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“Really? But I thought that you hated the Walt Disney Company …”

Jim Hill finally answers some of the more pressing questions that JHM readers have. Like what does Jim really think of “Cars”? And why does this site keep taking pokes at Pixar? (WARNING: This article does contain a few minor “Pirates” spoilers)

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Something rather telling happened to me earlier this month while I was attending SIGGRAPH 2006.




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I was standing in the main hall at Boston’s Convention & Exhibition Center, admiring all of the cool “Meet the Robinsons” concept art that was on display at the Disney Feature Animation booth. And I had just finished jotting down a few notes when I noticed that a WDFA staffer was standing at my elbow.


This woman said: “Are you Jim Hill?” I had to admit that I was. The two of us then had a brief but very pleasant conversation about this upcoming Stephen J. Anderson film. But — as I mentioned how much I was looking forward to seeing “Meet the Robinsons” — this WDFA staffer seemed genuinely taken aback.


“Really?,” she said. “But I thought that you hated the Walt Disney Company.”


*sigh*


Given some of the articles that I’ve posted on this website, I guess that I shouldn’t be all that surprised that a Disney Feature Animation staffer might think this. I mean, judging by what’s  sometimes been said about me over in JHM’s TalkBack section, it’s clear that a number of this site’s readers also think the very same thing.


So let me blunt here, folks: I don’t hate the Mouse. All I’m trying to do with the stories that I post on this website is report the Disney-related news as I see it.


And when I say “news,” I don’t mean that “Happy HAPPY HAPPY” news that you’ll find on most other Disneyana websites. Where those webmasters just post the press releases that various arms of the Disney corporate empire send them.


Me? I’m not a big fan of press releases. Why For? Well, they tend to gloss over actual information. You know? The really juicy stuff.  


Take — for example — all the “Cars” -related releases that Disney’s PR department has issued over the past few months. To hear the Mouse’s flaks tell this tale, virtually everyone on the planet has been thrilled with the way that this new John Lasseter film has been performing.


Of course, if you’ve been reading the articles that I’ve been posting over here on JHM, then you know that a number of people in the investment community have already expressed dissatisfaction with “Cars” performance. Which I think is an important Disney-related story.



Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar


Speaking of those stories … A number of JHM readers (based strictly on my coverage on this one issue) have now decided that “… Jim must really hate ‘Cars.’ ”


Well, if you think that, you’re wrong.


I mean, if that were really the case, if I did actually hate “Cars” … Then why (for the love of Chrysler) would I have seen this John Lasseter film three times over the past three months? With the last performance that I attended being one where my daughter & I went to see “Cars” while it was actually being screened at our local drive-in theater? That’s kind of odd behavior for someone who supposedly has it in for this particular Pixar production, don’t you think?


Well, the truth of the matter is that I actually like “Cars” quite a bit. Being a baby boomer who grew up in a small town that nearly caved in on itself once Maynard’s main employer (I.E. Digital Equipment Corporation) suddenly hit the skids … Well, let’s just say that that part of this movie’s message really resonated with me.


So does that mean that “Cars” is now my favorite Pixar movie? To be honest, no. If I had to list my absolute favorite films that this animation studio has produced over the past 10 years, I’m thinking that I’d have an awfully hard time choosing between “Monsters, Inc.,” “Toy Story 2” and “The Incredibles.” Those three movies set the skillful-storytelling bar awfully high.


“Cars”? As entertaining as this John Lasseter film may be, it still feels like lesser Pixar to me. Sort of like “A Bug’s Life.” Which has lots of wonderful characters & some truly engaging moments, but still somehow missed the mark. For me, anyway.


Come to think of it, I think that “Cars” ultimately gets tripped up by the very same thing that did in “A Bug’s Life.” Given that — 30 minutes into the picture — this whole new set of characters suddenly comes on screen. Which means that, in essence, the film’s story has to start all over again. As we now have to get to know this entirely new set of characters.


Anywho … When I say “lesser Pixar,” that’s sort of like complaining that your brand-new solid-gold watch is only 18 karat, rather than 24 karat. Gold’s gold, right? And Pixar’s still the very best at what they do. Which is creating these hyper-detailed, densely entertaining animated features.


(Though — that said — were you to ask me which of this summer’s feature-length cartoons was my absolute favorite, I’d have to say that it was Dreamworks Animation’s “Over the Hedge.” That Bonnie Arnold production was honestly tighter, funnier and more heartfelt [for me, anyway] than John Lasseter’s latest opus. If you haven’t yet seen “OTH,” make sure to check this Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick film out once it arrives on DVD on October 17th. Anyhow …)



Copyright 2006 Dreamworks Animation


“But if that’s how you really feel about ‘Cars’ in general and Pixar in particular,” you ask,”Then why have you written all of these stories about how this film has been under-performing at the box office? Articles that have suggested that — just because ‘Cars’ didn’t meet the investment community’s initial expectations — that Pixar may soon slip off its pedestal?”


Because (my personal feelings aside) that’s where the real story is. Not that Pixar made another movie that made lots of money. But — rather — that “Cars” wasn’t the “Finding Nemo” -sized hit that everyone had been hoping for. Given that the Walt Disney Company just paid $7.4 billion for Pixar Animation Studios … The mere fact that the first film that was released after this acquisition was completed failed to meet Wall Street’s expectations … Well, that’s news, people.


Now please note that I didn’t say “happy news.” Just plain-old news-news.


