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Tales of the VES: Behind-the-scenes on “Finding Nemo”

Want to know what really went on during the making of this hit film from Pixar Animation Studios? Then settle back and read the first in a series of new JHM articles based on “VES 2003: A Festival of Visual Effects.”

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“I’m so incredibly proud of ‘Finding Nemo,'” said Ralph Eggleston, the production designer of Pixar Animation Studio’s latest hit. “It is so close to what we originally wanted to do.”

Mind you, getting close to director Andrew Stanton’s vision for his underwater epic took years of effort. For example: Pixar’s talented tech team literally spent months trying to perfect the look of “Nemo”‘s CG waves and waters. And the studio’s editorial staff … well, they struggled for weeks to come up with effective ways to stage various sequences featuring the film’s finny cast (“How can you shoot an over-the-shoulder shot? Fish don’t have shoulders,” explained Eggleston.)

The end result of this effort has been thrilling audiences (as well as busting box office records. Late last week, “Finding Nemo” swam past the $300 million mark at the domestic box office. Making this Pixar production second only to Disney’s summer 1994 release, “The Lion King,” when it comes to top grossing animated films) since the film was released back on May 30th.

Now that the movie’s a certified smash, the folks at Pixar — normally a pretty secretive bunch — have begun talking a bit about what actually went on behind-the-scenes during the production of “Finding Nemo.” Most recently at “VES 2003: A Festival of Visual Effects,” a three day long event held at the LA Film School back on June 27-29th.

During their two hour talk on “Finding Nemo,” Eggleston and Oren Jacob (the film’s supervising technical director) revealed several secrets behind the making of this film. Among them were:

“Nemo” did NOT have a “Monsters” sized budget: Pixar’s 2001 theatrical release, “Monsters, Inc.” may have been a smash hit at the box office. But that film was not terribly popular with the studio’s accountants.

Why for? Because Pixar spent millions of dollars on visual development for “Monsters, Inc.” … only to have a 10th of that material ever make it up on the big screen. That’s why a decision was made at the uppermost levels at the company that — at the very start of work on “Finding Nemo” — that production of this particular Pixar picture would be kept under very strict control. The studio really wanted to make sure that this film stayed within its budget and was delivered on time.

“You’d think — what with all (of Pixar’s) successes — that it would have gone the other way,” said Eggleston. “But no. There was even more pressure from above for us to rein things in.” (Still, one has to wonder who Pixar was trying to send a message to by speaking in public like this about how fiscally responsible the “Finding Nemo” production team was. Wall Street’s movers and shakers? Pixar’s production partners over at Disney? Enquiring minds wanna know … Anyway …)

Finding just the right voices for “Nemo”‘s characters was key to the film’s success: As part of their VES presentation, Eggleston and Jacob screened the very first test for the Father Fish character from “Finding Nemo.” This brief bit of footage from July 2000 — which used grass that that had been borrowed from “A Bug’s Life” as a stand-in for sea weed — revealed a character that looked very much like the Marlin character for the finished film. But with one key difference.

“We used a different actor (for this version of the Father character),” said Jacob almost off-handedly. “But we didn’t stick with that actor.”

So who was the original voice for the Father in “Finding Nemo?” As part of their VES 2003 presentation, Eggleston and Jacob never revealed who Pixar had initially hired for this role … but additional research has revealed that veteran character actor William H. Macy (probably best known for his work in “Fargo”) was the first performer that the studio brought in to play this part.

So why was William H. eventually let go? Pixar insiders says that Macy was turning in a perfectly servicable vocal performance. The only problem was … this was back when “Finding Nemo” was still a fairly dark film. Back when the story’s narrative featured numerous flashbacks to the horrifying moment when Marlin’s mate and all of Nemo’s brothers and sisters (in egg form) were consumed by that barracuda.

After viewing the still-in-production “Finding Nemo” with all these flashbacks in place, a decision was made that the movie needed to be radically lightened up. Step One involved having the audience witness that traumatizing attack only once at the very start of the movie. Step Two involved letting William H. Macy go and bringing Albert Brooks, a stand-up comedy veteran, to revoice the part of Marlin.

“Admittedly, this probably wasn’t entirely fair to Macy,” said one animator who was familiar with the situation. “After all, he was the one who got stuck with trying to make the Father character entertaining and sympathetic back when ‘Finding Nemo’ had this real dark streak. But — that said — there’s no denying that Albert Brooks brought a lot of energy and humor to the part of Marlin. Stuff that that character just hadn’t had when Macy was doing the voice.”

