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Scrooge U: Part XXXVII — Ahrens & Menken deliver delightful “A Christmas Carol: The Musical”

Jim Hill continues his look at many of the adaptations of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale. In today's installment, Jim talks about the 2004 TV movie that successfully translated a popular stage version of "A Christmas Carol" to the small screen



"Tell the truth. You're getting kind of tired of writing about 'A Christmas Carol,' aren't you?"

No, this wasn't an e-mail that some disgruntled JHM reader sent me. But — rather — the ever-wise & patient Nancy (Who — FYI — has been formatting each & every one of the photos that we've featured in the "Scrooge U" series). Given that this website will be wrapping up its first-ever 40-part series in just a few days, my significant other just wanted to know if I was officially Dickens-ed out yet.

I said "No." Mind you, I also told Nancy that — if I ever again suggested writing a 40-part anything for JHM (Particularly over the holiday season) — she had my permission to shoot me. But — truth be told — I'm not entirely Dickens-ed out. Not yet, anyway.

I mean, how many times do you actually get to something like this? Compare & contrast this many versions of a particular holiday story. See what sort of spin each set of film-makers puts on Dickens' tale. How they interpret the material.

Take — for example — Lynn Ahrens & Alan Menken's "A Christmas Carol: The Musical." Which uses Charles Dickens' text as the inspiration for a heartfelt TV movie loaded with great songs.

Copyright 2004 Hallmark Entertainment

Truth be told, this new musical version of "A Christmas Carol" actually started out life as a stage production. Director Mike Ockrent came up with the initial concept for this show. Which called for telling Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale on a truly grand scale. With a cast of 70, a 25-piece orchestra, a set design that literally surrounded the audience in 1843 London, even an indoor snowfall.

But Ockrent's really genius touch was in recruiting Lynn Ahrens to help him write the book for this new adaptation of "A Christmas Carol." Lynn — in turn — would pen the lyrics for all 22 songs in the show. Which Alan Menken would then provide the music for.

The end result debuted in 1994 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. And audiences immediately embraced this tuneful new adaptation of Dickens' classic tale. Returning year after year to experience what eventually came to be seen as a NYC holiday tradition.

But sadly all good things must eventually come to an end. After 10 years of presenting five weeks of live shows at MSG each holiday season, "A Christmas Carol: A Musical" closed for good in December of 2003. Only to have RHI Entertainment immediately begin work on translating this popular stage musical to the small screen.

Copyright 2004 Hallmark Entertainment

Thankfully, the folks at RHI were smart enough to recruit Ms. Ahrens to write the teleplay. And Lynn kept she & Mike's very best concept from "A Christmas Carol: A Musical" intact. Which was that — as our story starts — the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Be are already out walking the streets of London. Carefully observing Ebenezer Scrooge (Kelsey Grammer) as he interacts with his fellow man on Christmas Eve.

The first to come in contact with this miserable miser is the Ghost of Christmas Present (Jesse L. Martin). Who — while disguised as a sandwich board man — cautions Scrooge that " … Life'll pass you by in just a while, sir. And it may be later than you know."

Next up in the Ghost of Christmas Past (Jane Krakowski). Who — while she's dressed as a lamplighter — Ebenezer accidentally knocks down. Scrooge hurries off without helping this holiday spirit back to her feet. Which is why she calls after him " … Oughta take the time for doin' right, sir. You'll be sorry, sir, when you look back."

Finally it's the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be (Geraldine Chaplin). Who — while dressed as a blind woman — asks Ebenzer if he can " … spare a coin for someone who is blind, sir?" When Scrooge — as he brushes her off — says "Go to the workhouse, old woman. I have nothing for you," this holiday spirit latches onto his arm, saying "None so blind as those who will not see."

This trio of encounters coming so close together really unnerves Ebenezer. So he pries the old woman off his arm and then hurries away, only to have this supposedly blind woman call after him "Go your sorry way and never mind, sir. Come the future you'll remember me."

Copyright 2004 Hallmark Entertainment

As if things weren't already going badly enough for Ebenezer Scrooge, his trip home is interrupted by a funeral procession. As he stands, waiting for the hearse to pass, he realizes that the woman in the coffin is Mrs. Smythe. Whose husband just visited Scrooge, seeking an extension on his loan. Given that Mr. Smythe (Ian McLarnon) had to spend all of his available cash to insure that his wife received a proper burial.

"What was Scrooge's response for Smythe's request for a just little more time to repay his loan?," you ask. Ebenezer responded by saying that he would begin eviction proceedings for the Smythe family the very next morning.

This is perhaps why Scrooge now has trouble meeting the eye of the Smythe family as they slowly walk past him, lost in their grief. But the song that young Grace Smythe (Emily Deamer) sings about how we should …

Let the stars in the sky
Remind us of man's compassion
Let us love till we die
And God bless us everyone

… seems to touch Ebenezer, if only for a moment. Then — closing himself off from the world again — Scrooge hurries home. Only to rub his eye with disbelief. Given that the doorknocker at Ebenezer's house has taken the shape (albiet temporarily) of his long-dead partner, Jacob Marley (Jason Alexander).

Copyright 2004 Hallmark Entertainment

This sets the stage for one of "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" 's more memorable numbers, "Link by Link." During which Alexander clearly has a ball playing Jacob Marley.

