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Tube Thursday: How the Mouse missed out on “Monk”

With Tony Shalhoub up for yet another Emmy on Sunday and the “Monk” season finale due to air on the USA Network tomorrow night, Jim Hill talks about how Touchstone Television originally developed this series as a starring vehicle for “Seinfeld” second banana Michael Richards



I wonder what ABC executives will be thinking this Sunday night. Particularly as the winner of the “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series” award is announced on the 59th Primetime Emmys telecast.

Given that no male performers from any of ABC’s sitcoms were nominated this year, I guess that the suits at the Alphabet Network can take some solace in Tony Shalhoub’s Emmy nomination for “Monk.” After all, this NBC Universal Television Group show is produced in association with Mandeville Films and ABC Studios. Which (in theory) should gives ABC execs some bragging rights when it comes to this USA Network smash’s winning streak.

That said, I find it kind of hard to believe that senior officials at the American Broadcasting Company will actually be pulling for Shalhoub to win a fourth Emmy for his portrayal of the defective detective. The way I hear it, “Monk” ‘s success remains a somewhat touchy subject with ABC executives. Seeing as it was this Disney-owned network that originally developed the popular cable television series, only to then let this fan favorite slip right through its fingers.

 Copyright 2007 NBC Universal, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Of course, back when “Monk” was originally in development at Touchstone Television, this hour-long dramedy wasn’t envisioned as a showcase for Mr. Shalhoub’s talents. But — rather — as a starring vehicle for Michael Richards. You know? Of “Seinfeld” fame?

Strange but true, folks. As that super successful sitcom was winding down its 9-year-run on NBC in the spring of 1998, every studio in Hollywood was waiting in the wings. Eager to cut deals with Richards & the rest of the “Seinfeld” cast to appear in brand-new shows.

And Disney … Given that Mickey already had a working relationship with Michael (Richards had recently made a cameo appearance in “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” and was doing voice work for “Redux Riding Hood“), studio execs thought that this might give them an edge when it came to cutting a deal with Kramer. Which is why — even before “Seinfeld” had officially wrapped production — Mouse House officials were already developing concepts for shows that Richards could star in.

 Copyright 1998 Sony / Castle Rock Entertainment.
All Rights Reserved

And given Michael’s gift for slapstick … Well, one of the ideas was a TV series that would be built around this Inspector Clouseau-like character. You know, that inept French detective that Peter Sellers played so brilliantly in all those “Pink Panther” movies?

Anyway … David Hoberman (Who was then head of the Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Group) heard that ABC execs were looking for Clouseau-like ideas for this Michael Richards project. So Hoberman took a meeting with several development officials over at the network and then pitched his own idea. Which was a television series built around a cop who had OCD.

Seeing plenty of comic potential in Michael Richards playing a character that had obsessive-compulsive disorder, ABC officials immediately bought David’s pitch. So now it was up to this veteran producer to find a writer who could then flesh out his rather thin premise.

“Monk” Co-creator Andy Breckman.
Copyright 2004 NBC Universal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Luckily, Hoberman already had someone in mind for the job: Andy Breckman. Best known then for his sketch work on “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night with David Letterman,” Andy had (by the late 1990s) written several screenplays that had come across David’s desk. And Hoberman had been impressed by Breckman’s comic dialogue. Which is why he hoped that this late night TV vet would be the writer who could find humor in a brilliant detective who was wracked with anxieties and phobias.

Of course, what David didn’t realize is that Andy was a life-long Sherlock Holmes fan. More to the point, that Breckman’s favorite TV show when he was growing up was “Columbo.” So to be handed a writing assignment that combined his two passions — comedy & mystery — was really a dream come true for Breckman.

By his very next meeting with David, Andy already had a name of the lead character (i.e. Adrian Monk) as well as the show’s premise. Which admittedly borrowed quite heavily from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s “Sherlock Holmes” stories. Right down to giving Adrian a Dr. Watson-like character (nurse Sharona Fleming) to play off of as well an Inspector Lestrade stand-in (Captain Leland Stottlemeyer).

 (L to R) Lt. Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford), Capt.
Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine), Adrian Monk (Tony
Shalhoub) and Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram)
Copyright 2002 NBC Universal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Based on a 17-page outline of the show that this late night comedy vet delivered, Hoberman gave Breckman permission to begin working on a pilot script. And when Andy delivered “Mr. Monk Meets the Candidate” … Well, first David went nuts. Then the ABC executives who next read Breckman’s pilot went crazy as well. Everyone just loved the script and thought that “Monk” would quickly become a hit series for the Alphabet Network. Which — at that time — could really use a hit.

The only problem was Michael Richards didn’t like the script. Oh, the sitcom vet liked the idea of playing a detective just fine. Which is why — when Michael finally did settle on a premise for his “Seinfeld” follow-up, “The Michael Richards Show” — he decided to play Vic Nardozza, a bumbling P.I.

