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Trio of special events tempt Southern California’s Disneyana fans

Jim Hill talks up the Disney-related panels that will be presented this coming weekend at WonderCon 2010, Christopher Merritt’s “Knott’s Preserved” event as well as the Carolwood Foundation’s private railcar trip along the California coastline

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This coming Saturday (provided – of course – that the Bay State isn’t still under water), I’ll be down in Avon, MA. taking part in the 15th annual Janet McDonald Memorial Walk Against Cancer. This fundraiser is something that my family does every year in order to honor the memory of my late cousin. We walk the 5-mile route that Janet did every day in order to raise
money for the Immunotherapy Research Department at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

But if I had my druthers … I wouldn’t be plodding through puddles in Randolph, MA. I’d be on the other side of the country. In San Francisco, CA. to be specific. Where – from April 2 – 4th – WonderCon 2010 will be filling the Moscone Center South with all sorts of
wonderful Disney-related events & programming.

“What sort of events and programming?,” you ask. Well, let’s start with what’s going on in the Esplanade Ballroom from 3:45 – 4:30 p.m. Where you’ll get to see the April 6th episode of ABC’s hit series,”V” (which has a rather ominous sounding title: “Pound of Flesh”) 4 days ahead of the rest of the country.

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And then – from 4:30 – 5 p.m. – Walt Disney Animation Studios will be presenting a panel about the Art of The Princess and The Frog
in Room 220. The film’s directors – Ron Clements & John Musker — will be on hand. As will be “TPATF” art director Ian Gooding, the movie’s head of effects Marlon West as well as animation legend Eric Goldberg (who was the supervising
animator for Louis, the jazz-playing alligator). As they discuss many of the creative choices & artistic challenges this team faced while they were producing Walt Disney Pictures’ return to hand-drawn animation.

But perhaps one of the more intriguing events at this year’s WonderCon is happening well away from the Moscone Center South. At 1 Market Street in the Embarcadero, to be exact.

“So what’s happening here?,” you query. Well, at 8 p.m. tomorrow night, Alan Bradley will be making an appearance in Justin Herman Plaza. Where this Encom International exec will then be introducing that company’s latest addition to their product library.

Bruce Boxleitner as Encom executive Alan Bradley in “TRON: Legacy.” Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And what’s so cool about that? Well … Alan Bradley is the name of the character that Bruce Boxleitner played in “TRON.” And Encom is the name of the computer corporation that that 1982 Steve Lisberger film was built around. So what do you want to bet that Friday night’s “press conference” winds up being another cool tease for “TRON: Legacy” ? Just like that “Flynn’s Arcade”
display that Walt Disney Pictures set up off-site at last year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Long story short: If you’re a “TRON” fan, you really, really, REALLY want to be in Justin Herman Plaza tomorrow night at 8 p.m.

Then – on Saturday, April 3rd … Well, that’s when the tough decisions start. For – from 11 a.m. to 12 noon – you can either sit in on a hand-drawn animation demo (where Eric Goldberg will discuss how he came up with the look of his character for “The Princess and the Frog”) in Room 204 & 206 OR catch the premiere screening of that new ABC series, “Happy Town” in the Esplanade Ballroom. (And did I mention that members of that show’s cast
& creative team will be on hand afterward to field questions from the audience?)

Copyright 2010 American Broadcasting Corporation, Inc. All Rights Reserved

If it were me, I’d probably go with the “Happy Town” screening. If only because the panel that follows this in the Esplanade Ballroom is the one WonderCon event that Disneyana fans really don’t want to miss. For – from 12 noon to 1:45 p.m. – Walt Disney Pictures & Disney•Pixar will be screening exclusive footage from some of their films for the Summer of 2010.

And who better to be on hand to introduce footage from “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” than Jerry Bruckheimer, that film’s producer? Or – for that matter – Jake Gyllenhaal
(i.e. the actor who plays the title character in this Walt Disney Pictures release), Mike Newell (the industry vet who directed “The Sands of Time”) and Jordan Mechner (the gentleman who created
the original “Prince of Persia” game)?

Then – once the “Prince of Persia” team has left the Esplanade Ballroom – Bruckheimer will bring the cast & crew of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” up on stage. And among the folks from that film that are expected to be on hand this Saturday afternoon are Nicholas Cage, Jay Baruchel and Teresa Palmer as well as the movie’s director, Jon Turteltaub.

(L to R)  Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel in Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And if that weren’t already entertaining enough, this Walt Disney Pictures and Disney•Pixar presentation wraps up with Lee Unkrich taking the stage. Where this Pixar veteran will then give WonderCon attendees a sneak peek at “Toy Story 3.”

Now please note that most of the venues at the Moscone Center South have very limited seating. Which is why all of the panels & programming at WonderCon 2010 is done on a first-come, first-served basis. And since these rooms will not be cleared between programs …
Well, if you want to actually have a seat for Saturday’s sure-be-spectacular Walt Disney Pictures and Disney•Pixar presentation, you should really probably plan on attending that 11 a.m. – 12 noon premiere screening of ABC’s “Happy Town.”

What’s that you say? You’re not going to be in San Francisco this coming weekend but you’d still like to attend a cool Disney-related event? Well … Then perhaps you should plan on heading over to Buena Park, CA. on Sunday, April 18th? Where you can then attend the
book release party for Christopher Merritt’s “Knott’s Preserved: From boysenberry to theme park, the history of Knott’s Berry Farm.”

