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The Beach you’ll never reach: Disney’s abandoned plans for Florida’s Eastern shore

Ever hear about Disney’s plans for a theme park in Palm Beach? Or how about that beachfront swimming area that Mickey once wanted to build in Melbourne, FL? Jim Hill fills you on another sad WDW story of what might have been.

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Relax. That loud noise that you’ve been hearing coming from Florida’s coastline is NOT Hurricane Ivan. But — rather — a collective sigh of relief from the staff of Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

“What’s with all the sighing?,” you ask. Well, late last week, it was reported that the damage that Hurricane Frances caused to this beachfront hotel was so severe that the Mouse was going to have to shut down its Vero Beach operation until at least September 30th. Since then, Disney Company management has actually had a chance to inspect the hotel. Which is why Mickey has now asked reporters (nicely) to amend their earlier stories about this Disney Vacation Club facility.

You see — as of right now — it looks like repairs could be complete at the Vero Beach Resort by as early as this coming weekend. Which means (Provided — of course — that a fourth hurricane doesn’t suddenly rise up out of the Atlantic and immediately set its sights on Florida’s Eastern shore) that this 175-room hotel could be once again be open for business sometime during the week of the 20th.

Which — as you might understand — makes Mouse House managers very happy. Of course, some of the really old Disney Company vets (You know, the guys who’ve been working for Mickey since the 1960s & ’70s?) have recently been heard to mutter: “Thank God we didn’t go forward with that Palm Beach project and/or develop that oceanfront property that we once owned in Melbourne.”

What’s that? You say you’ve never heard about these beach-related other projects that Walt Disney Productions once considered for construction in the Sunshine State? Well then pull up a chaise lounge, my friend. And — as we both keep a weather eye out for any funnel clouds coming out of the Caribbean — I’ll fill you in on one of the more fascinating tales from Disney World’s “What Might Have Been” file …

The time is early 1959. “The Happiest Place on Earth” is less than 3 1/2 years old. And — though Walt Disney still keeps insisting that “There will be only one Disneyland” — the truth of the matter is that Walt’s operatives are already out there. Scouring the United States for possible construction sites for Disneyland II.

The only problem is … Walt Disney Production is currently cash-poor. Though the Anaheim theme park is already making money hand over fist, not all of that dough actually belongs to Disney. A good portion of those funds has to go to the companies who helped fund Phase I of Disneyland’s construction (I.E. ABC & Western Publishing). Plus there are all those park-related bank loans that Walt still has to repay.

So — in order to make a second Disney theme park a reality in the not-so-distant future — Walt was going to need some new financial partners. Which was where RCA, NBC and billionaire insurance John McArthur came in.

This (on paper, anyway) seemed to be the “Dream Team” for making Disneyland II a reality by the mid-1960s. At the time (1959), RCA was desperate to get in bed with Walt. You see, RCA owned NBC. And the National Broadcasting Company had grown tired of regularly getting its butt kicked by all of ABC’s Disney-related programming. Which is why that Burbank-based network was wooing Walt big-time back then.

Anyway … With the hope that they’d soon be able to convince Disney to drop the American Broadcasting Company and come on over to the National Broadcasting Company, RCA was making all sorts of outrageous promises to Walt. Like agreeing to underwrite all of the production costs of a brand new weekly Disney television series. One that would filmed entirely in color. Plus General Sarnoff’s operatives promised to throw open RCA’s research & development department to Disney’s Imagineers. So that Walt could make use of all of that corporation’s snazzy state-of-the-art technology in his theme parks.

Speaking of theme parks … With the hope that this incentive would make RCA’s deal absolutely irrestible to Disney, General Sarnoff also offered to put up most of the money necessary to build a second Disneyland. As well as introduce Walt to a man who’d agree to kick in a primo piece of real estate to build this East Coast theme park on: billionaire John McArthur.

To call John McArthur eccentric would be an understatement. I mean, here was a guy who’d made millions — billions! — off of the insurance game. Who had a fleet of personal aircraft. And yet John lived in this simple one-story tract house in North Palm Beach. Plus he LOVED to go skinny-dipping.

Speaking of Palm Beach … That was where that primo piece of real estate was actually located. 12,000 acres of land on the north side of the city, within easy access to Interstate 95.

It seemed like a dream deal to Disney. McArthur would provide all the land. RCA would kick in most of the cash necessary to construct the theme park, as well as provide all the technological expertise necessary to make the Anaheim original look like a kiddie park in comparison to Disneyland II. The four (Well … Three, actually) partners would split all of the profits equally that this project would generate. All that Walt would have to do was provide the Imagineers (who’d then have to design the second “Happiest Place on Earth”) as well as the Disney name.

So why did this seemingly perfect plan fall apart? Well, it wasn’t because of anything that Disney did. From everything I hear, Walt was actually eager to built Disneyland II out by I-95 in Palm Beach. It was RCA that eventually put the kibosh on the project.

“So why did RCA back out of the deal?,” you query. Well, the electronic company had some real financial setbacks in late 1959 / early 1960. As a result, RCA no longer had the cash flow necessary to fund its part of the Palm Beach plan. Which is perhaps why the whole Disneyland II project collapsed in late 1960 / early 1961.

