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WDI’s X-Scream Makeover of WDW’s Haunted Mansion: Part 4

Jim Hill continues his 5-part series on this recently revamped Magic Kingdom classic. This time around, Jim talks about a gag that the Imagineers finally felt was far too gruesome to be added to this attraction’s Attic sequence



Picking up where we left off … By now, I’m sure that you’ve all heard about the neat effect that’s just been installed in Walt Disney World‘s version of the The Haunted Mansion. Where Madam Leota’s head now magically floats above the table, calling ” … in the spirits, wherever they’re at.”

Of course, Disneyland fans are quick to point out that their version of the Haunted Mansion actually got this effect first. That their Leota has been floating above her table since January of 2005 … So nanny nanny pooh pooh !!

(Sorry about that, folks. But West Coast Disneyana fans are not taking kindly to the idea that Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is now  considered inferior to the East Coast version of this same attraction. There has reportedly been much grousing both at that theme park as well as on-line about how WDW’s Mansion now has a Portrait Gallery with 3D sound as well as that super-cool new M.C. Escher-like Grand Staircase sequence. While the Anaheim version of this much beloved attraction still has the same old stuff.

But the good news coming out of Glendale is … Both Anaheim & Tokyo’s versions of this classic Disney dark ride are supposedly slated to receive these well-received enhancements sometime over the next two years. So you just have to have a little patience, people. Okay? … Anyway …)

Me? I’m not really much of a who-got-which-effect-first kind-of-guy. I’m more intrigued by the back-of-the-house stuff. Like the long term cost savings that the Operations side at the Magic Kingdom will now allegedly enjoy. Thanks to WDI‘s decision to make Madam Leota a digitally projected effect.

“And what’s so cost effective about doing something like that?,” you ask. Well, to understand that, you first have to know a little something about the way that the Imagineers originally achieved that talking-head-inside-of-a-crystal-ball effect. Which (not to give in any of WDI’s secrets away, but … ) involved a 16 MM projector, an endless loop of film as well as this periscope-like device.

That last item in particular had to be checked every day by a cast member before the Mansion opened for business. Just to make sure that the projected image of Leota Toombs’ face lined up properly with the blank face that was encased inside of that crystal ball on the table. Otherwise, the Madam Leota effect would look awful and/or wouldn’t work at all.

And let’s not forget about the wear & tear on that endless film loop. Even though this strip of celluloid unspooled into a special cooling box (Which — in theory — helped prolong the life of that loop as it moved through the projector 10, 12, sometimes 16 hours a day), it would still only last two weeks. Then — because this film loop was either torn, broken or faded at this point — it then had to be replaced.

So when you consider the manpower & material that had been dedicated to just making sure that this one effect at the Mansion worked and then multiply that out over 36 years … We’re talking about a considerable chunk of change here.

Whereas going with a digitally projected version of Madam Leota (Where the image is projected from within, rather than from outside. Which is why this new version of the Mansion’s mystic now looks great from both the side and the front) immediately eliminated all of that extra cost & effort … And because this digitally projected effect is a self-contained unit, it was now possible for Leota to levitate right up off of her table.

“And how exactly does she do that?,” you query. Madam Leota’s upward mobility actually involves three separate cables. One that pulls her left & right, one that moves her up & down, and a third which provides power for her on-board electronics.

As for the rest of the Séance Circle room … All the enchanted objects that are floating through the air here have received new black light paint treatments so that they now pop out more. In some cases, the props themselves had been replaced. Take — for example — that trumpet that turns & floats in the air. The original haunted horn had to be removed because … Well, even though it was an authentic trumpet, it was far too hard to spot as floated high in the air in this dimly lit room. Which is why WDI replaced that horn with an over-sized version which was much easier to see.

Speaking of the dim lighting … Check out that flickering candle on Leota’s table. Doesn’t that brand new effect look terrific? Like you’re staring at a really-for-real candle?

Also, even though the rehabbed version of the Mansion has been open for almost seven weeks now, the Imagineers are continuing to fold additional props & effects into this Magic Kingdom favorite. Just in the past few days, WDI added a new floating table to this scene. You can find it among the objects that are now circling around Madam Leota.

But now it’s time to say “Sayornara” to Séance Circle. As our Doom Buggy motors on to the Grand Ballroom. Which is probably a lot brighter and certainly a lot more colorful than you may remember it being.

Mind you, that’s because the Imagineers changed the lightning scheme that they used to use in this room. Gone are the large spotlights that once powered the Pepper’s Ghost effect in the Grand Ballroom. In their place, WDI has installed a series of much smaller, specifically focused lights. Which help individual characters in this scene stand out more.

Now factor in the new wigs & costumes that were created for all the figures in this sequence. As well as the colored lights that are now being used to help make individual ghosts stand out more in this crowded setting. And the end result is that the Grand Ballroom (while it really hasn’t been touched during this rehab) now seems much grander than it ever has.

Oh, sure. The Imagineers added some new speakers here & there to help improve the sound quality in this portion of the attraction. Now — because of the new acoustic signature of the Grand Ballroom — you really do get the sense that you’re looking down on this otherworldly party.