But as for “Mr. Monk Meets the Candidate” … Richards supposedly thought that the pilot didn’t give him enough to work with. That the character that David & Andy had created didn’t really offer Michael enough comic possiblities. Which is why this “Seinfeld” veteran passed on “Monk” and eventually opted to go with the show that Castle Rock Television had developed for him. Which wound up airing only eight times before NBC finally pulled the plug in December of 2000.

 (L to R) Tim Meadows, Amy Farrington, William
Devane, Michael Richards & Bill Cobbs.
Copyright NBC / Castle Rock Television
All Rights Reserved

With Richards gone … Well, that meant that ABC had a starring vehicle with no star. More importantly, given that the Alphabet Network had a casting contingency on “Monk,” this meant that ABC had complete control over who got cast in the show’s title role … Thus began two years of almost hellish auditioning. At first every physical comedian in Hollywood was invited to come audition for the role of Adrian Monk. And when none of these guys worked out, Disney then cast a wider net and brought in virtually every male actor in LA. Everyone from Judd Nelson to Danny Bonaduce. All with the hope that somewhere out there there was the perfect performer to play the defective detective.

But after two years of casting problems, the project lost momentum and most executives at ABC had lost hope. With the possible exception of Jackie Lyons, who was then vice president of drama at the Alphabet Network. Which is why — when Ms. Lyons left Disney to become the new senior vice president in charge of original series over at USA Network — she took a copy of the “Mr. Monk Meets the Candidate” pilot script with her. And Jackie began selling executives of that cable channel big-time on the idea of bringing “Monk” over the USA Network.

And — after reading Breckman’s teleplay — these execs immediately saw what Ms. Lyons saw. A quirky new dramedy that would probably work better on cable than it ever would have on network television. So USA Network made an offer to Touchstone Television (i.e. The arm of the Walt Disney Company that originally developed “Monk.” Now known as ABC Studios) and eventually acquired the rights to produce this show.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

But then Jackie found herself back at square one. Working with David & Andy, they struggled to find just the right actor to play Adrian Monk. After briefly considering sitcom vets like Henry Winkler & John Ritter for the part, Lyons, Hoberman & Breckman then decided to shoot for the stars. They set their sights on three of the top actors working today: Alfred Molina, Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci.

Unfortunately, none of these guys were available at that time. Molina & Tucci were out because they’d already signed to work on films, and Shalhoub was unavailable because he’d just committed to shooting a pilot for another network. But Tony so clearly got what “Monk” was about, the sadness & hurt that colors virtually every move that this inherently comic character makes, that the USA Network decided to take a chance. They actually asked Breckman to rewrite his “Mr. Monk Meets the Candidate” pilot script, expanding this teleplay so that it could then serve as the basis for an hour-and-40-minute-long “Monk” TV movie. With the hope that this TV movie might serve as the gateway to a “Monk” television series.

It was then — after nearly 4 years of delay — that Breckman, Hoberman & Lyons finally caught a break. For that other pilot that Shalhoub had shot for that other network did not get picked up. Which meant that Tony was free to devote all of his time, energy & talent to the “Monk” project. Which got shifted back from being a stand-alone TV movie to a full-fledged television series.

Copyright 2005 NBC Universal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

“Monk” debuted on the USA Network in July of 2002 and almost immediately became a hit. So much so that Disney actually took advantage of language that had been buried down deep in the USA Networks’ acquisition deal with Touchstone Television. That language allowed the Mouse to begin airing reruns of “Monk” on the Alphabet Network four days after these episodes had originally run on USA.

Mind you, ABC stopped airing episodes of “Monk” as soon as it realized that these reruns were exposing this already popular program to a much larger audience. Which meant that Mickey was actually aiding a rival by promoting their programming. And since the Alphabet Network was still struggling to hang onto what little audience it had … Well, ABC execs didn’t like the idea of making their viewers aware of another viewing alternative. Which is why they quickly dropped the “Monk” reruns, making this show an USA Network exclusive.

And over the past five years, USA Network has really built on the success of “Monk.” Which has helped turned this NBC Universal owned-operation into one of the most watched cable channels.

 Copyright 2007 NBC Universal, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Which brings us back to where today’s story started out. With ABC execs really unsure about how they feel about “Monk.” With some folks feeling proud that they actually had a hand in the development of this extremely popular program. While still others continue to grouse because their network spent so much money on the development of this show, only to then let “Monk” slip away from ABC and  find a home at the USA Network.

So what do you folks think? Was it a mistake for Mickey to let “Monk” get away? Or would this quirky dramedy ever really had a chance to thrive and/or survive on the Alphabet Network?

Your thoughts?

FYI: If you have yet to catch an episode of this Emmy Award-winning series … Well, the season finale of “Monk” airs on the USA Network tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Consult your local listings for additional information.

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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