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“Save Disney” in disarray

Jim Hill talks about the rough week that Roy Disney & Stanley Gold have just had, then wonders if there’s anything that these two can do to turn their increasing tough situation around.

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I’m sorry, folks. But there really isn’t a polite way to say this. Other than to say that the people working at “Save Disney” had a just plain awful week last week.

By that I mean: Roy Disney & Stanley Gold’s team got caught flat-footed by Michael Eisner’s surprise announcement on Friday, September 10th that he would be stepping down as Disney’s CEO as of September 2006. And Roy & Stanley have been forced to play catch-up ever since.

Yeah, Disney & Gold are now learning what a costly error it was to basically put their “Save Disney” campaign on hiatus for these past six months. To assume that the Disneyana faithful would just come a-running whenever Roy & Stanley called. To believe the media would always remain sympathetic to their “Oust Eisner” cause.

Don’t believe what I’m saying? Then let’s talk about the mass e-mailing that “Save Disney” sent out on Thursday, September 16th. Perhaps you received a copy of this message yourself? The one entitled “Action Alert!”? This e-mail asked those who were still sympathetic to Disney & Gold’s cause to immediately fax Disney Chairman George Mitchell and/or General Counsel Alan Braverman & express their concern with the Disney corporation’s succession issues.

Less than 24 hours later, “Save Disney” suddenly sent out a second mass e-mailing. You know, the one with a headline that read “Major Press Puts the Pressure on Mitchell!”? This follow-up note urged those hadn’t already faxed or e-mailed George Mitchell & Braverman to do so ASAP. Using urgent language like “It’s important that you join the chorus calling for change at this critical time.”

So why did “Save Disney” send out two such similiar e-mails within a single 24 hour span? Because — based on what I’ve heard from folks who work for that organization — that Thursday’s call to arms didn’t actually get much of a response. With fewer than a hundred people contacting Disney & Gold’s office and asking that their anti-succession messages be forwarded to Mouse House officials.

“That’s when the panic set in,” said one “Save Disney” insider. “Which is why we sent out that second e-mail, hoping that that message might get a better response from the people who subscribe to our mailing list.”

I’m told that the response to Friday’s “Save Disney” missive was equally tepid. Which is what led many members of that organization to finally realize what had been whispered about for weeks now was true. That Roy & Stanley no longer have the strong support of the Disneyana faithful. Which means that Disney & Gold are going to have to put in a truly heroic effort if they ever hope to win these people back.

Certainly the press is no longer in “Save Disney” ‘s pocket. Don’t believe me, eh? Okay. Then let’s look at the Wall Street Journal. Michael Eisner’s announcement that he would stepping down as Disney’s CEO in September 2006? That was literally front page news in the Journal on Friday, September 10th. With Bruce Orwall’s exclusive story running in the paper’s right hand column on Page A1.

On Monday, September 13th, Orwall & Joann S. Lublin wrote a follow-up to that Eisner-stepping-down story entitled “Lame Duck in Charge.” This feature (Which ran on Page B1. Which — for those of you who don’t know — is the front page of the Wall Street Journal’s “Marketplace” section. That part of the WSJ which is dedicated to covering technology, media and marketing-related stories. Anyway … ) listed a number of Eisner’s possible successors, including Disney president Bob Iger.

So what happened last Tuesday in the Journal? After Roy & Stanley sent their own letter to Disney’s Board of Directors, in which “Save Disney” threatened to ” … continue (its) campaign to oust Mr. Eisner unless the board quickly signals that it will hire a search firm and replace Mr. Eisner by next spring”? Where did the WSJ story covering Disney & Gold’s latest missive wind up? This Bruce Orwall & Joann S. Lublin collaboration got buried all the way back on Page B13. (Which — given that September 14th’s Wall Street Journal only had 14 pages in its entire “Marketplace” section — gives you some idea of how deeply this story got buried.)

Okay. I can hear some of you “Save Disney” types out there saying that the Wall Street Journal must be biased. That — because they’re the paper that originally scored the exclusive on Eisner’s stepping-down announcement — it was then probably in the WSJ’s best interests to bury that “Save Disney” -related article.

Well … Maybe … But — even if that were the case here — then how do you explain what’s going on with all those other newspapers out there? Like Laura Holson’s article in last Friday’s New York Times, “After Eisner, the Disney Board Faces Its Own Deluge.” That story — which also discussed succession issues at the Walt Disney Company — barely touched on “Save Disney.” Except for a paragraph about Bob Daly, the former co-chairman of Warner Brothers. Who is said to be interested in becoming the Walt Disney Company’s chairman — should that position ever become available.

In the paragraph in question, Holson states:

“Mr. Daly has been approached by two of Mr. Eisner’s most vocal critics — Roy E. Disney, the nephew of the company’s founder, and his financial adviser, Stanley P. Gold — to join an alternate slate of directors. But Mr. Daly turned them down because he did not want to be a hostile candidate, according to three media executives who were informed of the overture.”

You see what’s happening here, folks? This story is really starting to slip out of Roy & Stanley’s control. Where once “Save Disney” was the media’s darling, now we’re starting to hear about how influential people within the business & entertainment community are turning Disney & Gold down. Out of fear of what may happen to their reputations should they become associated with Roy & Stanley’s campaign. Which is now being percieved by people in the industry as being negative.