(Mind you, RCA’s financial problems back then may not have been the only reason that General Sarnoff ultimately opted out of the Disneyland II project. You see, about this same time, Walt began talking up EPCOT. And the head of RCA … Well, he wasn’t really interested in building a city of the future to the north of Palm Beach. General Sarnoff just wanted to make some quick money off of a Disneyland clone.)

Anyway … In spite of pulling the plug on the Palm Beach project, General Sarnoff must have stayed on reasonably good terms with Walt. For Walt Disney Productions did eventually shut down its weekly anthology series on ABC — “Walt Disney Presents” — on September 17, 1961. Only to have a very similiar television program — “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” — pop up on NBC one week later.

But still … There were clearly a few folks at WED who still felt that Walt Disney Productions missed out on something really special when the company didn’t get to build Disneyland II down by Palm Beach. After all, back then, what Florida vacation was considered complete without spending at least one day at the beach?

Which perhaps explains why — in the 1971 Walt Disney Productions’ annual report — the following paragraph popped up:

“Looking to the future, subsidiaries of the Company during 1971 purchased 5000 feet of beach property along the Atlantic Ocean, representing approximately 80 acres of land south of Melbourne Beach in Brevard County. Our primary objective one day will be to provide a natural ocean beach playground for families visiting Walt Disney World.”

This annual report included an aerial shot of this pristine piece of beachfront property. This beautiful photo — which showed gentle whitecaps lapping against a sandy shore — features a caption that read:

“Future visitors to Walt Disney World will one day have access to the recently-purchased natural Atlantic Ocean beachground in Brevard County.”

Sounds like a pretty snazzy addition to WDW’s already impressive line-up of attractions, doesn’t it? So what actually became of this project? To be honest, I don’t know, folks.

By that I mean: The Brevard County beach project seemed to be something that Disney Company execs were very, very excited about in the early, early 1970s. At the very least, the Melbourne, FL. property rated an additional mention in Walt Disney Productions’ annual report for 1972. Which read:

“Last year, the Company acquired approximately one mile of beach property fronting on the Atlantic Ocean to the South of Melbourne, Florida and to the east of the Indian River. The Indian River forms a portion of the intercoastal waterway, which connects Florida with the entire Eastern Seaboard. In future years, the Company expects to make this beach available to both Walt Disney World guests and residents of the City of Lake Buena Vista.”

Which — again — makes the Melbourne, FL. acquistion sound like a very promising project. But then — by the time the 1973 version of Walt Disney Productions’ annual report rolls around — the Mouse stops talking about its Florida beachfront property. You can search that publication from cover to cover. But you still won’t find word one about Disney’s land holdings in Brevard County.

“So what happened to this pristene piece of beachfront property?,” you ask. Well, I’ve chatted with a few longtime WDW employees. And they offer up some pretty interesting theories as to why Mickey may have eventually opted to get rid of its land holdings in Melbourne, FL. You see … Well … By the time 1973 rolled around, the Mouse wasn’t all that fond of the idea of any WDW guests wandering off property. By that I mean: Sure, some of these folks might have actually eventually found their way over to Disney’s beach in Brevard County. But still others might have opted out of making that 80+ mile. hour-and-a-half long drive out to Melbourne. And — instead — dropped by the soon-to-be-opening Sea World of Florida (Which initially opened for business in December 1973). Or — worse yet — drove on down to Tampa to check out Busch Gardens.

No, Walt Disney World didn’t want to risk letting any of its guests drive off-property. It was far better for the company’s cash flow if these folks (More importantly, their wallets) stayed within the 47 square mile boundaries of “The Vacation Kingdom of the World.”

Which is why (according to the WDW vets that I’ve spoken with) Walt Disney Productions probably decided to eventually sell off this beautiful stretch of sand along the Atlantic Ocean. Opting instead to build a place where WDW guests — if they were really looking for a fun place to swim while they were vacationing in Central Florida — could do so without ever leaving property.

And that project — my friends — was River Country. Fort Wilderness’ “Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole” which first opened for business in June of 1976. As to why Walt Disney World’s first water park supposedly closed for the season in October of 2001 and never ever re-opened again … Well, that’s a story for another time.

Speaking of time … Your time’s running out if you want to take part in JHM’s “Ghost of the Shell” contest. We’ll only be accepting entries through midnight Friday. So — if you’d like a shot at winning that “Ghost in the Shell” DVD and/or one of those five “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” posters — send an amusing e-mail featuring the phrase “Ghost in the Shell” to jim@jimhillmedia.com.

Special thanks to the nice folks at Dreamworks for providing us with all this swell “Ghost in the Shell” swag. Remember, “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” opens at a theater near you this coming Friday. So be sure and go check out this highly acclaimed Mamoru Oshii film.

Hey. That’s kind of appropriate, don’t you think? A story about Disney’s abandoned Florida beachfront projects wrapping up with a mention of a “Ghost in a Shell.”

Not bad for someone who’s operating on only five hours of sleep, don’t you think?

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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