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Wednesdays with Wade: 25 years of “Disney on Ice”

Wade Sampson looks back at how the Walt Disney Company and Feld Entertainment wound up partnering to create a quarter century’s worth of ice spectaculars.

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It’s hard not to do so but when you hear the phrase “Disney On Ice,” you probably think of the urban legend of Walt being cryogenically frozen (or the project done by several CalArts students who created “Waltsickles”). It is the same for an entire generation that hears “The William Tell Overture” and wants to shout: “Hi yo, Silver!” since it was the theme of the “Lone Ranger.”

This year marks twenty-five years of partnership between Feld Entertainment and the Walt Disney Company in creating ice shows. And unfortunately, it is truly a hidden Disney treasure for most Disney fans. However, it took many decades for the two organizations to become partners and the route had many paths that had to come together.

I just saw the latest show, “Disney presents Pixar’s The Incredibles in a Magic Kingdom Adventure” and just like many of the previous “Disney On Ice” shows I was impressed at the efforts made in character integrity, in ingenuity in sets and special effects and how the entire show seemed much more “Disney” than some of the latest entertainment offerings at the theme parks.

This gives me great hope since Feld has recently partnered with Disney to provide “Disney Live” which will be a series of non-ice stage shows featuring Disney characters. The first show with Winnie the Pooh and friends (“Pooh’s Perfect Day”) is currently making the rounds and is an interactive experience where “children and their parents will sing, dance and play along with Pooh and his friends” and is the first time that Feld Entertainment worked with Disney animators to create backgrounds inspired directly by the films using digital projection so the Hundred Acre Wood comes to life. (“Kim Possible” has been mentioned as a possible future “Disney Live” production.)

How did Feld Entertainment and Disney become partners? Well, as I said, it is a story with many different paths.

When you think of Feld Entertainment, you usually think of the circus. Ringling was the King of the Circus when the circus was king. The July 16, 1956 performance in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania was the last performance of the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth under the direction of John Ringling North.

Irvin Feld and his brother Israel had made their mark as pioneers in the rock and roll concert tour business (with clients ranging from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Paul Anka and Chuck Berry) and they were familiar with the new arenas around the American cities and felt the circus could fit into those venues.

April 3, 1957 a new Ringling circus tour began as an exclusively indoor presentation with Feld in charge of booking and promotion. On November 11, 1967 Feld purchased the Greatest Show on Earth from John Ringling North at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

Within two years, Feld created a second unit equal in size, scope and quality. Over the years they hired Gunther Gebel-Williams, the popular German animal trainer and in 1968, Feld created Clown College to train new generations in the art of clowning.

In 1970, Kenneth Feld joined Ringling Bros., learned the craft of production and took over after his father Irvin’s death on September 6, 1984 and looked for new opportunities for expansion. We’ll come back to Kenneth in a few paragraphs.

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The “Ice Capades” began life as halftime show. In 1940, John H. Harris, a Pittsburgh rink owner, noticed that his hockey crowds swelled when he booked a figure skater to perform between periods. Harris envisioned an ice carnival that would entertain crowds in rinks across America. He hired professional skaters, comedians, clowns, jugglers, barrel jumpers, and swarms of scantily-clad chorus girls. For the early Ice Capades shows, Harris borrowed liberally from vaudeville. He combined the words “ice” and “escapades” to come up with “Ice Capades”.

The first “Ice Capades” show premiered June 16, 1940 at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans and was a huge hit. One of the “Ice-ca-pets” (a scantily clad female ice skater) described it as “A Las Vegas show for the entire family.”

In 1949, “Ice Capades partnered with the Disney Studio to showcase a lengthy segment that would feature Disney characters. That first show featured “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” who appeared on the back of the program book. That partnership of having a Disney segment in the “Ice Capades” show lasted for many years with the segments ranging from adaptations of “Peter Pan” and “Cinderella” to a salute to Disneyland itself.

When Disneyland opened in 1955, Walt borrowed the Disney character costumes created for Harris’s “Ice Capades” for the festivities. Walt attended the productions, watching the Disney inspired segments closely, and even hired one of the top “Mickey Mouse” character performers at Disneyland, Paul Castle, after he saw him perform as “Dopey” in the 1958 “Ice Capades.” However, “Ice Capades” had a troubled future and some of those troubles were evident by the Sixties when it competed against other shows like the “Ice Follies”.

Seeing the success of the Disney characters at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, the Disney Company searched for another opportunity to showcase its characters which at that time could only be seen at Disneyland and created its own arena style show in 1969 entitled “Disney On Parade.” Gene Columbus, who was a long time stage manager for those productions, jokes today that it should have been called “Disney On Wood” since it faced the same challenges that ice shows did of loading into arenas and dealing with moving sets and performers across the country.

After several years, Card Walker determined that the show was not making a substantial profit and the challenges of mounting the show were more trouble than they were worth. Feld had taken over the failing “Ice Follies” in 1980. The “Ice Follies” audience was elderly, and Feld had an idea to reinvent it by making it kid- and family-friendly. After being turned away by Muppets creator Jim Henson because Feld had fired a friend of Henson’s, Feld approached The Walt Disney Company who initially weren’t interested. However, arrangements were finally made so there would be a touring show of Disney characters.

