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Why For?

In the long-delayed return of this popular JHM feature, Jim Hill answers your questions about Disneyland’s “Partners” statue, “Dumbo 2” as well as what’s going on with the Pixar negotiations.

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Ben B. writes in to ask:

Jim,

This is from (this week’s “DizBiz” column):

“By the way, there’s an interesting story about how the Partners statue came to be in the center of the Hub at Disneyland. There isn’t time to tell it here. Let’s just say it has to do with one of Imagineering’s better ideas for keeping the “suits” from ruining Disneyland’s sightlines. If you’d like to know more drop Jim a line and ask him to tell you the whole story.”

I’d be very interested to hear this story. 🙂

Thanks,
Ben

Dear Ben:

This particular story isn’t one of mine. It’s actually one that my ex-wife — Michelle Smith AKA the Fabulous Disney Babe — used to feature on her tour of Disneyland. Michelle has been gracious enough to allow me to “borrow” this anecdote from time to time (provided, of course, that I always give her credit for this story).

Anyway … If you talk with the Guest Relations staff at Disneyland, WDW’s Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland and/or Walt Disney Studios – Paris, they’ll tell you that the reason that the “Partners” statue was placed in their theme park was because the Walt Disney Company wanted to honor its founder, Walt Disney.

However, were you to talk to the Imagineers who actually originated the “Partners” project (particularly the original incarnation of the statue, which stands in the planter in the center of Disneyland’s Hub), they’d tell you a very different story as to why Mickey and Walt occupy that particular spot in the Anaheim theme park.

So what’s the deal? How many of you remember the mid-1980s? That intriguing time right after Michael Eisner came on board as the new head of Walt Disney Productions. Back when Uncle Mike was determined to do anything he could to increase attendance levels at the Disney theme parks.

Given that building brand new E-Tickets like “Star Tours” and “Splash Mountain” — attractions that were sure to bring crowds back to Disneyland and Walt Disney World — was going to take a couple of years (and tens of millions of dollars), Eisner was looking for interim fixes back then. Some sort of temporary special events that could be staged inside the parks that would bring guests back to Anaheim and Orlando. Particularly during the off-season.

Which is how we ended up with months-long entertainments like the “Blast to the Past” (which celebrates the music and pop culture of the 1950s), “Disneyland State Fair” (which brought such unique entertainments as pig races and pie eating contests to the park) and “Circus Fantasy.”

It was “Circus Fantasy” that particularly irked the Imagineers. Why for? Because — even more than the “Disneyland State Fair” (which erected a ferris wheel directly in front of the Main Street train station … which — according to many of the guys at WDI — totally ruined the carefully crafted story telling of Walt’s theme park ) — the circus really disrupted Disneyland. Particularly when the Special Events staff did things like placing a motorcycle “Cage of Death” right in the center of the Hub.

As they stood there, watching a motorcycle zoom ’round and ’round in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Imagineers talked amongst themselves. “We’ve got to stop this. Otherwise, they’ll just come back every year and put something really stupid in front of the castle. Something that will totally ruin Disneyland’s theming and storytelling.”

So one of the guys at WDI chimes in and says “Well, what if we were to put a statue in the center of the Hub? Of, say, Walt … and Mickey! They’d never take something like that down. If we put something like that in place here, the Special Events guys would never be able to put another ‘Cage of Death’ or Ferris Wheel here.”

That’s why the Imagineers contacted master sculptor Blaine Gibson and initiated the “Partners” project. Not because they really wanted to honor Uncle Walt. But rather, because they just didn’t want to see another “Cage of Death” in front of Sleep Beauty Castle.

Intriguing story, don’t you think? Well, this is just the sort of great behind-the-scenes story that you’ll get to hear if you take my ex-wife’s course — “Manufacturing the Magic: The History of Disneyland and Growth of the American Theme Park” (course number F5B01) — which will be held over three Saturdays starting on May 24th.

This course is will be a full blown examination of the history of the American theme park. The classes — which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — will feature guest speakers. Including yours truly. Who will be detailing how the construction of Disneyland knock-offs like New England’s Pleasure Island and Southern California’s Pacific Ocean Pier actually drove Walt Disney to aggressively expand his own Anaheim theme park.

Registration for the class — which takes place at LTU’s Orange County campus — is already underway. To register, just call LTU at 714-427-0588. The cost of the class is $129.00. Class times are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

If you can’t make it out to Costa Mesa to physically take part in Michelle’s class … not to worry. My ex — working with the nice folks over at iuniversityonline.com — has also cooked up an on-line version of her “Manufacturing the Magic” theme park class. To learn more about the on-line version of this class, follow this link.

You wanna know the best part of Fab’s “Manufacturing the Magic: The History of Disneyland and Growth of the American Theme Park” course? The class will conclude with Michelle leading the folks who’ve signed up for the LTU version of the class on one of her highly acclaimed tours of Disneyland (theme park admission NOT included). On this tour, you’ll get to hear all about stuff that never made it off WDI’s drawing board. Full blown lands like Discovery Bay and Big City U.S.A.

So be sure to check it out. Okay … enough with the gratuitous plugs for the mother of my child. Let’s move on to other subjects, shall we?

Next, Matt M. writes in to ask:

Hi Jim — first time/long time, really love your site. Quick question: as much as I have come to loathe Disney DTV sequels (with good reasons aplenty, but that’s neither here nor there), I have always had a weakness for Dumbo (my favorite Disney film ever!).

