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“Tarzan” drives “The Little Mermaid” to the “Hoopz”?! Late breaking sports news? Nah. Just what’s next from Disney Theatrical

So it’s going to be a few years ’til the stage version of “Mary Poppins” blows into town. Big deal. Jim Hill fills you in on what else the Mouse has currently in the works for Broadway.

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No doubt you heard the news last week. All those high profile stories about how Disney Theatrical and Broadway impresario Cameron Mackintosh (the producer of such long running hits as “Cats” and “Les Miserables”) – after years of haggling – have finally come to terms. How these two theatrical giants have finally hammered out a co-production deal which will allow the long awaited stage version of “Mary Poppins” to go forward.

The only problem is … that’s ALL that’s been agreed upon to date. Mouse House reps and Cameron’s crew have yet to agree on who’s going to direct the show, who’s going to write the book, and – most importantly – which poor actress is going to attempt to fill Julie Andrews’ Oscar winning shoes as the “practically perfect” English nanny.

So – since all of these crucial creative decisions have yet to be made – it looks like it’s going to be at least three years before the stage version of “Mary Poppins” finally gets off the ground. Beyond that initial co-production agreement, the only other thing that Disney & Mackintosh have agreed on is that “Poppins” will have its world premiere in London, rather than Broadway.

Why London? Not for the reason that you might think (I.E. The story of “Mary Poppins” is actually set in London. Which is what might make it a somewhat logical choice for the stage version of this film to debut over there). But – rather — because Mackintosh insisted on it.

And – since Disney couldn’t go forward with a stage version of this much beloved movie musical without Cameron’s permission (Why? Well, because – while Mickey holds the copyright to the Sherman Brothers songs used in the 1964 Academy Award winning film – Mackintosh has the all-important theatrical rights to the P.L. Travers books that the Disney film was based on) – what Mackintosh wants, Mackintosh gets.

So – if the “Poppins” project sticks to its very tentative timetable – the stage version of the film (Which will reportedly feature Mary making her big entrance in the show by flying in directly OVER the audience) will debut in London sometime during the 2004 – 2005 season. The Broadway version of the show will allegedly pop up in NYC a year or so later.

So does that mean that all us stateside Disneyana / theater fans will have to wait ’til 2006 before we get to see a brand new Disney stage show? Hardly. According to my sources at Disney Theatrical, the Mouse has no less than four other stage shows currently in the works. And the current plan is to have one new brand Disney Theatrical production open on Broadway every season from here on.

So what’s up next from the Mouse? First up should be “Hoopz,” a musical that’s loosely based on the history of the Harlem Globetrotters. This is the show that Disney Theatrical has actually had in the works for a number of years now. Savion Glover – of “Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk” fame – actually starred in & directed a workshop version of the show back in 2000. At that time, “Hoopz” featured music by jazz artist Brandford Marsalis as well as choreographic contributions from Reg E Gaines & Kenny Leon.

But – in the end – Disney Theatrical decided that it didn’t really like Savion’s take on the material. So it shoved Glover aside (Not to worry, though. Savion’s already at work on another basketball themed musical. What’s that show’s title? The appropriate if somewhat simplistic “Ball.” Anywho … ) and brought in a brand new creative team.

Now riding herd on “Hoopz” is director Marion McClinton & playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. Parks – who is probably best known for her work on the Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Topdog/Underdog” – has radically overhauled the show’s book, while composer Jeanine Tesori has fashioned an all-new score.

If all goes according to plan, Disney Theatrical will mount yet another workshop production of “Hoopz” in NYC early next year (Perhaps Disney will end up unveiling its revamped Globetrotters musical at the Westbeth Theatre Center, the very same rehearsal space that Savion Glover used to stage his version of the show). After that (Provided – of course — that the new workshop goes well), Disney plans to take “Hoopz” out of town – staging a full blown production of the musical in Providence, R.I. as part of the Trinity Repertory Company’s 2003 – 2004 season.

Of course, should the new version of “Hoopz” not make the cut either, not to worry. Disney’s already got Ariel warming up in the wings.

“Ariel?!” Yep, You heard right, folks. Even as we speak, the Mouse is getting ready to mount an elaborate live stage version of Disney’s 1989 animated hit, “The Little Mermaid.” Director / choreographer Matthew Bourne (who’s probably best known in theatrical circles for his all-male version of “Swan Lake,” which won him the 1999 Tony Award for Best Choreographer as well as Best Director) is the guy who Disney tapped to translate Ariel’s tail … er … tale. Lez Brotherston has also been signed to design the sets & costumes for the stage version of the 1989 animated musical.

Speaking of “The Little Mermaid”‘s music … Given that the original film only had seven songs (“Fathoms Below,” “Daughters of Triton,” “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” “Les Poissons” and “Kiss the Girls),” the stage version is going to need at least 5 or 6 new songs to help pad out the evening’s entertainment. And given that Alan Menken’s original collaborator – the late, great Howard Ashman – is no longer with us, Menken had to recruit a new writing partner – lyricist Glenn Slater – to help him fashion some new numbers for Sebastian et al to sing.