“Walt Disney’s World On Ice” premiered July 14, 1981 at a New Jersey arena and was an instant hit. That first show featured sixty skaters and four acrobats, and was a success. In 1986, “Disney On Ice” premiered its first international tour in Japan with “Happy Birthday Donald Duck.” Today, there are five North American and two international touring spectaculars that showcase almost four hundred skaters in over two thousand performances each year. Each group does a different show. It is estimated that over twelve million people see a “Disney On Ice” show during a year.

Vice President of Creative Development for “Disney on Ice” is Jerry Bilik who recalled the first “Disney on Ice” production twenty five years ago that was supposed to focus on “a parade of Disney characters.” To give the show an interesting storyline, Bilik created the premise that Pinocchio gets lost in Disneyland, and Geppetto goes looking for him, meeting various characters along the way.

“It’s not ‘Hamlet,’ but it worked,” he said.

That production was the first time an ice show “even thought of continuity,” Bilik says. “Before that, we were doing ‘Ice Follies’ and ‘Holiday on Ice.’ We were really bored.”

Bilik says the success of “Disney on Ice” productions is due not only to the sets and storylines that create a mood and theme, but to the skaters who make the show come alive. Unlike a typical ice revue, skaters in a Disney show often are required to act out the parts they are skating, he says, in addition to performing stunts and routines on the ice.

“The skaters are very self-motivated,” Bilik says. “When they have to act, they embrace it. They feel it’s a challenge. We can develop all the technical aspects of the show, but it’s the skaters’ skills that keep us going. They’re not out there coasting; they’re giving their all. The real show is not what we design but rather the crew and cast’s performance.”

Bilik is a talented fellow who not only arranges the music for the “Disney On Ice” shows but also writes and helps direct the shows. By the age of thirteen he had composed more than a hundred pieces of music from popular ballads to marches. He has also arranged music for television series including “Starsky and Hutch” and “Charlie’s Angels.”

The twenty-fifth anniversary show is very entertaining. “Disney presents Pixar’s The Incredibles in a Magic Kingdom Adventure” is the story of the Parr family (Bob, Helen, Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack) visiting the Magic Kingdom. Of course, the Parr family is in actuality “The Incredibles” and keeping their identities secret is difficult when they are made the Grand Marshals for the Main Street Parade and Syndrome has popped up to capture Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

The show will appear in sixty-five North American cities before heading overseas. While the show is very successful as another adventure of “The Incredibles” (and yes, Frozone and Edna Mode pop up as well), what made me smile were all the Magic Kingdom references. From recreating the Jungle Cruise to an experience in the Haunted Mansion to another in “It’s A Small World” (I knew those dolls could be a deadly menace given half the chance) to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” this is a wonderful choice for a storyline in a year when we are celebrating the birth of Disneyland.

Fans of “The Incredibles” will love the show but fans of Disneyland will love it as well whether they know “The Incredibles” or not.

The show is truly in keeping with Walt Disney’s philosophy of “family entertainment” where an entire family can share the experience and enjoy it on different levels. The kids certainly have fun helping rescue “The Incredibles” with their free “Incredi-Bands” (a special light up plastic wrist cuff).
While animated film director Brad Bird and Pixar seem to have had little input other than approving the script, the Feld creative team under the direction of Bilik captures the spirit of the characters and the spirit of visiting Disneyland.

As a special aside to you Disneyana collectors out there: Even if you don’t enjoy attending ice shows, you should probably check out some of the items that Feld Entertainment Consumer Products churns out to support these “Disney on Ice” shows. For their latest production, not only are there “The Incredibles” merchandise you won’t be able to find anywhere else, but also excellent Disney character-related merchandise. Take — for example — the icon for “Disney on Ice.” Which is Mickey Mouse in a black top hat.

For further information on this exclusive merchandise, I suggest you give Feld Entertainment Consumer Products a call at (866) 295-2706.

Before I close out this week’s “Wednesdays with Wade,” I want to give a special thanks to Disney Historian Jim Korkis. Jim (as regular readers of this site already know) is not only a big Disney fan, but he is also a big fan of Feld Entertainment. And I just want to thank Mr. Korkis for helping me out with this week’s article by providing me with some additional information about Disney and Feld history.

As he and I were exchanging e-mails during the research phase for this week’s JHM column, Jim wrote that:

“One of the fondest memories I will ever have in my entire life is when I took my mom and dad to see Feld’s ‘Princess Classics‘ in Orlando. It was the last time my mom and dad were both alive together and they sat in the back row holding hands like teenagers and just being amazed at the beauty and entertainment. At intermission, my mom said, ‘That was so wonderful. I could watch it all again!’

I had to tell her it was only intermission and there was an entire second act for her to enjoy.

The Feld staff that I have dealt with over the years are not only top professionals but caring individuals who really capture the magic and quality of Disney for family audiences. They have given my family and I much joy over the years. Their latest show is just another example of a special treat that too many Disney fans are missing because they don’t know how great an experience it really is.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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

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

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

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

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

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

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

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

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