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Okay … now tell me what you REALLY think …

After having 112 pro-“Mickey’s Philharmagic” e-mails come flooding into his in-box over the past two days, is Jim Hill is having second thoughts about WDW’s new 3D movie? Well …

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Well, it wasn’t quite “Jim, You Ignorant ***!” But it was pretty damned close.

On the heels of Monday’s less-than-enthusiastic article about “Mickey’s Philharmagic,” I got WHOMPED with a pile of mail from people who had also seen this new Fantasyland attraction during last week’s previews and absolutely loved the show. 112 e-mails, to be exact.

Typically of these was the note I got from StormShadow. Who (in an extremely polite fashion) basically tore me a new one because I had dared to damn “Philharmagic” with faint praise.

What exactly did StormShadow have to say about this new WDW show as well as this past Monday’s article? Read and learn:

I have to totally disagree with your reviews of “Mickey’s Philharmagic.” For those of us who absolutely love [Disney’s] ’90s [animated] features, this attraction takes the cake and gives these moments their just desserts. And the best part of the desserts is that you can actually smell them!

Sure, the queue stinks! Mickey’s pursestrings are tight these days and we all know it! Folks are flying off coasters in CA, planets are out of orbit high atop Tomorrowland, and now a dull pre-show, what else is new? Look at the queue to “Mission: Space” … if you try to do too much with too little imagination and money, you end up with the lame concept of the International Space Training Crap queue leading up to the cool ride. You also have to remember we are dealing with the generation of Imagineers that decided that imagination belongs in an INSTITUTE and not on Dreammaker’s Airship. That’s quite the idea there … an Imagination Institute. But I digress …

I went on Saturday to a broken down “Philharmagic,” gave up and came back Sunday to yet another few hours of broken down “Philharmagic.” After a few spins on Space Mountain, we came back extremely frustrated and was led to the door quickly, so the queue was not really an issue. Sure we have come to expect to be hypnotized while waiting, but this time we’re not, we’ll get over it when the show starts!

This waiting (that I haven’t experienced yet) should all be worthwhile once the picture starts!! This is the BEST Disney attraction I have experienced in quite a while. Sure it isn’t a thrill attraction, but it is the best of Disney’s 3D movies as far as I’m concerned. The screen is designed to IMMERSE you into the movie. “Shrek [4-D]” doesn’t accomplish this, even with moving seats!

The Imagineers have managed to stimulate all the senses at once! The lighting effects are synced to the movie! As Lumiere moves his hands, where his ‘light’ would be falling on you is actually being done by the lighting. The lighting adds so much to the picture!! A whole lot more than “Shrek [4-D]” can do!! They also blow ‘night air’ on you during the flying sequences which gives you chills as you experience the best of the 90s, (and Peter Pan). The moving air adds so much to the experience.

The stimulation of the nose is what impressed me the most. The smells seem to evoke a ‘spine tingling’ sensation, that I haven’t gotten since the IMAX version of “Fantasia 2000.” Maybe I’m just impressed by these immersive musical experiences. They touch the very fiber of my being. It’s the aesthetic experience only produced by the finest work in the arts.

I won’t go into a play by play of what is great, but this film is truly the Disney’s animation fan’s dream come true. Truly great moments happen in this film. I wish we could see a full-length feature with this concept. I came away from the attraction hoping that the 50th Full Length Feature….the highly rumored ‘all-star’ film, will be a 3-D IMAX experience with this concept in mind.

I sat through it three times straight, and I would go back and see it again. I’m not obsessed with the attraction by any means, but I truly do love and appreciate the attraction. Especially after experiencing the past few full-length features and wishing for the glory days again. This film really celebrates the glory days of the early ’90s and lets us know the animators remember what truly great moments in film are like. Combine them all together in this wrap-around screen, with truly the crispest 3D I have seen, and you have a great attraction. TRUE, you can’t call it an E-ticket, but it isn’t supposed to be an E-ticket. It is truly the crown of C or D tickets right now at the parks.

Sure “Shrek [4-D]” is smart-ass and crude and all the things today’s audiences love about the degradation of our society. Sure, “Shrek [4-D]” pokes fun at Disney at every opportunity, maybe with good cause in the past few years! But “Mickey’s Philharmagic” a.k.a. “Donald’s Finest Hour” in WDW is an attraction that Disney can truly be proud of: showing us high quality work in hard times. “Mickey’s Philharmagic” immerses you into the experience further than any other 3-D attraction. “Shrek [4-D]” you are looking at the screen that is far away up on the wall……… “Mickey’s Philharmagic” has you sucked into the picture, and the best part is flying high above the Sultan’s Palace and feeling like you are actually in Agrabah.

The computer animation’s quirks are easily forgiven and brings a kind of ‘new look’ to old favorites. Besides, is it possible to make a 3-D movie such as this with tradition animation? I think you ‘DO WITH WHAT YOU GOT, YOU TAKE A LITTLE AND MAKE A LOT!” Know where I’m coming from on that one?

