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Sherlock Holmes Lives!

Following up on his “Hound of the Baskerville” story, Jim Korkis offers up another column about Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective in literary history and his more more artistic representations.

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As early as 1962, actor Basil Rathbone, who had experienced fame as Sherlock Holmes on the screen and on radio from 1939 to 1946 and had supplied voice over narration work for the WIND IN THE WILLOWS segment of Disney’s THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD in 1949, concluded in his autobiography IN AND OUT OF CHARACTER, that “the only possible medium still available to an acceptable present-day presentation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories would be a full-length Disney cartoon.”

Rathbone’s prediction of a Disney cartoon somewhat came true with the release of THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE in 1986 where Basil of Baker Street stood in for the famous detective. Amusing in retrospect, the failure in 1985 of Paramount’s YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES resulted in Disney’s sudden re-titling of the famous children’s story from BASIL OF BAKER STREET to THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE because of the fear that audiences just didn’t care about Sherlock Holmes. Of course, the name “Basil” for the mouse had been inspired by actor Basil Rathbone who had performed as Sherlock.

“He is a gentleman who never lived and who will never die!” declared actor Orson Welles about Sherlock Holmes when he introduced a radio production where he performed the role of the legendary sleuth.

Without a doubt, Sherlock Holmes is the most famous detective in history. The silhouette of the tall, slender, hawk-nosed man with his deerstalker cap and curved smoking pipe is an instantly recognizable image. Holmes’ supporting cast is almost as well known: his ever-faithful companion, Dr. John Watson; his older brother, Mycroft Holmes; his patient landlady, Mrs. Martha Hudson; Scotland Yard’s sometimes bumbling Inspector Lestrade and the “Napoleon of Crime”, Professor James Moriarty.

The world of Sherlock Holmes is a living example of the romance and intrigue of Victorian England. It was an England where the London fog swirled outside gaslit rooms, and the rattle and “clip clop” sound of a horse drawn two wheeler carriage on cobbled streets disturbed the comfortable silence.

Much of Holmes’ London is still very much in existence today from the Bow Street Police Station and Hyde Park to the many exotic sounding railway stations like Charing Cross and Euston where Holmes and Watson began some of their colorful adventures.

Only 221B Baker Street does not exist, nor did it exist during the time of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The author purposely chose a real street but a ficticious house number. Numbers 219 and 223 Baker Street (and everything inbetween) today belong to an imposing office building with a receptionist in the lobby trained to handle inquiries about the fabled detective, including routing of letter Holmes still receives from all over the world.

For many people, Holmes is more real and better known than most of the celebrities and political figures who fade so quickly after their brief moment in the spotlight.

In A STUDY IN SCARLETT, Dr. Watson gives the first description of Holmes in the following passage: “His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was over six feet and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing … and his thin hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of decision.” (On the other hand, Professor Moriarty commented in THE FINAL SOLUTION that Holmes had “less frontal development” than the Professor had expected.)

However, it was more than just the striking physical appearance that made Sherlock so unique. Holmes was no superhuman sleuth. He had flaws. While he possessed an amazing mind filled with exotic information, he was almost totally ignorant in areas of more common knowledge like literature, politics, and philosophy. He did however have a profound knowledge of chemistry, British law and the sensationalistic horrors committed by criminals.

His lack of concern for other areas of learning was explained by Holmes himself when he said: “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it … It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it, there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge, you forget something you knew before.”

That was one of the reasons that Holmes maintained a library and scrapbooks in his work.

While the image of the intellectual sitting in his library shifting through clues and using the skills of deduction is prominent when people think of Holmes, it is often forgotten that Holmes was quite an athlete with particular expertise in boxing and swordsmanship. Once, when a giant of a man threatened Holmes by bending a poker into a horseshoe shape, Dr. Watson was amazed when using only his bare hands, Holmes was able to straighten it. What is also usually forgotten was Holmes’ addiction to cocaine, an exotic habit he used to relieve depression and boredom and to sharpen his senses. While in today’s society, such a habit would be frowned upon and be a cause for concern, a hundred years ago, it did nothing to dampen Sherlock’s ever-escalating popularity.

“I hear of Sherlock everywhere!” exclaimed Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft in THE GREEK INTERPRETER and that conclusion is even truer today than during those early years of his first appearances. No fictional character has had such amazing success in so many different media for over a century. Films, books, plays, cartoons, tv shows, radio dramatizations, and records continue to be produced featured Holmes and Watson.

For one generation, it was the image of William Gillette that represented Holmes. Gillette, a stage actor, performed frequently as Holmes from 1899 to 1935. It was Gillette who was the inspiration for artist Frederic Dorr Steele who drew the illustrations for the American editions of Doyle’s stories.

Steele often based his drawings on photographs of the actor. It was Gillette who popularized the deerstalker cap that had first appeared in the British editions illustrated by Sidney Paget and it was Gillette who adopted the curved pipe supposedly because it was easier to deliver dialog with it in his mouth.

For a later generation, it was Basil Rathbone who was Sherlock Holmes. Rathbone and Bruce made fourteen films as Holmes and Watson. “There was nothing lovable about Holmes,” stated Rathbone, “He himself seemed capable of transcending the weakness of mere mortals such as myself.”

Conan Doyle had little enthusiasm for his most famous creation and never quite understood Holmes’s continuing public success. “If my little creation of Sherlock Holmes has survived longer perhaps than it deserved,” stated Doyle, “I consider that is very largely due to these gentleman who have, apart from myself, associated themselves with him.” Although Doyle was specifically praising the work of several actors and illustrators of the time, his comments apply to the work of two people who captured the magic of Sherlock for newspaper readers in the mid-Fifties.