The way Jason plays Jacob, it's obvious that Marley has gone a wee bit mad. Which is understandable. What with having to spend his afterlife in eternal torment, dragging all of those chains around. Still, Jacob tries to tell Ebenezer where exactly he went wrong in life. Why it was a mistake for Marley to spend all of his earthly days …

Stacking up my silver and my bits of gold
Filling up my vault when day was done
Vaults are made of lead and cash is very cold
And around your neck, they weigh a bloody ton

Per usual, Marley warns Scrooge about the three ghosts that are about to visit him. And the first to arrive is the Ghost of Christmas Past. Which Ebenezer obviously recognizes but can't quite place.

Copyright 2004 Hallmark Entertainment

As this point, this holiday spirit spirits Scrooge back to his youth. Where we get to see a seminal event in young Ebenezer's life that Ockrent & Ahrens invented for "A Christmas Carol: A Musical." Which shows Scrooge's father (Mike Kelly) being sentenced to debtors prison for failing to pay his bills. As he's dragged away, yelling "Learn this lesson, Ebenezer! Save your pennies! Make your fortune and keep it!" … The man leaves young Ebenezer (Josh Wilmott), Scrooge's mother (Ruthie Henshall) and his sister, Fan (Leah Verity-White) destitute.

Given that Scrooge's father's debt still has to be settled, Ebenezer is now forced to leave school at the age of 10 and begin working. Still, Scrooge's mom advises her son to not let the cruelty of the world harden his heart by singing … Well, whaddaya know? The exact same song that Grace Smythe sang earlier in this TV movie, as she followed her mother's hearse to the graveyard.

Anyway .. . From there, the Ghost of Christmas Past brings Scrooge forward in time to Fezziwig's annual Christmas ball. Here we witness Scrooge as a young adult (Steve Miller) proposing to his fiancee, Emily (Jennifer Love Hewitt). These two then launch into the most heart-felt number from the score, "A Place Called Home." Which is made all the more poignant when the older Scrooge can't help but be drawn into this song.

This scene arguably is Kelsey Grammer's very best work in "A Christmas Carol: The Musical." The way that his version of Ebenezer tries to not look at Emily, as if averting his eyes will somehow spare him the heartbreak of losing her again. The slight pause Grammer takes on the line in the song where this trio warbles about home being the place " … where the dreams are true." As if those words just turned to ashes in Scrooge's mouth.

Copyright 2004 Hallmark Entertainment

The Ghost of Christmas Past then takes Ebenezer through his break-up with Emily & Jacob Marley's death before handing the emotionally overwrought miser over to the Ghost of Christmas Present. Who — in the rollicking number "Christmas Together" — show Scrooge everything that he's been denying himself by living so closed off from the rest of the world.

One particular vignette in this song really seems to get to the miser. It shows his nephew, Fred (Julian Ovenden) at home on Christmas Day with his family & friends. And even though Ebenezer threw Fred out of his office just 24 hours earlier, his nephew still raises a glass in tribute "… to my wicked old Uncle Scrooge." Not in jest, mind you. But because Fred still genuinely holds out hope that someday he may actually get to know his mother's brother.

This is the point that "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" keeps hammering home in scene after scene. The importance of family. Whether it's watching Bob Crachit (Edward Gower) 's loving interaction with his son, Tiny Tim (Jacob Moriarty) or how Mr. Smythe humbles himself in front of Scrooge in order to keep a roof over his daughter's head … This musical version of Charles Dickens' classic tale keeps harping upon how important it is to maintain those family ties.

Mind you, no moment in this musical nails home that idea better then Scrooge's graveside revelation that he really needs to change. No sooner does this miser renounce his wicked ways then what does Ebenezer see? A vision of his mother & his sister Fan singing (what else?) the very same song that Grace Smythe sang.

Copyright 2004 Hallmark Entertainment

From this point forward, it's pretty much the standard version of "A Christmas Carol." Only — this time around — Scrooge sings as he asks the charitable gentlemen to forgive his earlier rudeness, thrusting checks & a bag of coins into their hands.

But what makes this particular part of "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" memorable is that — as Ebenezer is wandering the streets of London on Christmas morning, trying to do good — he once again bumps into the sandwich board man, the lamplighter and the old blind woman. Now recognizing these three for what they really are, Scrooge shares a secret smile with this trio of holiday spirits before heading off to Bob Crachit's house.

Their work now done, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future look on approvingly as the now reformed miser strolls away. Then they dance out of sight.

Copyright 2004 Hallmark Entertainment

Given the overall focus of this particular adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale, it is only appropriate that the very last thing we see Ebenezer do in "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" is knock on his nephew Fred's front door. Where Scrooge then asks if he's still invited for Christmas dinner. Of course, Fred invites Ebenezer in as the last production number begins.

All in all, "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" is a delightful version of this holiday story. This 2004 TV movie has a great cast, terrific production values, solid special effects and arguably Alan Menken's best score since "Beauty & the Beast." No matter what time of year it is, if you find yourself in need of a little holiday cheer, this is the disc that you really want to be slinging into your DVD player.

Tomorrow … Tiny Tim in toe shoes?! Get ready for "A Christmas Carol," the ballet.

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 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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