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On the red carpet at the “Cars” premiere

At this past Friday night’s event at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway, JHM columnist Michael Howe got to quiz many of the stars who worked on this new Pixar film as well as the celebrities who attended the premiere. Here are a few highlights from Mike’s moment on the red carpet



John Lasseter
Director of “Cars”

Q: I know you’re a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki. Is the Fiat 500 named Luigi a reference to Miyazaki-san’s film (“The Castle of Cagliostro“)?

A: No, it’s not a reference to it, though I love “Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro.” I love that film. But his movies mean so much to me, he’s a filmmaker and he’s great.

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: It has to be incredible knowing that all these Pixar films are going to be seen and loved by your grandchildren’s grandchildren. Do you think about that?

A: Nancy Lasseter — my wife who is standing right next to me — said to me a long time ago, when I was making “Toy Story” : “Make sure you make this movie, not for the first time someone sees it, but for the 100th time someone has to suffer through it on video.” And it is so true. We really work to make these movies last a long time. It’s not about the technology we use. It’s about the story and the characters we use. And I’m very excited about it. I love to entertain my audiences. So that’s what it’s all about.

Q: When you first get your ideas, which may seem crazy at first to other people, is Nancy your filter? In terms of “This will work, this won’t work”?

A: She is. I talk to her a lot about all my projects. I remember pitching her the idea in the bathroom getting ready one morning. And I pitched her the idea for “Toy Story 2,” and she went: “Oh yeah. That’s a good idea!” With “Cars,” honestly, she’s not a car-person. And she goes: “Well, you make sure you make this movie for me, your nieces, and all the people out there that are not into racing, not into cars.” And I said: “there’s people like that?” Because I’m really into cars. And all through the making of this movie we have the “Nancy Factor.” Which really said: “get away from just the detail of the cars.” And it’s about the story and the characters. And that’s what it’s about.

Nancy Lasseter
Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: Has she shot down any ideas that were just too crazy to make?

A: No, because she questions them, and I have to kind of work to support them, and then I finally win her over. But she helps make them better.

Larry the Cable Guy
Voice of Mater

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: Mater seems like a fun guy. I love the big buck-teeth he has, and it gives him his personality.

A: Oh yeah. And the thing is they’re wider than my teeth. That’s the thing that irritated me.

Q: I’ve heard a rumor that Mater possibly goes cow-tipping in the movie. Have you ever gone cow-tipping?

A: You know what? I’ve never done cow-tipping, and we used to have cows. I think that’s somethin’ that city kids … We had a cousin that lived in the city. You made him go out and cow-tip. And we got away from the cows.

Owen Wilson
Voice of Lightning McQueen

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: Knowing that this is a movie that will be seen by your grandkid’s grandkids, does this make it more special for you?

A: Yeah, it does. Because the way you phrased (your question) really made me think about it. That’d be a very cool thing. And it does seem like these Pixar movies really enter the culture in a way that movies when we were growing up like, you know, those classic Disney films. It’s like Pixar’s become that, so that’s cool.

Bonnie Hunt
Voice of Sally

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: Sally seems to love going for drives around Radiator Springs. Is there any place you’ve enjoyed going to, such as a place to relax?

A: For me, it’s being in the garden. But I think that Sally going on that ride through Radiator Springs is kind of symbolic. It’s “Take time to slow down and stop and just smell the roses.” Whether it’s going fishing, or working in the garden. Whatever your Radiator Springs is in your mind, take the time to take a nice slow drive.

Cheech Marin
Voice of Ramone

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: Now you play Ramone, who runs his own Custom Shop in Radiator Springs. So what was it like when they told you you’re going to be playing an Impala who changes his style around?

A: I thought just: “Hey, right up my alley.” Must be typecasting. And he’s cool. And he goes up and down.

Q: If you could customize yourself, what kind of custom would you be?

A: I would probably be a Bentley, you know. I like to go low, and slow, and cushy. I like a cushy ride.

Tony Shaloub
Voice of Luigi

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: In the film, Luigi has an Italian accent. Do you happen to know which region of Italy Luigi is from?

A: Yeah, he’s from the region of Italy called Green Bay, where I grew up. I don’t pretend that it’s an authentic Italian accent, but somehow the Pixar people think it’s good enough.

Q: Luigi seems like a little car with a big heart. It must have been fun to play a cute little Fiat in the film.

A: Yeah, it was thrilling. They give you so much. You’re able to see all these sketches, the world that these characters occupy. They make your job really easy.

Paul Dooley
Voice of Sarge

Q: We hear you play Sarge in “Cars.” It must be fun to play an old ’41 Willys Jeep.

A: Well I’m an “old Jeep” myself. I mean, I’m the same age as Sarge. He’s World War II, and I’m about his age. So it wasn’t a stretch for me to play an old person, even an old car. So I enjoyed it and I added a little gravel to my voice. I figured if he’s been barking orders at soldiers part of his life, you know. So I gave him a kind of a gravelly quality like that, you know. And it was great fun.

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: Did you need to do a lot of research into military-type stuff, or did you have that experience before?

A: We’ve all seen so many military movies, that you know what “Ten-hut!,” and “As you were,” and “Drop and give me twenty,” all that language we’ve seen. Hundreds of movies about us. So it’s in the general public information about how a sergeant would work. He’s like a drill instructor, you know.

Paul Dooley & playwright Winnie Holzman
Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: Though it seems that the one guy he can’t quite get ahold of is Fillmore, the VW Bus.

