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The El Capitan Theatre: An Appreciation

JHM guest columnist Dale Ward takes a fond look at this Hollywood landmark

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After seeing Jeff Lange’s pictorial on the outside of the El Capitan, I was reminded how much I wanted to visit the theater and what better time than the Christmas holidays? This was my first trip to the grand old movie palace and I thought I’d share a few thoughts and photos of the trip.

It’s two days after Christmas and I’m at the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The El Capitan is a just a few blocks from historic Hollywood and Vine and across the street from Mann’s Chinese, one of the world’s most well known theaters. I spent my first 6 or 7 years living pretty close to here. On Friday nights in the early 60’s, my mom and grandmother and I would window shop on Hollywood Blvd for fun.

I remember spending time in front of The Hollywood Magic Shop marveling at all the junk on the walls behind the counter. The store is still there with more cool junk on the walls than in the 60’s. I was in Hollywood when I heard the news that Walt Disney had died. The news came from a radio at the International Newsstand on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Cahuenga. I was seven years old and the news made me sad. No more Uncle Walt hosting “The Wonderful World of Color.”

I don’t have any specific memories of “El Capitan” which was called the Paramount in the 60’s. My strongest memory of a theater was “The Cave,” a strip joint down Hollywood Blvd. that still does business. I remember “The Cave” because the place had a false plaster front that looked like the rocky entrance to a real cave. At my age, that was the coolest looking place on the Boulevard.

Today I’m here to see “The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.” Okay, that’s not entirely true. I’m actually here to see the El Capitan interior. I would have sat through any film playing here; it was just a happy accident that it was a film I hadn’t seen yet.

While I don’t consider myself a true movie buff, (You’re not going to see me at a Clara Bow retrospective or a foreign film festival at the local art house) I am interested in cinema history. I came to the El Capitan to experience a movie in a movie palace. I came to sit in a Hollywood theater and pretend I was watching a film in an era when movie theaters were much of the show with exotic interiors, expensive furnishings, and at least two fancy curtains that raised before every film; an era when approximately 50% of the US population went to see a cliffhanger, an animated cartoon, and a double feature every week for two bits American. I came to soak up a little Hollywood history.

1926 was a busy year for developer Charles E. Toberman. The Texas native had moved to Southern California in 1907 and made millions in Hollywood real estate. He is considered by those who know this kind of stuff to be the most influential developer in Tinseltown’s history. He was something of a visionary who saw Hollywood as an entertainment district as far back as the 20’s. Among his Hollywood developments Toberman built the Egyptian Theater, the original Max Factor Building and helped acquire the land for the Hollywood Bowl.

In 1926 he was busy with an architectural hat trick building the now historic Roosevelt Hotel, Graumans Chinese Theater and the El Capitan. Why would a millionaire build two theaters just across the street from each other? Because Grauman’s was built as a movie house and El Capitan was built for legitimate theater. They were built to compliment each other, not compete.

Thousands of theaters sprung up in the US in the prosperous 20’s, each one trying to outdo the last. Theater designers were always looking for unusual and exotic architecture to use as themes. Mixing both period and geographic styles inside and out left us with buildings both weird and wonderful. For his landmark theater, Sid Grauman chose a Chinese motif while, El Capitan’s architect G. Albert Lansburgh, chose a Spanish style exterior and an East Indian interior. I don’t know anything about East Indian architecture but I do know that the intricately carved ceiling in the auditorium is beautiful. Unfortunately, beautiful interiors don’t pay the rent and only 15 years after it opened, El Capitan was beginning to struggle.

By the 1940’s, entertainment tastes had changed. Song and dance troupes, plays and vaudeville acts had fallen out of favor and movies were king. In 1942 Orson Welles had just finished “Citizen Kane” and he was having trouble finding a theater to play it in. The thinly veiled fictional biography about real life newspaper mogul Randolph Hearst had made Hearst mad. Really mad. Hearst wielded his considerable power and influence and the film became too hot for Hollywood. As a last resort, Wells went to the owners of the El Capitan who agreed to premiere the film, the first film to ever be shown there. The success of the premiere prompted the owners to remodel and reopen as the “Paramount,” showing first run movies.

By the 1980’s, the Paramount had been passed from owner to owner. The old theater had been rode hard and put away wet. In its heyday, Hollywood had at least 20 or 25 theaters that rivaled the grandeur of El Capitan, all with exotic exteriors and hand crafted interiors, many with colorful neon marquees. By the 80’s, neglect and good old American greed left these outstanding buildings to be bulldozed or gutted and refitted and the landmark architecture of the 1920’s theater began to disappear

Sadly, these old architectural landmarks aren’t just being destroyed in Hollywood, it’s a nationwide phenomenon. Theaters are in the heart of old downtown’s, usually prime real estate. To “redevelop” these areas, movie palaces become Starbucks and Subway’s with nothing more than cheap posters of silent film stars left to mark the spot. In the 80’s The Paramount/El Capitan was one more old theater waiting to be gutted until Mickey Mouse stepped in.

