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Sure, “Star Tours” is great … But would a “20,000 Leagues” simulator have been even better?

Jim Hill looks back at the proposed Discovery Bay attraction that could have been Disneyland’s first simulator ride: The “Captain Nemo Adventure.”

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What with Monday’s “Next Stop: Tatooine?” story, I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail this week about “Star Tours.” Some JHM readers want to know more about what the proposed storyline for the next version of this Tomorrowland favorite. While still others want to know about the attraction’s alternate scenarios. As in: What other destinations did the Imagineers toy with sending the StarSpeeder 3000 to before they finally settled on Tatooine.

And — admittedly — those are all very interesting story ideas. Subjects that I may pursue in the weeks & months ahead here at JimHillMedia. But — to be honest — what really appeals to me are all the attraction concepts that WDI was knocking around before they finally settled on “Star Tours.”

And — no — I’m not talking about that lame Jedi training device version of this attraction. I’m talking about when the Imagineers first wanted to build a ride at Disneyland that made use of flight simulator technology: The “Captain Nemo Adventure” ride attraction that was supposed to be the centerpiece of Discovery Bay.

Now (for those of you who don’t know) Discovery Bay was this elaborate addition that was proposed for the Anaheim theme park back in the mid-to-late 1970s. And — according to the Imagineers’ preliminary plans — this new expansion area (Which was due to be built behind Big Thunder Mountain Railway, between Fantasyland and Frontierland) was supposed to be this fantasically detailed environment. A heady mix of Gold Rush era San Francisco and Vulcania.

“Why Vulcania?,” you ask. Because Discovery Bay’s “weenie” (I.E. The object that compells you to go deeper into that part of the park) was going to be a 200-foot-long recreation of the Nautilus. Captain Nemo’s sub from Walt Disney Productions’ 1954 release, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Ah, but this ornately riveted submarine wasn’t just something for Disneyland visitors to look at and admire from afar. No, this over-sized vessel was actually supposed to be a desination in Discovery Bay. A place that people could enter & explore.

According to the Imagineers’ initial plans for this 200-foot version of the Nautilus, once you came onboard the boat, you had three exploring options. You could:

  1. Do the “Nautilus” walk-through. Which was to have been a hyper-detailed recreation of the popular Tomorrowland attraction from the 1950s & 1960s. You know, something similar to what Disneyland-Paris patrons got when that theme park opened its “Les Mysteres du Nautilus” walk-through back in 1994?
  2. Dine in the Grand Salon, this super-opulent restaurant where Disneyland guests could have eaten high-priced fare as they looked out at a lagoon full of colorful fish.
  3. Or they could head down to the ship’s laboratory area and take a trip on the “Captain Nemo Adventure” ride.
  • “And what — pray tell — was the ‘Captain Nemo Adventure’ ride supposed to be like?,” you asked. Well, to be honest, had this proposed Discovery Bay attraction actually been built, it would have been the first simulator ride to ever be installed at a Disney theme park.

    Now I know that some of you will find it hard to believe that Walt Disney Imagineering was actually exploring the idea of using flight simulator technology in the company’s theme parks back in the 1970s. So here’s a quote from the late Randy Bright, the legendary Imagineer, that (I hope) will assuage you.

  • “We became aware of industrial flight simulators and their possible entertainment applications within the Disney parks when we were researching various technologies for EPCOT Center,” said Randy Bright, WED’s VP of Concept Development.

    Okay. Now that we’ve established that WDI was actually actively toying with this idea, let me share a memo from October 12, 1976. Which describes in great detail what the “Captain Nemo Adventure” ride would have been like.

    In the attraction’s pre-show area, an audio-animatronic version of James Mason would have welcomed Disneyland visitors to his laboratory, then pointed out various inventions around the room. Among the more fantasical devices was a brand new type of exploratory sub. One that was supposedly capable of diving to depth as yet never experienced by man.

    Nemo then invites us to join him on a quick shakedown cruise for his new prototype submarine. Nothing all that dangerous, mind you. Just a quick jaunt out into Discovery Bay to view some of the outlying buildings of the Captain’s undersea complex. Maybe a brief glimpse of the blue Pacific, then back  to base. You know. A perfectly safe 10 minute long cruise … Where nothing could ever possibly go wrong …

    (Snicker, snicker, snicker …)

    So we exit the pre-show area and quickly board one of the two prototype subs that are waiting. Each of these “vessels” can hold up to 150 guests and — just like the Nautilus — they are highly ornate.

    The most prominent feature of this submarine are its four enormous windows. But — as we enter the theater … er … sub — those windows are still closed.

    Over our heads is a gravity pointer trim indicator. Along the port and starboard walls are small Davis lamps, mounted on swivels, which remain continually on a level whichever way the ship we’re in may rock or tilt. On either sides of the viewports stand two enormous vertical glass cylinders reinforced with copper bands.

    Suddenly Captain Nemo’s voice comes on a loudspeaker, telling the audience not to worry, everything is perfectly safe, etc. and that our craft is about to submerge, enter through an underwater gatelock, tour a little of the unknown depths of Discovery Bay, cruise along parts of the uncharted Pacific Ocean, then head for home again.

    Engine bells clang into action and both glass columns suddenly begin to fill with water at terrific force. Then the viewport screens open slowly as the lights inside our cabin dim to a lower amber. Our eyes then adjust to the underwater scene set before us.