A: That’s George Carlin, yeah. George and I are at odds with each other. I’m a “spit-and-polish” guy and he’s a laid-back hippie that hasn’t changed since the 60’s.

John Ratzenberger
Voice of Mack

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: Now I understand that in “Cars,” you play the part of Mack?

A: The Mack Truck. Yeah, the Mack Truck that pulls Lightning McQueen around to the races. During one journey, he goes missing. And that’s where the story begins.

Q: I heard that your Dad actually drove Mack trucks as well.

A: My Dad drove a red Mack Truck.

Q: Did you imbue some of your Dad into the role of Mack for the film? Any little nuances you remember?

A: No, but John knew that my father drove a Red Mack Truck and that’s why he had me voice the red Mack truck.

Q: You seem to be the lucky guy when it comes to Pixar. You’re their good luck charm. What’s it like being able to be involved with all of these films that have done so well?

A: The amazing thing is that you never hear the phrase “Aw, that’s good enough” at Pixar. They always try to out-distance themselves in their work, and they do that consciously. Every film they do, they work as hard as they did on the very first film and it comes out. Wait’ll you see this movie. You thought “Finding Nemo” was good? Please.

Dave Foley
Voice of Flik in “A Bug’s Life
Cameo appearance in “Cars” credits sequence

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: So Dave, we know you’ve done “A Bug’s Life,” and we hear that you’re involved in “Cars” in some way. Can you tell us what’s going on with that?

A: I’m part of a little surprise treat in the credits of the film. You know, Pixar always likes to put something special into their credit sequences. And so I was involved with that for this picture.

Q: Who came up with the idea for it?

A: I’m guessing it was probably John Lasseter. I know that we did it. I guess the first time they did it was on “A Bug’s Life” where they did outtakes at the end. Which was something they wanted to do on “Toy Story,” but they weren’t allowed to do it on ‘Toy Story.’ But by ‘A Bug’s Life,’ they were allowed to do whatever they wanted, y’know. Naked, if they wanted. So, yes. They always do a little special thing in the credits. And that’s part of that.

Q: So was it good to come back and work at Pixar again? It must have been quite a change since you did “A Bug’s Life.”

A: I always stay in touch with them. We’ve stayed friends over the years. It was just sort of seeing old friends again, so it was nice.

Michael Wallis
Voice of the Sheriff
Author of “The Art of Cars

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: We’ve just got a little question, because we took a little road trip from Chicago this morning, and were wondering if you’ve ever heard of “The Chicken Basket?” (EDITOR’S NOTE: “The Chicken Basket” is one of the restaurants near the start of Route 66. Which starts in Chicago, IL)

A: Oh yes. Up in Willowbrook. I know it very well. I’ve devoured lots of chicken there. The Road is so great in the state of Illinois today. Out of all the states, I always point out that Illinois is leading the 8 Route 66 states in terms of restoration and preservation. Great signage, wonderful ride, yeah.

Q: You play the Sheriff in Radiator Springs. Was that John’s (Lasseter’s) idea, or did you kind of come up with the idea?

A: I was his consultant. And then I wrote the book about the making of the movie, “The Art of Cars,” with my wife. But he said: “you’ve got to be a character voice in this film. We’ve got to capture you on film. And don’t you think you’d make a great Sheriff?” And I said: “Sure, why not? What’s the car?” “1949 Mercury.” “Um, it’s a done deal.” Because it’s one of my favorite cars. It’s the same kind of car that James Dean had in “Rebel Without a Cause,” you know? It’s just a Classic. And people tell me that grille on that car looks a little bit like my moustache. Which just a few years ago was pitch black and suddenly it’s turned chrome-colored. So I don’t know.

Q: You have a very distinctive voice.

A: Yes, and wait til’ you see my interaction with Mater. I think you’ll get a kick out of that. Mater is one of my favorite characters, and he drives my “Cars” character crazy.

Q: I didn’t know that.

A: Oh yes. He’s sort of my little nemesis. I’m always after him. But these people that are represented in these cars are actual people from Route 66. And a lot of them are here tonight: Cooks, waitresses, people that I exposed Pixar to. And they took the personailty of these people and it comes out in these cars. That’s why this film is so good. That’s why it’s accurate and true.

Dick Cook
Chairman of Walt Disney Studios

Photo by Marie Yuen

Q: One thing I find wonderful about Pixar is that the technology has not gotten in the way of storytelling like so many special effects movies do.

A: No, the technology never gets in the way of the storytelling. Storytelling comes first. The technology just helps you to tell the story in a more interesting and fun way, and having characters that are able to show this kind of emotion is just sensational.

Q: And obviously, you have very high hopes for the partnership going forward into the future?

A: You know, I think it’s been the most successful partnership I think in motion picture history. And now that Pixar is a part of Disney, it just makes it that much better.

Q: It’s interesting the way Lasseter’s come on board to Disney. Is there any word on 2-D animation coming back to the studios?

A: Well, I think everyone that’s there is a real fan of 2-D animation. I think that we’re not ready to make any announcements. But I think — at some point –you could certainly look forward to something in 2-D coming back. You know, it’s still great storytelling and characters that matter the most, and I think you might see it.

Q: Since we’re also talking about cars, is there a favorite car that you wanted as a kid, or had as a teenager?

A: It was probably my very first car, which was a 1964 Chevy II Nova. It was red, had 3-speed on the column. Maybe it’s because it was my first car. It was a used car, several people had owned it. But I just loved that car.

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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