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Where to go & what to see over the MLK weekend if you’re a Disneyana fan



We got any "No Ordinary Family" fans out there?

The cast of "No Ordinary Family." (L to R) Romany Malco, Kay Panabaker,
Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Jimmy Bennett, Autumn Reeser and Stephen
Collins. Photo by Bob D'Amico. Copyright American Broadcasting
Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

I have to admit that I first began watching this new ABC Studios show because "No Ordinary Family" is shot right on the lot in Burbank. Which – when you're a big-time Disney Dweeb like I am – adds kind of a "Where's Waldo" aspect to watching this hour-long series.

Translation: If you're paying particularly close attention to "No Ordinary Family" 's exteriors, you'll realize the beautiful outdoor garden at Daphne's high school is actually the arbor which is located right outside the entrance of the Studio Store …

Jackson Rathbone and Kay Panabaker on the Disney lot in Burbank. Photo by
Eric McCandless.  Copyright American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved

… or that the courtyard in front of the Frank Wells building is constantly being used as an outdoor shooting location on this sci-fi comedy / drama.

But over time, I have to admit that I stopped paying attention to this TV show's backgrounds and then began watching "No Ordinary Family" 's characters & stories. Which I have to admit – over the past 12 episodes – have kind of grown on me.

Which brings to mind a question: If you – like each of the Powells – were suddenly gifted with a super power … Well, which ability would you want? Would it be Jim's super strength and near-invulnerability? Or JJ's Einstein-like IQ? Or Daphne's ability to read minds?

Julie Benz zooms through back-of-the-house areas in Burbank. Photo by Michael
Desmond.  Copyright American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

Well, this coming weekend, I'm wishing that I had Stephanie's super speed. So that I could zoom back & forth across the country and then take part in all the great Disney-related events that are happening in Anaheim, Orlando and Hollywood over the Martin Luther King weekend.

What sort of events? Well, for those of us who are in the deep freeze (Me personally, I spent the better part of yesterday looking for new places to throw that 18 inches of snow which fell during Wednesday's Nor'easter), having even a hint of Spring would be extremely helpful right about now.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which is why it would be great to get to Epcot this coming weekend. Where – in the La Signature Shoppe (which is located at the World Showcase's France Pavilion) – they're doing this special promotion now through Sunday. Where if you purchase a Guerlain fragrance (which – I'm told – smell just like Spring) between 12 noon and 8 p.m., you can then have this purchase personalized with a complimentary bottle engraving.

Not really into perfume, eh? You're more of a music / animation history buff? Not a problem. The perfect event for you is happening tomorrow morning in Hollywood. At the El Capitan Theatre, to be exact. Where – starting at 10 a.m. – award-winning organist Rob Richards will be manning that movie palace's Mighty Wurlitzer Organ as some classic silent cartoons – including Mickey Mouse's first two animated shorts, "Plane Crazy" and "The Gallopin' Gaucho" – are shown on the big screen.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

This is an extremely rare opportunity to see these silent films just as movie-goers did back in the early 1920s. And given that "Disney Pipes and Pops" is a one-time-only performance … You really don't want to dawdle here. So if you'd like to attend tomorrow two-hour-long organ & animation extravaganza, you'd best swing by the El Cap's website and purchase your tickets ASAP.

And speaking of performances … Just two weeks ago, Marie Osmond and her brother Donny wrapped up the extended run of their "Donny & Marie – A Broadway Christmas" show at the Marriott Marquis Theatre. And how is Ms. Osmond celebrating her triumphant return to the Great White Way (i.e. Marie made her Broadway debut back in 1997 in a revival of "The King and I")? By going to Disneyland, of course.

Well, that's not entirely true. The real reason that Ms. Osmond will be on hand at the Disney Gallery tomorrow from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.  is that two of her newest Disney-inspired dolls will be making their debut at that theme park. First up is a continuation of Marie's very successful Disneyland 55th anniversary collectible porcelain doll line. With a Tiny Tot version of "The Fairest One of All," Snow White.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Also making her Disneyland debut tomorrow is Ms. Osmond's limited edition version of Tiana, the star of Walt Disney Animation Studios' 2009 release, "The Princess and The Frog" ."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Marie will be on hand tomorrow in this Main Street, U.S.A. shop to sign both of her new Disney-inspired dolls. Mind you, the usual restrictions (i.e. two dolls per Guest. All merchandise to be signed by Ms. Osmond must be purchased at the event venue on the event day, etc.) apply.

Mind you, if you’re a Disneyana collector and are going to be headed to the Happiest Place on Earth this Saturday … Well, you may want to linger in the area ‘til 7 p.m. Which is when – just down the street in Garden Grove – the Disneyana Fan Club will be holding a pin & button trading event at the Crowne Plaza Anaheim Resort.

And Saturday night’s shindig is just a prelude to the really big show. Which is Sunday’s All-Disneyana Show and Sale. This is where Disneyana Fan Club members – as well as members of the general public – will have the chance to purchase fabulous Disney merchandise from the past & the present. We’re talking about exclusive limited edition pins from WDI’s employees-only store, Mickey’s of Glendale. Not to mention fun items from the Disney Studio Fountain Store.

Copyright 2005 – 2010 Disneyana Fan Club.
All rights reserved

Not only that, but you’ll have the chance to meet Disney-related celebrities like Margaret “Tinker Bell” Kerry and Mark Silverman (i.e. Rod Serling’s voice for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction). 

