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The seven keys to surviving Super Soap Weekend

Not sure what to expect this coming weekend at Disney-MGM? Then why not consult JHM’s annual Super Soap guide so that you can then make the most of this ABC Daytime event



For football fans, it’s the Super Bowl. For guys who collect comic books, it’s Comic-Con International. And — for Disney dweebs — it’s the National Fantasy Fan Club (THE club for Disneyana enthusiasts) ‘s annual convention.

But — if you’re a serious ABC Daytime fan — there’s only one place that you HAVE TO be this coming weekend. And that’s at the Disney-MGM Studios, where the 11th annual “ABC Super Soap Weekend” is being held this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 10th, 11th & 12th.

Heather Tom, Kamar de los Reyes, Bree Williamson & Forbes March (l to r)
Photo by JHM staff

Of course, some of you soap fans out there may be a little put off by the stories that you’ve heard about this event. You wonder how you’re ever going to cope with those huge crowds at the studio theme park.

Well, thanks goodness for JHM staffers Nancy Stadler & Angela Ragno. These two ladies have been attending Super Soap Weekend for years now. And — over that time — they’ve assembled a tip sheet that will not only help you properly prep for this ABC Daytime event, it’ll also help you make the most of your day at Disney-MGM.

Jacob Young
Photo by JHM staff

“And what’s the first tip of Nancy & Angela’s sheet?,” you ask. Well, in order to really enjoy Super Soap, you have to do some advance planning. Which is why you should head out to the store NOW and pick up all of the supplies that you’ll need to survive the next three days at the studio theme park.

The essentials are:

  • Plenty of film for your 35MM camera and/or additional batteries for your digital camera

    Laura Wright
    Photo by JHM staff

  • Sunscreen

  • A big bottle of water

Hillary B. Smith
Photo by JHM staff

  • Some sort of breakfast item (As is usually the case on “ABC Super Soap Weekend,” the folks at Disney-MGM will throw open the gates to the theme park at 8:00 a.m. The only problem is that none of the shops or restaurants in the park will actually open ’til 9 a.m., Disney-MGM’s official opening time. So — if you’re looking to grab breakfast once you enter the theme park — you’re really out of luck here. Particularly since — by 9 a.m. — you’ll probably already be in line for your first show of the day. So be sure to eat breakfast before you arrive at Disney-MGM and/or bring a breakfast item into the park with you.)

Eden Riegel & Jacob Young
Photo by JHM staff

  • Plenty of pocket money. (Once you get in that “ABC Super Soap Weekend” groove, you’re not going to want to break away to run to one of the park’s two ATMs. Speaking of Disney-MGM’s ATMs: The first one is located right outside of the theme park, just to the right of MGM’s main entrance. The second is located deep inside the park, inside the arcade area at the Toy Story Pizza Planet restaurant.)

  • A light jacket. Once the sun goes down, it can get kind of cool at Disney-MGM. So — if you’re planning on staying ’til the theme park closes to take in the Grand Motorcade as well as the Colgate Total Street Jam — you’re going to want a light jacket or a sweater to pull on to ward off a chill.

    Bob Guiney, Kamar de los Reyes, Cameron Mathison, Justin Bruening,
    Tyler Christopher, David Fumero & Greg Vaughan ( l to r)
    Photo by JHM staff

The next key to enjoying Super Soap is arriving early.

You’ve heard that “it’s the early bird who gets the worm,” right? Well, in this case, it’s the ABC soap fan who doesn’t sleep in who then makes the most of their Super Soap experience. Which is why — given Disney-MGM is scheduled to open at 9 a.m. tomorrow and at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday — you need to be driving into the parking lot at least an hour before that theme park officially opens for the day. And then get on line at MGM’s entrance ASAP.

Bobbie Eakes, Michael E. Knight & Justin Bruening
Photo by JHM staff

    The third key to having a great time at Super Soap: Plan on attending at least two days of this three day event.

