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Pioneering female reporter provides the inspiration for Kara Lindsay’s character in Disney “Newsies the Musical”

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Elizabeth Jane Cochran didn't exactly make headlines when she
was born in Western Pennsylvania  148
years ago this Saturday.  But all of that
would change when — at just 16 years of age — Ms. Cochran took up the pen
name Nellie Bly and thus became America's first female investigative reporter.

Nellie tackled the sort of stories that few men would dare
to do. Like spending 10 days undercover in a New York City lunatic asylum so
that she could then reveal how poorly the patients there were being treated.

Or — better yet — how about the time when Ms. Bly wanted
to pull a Jules Verne. See if it was indeed possible to go Around the World in 80 Days.  So armed with just a single
dress, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear and a satchel of money which
she kept tied around her neck, Nellie set out from Hoboken, NJ at 9:40 a.m. and
then managed to make it all the way 'round our planet — traveling 24,899 miles
mostly by rail & boat — in just 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14
seconds around our planet. Besting Phineas Fogg's fictitious record for circumnavigating
the entire globe by more than a week.

"So why bring up Nellie Bly now?," you ask. Well,
back when Harvey Fierstein was initially tasked with writing the book for Disney
"Newsies the Musical," this four-time Tony Award-winner reportedly
popped the 1992 movie version
into his DVD player and then found that this film
lacked a good strong female role.

And that just wasn't going to work for Harvey. For Disney "Newsies
the Musical"
to really succeed on the stage, there had to at least be a
hint of romance to the story. Ideally involving a female character who was just
as strong, just as determined as Jack Kelly (i.e. the newspaper delivery boy
who — when Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World — raised the price
which the 'newsies' have to pay for the papers that they were selling —
organized a protest that eventually went citywide) was.


Harvey Fierstein at the Opening Night of Disney "Newsies the Musical."
Photo by Nancy Stadler

So Fierstein began doing some research, digging down into
the life of newspaper tycoon Pulitzer. And who turns out to be one of Joseph's
all-time favorite reporters? Miss Nellie Bly. Given the numerous headlines that
this woman generated during the 7+ years she worked as a journalist, Pulitzer
was always happy to underwrite yet another one of Ms. Bly's exposes or
adventures.

So then Harvey thought: If  Disney "Newsies the Musical" is
built around Jack Kelly's David-and-Goliath clash with that mighty newspaper
magnate  … Well, why not give this
show's narrative a fun new twist by bringing in another piece of Pulitzer's
past? To be specific, one Katherine Plumber — a female reporter who's clearly
inspired by the feisty Miss Bly –who, while she's investigating the plight of
NYC's 'newsies,' unexpectedly finds herself falling for the good hearted,
street smart Mr. Kelly.

And once Fierstein had fixed this show's narrative by
folding in the Katherine Plumber character, it was then up to Disney
"Newsies the Musical" director Jeff Calhoun to come up with a female performer
who could who could really channel the spirit of Nellie Bly. And that woman
turned out to be 27 year-old Kara Lindsay of Rochester, NY.


Susan Egan and Terrance Mann from the original Broadway cast of Disney's "Beauty and
the Beast." Photo by Joan Marcus. Copyright Disney Enterprises, inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, it's kind of fitting that Lindsay wound up making
her Broadway debut in a Disney Theatrical production. Given that — 15 years
ago, when Kara was just an 8 year-old girl — she once wrote in her diary that
" … One day, I want to be Belle on Broadway."

But Lindsay's road to Broadway stardom was far from a smooth
one. First there was the very public February 2007 flame-out of "Lone Star
Love," the show that Kara was supposed to make her Broadway debut in. Only
to then have this "Star" implode during its out-of-town try-out in
Seattle. Which is when Randy Quaid — who was playing the Falstaff role in this
American / musicalized version of Shakespeare's "Merry Wives of Windsor"
became physically & verbally abusive to his fellow castmates.

Then there was "Little House on the Prairie, the
Musical
," which was directed by Francesca Zambello (best known to Disney
fans as the opera veteran who helmed the Broadway musical version of Disney's "The Little Mermaid"" as well as DCA's long-running "Disney's Aladdin – A
Musical Spectacular
"). On that show, Lindsay played Laura Ingalls to
Melissa Gilbert (Yes. THAT Melissa Gilbert. The current ABC's "Dancing with the
Stars
" performer who — back in the 1970s — portrayed Laura Ingalls on
NBC's long-running "Little House on the Prairie" TV series)'s Ma.


(L to R) Melissa Gilbert as Ma and Kara Lindsay as Laura Ingalls in "Little House on the
Prairie, The Musical."
Photo by Carol Rosegg. Copyright 2009 Little House
Productions LP. All rights reserved

"Little House on the Prairie, the Musical" started
its national tour at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn, NJ in September of
2009. And the rumor was that Ma & Pa Ingalls would eventually bring their
brood to Broadway. But that dream faded due to lackluster ticket sales and
"Prairie" closed — ironically enough — out on the prairie. At Kansas
City's Starlight Theatre
back in June of 2010, to be precise.

