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What a concept. A “Why For” that’s loaded with concept art

Jim Hill looks back at some very early plans for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, California Adventure as well as the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Enjoy!

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As you might expect, this week’s article about the Pixar-themed attractions that WDI reportedly has in the pipeline for the Disneyland Resort generated a lot of mail. Particularly from JHM readers who were wondering how exactly that Kuka robocoaster ride system might be used in an “Incredibles” – themed attraction.

Fairly typical of these e-mails was the note that I got from Kelly T. Which read:

Jim —

No way. There’s just no way that the Imagineers would ever use a ride system like that in a Disney theme park. They’re still dealing with all the negative publicity surrounding “Mission: Space.” Yet you say that they’re now going to be using the Kuka arm for this “Incredibles” E-Ticket. Which (based on what I saw in that robocoaster video) makes “M:S” look like a walk in the park.

Sorry, Jim. I love the site. But this time around, you’ve gotta be dead wrong.

Kelly T.

It’s funny that you should bring up Epcot’s “Mission: Space” attraction as part of your explanation as to why Disney would never use Kuka arm technology in its theme parks. Why for? Well, take a look at this piece of concept art …


Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

This is the E-Ticket that the Imagineers initially wanted to build as the centerpiece attraction for Epcot’s “Space” pavilion. A start-of-the-art ride which would have allowed Disney World guests to strap on a faux jetpack and go for a simulated space walk.

Now admittedly, the above concept painting doesn’t really give you much of a sense of which ride system WDI wanted to use on this proposed attraction. All this illustration really does is give you a sense of the magic & the wonder that the Imagineers were hoping that guests would experience as they rode the “Space” pavilion’s E-Ticket.

But what I can tell you is that each of these faux jetpacks were supposed to be attached to a robotic arm. Which — in turn — was then attached to an overhead ride track. So that when WDW guests moved the joysticks that were located in the arms of each faux jetpack, they’d get a real-time yaw, pitch and roll response. In short, this attraction would have given WDW visitors a very real sense of what it must feel like to walk in space.

But — as we all know — this version of Epcot’s “Space” pavilion never quite made it off the launching pad. But WDI never quite gave up on the idea of using this sort of ride system for an attraction for the Disney theme parks. The Imagineers knew that — if the right property came along (More importantly, the right set of characters) — that this vehicle-attached-to-a-robotic-arm-which-is-then-tied-to-an-overhead-ride-track concept could result in a truly killer attraction for the parks.

And let’s keep in mind that WDI has been working on this particular ride concept since the late 1980s. So they’ve been trying to break the back of this proposed attraction’s capacity issues for over 15 years now. And the Imagineers think that they’ve finally found a way to seriously up this ride system’s THRC (Theoretical Hourly Ride Capacity).

What’s their secret? Imagine a couple of dozen robotic arms, each of which would be carrying a multiple passenger vehicle as it moves along a ride track.

Beyond that … I really can’t say a lot about this proposed DCA attraction. Other than — provided that this project actually does go forward — it would be a really “Incredible(s)” ride.

Though — to be fair — I guess I should mention that WDI is also reportedly looking at yet another way to possibly stage this “Incredibles” attraction. Which — while it still would make use of the ride-vehicles-attached-to-Kuka-arms concept — this version of the attraction would eliminate the need for a ride track entirely.

“And how exactly would that work?,” you ask. Well … It’s kind of difficult to explain: In a nutshell, this version of the “Incredibles” attraction would feature multi-passenger vehicles that were tethered — via Kuka arms — to a giant rotating platform. A turntable, if you will.

And — as this platform slowly turned — the ride vehicles would then be lifted aloft. And then — from below — the guests would be inserted into this three dimensional enviroment.

So it would be the slow rotation of the giant turntable — coupled with the fluid movement of the multiple passenger vehicles on the end of those Kuka arms as they moved past sets & projections — that would give this version of the proposed “Incredibles” attraction its sense of speed and danger.

