," Disney's earnest attempt to turn one family's real-life escape from East Germany to West Germany via hot air balloon into an exciting drama.

And you have to understand that — each time Walt Disney Productions served up a cinematic dud — it then had this unfortunate ripple effect on the rest of the company. Which meant that — because the Studio wasn't creating any new characters that the public was actually interested in seeing again — this then made life that much harder for the Imagineers. They didn't have stories or settings that then could then used as fodder for new rides, shows and attractions at the theme parks.

And for the second generation of Imagineers like Tony Baxter, Bruce Gordon and David Mumford, this situation was just intolerable. Largely because — at a time when Walt Disney Productions was serving up stillborn thrillers like "The Watcher in the Woods " — George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were working at the very top of their games. Producing these elaborate effects-filled motion pictures like 1980's "Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back" and 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" that featured strong characters, vivid settings and compelling storylines. The sorts of movies that did huge box office because they appealed to a very broad audience. More importantly, the kinds of films that could easily be translated into popular theme park attractions.


Copyright 20th Century Fox Ltd. All rights reserved

It was during this period that the Imagineers approached Ron Miller, the then-CEO of Walt Disney Productions and told Walt's son-in-law that it was time to think outside the box. That if the Studio was now incapable of making sorts of movies that could then serve as the inspiration for new rides, shows and attractions for the parks, perhaps it was time that Disney now reach out to the filmmakers who were actually making those sorts of movies. And then see if it were possible for Walt Disney Productions to snag the theme park rights to said productions.

And to Ron Miller's credit, he did see the wisdom of what the guys from WED were saying. So in 1983, he arranged a meeting with George Lucas. Lucas actually drove down from Skywalker Ranch and then had dinner with Ron and his wife Diane Disney Miller at Silverado Vineyards, the Disney family winery in Napa Valley.

Luckily, it turned out that George was a life-long Disneyland fan. The then-11 year-old Lucas and his family had actually visited the Happiest Place on Earth on July 19, 1955, the second day that this theme park was open to the public. And the Lucases had been so impressed with what they saw on that initial visit to the park that they then began making annual treks down to Anaheim. Just so the Lucases could then be among the first to experience the latest wonder that Walt had just installed at Disneyland.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So to now be approached by Walt Disney Productions and be asked if it would be okay if the Imagineers could use some of  his Star Wars characters to help create new rides, shows and attractions for the parks was kind of a dream come true for Lucas. So right after George gave his blessing to Ron, the Imagineers then became knocking around ideas about how exactly they could fold these characters who lived " … a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away" into the Happiest Place on Earth.

Because — believe it or not — the first idea that the Wizards of WED came up with during this project's Blue Sky phase wasn't "Star Tours" (or — as this flight simulator-based attraction was known during a particularly unfortunate period of its development, "Star Bus"). But rather an indoor steel roller coaster.

Which — when you take into consideration the time when the Imagineers initially started working on this Star-Wars-in-the-Disney-theme-parks project — only makes sense. After all, the most popular attractions that had been built for the parks in the previous 10 years had been heavily themed coasters like Space Mountain (the WDW version of this indoor coaster opened in January 1975, the Disneyland version in May of 1977) and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (the Disneyland version of this outdoor coaster opened in September of 1979, the WDW version opened in November of 1980). So doing some initial exploration of possibly trying to tell the Star Wars story in coaster form seemed like a fairly logical way for WED to go at this very early phase of the project.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

But as David Mumford revealed during a talk that he gave at the National Fantasy Fan Club's annual convention in July of 1988, what the Imagineers had originally hoped to do with this Star Wars-themed coaster was to significantly step up their game. Create an attraction that Guests would have to ride at least twice in order to experience all of its show elements.

Here (according to Mumford, anyway) was this proposed indoor attraction's key gimmick: After your coaster car left the load / unload area, it would proceed to the lift hill. And as your car proceeded up this lift hill, to the left & the right side of the coaster track, two holograms would suddenly appear. One would be of Yoda,  who would appeal to you to follow the ways of the Force. While the other hologram would be of Emperor Palpatine, Dark Lord of the Sith. Who'd then try to seduce everyone who was riding in this particular coaster car over to the Dark Side.