Now having two Broadway-bound show that you were appearing
in die out-of-town might have discouraged a lesser performer. But not Kara Lindsay.
Who — just like Nellie Bly — was feisty. More importantly, the hard work &
dedication that she had demonstrated while rehearsing the role of Laura Ingalls
had really impressed Mark Hoebee and Patrick Parker, the artistic directors of
the Paper Mill Playhouse. Which is why Mark & Patrick told Kara that they'd
love to have her come back someday and do another show at Paper Mill.

Lindsay was grateful for the compliment. But she never once
thought that Hoebee & Parker were serious. But they were. Which is why —
when Disney Theatrical came to the Paper Mill Playhouse in the Spring of 2011
and said "We'd like to use your theater to mount a regional production of
Disney 'Newsies the Musical
.' A show that we don't really intend to take to
Broadway. We're just doing this so that we'll then have a stage version of
'Newsies' to license." And after Mark & Patrick read Harvey's script,
they reportedly told the powers-that-be at Disney Theatrical that " … we
know just the right girl to play Katherine Plumber."


Kara Lindsay as Katherine Plumber and Jeremy Jordan as Jack Kelly in  Disney
"Newsies the Musical." Photo by Deen van Meer. Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

So Kara came in and auditioned. And the next thing she knew,
Ms. Lindsay had the female lead in "Newsies." And then came the
audience adulation & the overwhelming positive reviews for the Paper Mill Playhouse
production of this show. Which was then followed by Disney "Newsies the
Musical" 's transfer to Broadway.

So now here's Kara living the  dream that she dreamed back when she was
eight. She's starring in a Disney musical on Broadway. Though reality often intrudes
on Lindsay's Broadway dream in some pretty funny ways.

"Nellie Bly had to make her way in the then all-male
world of newspapers. Me? I'm appearing in a show where I'm literally one of the
only women in this cast. So I'm working in an all-male world too," Kara
remarked during an Opening Night interview with JHM. "But the downside of
being in an all-male show like "Newsies the Musical' is that there's only
one bathroom backstage here at the Nederlander Theatre for all us performers to
use. Which means — whenever I go in there — the seat is always up."


Kara Lindsay (center) and her mostly male co-horts in the cast of Disney "Newsies the
Musical." Photo by Deen van Meer. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Which (I'll admit) sounds slightly gross. As was the case of
the flu that Lindsay got just days before Disney "Newsies the
Musical" opened on Broadway.

"That was awful. For a day or so there, I really didn't
know if I was going to make it. Two shows ago, I had no voice. No voice at all.
I was seriously wondering whether someone else was going to have go on and play
Katherine for 'Newsies' Opening Night. Which would have broken my heart,"
Kara recalled. "But then Disney Theatrical sent me to some very good
doctors and I'm now taking some very serious medicine like steroids. So I'm
here. I made it. I have finally officially made my Broadway debut."

But given how poorly she had been feeling that week, all of
the stress that she'd been under lately, Lindsay had almost decided to blow off
all of the backstage, behind-the-scenes pageantry that's typically associated with
the Opening Night of a new Broadway musical. Just treat that evening like it
was another normal performance.


Kara and the rest of the cast of Disney "Newsies the Musical" backstage at the
Nederlander Theatre during the Gypsy Robe Ceremony

"But Capathia Jenkins — she plays Medda Larkin on this
show — she reminded me that an Opening Night is NOT a normal performance.
Which is why she insisted that, no matter how bad I was feeling, I still had to
come to the theater two or three hours before the curtain went up. Because there's
so much to do and see," Kara continued. "And Capathia was right. I'm
so glad that I made myself come in early. Because I got to see the Gyspy Robe
ceremony. And my dressing room was filled with all these flowers and presents. And
the theater itself felt different. There's this weird kind of energy  that comes with a Broadway Opening Night. It
comes from the cast and the audience. I really don't know how to describe
it."

Speaking of presents, what was Lindsay's favorite Opening
Night gift? That one came from Jack Feldman, the man who — along with Disney Legend  Alan
Menken
— wrote all of the songs for Disney "Newsies the Musical."

"Can you believe it? Jack found a poster of Nellie
Bly," Kara smiled. "It's now hanging up in my dressing room. So that
the real-life woman who inspired the creation of my character in 'Newsies'  can now inspire me before I go out onstage every
night and play Katherine Plumber."


Nellie Bly and the outfit that she wore when she
traveled Around the World in 72 Days in late
1899 – early 1890.

Which (obviously) isn't a headline-grabbing  sort of story like "Woman reporter spends
10 Days in insane asylum to expose abuse" and/or "Female journalist beats
Phineas Fogg's Around-the-World-in-80-Days record by more than a week." But
— even so — I can't help but think that Nellie Bly would have enjoyed Kara
Lindsay's come-from-behind tale about how she finally made her Broadway debut.

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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