In 1989 Disney was looking for a west coast theater to restore for premieres when they found the Paramount. The restoration team played with ways to get the tired old theater to turn a profit including one plan to turn the balcony into a second theater! As they pondered the theater’s fate, it was discovered that above the plaster ceiling which had been installed in 1942, much of the original arched and hand crafted ceiling was intact.

The discovery inspired Disney to attempt a full restoration of the theater to its pre-movie days, a bold and expensive move.

The El Capitan is an eleven hundred seat theater, with half of those seats in the balcony. Stepping inside, the auditorium seems cavernous. The carved and rounded ceiling is nearly six stories tall and what you see today is about 90% original. There were once two opera boxes on the side which are now used for props and such to decorate the theater.

The stage houses a 40 foot tall screen hidden behind curtains bathed in yellow and red lights. As the stage is currently dressed to look like Narnia’s winter, the blue of the props set against the curtain is striking.

By current performing arts center standards, the scale of the place is small, almost intimate, but the grandeur is unmistakable. This place was designed to look lush. From The stenciled ceiling in the foyer to the dark wood and red highlights in the barrel ceiling upstairs, it’s very much the same theater Hollywood would have seen when they came for a performance before “talkies” and “Steamboat Willie.” While the sound and lights are state of the art, the theater is definitely from a bygone era. It’s not hard to imagine Hollywood’s finest arriving for a show or maybe even a young cartoonist and his cronies taking in a vaudeville matinee, looking for gags for their next cartoon. It is hard to imagine that this beautiful theater could have easily ended up another fast food joint.

My holiday pre-show at the El Capitan was a concert by house organist Rob Richards. Richards has played the organ here since 1999 and was named 2005 ‘Organist of the Year’ by the American Theatre Organ Society. He played a mixture of Disney standards and holiday tunes on a twenty five hundred pipe organ known as the “Mighty Wurlitzer” and it’s one of the main reasons I came.

Now you may be thinking I’m one of those guys who sits at home listening to turn of the century recordings on a hand cranked record player, and that’s really not the case. I can’t tell the difference between a pipe organ and a midi player, but the “Mighty Wurlitzer” is not just any organ, this one is a movie palace aristocrat, an organ with a pedigree,

The Wurlitzer was originally installed in the Fox Theater San Francisco which opened in 1929. At the opening, the Fox was the west coast’s most stunning movie palace. The nearly 5000 seat theater was nicknamed “The Last Word,” it had $3000 Grecian urns decorating the front stairway (1920’s dollars, kiddies), a nurse’s office and a playroom where parents could leave the kids while watching a film.

Not too surprisingly, The Wurlitzer was one of the largest organs of it’s time and a monster to play. For my matinee, Richards took it easy but this is an organ with huge range and big lungs and was once part of the show in one of the world’s most decadent movie houses. Hearing this organ in a giant theater like the ones my grandmother used to wax nostalgic about was a geeky thrill.

Richards finished his concert, the house lights turned off and the previews began, all of them Disney movies which just so happen to be the next 3 or 4 films that will play in this theater reminding me that this experience is the property of Disney. But the El Capitan still had one little magical surprise.

After the credits and just before the movie, to remind us that Narnia itself is locked in a 100 year old winter, Disney decided to let it snow. Snow machines like the ones on Disneyland’s main street gave the theater a light powdering. Blue lights illuminated the soap flakes as they cascaded from above and the ooh’s and aah’s from kids and out of towners filled the air.

It was the kind of stunt El Capitan would have tried in its heyday. As Orson Welles shakes his snowglobe and whispers “Rosebud,” hired hands in overalls, standing on catwalks, throw handfuls of soapflakes, not just on the stage but on the audience where men in tuxedoes and women in gowns would ooh and aah and happily shake snowy white flakes out of their hair.

I didn’t realize it, but I came here with really high expectations. I expected this theater to be a landmark, a museum and a state of the art theater and it actually lives up to all three. I wanted to be reminded that a mythical Hollywood was not completely myth and I wanted to feel a bygone era with state of the art effects. I came to experience a movie palace and El Capitan didn’t disappoint. It’s old school craftsmanship and new century technology, a fabulous 1920’s posh theater restored to its early glory. For under 15 bucks American, anyone can have a 3 hour tour into a bygone era of Tinseltown glitz with the addition of surround sound and it doesn’t get more Hollywood than that. Now if they can just get the front of the place to look like a rocky cave entrance …

Ward is a guest writer for Jim Hill Media who wants nothing more than to live in a blimp that circles Disneyland day and night.

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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