Plus to protect those enormous sheets of glass that play such a crucial part in the Pepper’s Ghost effect, WDI just installed easy-to-clean lexan at the Grand Ballroom. Which should make life a whole lot easier for the Magic Kingdom’s maintenance staff. Given that these poor slobs have to spend hours squeegeeing spit off of those huge glass sheets. All because some truly gross theme park patrons who feel the need to hock at & on the props whenever they’re traveling through the Haunted Mansion.

And speaking of props … How’s this for irony? All of those antiques, every piece of junk that you now see in the Mansion’s Attic sequence is brand new. This part of the attraction was actually stripped to the bare walls as the Imagineers got the place ready for Constance AKA the Bloody Bride.

Now that I know that a number of Disney theme park fans have already expressed their concerns about this new addition to the Attic. They say that Constance and her little silver hatchet are far too frightening for a family fun park.

Well, if you’d actually been paying attention early on in the Haunted Mansion, you’d have noticed — all the way back in the Portrait Gallery / stretching room — that picture of the Merry Widow. Who — as that room reaches its full height — is revealed to be perched on a tombstone. And at her feet is a bust of her late husband who has a hatchet sticking out of the top of his head.

You see what I’m saying here? That ladies who off their husbands with hatchets have always been part of the Haunted Mansion. From the time that the very first version of this attraction opened in Anaheim back in August of 1969 right up until today, that painting has always been prominently displayed in the portrait gallery. So why start squawking now about a gag that this attraction has featured for almost 40 years now?

Anywho … Getting back to the radically revamped version of the Mansion’s attic sequence … There is really some exquisitely detailed storytelling going on in this scene. Little touches that really make this part of the dark ride just sing. Take — for example — how in each wedding portrait that you encounter as your Doom Buggy rolls through this room, with every new husband Constance acquires, she also get another string of pearls.

Or — better yet — how about the cake toppers that are positioned right next to each portrait? If you’ll look closely, you’ll notice that — while the bride figure remains intact — the groom figure is either broken in half or has his head neatly cut off. Or how about those bird cages that you’ll find behind each of the wedding portrait? Please note that all of these cage’s doors are open. Signifying that Constance once again got away with killing yet another husband. That she’s now free as a bird.

By the way, much has been made about WDI’s decision to remove that wedding band used to be embedded in the cement near the Mansion’s Mausoleum / exit area (Okay. I know. It wasn’t really a ring. It was just a piece of a stantion that got snapped off at ground level that — over the years — people then began saying was a wedding band. Now let’s not let the truth stand in the way of a good story, okay?) … Well, as it turns out, there is actually a story-driven reason that the Imagineers had that ring removed.

You see, if you listen closely to Constance’s spiel as you move through the Attic, you will eventually hear the Bloody Bride say ” … in sickness and in wealth.” And — at that exact moment — you’ll see a glint of gold glimmer on Constance’s ring finger.

So — in this revised version of the Mansion’s backstory — the jilted bride doesn’t toss her wedding ring out the window. Constance marries six different men and then manages to kill all of them without getting ever caught. So it’s not in the Bloody Bride’s nature to ever throw anything — especially jewelry — away. Those ever-increasing strands of pearls as well as that glint of gold on her ring finger prove that.

Speaking of Constance killing her six husbands … There was a gag that the Imagineers wanted to include as part of the Attic sequence of WDW’s Haunted Mansion that was actually going to be a callback to Disneyland’s Hatbox Ghost. You know? That AA figure that was originally installed in the Attic of Anaheim’s version of the Mansion but was ultimately removed. All because the Imagineers couldn’t the Hatbox Ghost’s gag (i.e. With each beat of the Bride’s heart, the Hatbox Ghost’s head would disappear off of his shoulders and then reappear inside of the hatbox that this ghoul was carrying) to work properly given the fat-too-light lighting conditions that existed in the Attic area of Disneyland’s Mansion.

Anyhow … The way the Imagineers wanted to have WDW’s Mansion pay tribute to the Hatbox Ghost was by placing a series of hatboxes — one stacked right on top of the other — to the left of Constance. And as she’d say one of her more sinister-sounding lines, which include:

  • Till death do us part …

  • As long as we both shall live …

  • I do… I did

… You’d see a red head-shaped … something glow from within each of those hatboxes. Suggesting that not only had Constance offed all of her husbands, but that she’d also kept a few … souvenirs.

In the end, the Imagineers opted not to go ahead (forgive the unintentional pun) with adding this particular story detail to the Attic. Feeling that this gag put far too gruesome a tag on the end of this scene in the Mansion. And given that these WDW guests were about to begin their descent down into the fairly high spirited Graveyard portion of this attraction, it was felt that the Attic sequence really shouldn’t end on such a murderous note. Which is why the heads-in-the-hatboxes bit wound up getting axed.

Speaking of the Graveyard … Tomorrow, JHM finally completes its ride-thru of WDW’s newly enhanced Haunted Mansion. Where we’ll then talk about what the future (A Hitchhiking Ghost image capture? The Yankee Trader becoming the Mansion’s official new exit area / gift shop?) may hold for this much-beloved Magic Kingdom attraction.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you want to do this long distance Daddy a huge favor? If so, first go to this website & then vote for No. 37. On behalf of a certain 13-year-old daughter that I know & love, I thank you.

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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