Writer Edith Meiser and artist Frank Giacoia produced one of the most greatly admired recreations of Conan Doyle’s work for the comic pages of the daily newspapers. In the Fifties, newspapers were in serious trouble as the public was turning more and more to television as the primary source of entertainment and information. In an attempt to attract and maintain readers, newspapers sought to develop new features. On the comic strip page, this meant the introduction of new strips based on characters from popular detective fiction such as Mike Hammer, Perry Mason, The Saint, and the spiritual father of them all, Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, these strips were short-lived not because of lack of quality but because readers were no longer willing to make the day-to-day commitment to the traditional story strip.

Edith Meiser (1898-1993) is perhaps best know for her work in radio, in particular the Sherlock Holmes radio show which ran three nights a week and was heard live on the East and West Coasts. Meiser graduated Vassar College’s drama department and established a career as a professional actress, writer and producer. (In fact at the same time she was writing the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, she found time to perform as Gale Gordon’s wife in an episode of I LOVE LUCY entitled “Lucy’s Schedule”.)

The Sherlock Holmes radio show began as a dream of Meiser’s (who claimed to have been a fan of the detective since the age of eleven) who fought for years to get it on the air. Meiser single-handedly wrote the show for a dozen years and then with the help of some additional writers for another five years. Some stories on the radio show were based on Doyle’s stories (THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE COPPER BEECHES, etc.) while others were original tales (THE VAMPIRE OF CADIZ, MURDER IN THE WAX WORKS, etc.) Writers for the series included Leslie Charteris (creator of The Saint), Anthony Boucher and Denis Green.

Meiser received special recognition for how her work emphasized the moodiness of the original source material over excessive physical violence. Meiser’s original stories for the series were so well written that her work was warmly praised by Doyle’s widow and son who declared her work “admirable, absolutely admirable”. The radio show ended in 1950, a few years before the beginning of the comic strip which ran from March 1, 1954 to November 17,1956. The comic strip was officially authorized by the Doyle Estate.

The skills Meiser acquired in radio made her an excellent choice to script the comic strip. She had been used to establishing a scene with a small amount of dialog as well as writing for the distinctive speech rhythms of different characters. Her understanding of the world created by Doyle resulted in the comic strip not only having accurate adaptations of Doyle’s tales but original stories that remained true to the spirit of Sherlock.

A daily continuity strip offers its own unique challenges. The first panel has to recap the previous day’s event, the middle panel has to move the story forward and the final panel needs to be a cliffhanger either in action or dialog to make the reader pick up the next day’s paper to find out what happened. (And the Sunday strip needs to recap the previous week’s action for readers who only got that edition and yet not add anything significant that weekly readers might miss.) Meiser proved more than equal to the task.

Despite Meiser’s very great contribution, one of the key elements that made the strip so memorable was the artwork of Frank Giacoia. Giacoia produced artwork for comics for over forty years. He worked for a variety of publishers including PRIZE, GLEASON, ZIFF-DAVIS, WESTERN, TOWER, SEABOARD, and HILLMAN. However, his most extensive credits were for DC and MARVEL where his versatility was in evidence on books ranging from superheroes to westerns to teen humor and more. (While at Marvel, Giacoia often had to use the pseudonym “Frank Ray” so that he could still produce work for DC at the same time.)

Giacoia received his greatest recognition as an inker. He never overpowered the original penciller but enhanced the work with a vibrant, slick line. Artist Don Heck once confided to artist Richard Howell that “if you’re drawing away, and your anatomy’s a little weak, Frank’ll slap it in just like that. He knows it better than most pencillers.”

Despite effusive praise from his peers, Giacoia remained a polite, self-effacing true professional who continually turned out quality work. Giacoia was not confined to comic books nor to just inking.

When the Sherlock Holmes strip ended in 1956, Giacoia was involved with his own newspaper strip based on the Civil War, JOHNNY REB AND BILLY YANK which ran from 1956 to 1958. In the Eighties, Giacoia also did work on various newspaper strips including FLASH GORDON and SPIDER-MAN. Giacoia’s passed away in early 1989 leaving an impressive body of work behind him.

Unfortunately, like so many classic comic strips of the past (especially this Sherlock Holmes one which was published by a syndicate that has long since gone out of business with no syndicate galleys or proofs surviving), it is difficult for modern audiences to try and track down a complete run of the strips. In 1989, Malibu Graphics announced it was going to print a four volume series which would reprint the entire series of strips thanks to the collection of Comics Historian Bill Blackbeard whose library of old strips have benefited many historical projects.

Unfortunately, Malibu only published one volume in the series with six complete Holmes stories. While this volume is long out of print, Ken Pierce Books, which has an extensive catalog of volumes of comic strip reprints, still has copies of that first volume at half the original price.

An ad for the 1914 film version of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes declared: “It is a story of the supreme cleverness of Sherlock Holmes in which is unraveled a tale of human suffering and in which an innocent man nearly suffers for the crime of the guilty one. The masterful style in which this absorbing plot is told in pictures will hold your audience spellbound. It is a picture with a punch, action, dramatic intensity, romance and cleverness.” Such a description is an apt evaluation for this comic strip of the further exploits of Sherlock Holmes. It is a journey back to a time both familiar and unfamiliar where evil schemes can only be prevented by the cool logic of Mr. Holmes and the good natured enthusiasm of Dr. Watson.

The head of the Baker Street Irregulars once said, “The people who insist he must be dead are the same ones who said he never lived. So we don’t pay any attention to them.”

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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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