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Walt’s Gremlins

Wade Sampson follows up yesterday’s “Der Fuehrer’s Face” article with a piece about a World War II era project that never quite made it off of Disney’s drawing board: Roald Dahl’s “Gremlins.”



Since readers seemed to enjoy yesterday’s history of the song, “Der Fuehrer’s Face” so much, I thought I might share a little more obscure information about Disney’s efforts during World War II. Most of the true Disney fans who frequent this site realize that — for that last five years — Paul Anderson has been working on the long delayed eleventh issue of “Persistence of Vision” which will be the definitive source for information on Disney during World War II. There will be many new discoveries as well as corrections of urban myths like the fact that “Mickey Mouse” was the code word for the D-Day Invasion.

One of the contributions in that issue which will hopefully see print this year is a massive definitive article written by Disney historian Jim Korkis on the story behind the unmade Disney animated/live action feature entitled THE GREMLINS, based on the first book written by Roald (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) Dahl and the only Dahl book owned by the Disney Studio and not the Dahl Estate.

Walt became fascinated by Dahl’s story of these little leprechaun creatures who harassed aviators and put elaborate plans in place to develop an animated feature (with live action elements) to immortalize the story and increase morale during the war. However, this project was ill-fated to say the least and the Korkis manuscript is a fascinating document of how this dream became a nightmare. A very small part of that interesting story is how the Disney Studio attempted to merchandise the project in order to establish its copyright and trademark on the concept.

One of the challenges was that when Disney purchased the project, no one had heard of gremlins (which Dahl later claimed to have invented) but stories of the little imps became very popular as the war had dragged on. In fact, if Walt had initially feared that one of his challenges with the film was acquainting American audiences with the British Gremlins, the beginning of 1943 showed that the real fear was that Gremlin mania threatened Disney’s rights to the characters. Count Basie recorded “Dance of the Gremlins”. A short lived daily comic strip entitled “The Gremlins” began in January 1943. Fashionable ladies began wearing “Gremlin Hats” while still more articles and references to gremlins began to flood the American consciousness.

Even worse, other studios announced gremlin based short subjects. Warner’s, MGM, Universal and Columbia all registered titles and Walt’s brother, Roy O. Disney’s initial efforts to stop them were thwarted by the Title Registration Committee who ruled against the Disney Studio prior claim for what Roy Claimed were “technical reasons”.

An official Studio memo was sent down to all those involved in the Dahl project to push the character of Gremlin Gus, who had been developed as the friend of the aviator in the film treatment, and in all publicity and drawings to try and clearly establish that particular gremlin as an exclusive Disney property.

Roy, who be all accounts was more diplomatic than Walt, leveraged his Hollywood friendships and the good will of the Disney Studio to try to discourage competition at other studios. Leon Schlesinger at Warner’s had two cartoons too far along in development to stop although he removed any mention of the word “gremlin” from the titles and agreed to drop any future gremlin projects.

“Falling Hare” was released 10/23/43 and was scripted by Warren Foster. It is a fast moving, gag filled confrontation showcasing Bugs Bunny trying to stop a lone gremlin bent on sabotaging a bomber. “Russian Rhapsody” was released 5/20/44 and was scripted by Lou Lilly. It was originally titled “Gremlins from the Kremlin” in reference to the song the gremlins sing in the cartoon. The story revolved around Hitler’s efforts to fly a bomber to bomb Stalin and of course, is prevented by gremlin mischief. Both cartoons were directed by Bob Clampett and for decades, Clampett was puzzled by the title change until informed about the Schlesinger arrangement with Disney by animator Milt Gray in 1976.

One of the efforts by the Disney Studio to push the character of Gremlin Gus was to introduce the character in the popular selling comic book “Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories.”

From January 6, 1936 to September 12, 1941, Walt Kelly worked as an animator of the Disney Studios. Kelly resigned from the studio on good terms in 1941 since he had not taken sides during the strike. Kelly moved back to New York and started working for Western Publishing on DELL comic books which is where he developed his famous Pogo character and friends. According to Kelly’s wife, before the artist left the studio, he met with Walt Disney who helped Kelly make contacts with the East Coast editors of Western Publishing who were producing comic books featuring the Disney characters.

Kelly did a series of two page Gremlin strips for “Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories” starting in 1943 with issue #34 and ending in 1944 with issue #41. These self contained strips were known as “pantomime strips” in the business since they featured no dialog. At one point when Bruce Hamilton’s Gladstone still had the license to reprint Disney comic books, it was announced that Gladstone was going to reprint all of Kelly’s gremlin strips in one package with an informative text feature. That project never happened even though some individual Kelly gremlin strips did get reprinted.

These strips were always in a military setting where Gremlin Gus (occasionally assisted by two widgets–the term for baby gremlins) made every effort to cause mischief for airmen with everything from a saw to a gas can to a mousetrap to a smoker’s pipe. Issue #34 also included a cut out paper doll of Gremlin Gus and issue #35 had a cut out paper doll of a Fifinella.

Another effort to establish the Disney version of gremlin characters was the creation of stuffed dolls. In 1930, Charlotte Clark made the first Mickey Mouse doll. Even when Kay Kamen started licensing out Disney merchandise and Clark’s “Doll House” that operated near the studio had long since closed, she continued to design stuffed toys for the company for promotional purposes through the Forties and Fifties. Her work is fairly distinctive and emphasizes rounded shapes, wide eyes and, of course, attention to detail. Clark produced dolls based on the Disney designs for Gremlins, Fifinellas (female gremlins) and Widgets and there are several existing photos of Walt and Dahl posing with the dolls. The cloth Widget doll was produced in two different sizes and at least three different colors: red, blue and grey.