Copyright 2010 Angel City Press. All Rights Reserved

“And what does Knott’s Berry Farm have to do with Disney?,” you ask. Well, as Merritt points out in this handsome 160-page hardcover, if it hadn’t been for Walter Knott and that Chicken Dinner Restaurant that he and his wife Cordelia ran out in Orange County with its Old West street & Ghost Town … Well, one wonders if Walt Disney would have actually picked Anaheim as the perfect place to build The Happiest Place on Earth?

Anyway … To honor the history of Knott’s Berry Farm (as well as explore this theme park’s many connections to The Walt Disney Company), there’ll be a day-long event on Sunday, April 18th to celebrate the release of Chris’ 15-years-in-the-making book.

This event will include tours of the Park’s Grand Avenue & Ghost Town areas led by Orange County Historians Phil Brigandi and Chris Jepsen. And from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Merritt and his co-author, noted Los Angeles historian & preservationist J. Eric Lynxwiler will be on hand in the Chicken Dinner Restaurant. Where – along with Imagineer Tony Baxter (who wrote
the introduction for this Angel City Press release) – Chris & J. Eric will be happy to autograph your copy of “Knott’s Preserved: From boysenberry to theme park, a history of Knott’s Berry Farm.”

Copyright Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. All Rights Reserved

Then – from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. – attendees will gather at the Bird Cage Theater for a multimedia lecture on the early history of this property. Which will then be followed from 5 – 7 p.m. by a group buffet dinner at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

After this comes the real highlight of the “Knott’s Preserved” event. Where – from 8 – 9:30 p.m. – former Imagineers Rolly Crump, Chris Crump and Eddie Sotto (along with Knott’s veterans Dean Davisson and John Waite) will gather at the Bird Cage Theater for a panel discussion. Where these five will then talk about the many classic KBF rides, shows, attractions and
events that they had a hand in building and/or designing. Among them “Knott’s Bear-y Tales,” “Wacky Soap Box Racers” and the Halloween Haunt.

This promises to be an extra special day for theme park history buffs. But be warned: Space for the “Knott’s Preserved” event is extremely limited. In fact, the last time I checked (on Tuesday of this week) there were only 30 tickets left. And when they’re gone, they’re gone.

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Company All Rights Reserved

So if you’d like to get on in the fun that’s sure to be had at Knott’s Berry Farm on Sunday, April 18th, you’d better click on this link and then fax in your request for those remaining tickets ASAP.

Of course, if you’re looking for a truly exclusive Disney-related experience, you might want to consider signing up for that once-in-a-lifetime rail trip that the Carolwood Foundation will be holding over the Memorial Day weekend.

This trip starts on Saturday, May 29th. Where a limited number of guests will leave LA’s Union Station aboard a private railcar and then journey up the California coast. And while the views out the window are sure to be spectacular, the on-board entertainment won’t be half bad either. These include presentations by Disney Legend Bob Gurr, noted historian
& author Michael Broggie, animator John Kimball (son of Disney Legend Ward Kimball) as well as Imagineer Ray Spencer (who’s currently riding herd on the Red Car Trolley installation project at Disney’s California Adventure).

Photo courtesy of The Blue Parrot. All Rights Reserved

And did I mention that all the meals that you’ll be served as you ride aboard this historic observation car will be prepared by a private chef and his staff?

But wait! The fun doesn’t stop once your train gets to Oakland. You’ll then be whisked by private motor coach to the Hilton Hotel in Emeryville, CA. Where — following a restful night’s sleep — you’ll then be driven into San Francisco. Where – after a tour of the Walt Disney Family Museum – you’ll then adjourn to the Fantasia Theater. Where you’ll enjoy a rare public screening of “The Great Locomotive Chase,” that 1956 Walt Disney Productions release that stars the late Fess Parker.

After this screening, you’ll then head down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a night of fun, which will be followed by a return trip to the Hilton in Emeryville. Then – come Monday – this private railcar departs Oakland for the return trip to Los Angeles. Where – while you’re once again enjoying that spectacular view – you’ll also have a chance to interact with the event’s guest speakers as well as bid on
some rare collectibles & autographed items.

Copyright The Blue Parrot. All Rights Reserved

Now admittedly the cost of this trip is a bit pricey ($500 per person. Plus your two night hotel stay at the Hilton). But the net proceeds from this event will go to an extremely good cause. You see, the Carolwood Foundation is in the process of acquiring and restoring the original Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad combine car. Which it then plans on displaying at Walt Disney’s
Carolwood Barn in Griffth Park. So if you’d like to help preserve this piece of Disney history – an artifact that Walt not only personally owned, but once declared to be his favorite piece of the Disneyland Railroad – then you should definitely sign up for this trip.

Be warned, though: All reservations for this amazing trip up the California coast aboard a private railcar must be made by April 10th. And given that space is (obviously) limited, you’re encouraged to book your tickets ASAP.

For more information on this unique fundraiser or the Combine project, drop by the Carolwood website.

So there you have it: A trio of special events that are sure to tempt Southern California Disneyana fans now through Memorial Day. Which — come to think about it — is just about when I expect my shoes will finally dry out from plodding through all those puddles during Saturday’s Cancer Walk.

Your thoughts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont

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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage

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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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