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Toon Tuesday: Why “Ratatouille” ‘s good-but-not-great box office numbers are now causing problems for Disney’s marketing department

Jim Hill talks about all of the finger-pointing that’s going on in Burbank & Emeryville, as execs try to find someone to blame for this Pixar picture’s perceived under-performance



By now, you’ve probably heard that — over this past weekend — “Ratatouille” finally officially achieved really-for-real blockbuster status. Earning over $200 million during its initial domestic run.

Mind you, it did take this new Brad Bird film quite a while to reach that milestone. As you can see by the chart below …

Film Title

Number of days that it took for this particular Pixar film to reach a domestic gross of $200 million

“Finding Nemo”

20 days

“The Incredibles”

22 days


30 days

“Monsters, Inc.”

30 days

“Toy Story 2”

44 days


65 days

… Of the six Pixar films that earned at least $200 million over their initial domestic runs, “Ratatouille” took the longest. In fact, I’ve been told by several Disney insiders that the studio was so concerned that this animated feature might not achieve blockbuster status before the Labor Day Weekend was over that the Mouse actually increased the number of theaters that “Ratatouille” was being shown in. Bumping up the number of screens that this Pixar picture was being screened on this past Friday from 956 to 1068.

“Ah, but what does that matter how long it took, Jim?,” you say. ” ‘Ratatouille’ has finally officially achieved blockbuster status. Isn’t that something worth celebrating?”

Well, the Walt Disney Company would certainly like you to think so. Which is why — over the next few days — you’re going to see the usual self-congratulatory full-page ads in the trades. Not to mention those press releases that talk about how happy the studio supposedly is with the way that “Ratatouille” has performed to date.

Copyright 2007 Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Of course, were you to ask the people who work in Mickey’s marketing department about what Mouse House senior management really thinks about this particular Pixar production’s box office performance, you’d hear a very different story. One that involves a lot of finger-pointing as well as people attempting to shift blame to other departments at the studio.

“But why would people want to assign blame when it comes to ‘Ratatouille’ ‘s domestic box office performance?,” you ask. Well, you have to understand that — up until this last Brad Bird film — Pixar productions have always finished in the Top 5 during their initial domestic runs.

Don’t believe me? Okay. Let’s go to the charts. “Toy Story” was the No. 1 film domestically back in 1995 …

Top Five Films of 1995

Their Domestic Grosses

“Toy Story”

$191.7 million

“Batman Forever”

$184.0 million

“Apollo 13”

$172.0 million


$141.5 million

“Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”

$108.3 million

A Bug’s Life” came in fourth in 1998’s domestic box office derby …

Top Five Films of 1998

Their Domestic Grosses

“Saving Private Ryan”

$216.5 million


$201.5 million

“There’s Something About Mary”

$176.4 million

“A Bug’s Life”

$162.7 million

“The Water Boy”

$161.4 million

Toy Story 2” came in third back in 1999 …

Top Five Films of 1999

Their Domestic Grosses

“Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace”

$431.0 million

“The Sixth Sense”

$293.5 million

“Toy Story 2”

$245.8 million

“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”

$206.0 million

“The Matrix”

$171.4 million

Monsters, Inc.” finished fourth back in 2001 …

Top Five Films of 2001

Their Domestic Grosses

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

$317.5 million

“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”

$313.3 million


$267.6 million

“Monsters, Inc.”

$255.8 million

“Rush Hour 2”

$226.1 million

Finding Nemo” was No. 2 back in 2003 …

Top Five Films of 2003

Their Domestic Grosses

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”

$377.0 million

“Finding Nemo”

$339.7 million

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”

$305.4 million

The Matrix Reloaded”

$281.5 million

“Bruce Almighty”

$242.8 million

The Incredibles” came in fifth back in 2004 …

Top Five Films of 2004

Their Domestic Grosses

“Shrek 2”

$441.2 million

“Spider-Man 2”

$373.5 million

“The Passion of the Christ”

$370.2 million

“Meet the Fockers”

$279.2 million

“The Incredibles”

$261.4 million

While “Cars” grabbed the 3 spot in last year’s domestic box office derby.

Top Five Films of 2006

Their Domestic Grosses

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”

$423.3 million

“Night at the Museum”

$250.8 million


$244.0 million

“X-Men: The Last Stand”

$234.3 million

“The Da Vinci Code”

$217.5 million

Whereas “Ratatouille” … Well, as of yesterday, this Pixar production found itself dropping down to No. 8 …

Top Ten Films of 2007
(As of 9/03/07)

Their Domestic Grosses
(As of 9/03/07)

“Spider-Man 3”

$336.5 million

“Shrek the Third”

$321.0 million


$310.5 million

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

$308.2 million

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

$286.6 million


$210.6 million

“The Bourne Ultimatum”

$202.6 million


$201.0 million

“The Simpsons Movie”

$178.4 million

“Wild Hogs”

$168.2 million

… having just been knocked out of the No. 7 berth by “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

And given the domestic market is now pretty much tapped out for this particular Pixar production (Just last week, “Ratatouille” was struggling to pull in $120,000 – $130,000 for its stateside weekday performances. And given that most of the kids in the U.S. are headed back to school today, you can now expect this movie’s numbers to fall straight through the floor) and given that there are still 17 movie-going weeks left in 2007 … It is quite possible that — between now and New Year’s Eve — three more movies that can gross over $200 million domestically will come along. With one of those films most likely being Walt Disney Pictures’ “Enchanted.”