    This — Nancy and Angela insist — is a must. Why for? Because — no matter how much advance planning you do — your first day in the park is going to be a bit of a botch. You — as the newby Super Soap Weekend visitor — are really going to have to learn the ropes at Disney-MGM.

    Steve Burton (in white shirt)
    Photo by JHM staff

    For example: Where to stand along Hollywood Boulevard to get the very best shots of the stars in the Celebrity Motorcade. (Here’s another tip from Nancy & Angela: If you want to get great pictures of your favorite ABC Daytime stars, go stand behind the giant Sorcerer Mickey hat in front of the Chinese Theater. Why here? Because this is where the celebrities will be climbing out of their cars before heading onstage for their “Star Conversations.” Which is why you can often get some great candid shots back here.)

    Rebecca Budig, Nancy Lee Grahn & Bob Guiney
    Photo by JHM staff

    To put it bluntly: There’s a real learning curve associated with “ABC Super Soap Weekend.” And on Friday & Saturday … Well, both you and the staff of Disney-MGM aren’t going to have your act together yet. So don’t despair if you don’t actually accomplish everything that you’d hoped to do on your first day in the theme park. That’s what Saturday and Sunday are for.

    Which brings us now to the fourth key to having a great time at Super Soap, which is: There’s just no way that you’re going to be able to do everything at this ABC Daytime event. So don’t even try.

    Greg Vaughan & Minnie Mouse
    Photo by JHM staff

    While it’s true that some ABC soap fans are truly dedicated, it’s also true that there are limits to the amount of abuse that the human body can take in one day. One can only stand in the hot sun waiting to get an autograph for so long.

    So try and be nice to yourself. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by trying to take in every single event. Look over the “ABC Super Soap Weekend” master schedule and just select the shows and events that most appeal to you. Then ignore everything else on the schedule (No matter how tempting some of these other MGM programs may seem) and just concentrate on getting into the shows you’ve already selected.

    Alicia Minshew & Chip
    Photo by JHM staff

    Keep in mind that — when it comes to “ABC Super Soap Weekend” — it’s quality, not quantity, that counts.:

    Which brings us to the fifth key to having a great time at Super Soap, which is: Always try and keep your sense of humor about you.

    Laura Wright & Donald Duck
    Photo by JHM staff

    According to Nancy & Angela, these ABC Daytime events at Disney-MGM can sometimes get pretty ugly. With shoving matches suddenly erupting between WDW guests and/or people screaming at the top of their lungs at one another, just because one soap fan thinks that another cut in line.

    Obviously, some people can get pretty passionate when it comes to their favorite soap stars. But Angela & Nancy would like to remind all of you who will be attending this year’s “ABC Super Soap Weekend” event that this is all just make-believe. That just because JR Chandler, Antonio Vega & Carly Corinthos come into your home five days a week doesn’t mean that they’re actually real. After all, not matter how glamorous these people may seem on the small screen, in the end they’re all just actors on a daytime TV show.

    Natalia Livingston & Tyler Christopher
    Photo by JHM staff

    So — if you accidentally miss out on your chance to meet one of these ABC Daytime stars — it’s NOT really the end of the world. So please don’t throw a tantrum in public, scream or swear just because something doesn’t go exactly the way you hoped tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. Please try to keep in mind that there are 24,000 other people who are also trying to enjoy this event. You have to learn to let it go.

    Which brings us to our sixth rule for having a great time at Super Soap, which is: Be courteous and considerate of others.

    “ABC Super Soap Weekend” attendee with Cameron Mathison (l to r)
    Photo by JHM staff

    You want to make a thousand mortal enemies really fast? Then — as you’re entering a theater for one of the “Super Star Talk Shows” (Which are being held several times a day in the ABC TV Theater) — just plop yourself down in the middle of the row and then refuse to move. According to Angela & Nancy, you’ll soon have hundreds of women screaming at you to “Move the f*ck down!” Which — of course — can put kind of a damper on the rest of your day at the theme park.