In May of 1943, Dahl had sent to Walt a request for twelve of the Widget dolls, even offering to pay. Walt sent the dolls with a note saying he preferred that Dahl not pay because Walt “prefers to keep the ‘Gremlinologist’ indebted to him.”

In a December 18,1943 telegram, Dahl asked: “Very special request for a Fifinella Doll and two Widgets, but especially Fifinella. Are there any chance any around? If so, most grateful. Send airmail.”

Walt responded December 20th: “Terribly sorry, but there isn’t a Fifinella on the place. Widgets, yes-in fact, they have sold so very well that Mrs. Clark (the lady who personally makes all of our dolls) has been devoting all of her time to Widgets for the past several weeks. At no time have we ever had more than just a few Fifinellas-they didn’t sell well so we discontinued making them. However, three Widgets were air expressed to you today. Best Christmas Greetings-Sincerely, Walt.”

The cover of the May 1943 issue of “Playthings” magazine (the national magazine of the toy trade at the time) announces “Walt Disney’s Gremlins of the R.A.F.” and featured a puzzled fighter pilot whose Hurricane fighter is infested by a widget, a fifinella and a gremlin (who is drilling holes in the right wing). A small box at the side announces:

“Like all Walt Disney characters, Walt Disney ‘Gremlins’ are authentic. The definition of ‘authentic’ is — ‘having a genuine origin or authority’. That origin or authority is the R.A.F. All drawings, all titles, all scripts are fully covered by U.S. and foreign copyrights. All rights reserved. Walt Disney GREMLINS offer unusual opportunities for merchandising tie-ups. For further information write or call: KAY KAMEN representing Walt Disney Productions.”

The Character Novelty Company (a Disney licensee from 1940-1947) manufactured a Widget hand puppet in at least three different colors: pink, yellow and grey. The puppet which was produced in 1943 originally sold for $1.50 with a paper tag that read: “This is an exclusive Walt Disney design of one of the famous Gremlin characters discovered by the RAF.”

“A Walt Disney Picture Puzzle” from Jaymar in 1943 had over 300 pieces showcasing a color illustration of eleven gremlins, one widget and one fifinella attacking an Allied fighter plane with the addition of left and right vertical margins featuring characters from the unproduced film.

They even appeared in an ad for Mint O Green, Spear Mint and Pep O Mint Lifesavers. “GREMLIN CHASERS. You’ve heard of the Gremlins…pesky little troublemakers that hang around air fields…army camps…ports of call…and battle stations. One good antidote for Gremlins is LIFE SAVERS..they cheer a fellow up when the Gremlins get him down. Maybe that’s why our armed forces are ordering so many of them…so …if you have trouble getting some favorite flavor…blame it on the Gremlins.” And the color picture accompanying the ad show gremlins, fifinella and widgets running frantically away from huge multi-colored lifesavers which were rolling towards them.

The ad prompted Dahl ,who was becoming even more difficult in regards to how Disney was handling his Gremlins, in a letter dated May 19,1943 to protest about the possible damage to the mystique of the characters being used in such a commercial way:

“I was horrified not only because the Gremlins were being completely misrepresented, but also because I could see you destroying in the eyes of the public the legend around which you are going to build your film, and upon which the success of the whole movie will depend. We hope to infuse a certain mystic quality into the film, and in order to achieve this we must try to avoid Pep O Mint and Wint O Green Tablets.

“Please do not think that I do not realize that you depend to a great extent for your revenue upon advertising rights and that it is essential for you to make use of this medium if you are going to make any profits out of the deal, but surely you realize that if the public are going to see Gremlins playing with peppermints, bitching up bicycles, trying out tooth brushes, and telling the people that if they use Listerine Antiseptic, they will not get dandruff in their hair, then I think, in fact I am convinced, that the legend will be ruined. You see, people are beginning to regard you as an authority on these things, which is as it should be because you are rapidly becoming one though the medium of your advisers; therefore, anything you say about Gremlins from now on, goes.”

Walt very patiently reassured Dahl it was all just part of the process to establish copyright in a reply dated May 26,1943: “Your letter of May 19th received and contents noted. You may rest assured that any suggestions you have will always be given careful consideration. A copy of your letter is being sent to my brother, Roy, and Mr. Kay Kamen in New York. However, I would like to correct an impression which was indicated in your letter. It is not the financial returns with which we are concerned, but through this medium we are able to establish our rights to characters through various forms of publication, and unless these rights are established, we may not have any control over the Gremlins when they do come out. Our entire idea is one to establish our copyrights with no thought whatever of financial gain.”

Kay Kamen called Dahl long distance and reported to Walt that he “had a nice chat and explained to him that I didn’t believe that the proper understanding existed about the way in which we have to handle Walt Disney subjects for the purposes of protection and for other reasons” and arranged to try to get together with him personally so that “it will straighten out in the end.”

Jim Korkis covers this whirl of merchandising (as well as all the different treatments of the story and the film projects) in much greater detail in his manuscript written over four years ago and added to all the other material that Paul Anderson has gathered, the eleventh issue of “Persistence of Vision” will be one of those “must haves” for every fan of Disney history or of World War II. The real question is why Disney hasn’t chosen to reprint Dahl’s book, the only Dahl book that has been out of print since its first limited publication and the very first book by this outstanding author. Accompanied by the Korkis manuscript and some additional artwork and photos, that would be one of those Disney treasures worth displaying on a book shelf.

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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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