The way I hear it, the folks up in Emeryville are not happy about this prospect. Not just because “Ratatouille” has already been knocked out of the Top 5. But because — for the first time ever — there is the very distinct possibility that this animation studio’s latest release will not be in the domestic Top 10 as 2007 draws to a close.

Copyright 2007 Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

This is why there’s now a new party line when it comes to discussing “Ratatouille” ‘s box office performance. Nowadays, Pixar die-hards don’t really like to talk about how this Brad Bird film did during its domestic run. They’d much rather prefer to discuss how well this animation studio’s latest release is doing overseas.

Of course, the only problem with doing that is that it then opens the window to comparing “Ratatouille” ‘s grosses to those for “The Simpsons Movie.” And while it no longer seems likely that this 20th Century Fox release will be able to eclipse that Pixar picture’s domestic earnings, “The Simpsons Movie” is still kicking “Ratatouille” ‘s butt overseas (i.e. Having earned $291.0 million versus $172.3 million to date).

Then when you factor in that “The Simpsons Movie” allegedly only cost $75 million to produce … Well, that means that this Fox film will be in the black a whole lot sooner than “Ratatouille” will. Which — given that this Brad Bird film (due to all of its production problems) reportedly cost $150 million to complete — is something of a sore point with the suits back in Burbank.

 Copyright 2007 20th Century Fox.
All Rights Reserved

And speaking of people being sore … Let’s get back to all that finger-pointing that’s been going on in Burbank. All because the folks up in Emeryville are reportedly blaming the Mouse House’s marketing team for “Ratatouille” ‘s under-performance at the box office.

As the story goes, the people at Pixar are now supposedly saying that this Brad Bird film didn’t do as well as it could have domestically because Disney dropped the ball. They insist that Mickey’s marketing staff didn’t put together a really effective promotional campaign for this particular Pixar production.

As you might imagine, claims like this make the folks who actually work in Disney’s marketing department completely crazy. As one studio insider that I recently spoke with put it:

Copyright 2007 Pixar Animation Studios / Imagination Farms.
All Rights Reserved

We put together the best possible campaign that we could for ‘Ratatouille.’ Sure, this movie got great reviews. But this was a very difficult picture to sell during an incredibly competitive summer. To be honest, we’re lucky that this movie did as well as it did.

Pixar is now claiming that we didn’t put together a good enough trailer for ‘Ratatouille.’ They say that this is the main reason that their newest movie didn’t do as well domestically as ‘Cars’ did. Which is why they’re now being complete b*stards about the ‘WALL-E‘ trailer. Insisting that only they know the proper way to promote their next picture.

Our counter-argument is that if we didn’t put together the campaign that we did for ‘Ratatouille,’ putting that 9-minute excerpt out there on the Web, holding those sneak previews two weeks out, that there’s no other way that we could have built better word-of-mouth for this movie. If we hadn’t done that level of promotion, spent that money the way we did, they’d have been lucky if this film had done 2/3rds or 3/4ths of the business that it eventually did stateside.

Copyright 2008 Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

But because Pixar never, ever makes mistakes, we’re now the ones who have to take the blame. But that’s okay. Let them call the shots on “WALL-E” ‘s marketing campaign. Next year, they’ll be the one who’ll be taking the fall when that Andrew Stanton film doesn’t measure up to expectations.

Because if you thought that it was tough to sell a movie where a rat runs loose in a kitchen, wait ’til you try & come up with an effective marketing campaign for a movie that stars robots who don’t talk. Which is set on a version of Planet Earth that’s just this abandoned trash heap that’s floating in space. Try selling that as a fun summer film for the whole family to see.

I know, I know. This is probably far too downbeat a story for all you dyed-in-the-wool Disney & Pixar fans out there. Who just want to celebrate the fact that “Ratatouille” finally achieved really-for-real blockbuster status during its initial domestic run.

Copyright 2008 Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Well, based on what the folks in Disney’s marketing department have been telling me … This time around, it’s only the fans who are celebrating. Meanwhile down in Burbank and up in Emeryville, people are still trying to figure out what went wrong with “Ratatouille.” They want to find why a film that received such glow-in-the-dark reviews failed to connect with a far larger audience. So that these possibly-promotion-related problems can then cleared up by the time “WALL-E” rolls into theaters during the Summer of 2008.

What do you folks think? Is there something that the Mouse’s marketing department could have done differently with “Ratatouille” ? How can Disney improve the promotion that it does for Pixar’s animated features?

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit 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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