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Three to get ready …

As Jim Hill prepares for his next attempt to drive down to Central Florida, he offers up three short stories: Why he’s still up in New Hampshire, what’s the deal with the aggressive new sales tactics at the Disney Store, and how David Stainton better learn from Bob Weis’ mistakes.

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My apologies if today’s column comes across as somewhat scattershot. But I’m in the middle of packing for my upcoming trip down to Orlando …

“Wait a minute, Jim,” I hear you say. “Didn’t you say — at the start of last Friday’s ‘Remembering Light Magic’ story — that you were leaving for Central Florida then?”

Well, as it turns out, Nancy and I did begin our drive down to Disney World last Friday morning. But en route, Nancy began developing these weird leg pains. And since my fiancée has previously had some trouble with blood clots, I thought it best that we turn the car around and have our family doctor check her out.

Just for the record: We made it as far as Hartford, CT. And — before we headed back to New Hampshire — we did manage to cram in a quick visit with Jeff and Flo Lange. So Friday’s 200 mile round trip wasn’t a total waste.

ANYWAY … Several days later, Nancy’s doctors determined that what we feared to be phlebitis was actually tendonitis. Which is painful but thankfully not life threatening.

So tomorrow morning, Nancy and I climb in our Escape again and — hopefully — actually make it all the way to Orlando this time. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Okay … enough with the personal crap. Let me now tell you about the weird experience that I just had at our local Disney Store.

While Nancy was at her doctor this morning, getting the final okay for tomorrow’s road trip, I popped over to the mall to pick up the copy of “Treasure Planet” that I’d pre-ordered.

So I step up to the counter at the Disney Store, hand over my receipt, and ask for my “Treasure Planet” DVD. The woman behind the register says “Okay, Mr. Hill … but wouldn’t you also like to pre-order your copy of ‘Jungle Book 2’ while you’re here? “

This Disney Store cast member then directed my attention to the “Jungle Book 2” promotional materials that were prominently displayed at the store’s main sales counter. (Which the store’s personnel had evidently just put up that morning.)

I politely demurred, explaining that I’d left my wallet out in the car. Which I had.

This was when this Disney Store cast member did a somewhat startling thing. She actually took the bag that had my “Treasure Planet” DVD in it out of my hand and placed it behind the counter. This woman then turned to me and said “Tell you what. I’ll hold onto to your ‘Treasure Planet’ DVD while you go out to your car and get your wallet. That way, you won’t miss out on pre-ordering ‘Jungle Book 2.'”

I just stood there with my jaw hanging open for a moment. I mean, I’ve heard about hard selling before. But how bad must things be at the Disney Store if the cast members there are willing to hold guests’ merchandise hostage in order to pre-sell a few more copies of “Jungle Book 2?”

I honestly didn’t know what to say for a moment. I eventually burbled something to the effect of “I’m sorry, but I can’t today. You see, I’m trying to be good here. I leave for Disney World tomorrow.” To which this Disney Store employee replied “Oh, you don’t want to buy anything down there. They’re going to make you pay tax.”

It was really a Fellini-esque exchange. Eventually, I was able to persuade this cast member to give me back my “Treasure Planet” DVD. Which she did, reluctantly. But — as soon as I stepped away from the counter — this Disney Store employee started right in on the customer that was standing behind me. Giving them the full court press about the advantages of “… pre-ordering ‘Jungle Book 2’ today.”

Without a doubt, this was the most bizarre interaction I’ve ever had with a Disney Store cast member. Which is why I’m asking: Was this just one weird employee, or are these aggressive sales tactics now standard operating procedure for DS?

My apologies to any Disney Store cast members that the above news item may offend. That’s honestly not my intention here. But I just found this incident to be so bizarre. So I was hoping that maybe some of you DS employees could shed some light on what was going on here?

Was this just an isolated incident? Or is there an in-store contest going on? Perhaps a sales quota, where Disney Store cast members have to sell so many “Jungle Book 2” per shift … or risk banishment from the Magic Kingdom? Any info you Disney Store veterans can provide would be very much appreciated.

And finally, how many of you read this story from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times? The one where David Stainton, the new head of Disney Feature Animation, spoke with Claudia Eller and Richard Verrier about his vision for the Mouse Factory.

One paragraph from this piece is reportedly really pissing animation professionals at Disney. What’s so offensive about this section of the story. It reads as follows:

One thing Stainton said he knows for sure: The studio’s core audience for animation is 4- to 10-year-olds and their parents. “If you think you’re making a movie for everybody, you’re making a movie for nobody.”

Now please understand that David’s spent the last few years at Disney Television Animation. Where the target audience for the video premieres that Stainton and his team churned out (I.E. “The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea,” “Cinderella II: Dreams Come True,” and “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride”) really was 4- to 10-year-olds and their parents.