So who’s Glenn Slater? He’s this extremely gifted lyricist who was recently named as one of Variety Magazine’s “50 Creatives to Watch.” Winner of the 1996 Kleban award for lyrics, Glenn has been collaborating with Alan for a couple of years now. Menken & Slater have already written songs for Disney’s forthcoming cartoon western, “Home on the Range” as well as the Mouse’s extremely ambitious (though currently on hold) live action / animated fairy tale spoof, “Enchanted.”

(I’ve also heard that Menken and Slater have put together a couple of new songs for that new “Aladdin – Live on Stage” show, which will be staged at DCA’s Hyperion Theater starting this December. A sampling of one of those songs – a new ballad for Princess Jasmine entitled “To Be Free” – is currently on file over at www.mouseinfo.com. To hear that sampling [as well as read Mouseinfo’s excellent coverage of the “Aladdin – Live on Stage” press conference], follow this link.)

Mind you, Disney’s live stage version of “The Little Mermaid” will have to wait ’til Bourne wraps up his next project. “And what’s that?,” you ask. A ballet based on Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands” (Which will feature a new musical score by Danny Elfman).

And this delay is what may allow Bob Crowley – best known as the director / designer of Disney Theatrical’s Tony Award winner “Aida” – to get his own new stage project off the ground ahead of Bourne’s “Mermaid” and McClinton’s “Hoopz.” “And what show is that?,” you ask. How about an environmental musical based on Disney’s animated version of “Tarzan”?

And what’s an environmental musical? The idea behind this experimental staging of the show is that the legend of Tarzan (featuring Phil Collins’ Academy Award winning songs & score) would be played out all around the theatre-goers. With a set that’s made up of huge trees that jut right up out of the auditorium floor, which (in theory) would allow cast members to move about the theater by swinging on vines. Right over the audience’s head.

Disney Theatrical envisions Crowley’s proposed stage version of “Tarzan” as their opportunity to break into Cirque de Soleil’s niche. market. An extravaganza that they could stage in the round in an enormous circus tent that they’d be able to truck from town to town. Which would allow the Mouse to take their new stage version of “Tarzan” to parts of the country that typical Broadway shows don’t usually reach. Which (potentially) would allow Mickey to tap into virtually untapped markets.

Sounds like a fun show, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not the only innovative, somewhat edgy show that Disney Theatrical has in the works. I mean, let’s not forget about Julie Taymor’s ambitious follow-up to her Tony Award winning version of “The Lion King.” This time around, Taymor’s attempting to take Disney’s 1940 animated classic, “Pinocchio,” and adapt that to the stage.

Given Julie’s affinity for working with puppets, this project would seem to be a natural for the visionary director. But Taymor’s reportedly not taking the easy route. Based on what I’ve been hearing, she plans a very loose adaptation of the much beloved Disney film, which will mix Ned Washington, Paul J. Smith & Leigh Harline’s Oscar winning score in with a new book that the director will base on the film’s script as well as story ideas culled from Carlo Collodi’s original satiric novel.

Reportedly working with Taymor on her adaptation of “Pinocchio” are her long-term partner & collaborator, composer Elliot Goldenthal, as well as novelist Robert Coover (who’s actually written an adult novel, “Pinocchio in Venice”). Julie hopes that her take on the much loved story will be “a whacked-out, commedia dell’arte style, funky, hand-made, nasty-edge theatre, with a rambunctious, wild, edgy quality.”

Sounds pretty bizarre, eh? Well, keep in mind that – just because a show is announced (or even gets a workshop production) – that doesn’t necessarily mean that Disney will actually get around to producing a full blown version of that particular show. After all, look what happened with the first production of “Hoopz” and/or “When You Wish” (Tina Landua’s musical revue that featured a decontructionist take on classic Disney songs like “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Bibbity Bobbity Boo.” This show had a full blown workshop production earlier this year which starred Faith Prince & Douglas Sills. But there’s no word yet as to whether Disney has any plans to do any further development of this show).

If none of the shows mentioned in this article ever make it out of the rehearsal hall, not to worry. Disney Theatrical has even more ideas for shows in the works. Among the concepts that they’re currently kicking around are a Broadway musical based on “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” as well as a play-with-music version of Touchstone Pictures’ 1989 release, “The Dead Poets Society.”

All this – plus supposedly a stateside tour of the live stage version of Disney’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame” (which is now the longest running show in Berlin theater history) – means that all us Broadway & Disneyana fans will have plenty to occupy our time while we wait patiently for the theatrical version of “Mary Poppins” to cross the Atlantic.

Provided – of course – that any of these proposed shows actually survive their workshop production. After all, how many of you folks out there got to see the “Invisible Man” musical that Disney Theatrical had in the works a few years back? See what I mean?

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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