The Dumbo DVD, released in Autumn 2001, showed some fluffy promotional material for Dumbo 2, just enough to get me interested. Since then I haven’t heard a peep, and I noticed it wasn’t on your extensive BVHE report. Is there any word on this release?

Thanks a bunch,

Matt M.

Ah, yes. “Dumbo 2.” This project — along with “Bambi 2” — is currently on hold. Why for? Because Disney Television Animation is still trying to decide whether or not it wants to go forward with CG sequels to both of these classics.

That’s right. A computer animated follow-up to both “Bambi” and “Dumbo.” I know that may sound sacrilegious to some of you Disneyana fans out there. But Disney was serious enough about this idea that it had Joe Grant, the 95-year-old Mouse House vet who was actually the supervisor of story of “Dumbo” back in 1940-1941, come in last year to view test footage of several CG versions of the flying pachyderm.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about CGI squeezing out traditional animation as Hollywood’s choice du jour), none of the Dumbo test footage was quite up to snuff. So Disney Television Animation opted to put “Dumbo 2” and “Bambi 2” on hold for a year or two. ‘Til enough advances can be made in computer animation so that direct-to-home-video-and-DVD sequels could be produced to these 1940s era Disney classics that actually looked like the original animated films.

So a little more patience is necessary, Matt. “Dumbo 2” is coming. As soon as someone teaches 2003 era computers (and — more importantly — 2003 era computer animators) how to ape the look and style of Disney’s master animators.

And finally, Mark B. writes to asks:

I just got done reading your very informative and interesting article regarding the Disney/Pixar relationship over at Digital Media FX.

I thought Finding Nemo would be Pixar’s 4th film in their 5 film contract.
1) Toy Story
2) A Bug’s Life
3) Monster’s Inc
4) Finding Nemo
5) The Incredibles

I know Toy Story 2 doesn’t count toward the deal, but I don’t know why Cars would be number 5 and end the 5 picture deal. Do you know? Thanks.

Mark B.

Mark,

What you need to understand is that the Walt Disney Company and Pixar Animation Studios are actuallly in the middle of their third deal negotiation. Their first agreement — which Michael Eisner and Steve Jobs signed off on ‘way back in 1991 — was just for three films. But — when “Toy Story” turned out to be such a monstrous hit when it hit theaters back November 1995 — Disney quickly decided that it had to renegotiate its deal with Pixar.

That second pact — which was announced February 24, 1997 — called for Pixar Animation Studios (starting with its November 1998 release, “A Bug’s Life”) to deliver five new feature length films to Walt Disney Pictures. So — (as you already mentioned, Mark) given that “Toy Story 2” doesn’t count toward the completion of this pact — the five pictures covered by the second Disney / Pixar deal are:

1) “A Bug’s Life” (November 1998)
2) “Monsters, Inc.” (November 2001)
3) “Finding Nemo” (May 2003)
4) “The Incredibles” (Holiday Season 2004)
5) “Cars” (2005 release date yet to be determined)

And what’s the current status on the negotiations for a third Disney/Pixar deal? Disney insiders has been quoted as saying that Mouse House executives expect to spend most of the month of June to trying to wrap up their negotiations with Steve Jobs. Jobs is said to be pushing for another three picture deal, rather than agreeing to yet another five film extension of Pixar’s current arrangement with Disney Feature Animation. And two of the proposed titles on the table (in an effort to get Mickey to sign off on the deal) are the sure-to-be-hits “Toy Story III” and “Monsters, Inc. II.”

Unfortunately, given the financial terms that Steve Jobs is now trying to get Michael Eisner to sign off on (Jobs is said to be modeling his new Disney deal on the one George Lucas was able to get 20th Century Fox to agree to in order to land “Star Wars I – III.” In which Fox only got a 5-7% distribution fee, while Lucas got to keep the bulk of the box office), it’s now seem only 60% likely that Disney will actually go forward with extending its Pixar pact. Which may explain why Pixar Animation Studio is already actively developing its first post-Disney feature. A film that’s reportedly built around the premise of the adventures of a mouse who lives inside on a tony New York City restaurant.

Given that I’d like to see “Toy Story III” and/or a sequel to “Monsters, Inc.” I’m hoping that Disney and Pixar are actually able to come to terms regarding yet another extension of their deal. But since there are so many variables right now (I’m told that a lot is depending on how well “Finding Nemo” does during its first two weeks at the box office. If the film does really well, Jobs may feel compelled to spur Disney’s deal and strike out on his own. If “Nemo” somehow manages to under-perform, Disney may think that it can now push for better financial terms … which may also result in the third deal getting derailed), it’s hard to predict what’s actually going to happen.

Still, given that Eisner is still smarting over the fact that the Muppets (a deal that Uncle Mike was SURE was already in the bag) got away, I’d imagine that he’s going to play it extra safe with the Pixar negotiations. Dotting all the I’s. Crossing all the T’s. Doing everything he can to make sure that this one doesn’t unravel in front of his eyes.

Given that Forbes has already singled Eisner out as the worst CEO in the country, Uncle Mikey can’t afford any more bad news right about now. Which is why (I’m betting here) that — when push comes to shove — Disney’s CEO will agree to whatever Jobs is asking. Just so the Mouse can avoid yet another series of “Disney Blows It … Again” headlines in the financial press.

Okay. That’s it for this week’s “Why For.” I’ll be back next week with even more stories … as well as a couple of special announcements. Talk to you then, okay?

Have a great weekend,
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.

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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