Now where this gets interesting is that — much in the same that Epcot's "Horizons" pavilion used to feature a choose-your-own-ending finale (i.e. diving beneath the water and then journeying to the Sea Castle research station deep beneath the ocean, flying a hovercraft across the desert to the Mesa Verde agricultural station, or blasting off into space and then piloting a probe to the Brava Centauri space station) — each seat in this Star War-themed coaster was to have featured a light-up panel where the Guest could then vote on what they wanted their ride experience to be.

[View:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skH-DPtbp3Y]
In kind of an ironic bend on this story, there used to be a spot in
the queue area for the Tokyo Disneyland version of Star Tours
where you could watch all three of the ride films that the
Imagineers had created for "Horizons" choose-your
finale sequence

And if the majority of the riders decided that they wanted to go to the Dark Side, then their coaster would take a track that would zoom them past show scenes which featured close encounters with Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt and Darth Vader. If — on the other hand — if the majority of the riders in this coaster car wanted to follow the ways of the Jedi, this coaster would then connect with an entirely different track at the top of that lift hill. One which would then have sent these Guests whizzing by show scenes which featured Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia.

That sounds like a neat idea, don't you think? According to David Mumford, George Lucas thought so as well. The only problem was … Well, no one had ever built a coaster like this before. Where — at the top of the lift hill — the track would then have to have a switch assembly that could safely & seamlessly shift cars full of people from the Dark Side over to the way of the Jedi over & over again. 365 days a year, sometimes for as long as 18 hours a day.

As Mumford told those attendees at that NFFC convention back in July of 1998, WED's engineers figured that it would take them upwards of 5 years to first design, build and then safety test the sort of track switching mechanism that was crucial for this Star Wars-themed, choose-your-own-path coaster. And given how competitive the Southern Californian market was when it came to thrill rides (i.e. the assortment of killer coasters that could already be found at Knott's Berry Farm & Six Flags Magic Mountain), the Imagineers felt that they really didn't have the time to waste on developing a coaster-based project like this that might — in the end — ultimately not pan out.


Six Flags Magic Mountain and its mad collection of coasters

So the Wizards of WED then began exploring other options when it came to bringing the Star Wars characters into the parks. Then someone had the very bright of taking that Rediffusion flight simulator technology which the Imagineers had already been checking out and then possibly using that ride platform as a way to tell a story which was set " … in a galaxy far far away." And it was this you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter moment that eventually led to the creation of "Star Tours" as we know it today.

Anyway … I brought up that Star Wars-themed dual track coaster today because … Well, the way I hear it, the Imagineers are investigating all sort of ideas right now as they look for new ways to bring George Lucas' characters & the storylines that he helped create into the Disney theme parks. And as they dig down into WDI's files, they're undoubtedly going to come across this Blue Sky concept that David Mumford described to those NFFC members back in July of 1988. And an idea that seemed impractical or damn near impossible back in 1983 might actually be downright doable in 2013.

Again, just to reiterate, folks: This isn't an April Fool's joke. This was indeed a Star Wars-based ride idea that Walt Disney Imagineering toyed with (albeit briefly) in the early 1980s. And given that survey which Disney Parks & Resorts sent out to annual passholders last month, asking what sort of Star Wars-themed lands, rides, shows, and attractions (more importantly, how many Star Wars-themed rides, shows and attractions they'd like to see in each of these lands) … Well, I just wonder if this dual track roller coaster might now make it out of the filing cabinet and back onto WDI's drawing board.


Quick size comparison between the show buildings for DHS' Rock n Roller Coaster
and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Mind you, were Disney to actually build this indoor thrill ride, we'd be talking about a genuinely massive show building, people. Something twice the size of DHS' Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. But given that this attraction would be able to celebrate both sides of the Star Wars saga, you have to admit that it would be a pretty neat addition to the parks.

So what do you folks think? No fooling now. Would you like the Imagineers to maybe circle back on this particular Star Wars-related ride concept?

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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