    Walt Willey & Leven Rambin
    Photo by JHM staff

    Try and be considerate of those around you. Remember when you get to the front of the line and are finally getting your photograph taken with your favorite ABC Daytime star and/or getting an autograph that there are still hundreds of people behind you who would also like some time with that performer. So try and have your camera ready, or have your pen & autograph book within easy reach. Just so you don’t gum up the works once you get face to face with that celebrity.

    And — finally — Angela and Nancy’s seventh and final rule for having a great time at Super Soap: Know where and when to eat. More importantly, know where and when to shop.

    Nancy Lee Grahn, Natalia Livingston & Tyler Christopher (l to r)
    Photo by JHM staff

    Okay. We’ve already discussed how you should handle breakfast each day. Now let’s talk about where you should get lunch and dinner while you’re at Disney-MGM. Sure, you can grab something quick off of one of the many food carts that you’ll find scattered around the theme park. But that stuff tends to be cookies, popcorn and ice cream. Which might give you a brief sugar rush. But eating junk like that won’t give you enough energy to get through an entire day of stomping around a theme park.

    So what are you supposed to do? You don’t want to waste all the time (and money) that you’ll need to have a proper meal at one of Disney-MGM’s sit-down restaurants like the “50’s Prime Time Café,” “The Hollywood Brown Derby,” “Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater” or “Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano.” So what’s a famished soap fan to do?

    Sydney Penny & Mushu
    Photo by JHM staff

    It’s easy, really. Whenever you’re feeling hungry — Nancy & Angela suggest that you head on over to the ABC Commissary (which is located next to the Chinese Theater) and/or the Sunset Ranch Market on Sunset Boulevard (which is right next door to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith). Here, you’ll find affordable, healthy eats that you get and gulp quickly. Which will allow you to make better use of your time taking in shows and/or searching for soap stars.

    As for shopping … If you’re looking for those special edition “ABC Super Soap Weekend” pins and t-shirts, those items are usually on sale first thing in the morning at the shop that’s located to the left of Disney-MGM’s entrance. Which means that you actually can pick up these collectibles prior to entering the theme park and immediately take them back to your car for storage or just slip into the nearest bathroom (which is located to the left of the Guest Relations window) and slip on your new Super Soap duds. Which means that you can be properly attired as you enter the park.

    Kamar de los Reyes
    Photo by JHM staff

    In closing, Angela & Nancy remind all you would-be “ABC Super Soap Weekend” attendees out there that the whole point of coming out to this theme park is to have fun. And that — if the crush of the crowds this weekend gets to be too much for you — just slip off for a half hour or so, find a nice air conditioned ride or attraction and relax / re-energize for a bit.

    Kassie DePaiva
    Photo by JHM staff

    That’s one of the real ironies of “ABC Super Soap Weekend.” With so many bodies jammed inside the park, you’d think that all of Disney-MGM’s rides and shows would be filled to capacity as well. But — instead — the opposite is true. Because all of the soap fans are only interested in seeing their favorite ABC Daytime sta rs and because most other WDW visitors tend to steer clear of the studio theme park this coming weekend because of crowd concerns, virtually every attraction in the park is a walk-on. Which is why — if you’re a Twilight Zone Tower of Terror fan — tomorrow, Saturday & Sunday would be a really great time to rack up multiple rides on this particular attraction.

    Bob Guiney, Kelli Gidish, Jacob Young & Kassie DePaiva
    Photo by JHM staff

    Beyond that, here’s hoping that the above tip sheet helps you folks enjoy the 2006 edition of “ABC Super Soap Weekend.” More importantly. that the photographs that accompany today’s article give you some idea of the sort of celebrities that you can see at this ABC Daytime event.

    Susan Lucci & Mickey Mouse
    Photo by JHM staff

    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 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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