Now as to how Sunday’s All-Disneyana Show and Sale is gonna work: Disneyana Fan Club Members will be allowed to get on the show floor starting at 9 a.m. after they pay a $5 admission fee. Members of the general public will have to wait ‘til 10:30 a.m. before they’re allowed access to this Disneyana Fan Club event. Where these people will then be asked to pay a $6 admission fee.

If you’re one of those folks who enjoys the creations of George Lucas just as much as you love Disney, then you may want to consider dropping by D Street (which is located within the Disneyland Resort's Downtown Disney shopping district) from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Which is when Disney Design Group Character artist Mike Sullivan will be on hand to sign the new Star Wars Vinylmation series.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Again, the usual restrictions (i.e. each Guest can only purchase two trays of the Vinylmation figures being released at this event. More to the point, to help keep the line under control, Mr. Sullivan will only be signing three pieces per Guests, etc.) apply. And those who are looking to line up early for this sure-to-be-well-attended event should note that D Street will be opening up at 8 a.m. this Sunday morning.

After a long weekend of running around & standing on line, what better way is there to relax than curling up on the couch and catching the very last episode of "Hannah Montana" ?

Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) looks back on her career as Hannah Montana. Photo by Eric
McCandless. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Can it really be less than 5 years since this Disney Channel phenomenon first debuted as a lead-in to a rerun of "High School Musical" ? Since its March 2006 premiere, "Hannah Montana" has gone on to become a hit television series in the U.S. and 177 other countries. Not to mention making the Mouse mountains of money off of the sales of "Hannah Montana"-related merchandise.

I won't lie to you, folks. The Disney Channel originally planned on giving this still popular cable TV series (at least when it comes to HM's targeted demographic. Which is kids 6-to-14 years of age) a high profile send-off. But once that video of Cyrus smoking a bong popped up on the Web back in early December (Not to mention the news that Miley's parents – Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus – were planning on ending their 17 year marriage) … Well, Disney executives had kind of had their fill of this 18 year-old's antics.

Rachel Roberts of "Good Morning America" chats with Stewart about leaving her Hannah
Montana persona behind. Photo by Donna Svennevik. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

(Which means the "Hannah Montana" finale (which will cap off the four year, 101 episode run of this show) isn't receiving nearly as much publicity as you might expect. In fact, earlier this week, at the Disney-ABC Television Group's Winter Press Tour, Disney Channel execs seemed downright eager to shift the focus away from some of the more troubled tweens that are currently associated with this cable channel (i.e. Ms. Cyrus, the still-in-rehab Demi Lovato) to talk up Disney Channel's future stars.

Which – based on what was being said in Pasadena this past week – would seem to be the cast of "Lemonade Mouth." Which – following in the highly successful tradition of "High School Musical" and "Camp Rock" – is a music-driven Disney Channel Original Movie due to make its broadcast debut stateside on Friday, March 25th.

(L to R) Hayley Kiyoko, Adam Hicks, Blake Michael, Nick Roux, Naomi Scott and
Bridgit Mendler. Photo by Colleen Hayes. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

As we've all come to expect by now, Walt Disney Records will release the official "Lemonade Mouth" soundtrack just a few days ahead of the premiere of this new Disney Channel Original Movie. But what's kind of unusual this time around is that one of the performers in this new TV musical (i.e. Adam Hicks of Disney XD's "Zeke and Luther" fame) actually has songwriting credit on three of the ten tracks featured on this recording.

Mind you, this is the first time that a cast member has ever written a song that's performed in a Disney Channel Original Movie. But – then again – under Gary Marsh (i.e. president of Entertainment and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide)'s direction, this family inclusive television network has really been jiggering its formula lately. Witness this division's recent decision to release "Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure" on Blu-ray & DVD on April 19th …

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… ahead of this Disney Channel Original Movie's basic cable premiere in the Spring of 2011. And given that the Mouse also agreed to let Ms. Tisdale serve as the executive producer on "Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure" … Well, what with Adam's song credit & Ashley's hands-on role in the production of this new TV movie, does this mean that Mouse House executives are now easing up when it comes to controlling the Company's tween stars?

That (given what's just gone on with Ms. Cyrus & Lovato) seems kind of counter intuitive. Which is why I've now changed my mind. I no longer want to have super-speed like Stephanie Powell on  ABC's "No Ordinary Family." I now want the super power that her daughter Daphne has. Which is the ability to read people's minds.

(L to R) Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Elliot Gould as Dr. McCoy,
Captain Kirk, Spock and Herb Goodman, head of programming for NBC.
Copyright NBC Universal. All rights reserved

Of course, as that classic "Saturday Night Live" skit – "The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise" – proves – attempting to read the mind of a TV executive can have its downside. As Mr. Spock (Chevy Chase) recalls what it was like to do a Vulcan mind meld on a NBC executive (Elliott Gould):

"It was all dark and empty in there. And there were mice in the corners. And I kept bumping my head on the ceiling and …"

Image capture from the Martin Luther King portion of the "Golden Dreams"
film montage from Epcot's American Adventure attraction. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So be careful what you wish for, folks. And – in the meantime — have a safe & enjoyable Martin Luther King Day Weekend, okay?

Your thoughts?

If you're looking to do some online shopping on over the long Martin Luther King Day weekend, before you so, could you please click on the banner above? If you do that … Well, then gets a teeny, tiny chunk of whatever you spend at

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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