Now where this all gets really interesting is that Kuka is reportedly pushing for one version of this attraction to be built (I.E. The robocoaster) while the folks at WDI are championing the turntable version of this show. Of course, were Kuka to give the Walt Disney Company a significant price break on their ride technology (Not to mention kicking in some cash to help defray Disney’s R & D costs involved with creating higher capacity ride vehicles for this attraction), the Imagineers might be willing to revisit the whole robot-arms-tethered-to-ride-tracks idea.

So — as you can see — this “Incredibles”-ride-proposed-for-DCA story is still very much a work-in-progress, folks. As is the attraction itself. So — as this story (and ride) continue to develop — we’ll try to bring JHM readers regular updates.

Speaking of JHM readers … RaspberryRed also had some additional comments about this proposed DCA addition.

Jim —

“The Incredibles” in California Adventure? How could this proposed attraction ever fit in with DCA’s theming?

“Cars,” I could understand. After all, California has a very strong car culture. But throwing an “Incredibles” themed E-Ticket into California Adventure just because Eisner thinks that this is what it’s going to take in order to sell tickets to DCA … That’s just wrong.

I don’t know about the rest of your readers, Jim. But I think that this is a really terrible idea. One that I hope never makes it off the drawing board.

RaspberryRed —

You don’t know how right you are. About a “Cars”-based attraction fitting into DCA much more easily than an “Incredibles”-themed ride or show would.

Don’t believe me? Then let’s take a look at the original concept poster for Disney’s California Adventure.


Copyright 1996 The Walt Disney Company

Did you see that little red roadster right at the very center of that poster?


Copyright 1996 The Walt Disney Company

The Imagineers deliberately included that image in DCA’s concept poster. Why for? Because WDI had originally intended that California Adventure would have an attraction that celebrated the state’s car culture. One that was to have sent theme park guests whizzing around an outdoor track in recreations of classic muscle cars. Sort of an Autopia for adults, if you will.

But — as the budget for DCA began to get pared back — the little red roadster ride hit the skids. In its place, the Imagineers opted to fold some of the elements that were created specifically for this proposed-but-cancelled attraction into two other rides for Disney’s California Adventure: “Mullholland Madness” and “Superstar Limo.”

But — given how poorly those two attractions were recieved — WDI has been giving some semi-serious thought to the idea of reviving DCA’s car culture attraction. And many Imagineers believe that the talking autos in Pixar’s Summer 2006 release, “Cars,” would be the perfect characters to build this ride around.

The only problem is … The characters from “Cars” have already been spoken for. According to my sources with WDI, those characters are eventually going to be used for a redo of Disneyland’s Autopia. Which is another reason why the characters from “The Incredibles” are now slated to be the stars of DCA’s new E-Ticket.

Mind you, plans can change. I mean, take a close look at this concept painting for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.


Copyright 1995 The Walt Disney Company

Do you see who’s standing on the roots of the Tree of Life? That’s Simba, Nala and Rafiki from “The Lion King.”


Copyright 1995 The Walt Disney Company

Mind you, those characters weren’t included in this concept painting because they were hyping the “Festival of the Lion King” show. But — rather — Simba, Nala and Rafiki are standing on the roots of the Tree of Life because these three were originally supposed to star in the show that would be presented inside the tree. DAK’s thesis attraction, then entitled “The Circle of Life.”

But then Michael Eisner — while attending a story meeting for Pixar’s 1998 release, “a bug’s life” — supposedly suddenly had a brain storm. “Wait a minute,” Disney’s CEO is reported to have said. “Bugs live in trees. We should have the characters from ‘a bug’s life’ star in the show that we’re presenting in the Tree of Life.”

And that’s how Simba, Nala and Rafiki got tossed out of the Tree of Life, Only to be replaced by Flik & Claire DeRoom.