Oh, speaking of voices for “Finding Nemo”: Guess whose voice Pixar’s animators used for the original animation test of Crush, the surfer-dude sea turtle? Sean Penn.

I sh*t you not, folks. As part of their VES 2003 presentation, Eggleston and Jacob actually ran the test footage for this particular character. It showed the laid back sea turtle moving in perfect sync to a vocal track that Pixar’s animators had harvested from Universal Picture’s 1982 release, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Crush swimming along with stoner character Jeff Spiccoli’s voice coming out of his mouth.

So one has to wonder: Did Pixar actually approach Sean Penn about providing the vocals for this part in “Finding Nemo?” Sure, everyone knows now that that director Andrew Stanton EVENTUALLY ended up providing Crush’s voice. But was the film’s director actually the “Finding Nemo” production team’s first choice for the sea turtle?

One thing is certain: Pixar doesn’t casually produce these expensive pieces of test animation. They usually do so only when they’re in hot pursuit of a name actor to provide the vocals for a particular character in one of their films. Witness the “Woody” test that you can view on the “Ultimate Toy Box” DVD set, where the cowboy character is animated to vocals that Pixar’s animators had pulled from Touchstone Pictures’ 1989 release, “Turner & Hooch.”

Or — more tellingly — how about the Buzz Lightyear test footage that can be found on this same collector’s edition DVD set. This particular test was done to vocal tracks that the guys at Pixar pulled off of “When Harry Met Sally” (1989 MGM/UA). Back when the studio was trying to convince Billy Crystal to come do the voice of Buzz.

Crystal (to his eventual regret) ultimately decided to take a pass on the Lightyear part. Which is how Tim Allen eventually ended up providing Buzz’s vocals for both of the “Toy Story” films. But Billy was smart enough not to make the same mistake twice. Which is why — when Pixar came a’ knockin’ and offered him the role of Mike Wyznowski in “Monsters, Inc.” — Crystal immediately said “Yes.”

Mind you, the folks at Pixar — as they were putting together the “Ultimate Toy Box” DVD set — made sure that the version of the Buzz Lightyear test that’s featured on the collector’s edition DOESN’T feature any Billy Crystal vocals (so as not to embarrass the veteran comic any further for having turned down such a plum role). But if you’d like to get some sense of what this test footage was originally like:

1. Put a copy of “When Harry Met Sally” in your VCR. Fast forward the video to the scene where Billy gives his speech about the wagon wheel coffee table. Then pause the tape.
2. Put the appropriate disc from your “Toy Box” set in your DVD player. Find the original Buzz Lightyear animation test.
3. Set up your home entertainment system so that you’re getting picture-but-no-sound from your DVD player and sound-but-no-image out of your VHS recorder.
4. Hit the “Play” button on your DVD remote at the same time that you’re hitting the “Play” button on your VHS remote.
5. Witness a little bit of animation history. What could have been. (You see? NOW does it finally make sense as to why Buzz Lightyear makes his exit in this test footage by walking under a wagon wheel coffee table?)

Okay, admittedly this little VHS / DVD curio isn’t quite up there with what happens when you sync up “The Wizard of Oz” with Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.” But you have to admit that it’s still pretty cool. Anywho … let’s get back to today’s “Finding Nemo” story, shall we? (Which is already in progress …)

Various scenes in “Finding Nemo” were restaged because of questions of taste: Particularly the inside-of-the-whale sequence. Or — as this scene was better known in-house at Pixar — ‘Half Full.’

According to Eggleston and Jacob, this was the sequence in “Finding Nemo” that Pixar’s animators found most difficult to pull off. Due to the lighting issues as well as having to constantly deal with all that CG water that was splashing around inside the whale’s mouth.

Mind you, it may intrigue JHM readers to know that — as this sequence was originally envisioned — Marlin and Dory were trapped inside of the whale’s stomach. NOT the whale’s mouth. So why was the location of this particular setpiece changed? Well, as Oren Jacob oh-so-delicately put it: “There were only two ways out.”

These are just three of the great “Finding Nemo”-related stories that I heard while attending this year’s VES Festival. In the weeks ahead, I’ll be revisiting this material … sharing even more of the info that I learned about this particular Pixar Animation Studios production. Not to mention additional stories about the various other seminars I attended at “VES 2003: A Festival of Visual Effects.”

So — in the not-so-distant future — look for additional film related stories here at JimHillMedia.com. Behind-the-scenes articles about the effects work done on “The Matrix Reloaded,” “Hulk,” “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” “X2: X-Men United,” and “The Core” as well as a historical retrospective on “Tron.”

For further information of the Visual Effects Society, head over to the VES web site.

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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