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Why For?

Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, he reveals why Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is probably going to remain closed, what’s up for DAK after “Forbidden Mountain” opens, what’s the deal with the calendar in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” as well as what may happen at DCA once Disney finally acquires the Muppets.



First a quick thanks to all those kind souls who took part in last month’s beta tests for the JHM Disneyland and DCA tours. Given that no one got injured (except possibly me, the moron New Englander who forgot to put on some sun screen and/or wear a hat … the idiot who ended up with a Class-6 sun burn, not to mention a medium-sized case of sun poisoning) and everyone seemed to have a pretty good time, it looks like will soon begin offering tours of the Disney theme parks as a regularly scheduled feature at the website.

Speaking of which … if any of you folks would be interested in taking part in the inaugural run of the JHM WDW tours, drop me a line ASAP. Why for? Because I’ll be down in Orlando during the first week of May. And I’m giving some semi-serious thought to trying out the initial set of Disney World tours while I’m in Central Florida.

Okay. Enough with the shameless plugs. Let’s get started, shall we?

First up, Shannon writes in to ask:

Hey, Jim –

In planning for my upcoming Disneyland trip, I was checking out the calendar on the Disney website. The Sleeping Beauty Castle attraction walkway is listed as “Closed for Refurbishment” until at least July (that’s when the calendar stops). Any idea what they’re doing up there?


Dear Shannon –

I’m afraid that I have some rather bad news for you. Based on recent conversations that I’ve had with longtime Disneyland staffers as well as WDI insiders, it would appear that the Mouse has no plans whatsoever to re-open this classic Fantasyland attraction. In spite of what it may say over at, there is no actual refurbishing going on inside Sleeping Beauty Castle. Nor is any rehab work underway. The walk-through is just closed. And it will probably stay closed for the foreseeable future.

Why for? Well, truth be told, there are three different issues involved here:

1. The War with Iraq / Post 9-11 security concerns: The FBI has reportedly told senior Disney Company officials that certain terrorist organizations have placed Sleeping Beauty Castle very high on their “To Do” list. So the easiest way to safeguard this Disneyland icon was just to restrict the public’s access to the structure. Keep the upstairs walk-through — with all of its hard-to-monitor nooks and crannies — locked up tight. So that some (please fill in the ethnic group / religious faction / terrorist organization of your choice here) extremist isn’t tempted to leave some sort of device behind.

2. The Castle’s ADA issues: Given that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the Walt Disney Company to at least try and make all of the rides, shows and attractions in its theme parks handicap accessible, retrofitting Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through with the necessary elevators, wider walkways and lower sight lines for all of the displays (not to mention changing the entire interior of Sleeping Beauty Castle so that this exhibit could be presented on one floor, thereby making it easier for guests in wheelchairs to experience the attraction) would be prohibitively expensive. So — rather than have to swallow the multi-million dollar cost involved with bringing this Fantasyland favorite up to ADA compliance — Disneyland officials are now reportedly thinking that it may just make better business sense in the long run to keep the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through closed from here on in.

3. Disneyland’s 50th anniversary plans: Given that the folks who actually run the Park are giving semi-serious thought to outfitting Sleeping Beauty Castle with thousands of fiber optics (so that the structure could appear to be awash with pixie dust after dark) and/or painting this entire Disneyland icon (to help celebrate the theme park’s golden anniversary), keeping the castle’s walk-through closed will make it that much easier to get those plans in gear … should Walt Disney Company officials actually free up the cash necessary to go forward with either of these plans.

Long story short, Shannon, Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through will remain closed for the foreseeable future. At least ’til the War with Iraq and/or America’s war of terrorism is resolved. At least ’til Disneyland management decides whether they really want to spend the millions necessary to bring this Fantasyland favorite ADA compliant. And at least ’til DL officials figure out what they’re doing with Sleeping Beauty Castle in 2005 during Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration.

To be honest, the only way that I can see that the castle will re-open anytime soon is if new Disney Parks and Resorts head Jay Rasulo remains on his capacity kick. Given that Jay is reportedly toying with re-opening Disneyland’s long-moth-balled Submarines just because he wants to raise the hourly guest capacity level at the Anaheim theme park, bringing the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through back on line would at least do something to alleviate this situation.

Unfortunately, Shannon, that’s a really unlikely situation. Based on the conversations that I’ve had with veteran Disneyland employees as well as Imagineering insiders, I don’t see anything like that happening ’til the War in Iraq is over and/or President Bush declares that America’s war on terrorism has been resolved.

Sorry to be such a downer, Shannon. Next, Max (AKA DisneyMax) writes in to ask:

Hey, Jim –

This is probably going to be a difficult question … but … Last week, I recorded the Travel Channel’s show on Animal Kingdom. And – toward the end of the show – they mention some of the things that are future plans for Animal Kingdom.

And – while they were talking about (DAK) future plans – they (showed) a very very short low quality CG clip of a giant bug (Or something. At any rate, it looks like it would be a very cool AA figure) rearing up at a passing ride vehicle. Do you have any idea what the heck that clip is from?


Max (DisneyMax)

Dear Disney Max –

Actually, I DO know what that footage on the Travel Channel was all about. That CG was actually a very rough representation of an Audio Animatronic magma worm. This enormous robotic creature is supposed to rise up out of the volcanic muck at the end of DAK’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” attraction.

That’s right, DisneyMax. WDI is reportedly toying with bringing this particular piece of Tokyo Disney Sea’s “Mysterious Island” area stateside over the next 5 to 7 years. The idea is that the “JTTCOTE” ride — particularly when it would be nestled inside of an enormous ride building that would be shaped to look like a smoldering volcano — might make a great anchor for a revised / revived version of DAK’s “Beastly Kingdom.” Not to mention that this mountain would make a lovely addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s skyline.