But when it comes to the most successful animated features of the past 10 years — films like “Shrek” (which grossed $267 million domestically), “Monsters, Inc.” ($252 million), “Toy Story II” ($245 million) and “Ice Age” ($176 million) — the only reasons that these motion pictures made serious coin was because teens and young adults embraced these movies. Even WDFA’s top grossers of the past decade — “The Lion King” ($313 million domestic), “Aladdin” ($217 million), and “Beauty and the Beast” ($145 million) — only performed as well as they did because they didn’t aim too low. That they included characters, storylines, and songs that entertained audiences of all ages. NOT just youngsters and their parents.

Some WDFA vets that I’ve spoken with today have serious concerns about what Stainton is up to. Here’s a particularly biting quote:

“David’s trying to dumb down what Disney does. Radically change how Disney Feature Animation operates so that it’s more like Disney Television Animation. So that we can quickly churn out all of these low budget projects — stuff that’s on a par with “Return to Neverland” and “Jungle Book 2″ — that are sure to turn a profit even if audiences and critics don’t exactly embrace them.”

Me personally? I don’t think that things are quite as bleak at all that for Disney Feature Animation. I mean, sure, Stainton’s keeping a close eye on the bottom line. But that doesn’t mean that everything that WFDA does from here on in will be of video premiere quality.

Case in point: “Enchanted,” the ambitious WDFA project that David just revived. This romantic fable — which is slated to be directed by Adam Shankman, the guy who just helmed Touchstone’s latest blockbuster, “Bringing Down the House” — will reportedly use a combination of live action footage and animation in order to tell the tale of a fairy tale princess who winds up banished to the real world. Specifically, the Big Apple.

And Stainton was also smart enough to shut down production of “My Peoples” / “Once in a Blue Moon” in order to put the film in for some serious retooling. This Barry Cook project reportedly has a very pleasing score (written by Ricky Skaggs) as well as some pretty intriguing characters. But the film’s story was supposedly a mess. Which is why David allegedly tossed out the film’s original screenplay and brought a brand new set of writers to try and save the film.

Now where this gets interesting is that Stainton’s orders to “My Peoples / Once in a Blue Moon”‘s new team of writers reportedly went something like this:

1. You can’t touch Ricky Skaggs’ songs.
2. You have to use the characters — more importantly, the character designs — that had been created for the first version of the film.
3. The film’s new story has to have plenty of heart and humor

Kind of an intriguing challenge, don’t you think?

If it’s any consolation, David did the exact same sort of thing with Randy Fullmer and Mark Dindal’s “Chicken Little” feature. He supposedly ordered that — in order to make the movie’s central character more sympathetic — that the filmmakers change Chicken Little from a boy to a girl.

So clearly Stainton’s a hands-on kind of guy. Who perhaps needs to think twice before he chats with the press again. Why for? Well, telling reporters that Disney’s core audience is 4- to 10-year-olds and their parents just proves to the folks over at Blue Sky, Dreamworks/PDI and Pixar Animation Studio how truly out-of-touch Mouse House management is when it comes to what entertains today’s audiences.

More importantly, David needs to understand that a seemingly innocent slip of the tongue can potentially end your career at the Walt Disney Company.

Don’t believe me? Then let’s talk about Bob Weis, former rising star at Walt Disney Imagineering. Bob was the WDI creative VP who rode herd on the development of the Disney-MGM Studios, the WDW theme park that Michael Eisner absolutely loved. Which is why Uncle Mike put Weis in charge of his next pet project: a theme park that would celebrate American history.

From all accounts, Bob came up with a killer design for Disney’s America. It was honestly a theme park that would have done the Walt Disney Company proud. It was only during the November 1993 press conference — when Eisner and Weis unveiled their plans for the Haymarket, VA. Project — that he let his tongue trip him up.

Replying to a reporter’s questions about what sort of exhibits guests could expect to find when they visited Disney’s America, Weis tried to emphasis the hands-on nature of the park’s various exhibits and attractions by saying:

“We want to make you a Civil War soldier. We want you to feel what it was like to be a slave, or what is was like to escape through the Underground Railroad.”

It was Weis’ seemingly off-the-cuff comment — “We want you to feel what it was like to be a slave …” — that many Mouse House insiders feel actually sank the Disney’s America project. How so? Well, critics of the project were quick to leap on Bob’s remarks and used them as an example of how insensitive the Walt Disney Company was sure to be with its recreations of key moments in America history.

Oh, sure, it wasn’t just Weis’ “slave” comment that doomed Disney’s America. But it certainly didn’t help. So it’s probably no coincidence that — shortly after Michael Eisner’s October 1994 announcement that the Walt Disney Company had changed its mind about building a history-themed theme park in Prince William County — Bob Weis left WDI.

So my advice to David Stainton is: The next time you chat with reporters, you might want to keep Bob Weis in mind. After all, your next off-the-cuff comment may do more than just offend your staff. It could also end your career.

Okay, that’s enough yammering for today. I gotta finish packing the car.

Talk to you later,
jrh

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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