That’s just the way life is at the Walt Disney Companythese days, folks. Plans that seem to be carved in stone are suddenly tossed aside. I mean, let’s remember that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was once called …


Copyright 1995 The Walt Disney Company

… And that the entrance of that theme park once looked like this …


Copyright 1992 The Walt Disney Company

Now some people will tell you that this sort of thing never happened back in Walt’s day. That concepts for rides, shows and attractions for the theme parks weren’t suddenly tossed aside because of financial concerns and/or because a supposedly better idea came along. I say that the folks who say things like that really don’t know their Disney Company history.

Don’t believe me? Then check out the following. It’s the text from a brochure that Disneyland visitors were handed as they came through the turnstiles back in the Fall of 1961. Which talked about all of the construction that was going on inside the Anaheim theme park at that time:

Coming – $7 million in new Disneyland attractions

Today – Be a “Sidewalk Superintendent”

When Disneyland opened in 1955, we decided that the Magic Kingdom would never really be completed – that it would continually grow and add new things.

This brochure will acquaint you with our plans for new Disneyland attractions opening in 1962 and 1963 – additions that have excited the imaginations of our entire staff.

Today, as in the months to come, it is our sincere wish that you and your family will find as much pleasure and enjoyment in Disneyland’s adventures as we have in creating them.

                                            — Walt Disney

———————————————————

Yes, Walt Disney is turning more exciting ideas into entertaining reality at the Magic Kingdom!

In Adventureland and Frontierland, a great new expansion program is now underway … a development that will add $7 million in new adventures for you and your family to enjoy at Disneyland.

Some of these new attractions – like the “Bathing Pool” of the Indian elephants pictured on the preceding page and the fabulous “Stouffers at Disneyland” restaurants (below) will open next summer, early in June 1962 … Others will be unveiled in 1963.

Because of this construction program, a few Disneyland attractions will be closed during your visit today. However, you will still find the great majority of Disneyland’s famous adventures operating for you enjoyment.

And you are cordially invited to be a “sidewalk superintendent” at the construction work taking place. The Santa Fe & Disneyland train trip – departing from the Main Street Station – will take you “behind the scenes” in the building area … and also introduce you to each “land” in the Magic Kingdom during your “grand circle tour” of Disneyland.

Summer ’62 – A brand new Adventureland area

If you’re among 20 million guests who have steamed down the Jungle Rivers of the World at Disneyland, you’ll want to plan your next “jungle safari” now – a fun-filled new Safari that’s coming to Adventureland in Summer ’62!

You’ll laugh ’til the explorer’s boat shakes when you see the “bathing pool” of more than a dozen Indian elephants … Big ones and “little squirts” … so playful they’ve got a trunk-full of watery surprise – for unwary animals and explorers. You’ll visit the famous African veldt, den of lions, tigers, jackals, laughing hyenas and other wild game … And watch “big game” hunters, falling into the pitfalls of jungle exploration. With its new “fun” theme, the Jungle River Cruise will be a completely new adventure in Summer ’62.

Close to the Jungle Cruise, the world’s largest TREE HOUSE will rise 70 feet above the jungle. Spreading 85 feet in width, this marvelous tree house will provide all of the fun of a Swiss Family Robinson adventure for youngsters … and for grown-ups, an unparalleled view over Adventureland and Frontierland from its three lofty rooms. Thousands and thousands of colorful pink leaves will “grow” on the tree, as will bright blooming orchids.

An exciting new concept in restaurants is also coming to the Magic Kingdom – STOUFFERS AT DISNEYLAND. Operated by one of America’s foremost restauranteurs and accessible from both Main Street and Adventureland, Stouffers will provide three separate and distinct dining places. One will feature both American and European Kitchens … The second, an outdoor Tahitian Terrace, where dancing and live entertainment will complement the food and the view … And the third, the fabulous “Bird Room,” Disney’s first “by reservation only” dining facility with a complete show that’s literally put on “by the birds” – for you!

You can also be a “big game hunter” yourself this Summer at Disneyland … at the unique new “Safari Shooting Gallery” in Adventureland.

So make a note on your calendar to take a trip far from civilization … To see the NEW Adventureland at Disneyland in Summer ’62!