BRAVO to the team that got this one put through and finished with such fine work. Maybe it could be better, but I fell in love with Disney all over again, even with being frustrated with so many of their current problems! If you miss the great music moments of the ’90s, then you will LOVE “Mickey’s Philharmagic.” Lament the pre-show if you like, but it’s all cheap hype to get you over the 21st Century Faux Pas of actually WAITING for something! Spend some time getting to know your family in line for once, that’s what Walt would want!!!!!! THIS ATTRACTION NEEDS NO PRESHOW!

StormShadow

And the Mitchell family also wrote in to take me to task (politely) for Monday’s article:

Hello Jim,

I’m writing on behalf of my 13 yr. old son who reads your postings everyday religiously. For the first time ever he asked to voice his opinion of WDW’s newest attraction “Philharmagic.” He was a little upset that you received so many negative reviews. He liked your article, and that you remained neutral.

We were able to attend both cast member and the passholder previews. Twice during the cast member preview, and 3 times we saw the show during the passholder preview. We tried many different seats, to make sure that we were seeing everything. So hopefully you will respect our opinion.

Truthfully, it is a wonderful show. A show that is worth seeing again, and again. Of course it has the water spraying effects, but for once it is staged during a part of the show that makes you not mind getting hosed. For once, there was aroma effects that worked, (I’ve done Shrek’s attraction 4 times and have never had that effect work). The timing of each effect was flawless, the CG was beautiful.

What I saw was an attraction that takes the best of Disney, the things we love and puts back the foundation of what the park is supposed to be about. The wonderful characters, the classic comedy, and the music that we all love. Yes, the old folks of Orlando are going to love it, but all the children who love Lumiere, and Ariel, and Aladdin will love this show. My son who dreams of one day being an Imagineer was very proud of the design and show that we were presented with. I witnessed several small children starting to misbehave before the show began, but once they saw the larger than life characters appear, they remained motionless. Not one mother left the theater.

All the good things your readers mentioned to you are true, but they left out the magic that is indeed there in the show. Sure there is no “Pre-Show”, but if you listen you hear the voices of Minnie and Goofy preparing all to enter the theater. I’ve never gone to any concert or Broadway play that had a pre-show, and isn’t the fact that we are going to see a concert the theme of the whole show?

We’re not going to bother you with any more detail. But just know, that it is a wonderful new attraction and long overdue for Fantasyland. The perfect place for it. I’ve seen all the shows that have been there, [“The Mickey Mouse Revue”], “Magic Journeys,” “Legend of the Lion King.” And for once I feel like it is something that finally fits the theme of the area.

Give it a chance, I’m sure you will love it. It is true the more you see it the more you love it.

Thanks for letting us vent.

Lisa and Travis

I’d reprint the rest of the pro-“Philharmagic” letters that I got on Monday and Tuesday. But that — coupled with Seth Kubersky’s mostly positive review of this new WDW show which is also running on the site today — would seem like overkill.

Mind you — in spite of this overwhelming response to Monday’s “Mickey’s Philharmagic” article — I still put plenty of credence in what Seabiscuit, My Friend Flicka and Mr. Ed told me about Disney’s new 3D movie. By that I mean: I know and respect these guys (two are longtime WDW cast members; the other is a highly respected theme park designer). So their opinions matter to me. And if these gentlemen have some issues with “Philharmagic” … well … that gives me pause.

And let’s not forget about Deep Mouse’s comments. Honestly, people, there are really Imagineers who believe that “Mickey’s Philharmagic” could be playing a whole lot better to WDW guests if Mickey had just opened up his wallet a little and provided the Fantasyland Theater with a proper lobby and pre-show area. Something that would have done a much better job of setting the stage for the film that followed.

But — that said — there’s no getting around the fact that 112 pro-“Mickey’s Philharmagic” e-mails turning up in my in-box in just two days time signals that there are quite a few of you out there who really disagree with Seabiscuit, My Friend Flick, Mr. Ed and Deep Mouse. You guys … well … seem to love this new Disney World attraction.

So who’s right here? Well … given that I myself haven’t seen “Mickey’s Philharmagic” yet, I really can’t say. Could it be that Seabiscuit, My Friend Flicka and Mr. Ed went into the Fantasyland Theater with expectations that were far too high? Perhaps … but given what I know about these guys, I don’t think so.

And could Deep Mouse be too much of an insider, too close to the material, to really allow himself to see how this new 3D movie is actually going over with Disney World audiences? Again, this is a possibility. But — given what I know about this guy — I seriously doubt it.

So what’s going on here? Why the vast range in opinions on “Mickey’s Philharmagic?” It may just be that this new 3D movie plays beautifully to some Disneyana fans while it leaves others cold.

That’s the way of the world, folks. Some people view the glass as being half empty, while others may see the glass as half full. And — in Al Lutz’s case — he sees the glass as not only being half empty, but also cracked and dirty. And the water that’s left in that glass? It was pumped straight out of a toxic landfill late at night by Mouse House executives who are determined to destroy everything that’s good about the Walt Disney Company.

Okay, I know: cheap shot. I’ll probably catch hell for that joke. But — after wading through 112 e-mails that told me that I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about when it came to “Mickey’s Philharmagic” — I guess I’ve grown used to being on other people’s sh*t list.

So — before all you Miceage fans work yourself into a frenzy — sorry about that, Al. If you’d like, feel free to take a poke at me sometime.

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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