This (I fear) may be the main problem that some JHM readers have been having with my more recent articles. These people … Well, they like all of the stories that they read on the Web about the Walt Disney Company to be happy & upbeat. To read a piece that’s not positive about the Mouse … That somehow takes some of the magic out of the Magic Kingdom for these folks.


Don’t get me wrong. I get that the Walt Disney Company founded its fortune on telling tales that prominently feature fantasy, where dreams really do come true. Which — given that most people  don’t have nearly enough magic in their lives … Well, this is why so many folks have warm & fuzzy feelings about this particular Fortune 500 company.


But me? While I may occasionally visit the Magic Kingdom, I still live in the real world. Where seriously over-paying for Pixar Animation Studios may wind up costing Disney’s new CEO plenty.


I mean, let’s remember that — back in November of 2003, when Roy E. Disney resigned from the Walt Disney Company — that this was one of the main charges that Walt’s nephew made against Michael Eisner. That Disney’s old CEO had seriously over-paid News Corp (by as much as a billion dollars, some say) when Disney bought Fox Family Channel back in July of 2001 for $5.3 billion.


Now Disneyana fans — many of whom are still caught up in the artificial exuberance that initially surrounded the Pixar acquisition — may be willing to overlook an under-performing motion picture here or a billion dollar over-payment there. But Wall Street will not. And if Pixar’s next picture — “Ratatouille” — also fails to meet initial box office projections … Well, that $7.4 billion price tag may come back to haunt Bob Iger.


To be fair, in the other article that I’ve posted on JHM today, I suggest that “Cars” under-performance at the box office this past summer may actually be a symptom of a much larger problem. That most of the other CG films that have been released in the past six months have also failed to meet their initial financial projections. Thanks — in large part — to the fact that moviegoers appear to be growing bored with computer animation. Which is why Disney’s recent decision to revive its traditional animation unit is now looking like a really smart move.



Photo courtesy of Google Images


Mind you, we’re not talking about WDFA as it used to be back in 2001 or 2003 (I.E. Way before the lay-offs). But — rather — traditional animation as it was back in 1984. Where a very small team (We’re talking about only 100 artists & technicians) worked ridiculously long hours in order to churn out each new animated feature.


And given that over 2000 people used to work for WDFA back in its heyday … Well, there’s not going to be a whole lot of room in this particular lifeboat. So it’s going to be really interesting to see who gets invited back to work on these new traditionally animated features. More importantly, who doesn’t.


You see? That’s the sort of thing that I’m talking about. Where most Disneyana fans would have had a very upbeat reaction to this particular story (I.E. “Disney’s reviving its traditional animation unit? Hurray!), I opted to go the other way (I.E. “Yeah, but there won’t be a whole lot of job openings at this new version of Disney’s traditional animation unit. So who exactly is the Mouse going to hire to make these movies?”).


Hmmmn … Maybe the people who always complain about my articles are right. Maybe I am unnecessarily negative. But  the way I see it … Where other people see simplicity, I see complexity. Which is why I’m not a big fan of press releases. I don’t like easy answers. Explanations that seem too neat & tidy.


Beyond that … I don’t really know what to tell you folks. Other than to say — if you need for the stories that you read about the Mouse to always be “Happy HAPPY HAPPY” … This probably isn’t the website for you.


If — on the other hand — you can handle the occasional controversial article, one that asks you to accept something other than what Disney’s press releases are telling you … You’ll probably find a few things that you’ll enjoy reading here at JHM.


Unless — of course — I decide to write another article about “Cars.” If that were to happen … Well, look for all sorts of Hell to break loose over in JHM’s TalkBack section again.


I think that that pretty much covers it for today … Oh, wait. Some JHM readers wanted to know what I thought about “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”


To be honest, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did “Curse of the Black Pearl.” I felt that this Gore Verbinski film was a bit on the flabby side, running at least a half hour too long. With so many huge action sequences piled right on top of one another that — after a while — it just felt like over-kill.


But — that said — “Dead Man’s Chest” was still a pretty fun night out at the movies for me. Thanks — in large part — to Johnny Depp‘s performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow. And Bill Nighy really added to the fun with his scenery-chewing turn as Davy Jones. (FYI: JHM will be doing a story in the next week or so that talks about the amazing technology that ILM used to turn this acclaimed British actor into a tentacle-faced ghoul. So keep an eye out for that particular article).


Anyway … If you were to ask me what my favorite part of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” was, I’d honestly have to say that it was the last 30 seconds of the film. Where Geoffrey Rush makes one of the great entrances in movie history.



Copyright 2003 Disney Enterprises


That’s why (I think) so many people are eager to see “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s Endnow. Not because they really want to learn what became of Capt. Jack Sparrow once he got swallowed by the Kraken. But — rather — to see what Capt. Barbossa is going to do next.


You know, now that I think of it, even though I’ve already seen “Dead Man’s Chest” twice, I may  have to go back and see this Jerry Bruckheimer production again sometime soon. If only to see if the rumors that I’ve been hearing are true. That — if you’re watching really closely — you can actually spy Barbossa’s boots on Tia Dalma’s bed. As that undead monkey is racing around her shack in the swamp.


Anyway … Here’s hoping that the above article finally answers some of the questions that a few JHM readers have been asking over the past few weeks. Hopefully this piece will give you a better understanding of why I write what I write, how I really feel about Pixar, etc.


Okay … Enough with this self-indulgent crap. Now — if you’ll excuse me — I have to get back to my real job. Which is writing new Disney-related articles that (I’m sure) some of you will vehemently disagree with.


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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