For 1963 – The Haunted Mansion and New Orleans Square

Gathering the “world’s greatest collection of ghosts” is no easy task … Most people are kind of reluctant to admit that they know any. Walt Disney has had his “talent scouts” searching for several years … And in 1963, the HAUNTED MANSION will be filled with famous and infamous residents.

Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is but one of the new attractions under construction in Frontierland for 1963 opening. An entire new area is being developed along the banks of the Rivers of America. Highlighted by the exciting NEW ORLEANS SQUARE.

New Orleans Square will feature a quaint street patterned after the fabled French Quarter of New Orleans. It will include shops and stores with a “high fashion” theme of French elegance pervading … sidewalk cafes and entertainment … and the BLUE BAYOU MART, a bustling, unique “Thieves Market.”

Nearby, terraced walks at varying levels will lead guests along the river banks … exciting concepts in lighting will create an entirely new atmosphere at night … And the beautiful landscaping of the area will be highlighted in a park filled with magnolias & camellias.

We hope that you will bear with us during the temporary inconvenience caused by this $7 million expansion program … and return to us in Summer ’62 and 1963 to enjoy all of the wonderful new adventures that this development is bringing to the Magic Kingdom.

If you read the above text closely, you’ll learn about a “Bird Room” restaurant which never actually opened. Likewise a version of the “Haunted Mansion” that was supposed to have opened ‘way back in 1963. And how about that New Orleans Square without a single mention of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride?

You see what I’m getting at here, folks? That plans changed — sometimes radically — even back in Walt’s day.

So — even though I have fairly solid information about this “Incredibles” attraction that’s been proposed for DCA — that doesn’t mean that a few months from now (like — for example — when Robert Iger takes over for Michael Eisner) that these plans still can’t change.

Which is why  — in spite of what you may read here at JHM — it’s sometimes best to remain a little skeptical about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company. Rather than pinning all your hopes on a story that you read on the Internet.

Mind you, I’m not telling you that I think that anything that I’ve posted here on JimHillMedia is wrong. But — as the above examples & pieces of concept art will (hopefully) prove — things can sometimes change.

Take — for example — those plans for the rehab of WDW’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride that I wrote about last week. The way I initially heard that story, the redo of that Adventureland favorite was going to be fairly low key. With only a single new Jack Sparrow AA figure being added into the finale sequence of this Magic Kingdom attraction.

Well, over the past week, I’ve recieved a number of e-mails that there is a second, much more ambitious version of this rehab plan floating around out there. Several JHM readers even claim to have seen the blueprints for the redo of WDW’s “Pirates” ride. Which reportedly call for wholesale changes in the attraction’s load & unload area. Not to mention a slew of new AA figures being added to the ride.

Given how grandieous this version of the alleged “Pirates” rehab plan reportedly is, I’m rather reluctant to talk about it right now. I’d much prefer to just to sit on this story for a while, give my contacts within the Walt Disney Company a few phone calls, see if anyone currently working at WDI can actually confirm this information …

Of course, if one of the guys who wrote into me over the past week would now like to fork over a copy of the blueprints for WDW’s POTC change-out and/or slide me a few supporting documents … I might buy into this story a whole lot faster.

But to go from one new AA figure to nearly a dozen? … That seems like sort a stretch to me. More like a fanboy’s dream than an actual business plan from the notoriously-tight-with-a-buck Mouse.

But who am I to say? As the above “Why For” has (hopefully) proved, the Walt Disney Company does have a habit of changing its plans. As my ex — Shelly Smith — once put it:

“When it comes to the Mouse, the plans aren’t really concrete ’til they’re actually pouring the concrete.”

And — some cases (like with the original “Pirates” ride at Disneyland) — plans for an attraction can actually change AFTER they’ve poured the concrete … But that’s a story for another time.

Anyway … That’s it for this week, folks. Here’s hoping that you all have a very good weekend. And we’ll pick up right where we left off next Monday, alright?

Til then, you take care, okay?

jrh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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.

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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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