Even “Save Disney” ‘s hometown papers — the Los Angeles Time and Daily Variety — appear to be losing interest in Roy & Stanley’s efforts. This past Friday’s piece in the Times about the Walt Disney Company’s succession issues — Richard Verrier’s “Disney Chairman Isn’t in the Happiest Place” — doesn’t get around to mentioning Disney & Gold ’til 19 paragraphs in. And then this article pretty much dismisses Roy & Stanley’s entire “Oust Eisner” effort with a single ‘graph.

Whereas Daily Variety … In its inimitable show-bizzy style, Variety pretty much twitted the whole “Save Disney” campaign with last Friday’s headline: “Mouse dissidents still squeaking.”

Of course, Disney & Gold must have known that something like this might be in the wind. Given how badly their appearance on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” program last Wednesday afternoon went. The title of this program is entirely appropriate, given that “Power Lunch” ‘s hosts — Bill Griffeth and Sue Herera — basically chewed Roy & Stanley up and spat them out that day.

Disney & Gold had clearly hoped for a much more sympathetic handling by these two CNBC reporters. But Griffeth & Herera were just relentless with the former Disney board members. With Sue hammering away at Stanley, asking him for details about “Save Disney” ‘s dealings with Steve Jobs. (Gold sputtered out an answer to the effect that — given that this was a private conversation between himself & Jobs — that Stanley didn’t think that it was appropriate that he should discuss this matter on national television. Herera countered with words to the effect that — since the “Save Disney” reps had so often talked about Michael Eisner’s troubled relationship with Pixar — why shouldn’t “Save Disney” ‘s own dealings with Steve Jobs be fair game for discussion as well?)

But it was Bill Griffeth’s last question to Roy that proved to be the most telling. Griffeth asked Walt’s nephew what would happen if — in the worst case scenario — that the “Save Disney” campaign failed. What would happens if Disney’s Board of Directors didn’t actually heed any of Disney & Gold’s advice? If they opted to put in their own CEO candidate in place instead and then just proceeded from there?

Roy really didn’t have an answer for Bill’s question. He certainly didn’t say anything stirring like “I’m going to do whatever I have to protect my uncle & my father’s legacy.” Instead, under Griffeth’s grilling, Walt’s nephew pretty much wimped out. Closing out this segment of “Power Lunch” with words to the effect of ” … we’d continue to fight for the value of our shares.”

Which — I’m guessing here — might be a sound bite that would play well on Wall Street. But a quote like that isn’t going to do anything to help Disney & Gold win back the hearts of the Disney faithful. People who were hoping that — should Roy & Stanley actually win — that we’d see a second flowering of Walt’s Magic Kingdom. A whole slew of new traditionally animated films and/or a bucket of of new “E’ Tickets being built at the Disney theme parks. Stuff like that.

Again — let me stress here, folks — that I don’t get my jollies by writing stories like this. But it just bothers me to see so many Disneyana sites out there talking as if things are going great for “Save Disney” … When they’re really not.

Disney & Gold’s campaign is in complete disarray right now, people. And — unless Roy & Stanley get their act together and fast … Well, here. Let me close out with a quote from Bruce Orwall’s “Lame Duck in Charge” article:

“A widespread view on Friday was that Mr. Eisner may have cleverly disarmed his opponents with his retirement plans.”

That’s the same thing that I’ve been hearing as well, folks. That Roy & Stanley were completely out-flanked by Michael’s stepping-down-in-September-of-2006 manuever. That these two didn’t get a very strong response to last Thursday & Friday’s request to fax George Mitchell and Alan Braverman because … Well, to be frank, people don’t really care about Disney’s Board of Directors.

Which is why we find “Save Disney” in such a sorry state. With Roy & Stanley now fumbling to refine their message. To somehow get Disneyana fans as well as Wall Street movers & shakers excited about the idea of replacing Disney’s Board of Directors. Because if that doesn’t happen … Well, there’s little chance that Disney & Gold will ever find themselves again in positions of power at the Mouse House.

Again — I know — the Walt Disney Company has produced hundreds of cartoons, movies & TV shows over the years where there’s this come-from-behind finish and the hero succeeds against some really incredible odds. But this is real life, people. And “Save Disney” … Well, Roy & Stanley are supposed to be these really smart guys. But (me personally) I haven’t been all that impressed with their performance over the past six months. Most of their movement’s initial heat has been lost. The same thing can be said for much of “Save Disney” ‘s momentum.

And now that the Disney faithful aren’t heeding Disney & Gold’s calls to send faxes and the media seems to have turned its back on these two as well … I don’t see this story ending well for anyone other than Michael Eisner. Who now looks like he’s going to have another 700+ days to rule over the Magic Kingdom. Which should give Uncle Mikey plenty of time to repair his tattered reputation.

It really didn’t have to be this way, folks. If Roy & Stanley had just kept the pressure up after Philadelphia, if “Save Disney” hadn’t taken that six month long seista … We’d be dealing with a very different situation right about now.

But now … I can’t help but think about the irony of this whole situation. By that I mean: Today is the 20th anniversary of Michael Eisner’s arrival at the Mouse House. September 20, 1984 was the very first day that Eisner served as Disney’s CEO. And who got Michael that job? Roy & Stanley.

And now here’s Eisner stage-managing his own exit. With Michael doing everything he can to make sure that he goes out on a high note. And here are Disney & Gold. Who are equally determined to do whatever they have to in order to get Eisner tossed out on his ass ASAP.

As a good friend of mine likes to say: “If irony were strawberries, we’d all be drinking a lot of fruit smoothies right about now.”

Look for this already strange story to get even stranger later this week … Once we learn what Disney’s Board of Directors decided to do during their most recent series of meetings (which were held yesterday, today and tomorrow) and what Roy & Stanley’s counter-move might be.

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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