    We are now traveling away from Nemo’s underground laboratory thru beautiful undersea gardens. As we look about the room the once level trim indicator overhead is now registering several degrees of incline, and the Davis lamps along the wall are no longer level, but all tilting at the same angle.

    A flash of bubbles obscure the view as we descend to greater depths. We see Captain Nemo’s crew in diving suits, hunters and farmers gathering a harvest at the bottom of the sea. Further on we see more evidence of Nemo’s genius: huge undersea structures and machinery, capable of withstanding the great pressures, and the wear and tear of the forces of nature.

    Now an alrm is heard. A surface craft is detected on a sensor device, circling overhead, and the order is given to investigate. As we ascend, the wtaer filled columns suddenly empty and we clear the surface of the ocean. On the horizon we see a 19th Century warship, featureless, unromantic in its design. “A ship that flies no flag,” as Captain Nemo remarks to the helmsman.

    The warship begins to fire on us and Nemo orders our craft hurled toward it at “Collision Speed!” The water parts on either side of the view ports in great volume, almost obscuring our prey. Our subrmarine strikes the warship at full force, bending in its iron plates, splintering the entire vessel in half. We come about and start to submerge, and see the once might enemy ship sink below the ocean’s surface.

    Then a great explosion is seen (and felt), our trim indicator swings crazily about, the curtains on either sides of the great viewports sway back and forth. The mate calls to the Captain from the command post that our submarine is temporarily out of control and sinking rapidly. The warm amber lights in our cabin flash out and immediately the blue emergency lights come on.

    The scene beyond the viewports gets darker and we begin to see unusual fish, with living phosphorescent lights of their own.

    “We are deeper now than man has ever been before,” the Captain explains. “Fortunately our craft was only in temporary danger and can now ascend to the surface.”

    Another alarm sounds: A giant squid has appeared from the murky depth and grabs ahold of our submarine boat. Great blue sparks crackle about the monster’s tentacles and body as Captain Nemo prepares the full electrical repellant charge. This is not enough, the mate replies and our only hope is to get back to the surface quickly so that the rapid change in pressure will destroy the creature.

    As our ship once again breaks the surface, a terrifying thunderstorm at sea is in progress. Thunder and lightning flash about the crashing waves and we see the body of the giant squid still hanging on. Suddenly an overhead hatch opens and the beast’s tentacles slither through, thrash about wildly for a few seconds, then retreat.

    Even some water comes in, but not enough to drench the first and second rows.

    The hatch closes, and our submarine heads back towards Discovery Bay.

    We submerge, enter the undersea grotto, but our craft blindly grazes some of the rocky walls “due to our faulty rudder,” the Captain explains,”caused by the warship’s attack and the giants quid.”

    As we dock, the viewport hatches close and “when the cabin lights come on (the announcer informs us), we are to take any small children with us by the hand and any personal belongings and please exit to the right.”

    Doesn’t that sound like an amazing ride? So why didn’t the “Captain Nemo Adventure” get built?

    Well, never mind about how — when “The Island of the Top of the World” bombed at the box office in December of 1974 — Disney execs pretty much lost all enthusiasm for building an ornate new land at Disneyland that celebrated writers like Jules Verne & H.G. Wells. What the Imagineers were trying to do with their proposed “Captain Nemo Adventure” would have been technically virtually impossible.

    By that I mean: Re-read the above show description very carefully. WDI wanted each of these two  “submarines” to hold 150 passengers at any one time. Now keep in mind that each StarSpeeder 3000 at “Star Tours” only carries 40 passengers at any one time. Yet here were the Imagineers trying to create an attraction built around a moving platform that would have had to (at every single show) carry almost 4 times that weight.

    And we’re talking 1970s era technology here, folks. Which then would have had to be synchronized with moving in-theater  props, outside projection screens as well as a few Audio-Animatronic tentacles that were supposed to burst in suddenly & flail around for a while.

    It was just too much show for the time. Which was why — after development of Disneyland’s Discovery Bay area was eventually tabled in the late 1970s / early 1980s — the Imagineers kept revisiting this idea. Pulling out the proposed “Captain Nemo Adventure” attraction and hoping that now (finally) they had the technology to make this long dreamed-of show a reality.

    Which was why WDI was constantly seeing if the “Nemo” attraction might make a nice addition to the Port Disney project that was proposed for Long Beach back in 1990 and/or the Tokyo DisneySea theme park that the Oriental Land Company eventually built & opened next to Tokyo Disneyland in September of 2001.

    And — indeed — TDS does have its own “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” ride. But that attraction (which is admittedly ornate and quite impressive) is actually a dark ride. Not a simulator.

    Which is why — even though I’m excited that Disneyland is finally getting a “Nemo” ride (I.E. That “Finding Nemo: Let’s Party” attraction that’s currently under construction in Tomorrowland’s old Submarine Lagoon) — a part of me is still sad that the Imagineers never got the chance to build that first “Nemo” ride. The one where Captain Nemo himself took us out into the depths …

    Anyway … That was the Imagineers’ first attempt at putting together a simulator-type attraction for the Disney theme parks. And — per your suggestions — in the weeks & months ahead, I will eventually tell you about all the “Star Wars” related ideas that WDI tried out before they finally settled on the “Star Tours” concept.

    But — for now — I think I’ll be a little wistful about the big one that got away: Discovery Bay’s “Captain Nemo Adventure” simulator ride.

    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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