Now please keep in mind, DisneyMax, that we’re talking about a DAK attraction that’s still very much on the drawing board. Even if construction were to get greenlighted anytime soon, it would still be 2008 or 2009 before any of us could actually get on line to ride “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

First things first, folks. First “Forbidden Mountain: Legend of the Yeti” has to open. Then Walt Disney Imagineering has to decide what the theme of DAK’s live animal exhibit area will be (I keep hearing that – provided that “Brother Bear” is a sizable hit once it hits theaters this fall, that WDI may opt to make Animal Kingdom’s next big enclosure an area that celebrates North American creatures. Animals like grizzly bears, buffaloes and bald eagles. You get the idea, right? … Anywho …) Then — and only then — will the Imagineers decide whether or not they’re actually going to add “Journey to the Center of the Earth” to DAK’s line-up.

And what sort of other other-worldly rides and shows might be added to this radically rethought version of “Beastly Kingdom?” … Stay tuned to, DisneyMax. I’ll try and pass along that info as soon as I hear something definite.

Next, Jeremy H. writes in to ask:

Dear Jim:

Watching “Alice in Wonderland,” I have a particular affinity to the recitation of the poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” or “The Story of the Curious Oysters.” Every time I cue it up, I enjoy it thoroughly until Mother Oyster winks her eye, shakes her heavy head, and looks at the calendar which displays (the month of) March. (Then) the Capital “R” glows red and flashes … as she warns the young oysters.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Is it something to do with spring oysters tasting better than oysters harvested in the fall? Help me, O Mighty Disney know-it-all.

Thanks a lot. I really enjoy your long winded style.

Jeremy H.

Dear Jeremy H.

What? You’ve never heard the old wive’s tale about how you’re only supposed to eat oysters during a month that has the letter “R” in it?

Mind you, this outdated bit of advice dates back to an era when refrigeration wasn’t readily available. A time when it was quite likely that oysters — freshly harvested or not — would quickly go bad in the warmer months of May, June, July or August. Which is why it was probably wise to avoid shellfish during the hot summer months way back then.

Of course, nowadays — thanks in large part to vast improvements in modern food handling techniques and technology (not to mention those enormous factory ships that prowl the seas with their own on-board refrigeration units) — you no longer have to worry if you’re offered an oyster during a month without an “R” in it. So, if you have the chance to sample some shellfish this summer, Jeremy, feel free to indulge yourself.

Me personally? I can’t stand oysters. I wouldn’t eat one of those slimy things if you held a gun to my head. Give me a bucket of fried clams anytime.

Finally, Jim S. writes in to ask:

Dear Mr. Hill:

By now, I’m sure that you’ve heard that – once again – Disney and the Muppets are doing their little dance. Jim, is this deal ever going to get done? And – if yes – what kinds of things can we finally look forward to at the parks.

Keep up the good work,
Respectfully Yours,

Jim S.

Dear Jim S.

Well, you’re right. The Walt Disney Company is currently in negotiations with EM.TV & Merchandising AG (the German entertainment consortium that currently owns the Jim Henson Company) to purchase certain portions of the Henson corporation. Not the entire Jim Henson Company, mind you. Just the rights to the Muppet characters themselves as well as the 600 or so hours of motion pictures and television programs that JHC has in its film library.

So — should this deal actually go down — what would this acquisition mean to the Disney theme parks? Well, for starters, the Imagineers are hoping that — once this deal is finally signed off on (which could come as early as the tail end of April / the first few weeks of May) — that they can immediately begin work on changing DCA’s defunct “Superstar Limo” into “Miss Piggy’s Superstar Limo.” Where guests will board a stylized version of a limousine for a trip through a Muppet-ized version of Tinsel Town. This revamped ride would come to its conclusion when Disneyland Resort visitors would arrive at the big Hollywood premiere of a film starring the one, the only Miss Piggy.

So what exactly would this proposed change-out of “Superstar Limo” involve? Well, as of this moment, the plan is that the ride system for this Hollywood Pictures Backlot attraction is supposed to remain the same. Likewise the ride vehicles and the track layout. Thankfully, the rest of this much maligned DCA attraction is slated for demolition. The ride’s original 2D sets will be torn out and those minimum-tronic figures of Drew Carey, Regis Philbin, and Cher are headed straight for the recycling bin.

Look for “Miss Piggy’s Superstar Limo” (provided that it actually goes forward) to feature a whole new set of sets, not to mention a wide selection of full-sized Muppet figures. More importantly, expect this radically revised version of this Hollywood Pictures Backlot attraction to have all the style and wit that the original “Superstar Limo” lacked.

Mind you, this all depends on Disney actually being able to close the deal with EM.TV to acquire the Jim Henson Company. And — given that the Mouse has managed to screw up this deal several times before — well … I won’t actually believe that the Muppets have become part of the Disney family until I see the Kermit the Frog walk-around character strolling around DCA, signing autographs for tourists.

Once that happens, I’ll feel better about telling you all about the “Miss Piggy’s Superstar Limo” clones that are reportedly headed for Disney-MGM in Florida and Disney Studios theme park in Paris. Not to mention how the “Days of Swine and Roses” character show may be end up revived for staging inside the “Goofy’s Beach Party Bash” theater at Disney’s California Adventure theme park.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves now, shall we, Jim S.? Once Disney finally finalizes its deal with EM.TV & Merchanding AG, THEN we’ll talk. Okay?

Well, that’s enough for this week, folks. Have a great weekend, okay?


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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