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Why For?

Jim Hill returns from his sojourn to Georgia with even more answers to your Disney related questions. This time around, he expounds on New England’s recent snowfall rates, teases an upcoming “Treasure Planet” story, offers some additional insights about what’s been going on with Disney and the Muppets, and — before he heads back out into the snow — even finds time to say something nice about Al Lutz.

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Hey, Gang!

My apologies for not having anything new up on the site for the past two days. But Nancy and I arrived back home from Georgia late on New Year’s Eve only to find two feet of heavy, wet snow waiting for us. Then — just as soon as we got the house dug out from under all of that crud — another eight inches of the white stuff came falling out of the sky.

So – what with all of the shoveling involved in clearing this crud away – there just wasn’t time to sit down at the computer these past few days and hammer out any new stories for the site. Which is why Michelle has been raiding the archives for me (Special thanks to both Michelle and David Gasior for keeping JimHillMedia.com up and running these past few days).

Unfortunately — given that the weatherman is now saying that New Hampshirites can expect to be hit by no less than three different snowstorms this coming weekend — I only have a few moments to spare to before I have to get started on my pre-storm errands (I.E. Go to store. Buy a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk and a connector cable for Alice’s new Gamecube).

Even so, I wanted to answer at least a few “Why For” questions before I headed off to Walmart. So let’s get started, shall we?

Eric recently wrote to ask:

Dear Jim:

I’m glad to see you have made yourself a home on the net. Chasing you around the net has sometimes been awkward 😉

Anyway, I’ve been wondering about WDFA. And – after watching “Treasure Planet” – I am wondering even harder.

Where is the talent? Where is the skill? Where is the story telling experience? You have said that many animators have been fired, quit, retired, walked, (been) put out to pasture or died.

Again, I would like to know where the talent went? Who learned their art from the “Nine Old Men”?

Are their apprentices still at Disney? If not, where did they go? I want to see the genealogy of animation talent that starts with Disney. Why does Pixar tell better stories than Disney? What happened to Don Bluth? Who has Walt’s baton?

You seem to be the man to ask.

Sincerely,
Eric

Um … Maybe I’m the wrong guy to answer this question, Eric. Why? Because I actually liked “Treasure Planet.” Certainly, it wasn’t my favorite Disney Feature Animation film of the past five years (That honor would have to go to “The Emperor’s New Groove.” I mean, I caught the last 20 minutes of this film again on Tuesday, while Nancy was shopping at the Disney Catalog Outlet Store. And I still found “Groove” to be incredibly entertaining. Loaded with lots of wonderful animation and design. Not to mention dozens of great gags). But “TP” was still A-OK in my book.

That said … I have to acknowledge that I am very much in the minority here. For the majority of American moviegoers seem to have absolutely no interest in going to check out this long-in-the-planning John Musker and Ron Clements project. (EX: A few weeks back, Jeff, Flo, Nancy and I went to a IMAX theater in Hartford, CT. to check out “Treasure Planet” on the really big screen. Even though we went to the 7:30 p.m. showing on a Saturday night — a time when every other theater in this multiplex was filled to capacity — up until five minutes before showtime, we were the only four people in that entire theater. A situation that I just found to be absolutely astounding.)

So what exactly went wrong with “Treasure Planet?” To be honestly, I’m not sure that it’s really the film that’s at fault here, Eric. I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about how “TP” was actually a summer picture (I.E. a movie that would probably have had no problem connecting with an audience had it been released to theaters between the months of May and August) that should NEVER have been released in the depths of November. There’s also been a lot of grumbling from the folks over at WDFA about the tired old ad campaign that Disney’s marketing department slapped together for “Treasure Planet.”

Tell you what, Eric. If you promise to come back to the site on Tuesday, I promise that I’ll try to answer at least some of your questions as part of a full-blown feature that I’ll be posting about the trouble with “Treasure Planet.” Just be warned that this story runs a lot deeper than some of you may expect. I fear that we may not just be talking about the unfortunate failure of one film. Given what’s going on behind-the-scenes at Disney Feature Animation these days (as well as the recent under-performance of Paramount’s traditionally animated “Wild Thornberrys” movie), there are some people at Disney who are now saying that traditional hand-drawn animation may be going the way of silent film. Falling out of favor as well as out of fashion.

Check out that story on Tuesday, Eric. Hopefully, my “Trouble with ‘Treasure Planet'” article will answer at least some of your questions.

Next, Matt writes to say:

Hello Jim,
I love your site and plan on making a small financial contribution in the near future. I am confused about the recent Muppet sale. It seemed that the purchase of the Muppets, by Disney, was almost a done deal according to the media and then without a peep Disney lost the bid and nothing was said about it. Do you have any insight about how this deal fell through for Disney?
Thanks!
Matt

Matt, the reason that the Walt Disney Company opted not to go forward with the corporation’s most recent attempt to acquire the Jim Henson Company is that — at the very last moment — EM.TV changed the conditions of the deal. Instead of selling Disney the entire Jim Henson Company (which would have given the Mouse the right to do whatever it wanted with the Muppets), the German broadcast consortium suddenly announced that it wanted to retain a majority share in the Henson Company. To be specific, EM.TV was offering to sell the Walt Disney Company just 49.9% of Henson, while it retained the other 50.1%.

Well, anyone who’s even remotely familiar with the history of the Walt Disney Company knows that the Mouse doesn’t like to share. More importantly, that Mickey likes to likes to call the shots. Which is something that Disney wouldn’t have been able to do with the Jim Henson Company had they accepted the new terms that EM.TV had suddenly placed on the table. Which is why the Mouse decided to walk.

Not too far away, mind you. You see, there’s always been this tacit understanding among Mouse House insiders that, were Dean Valentine and Mort Marcus (who are both former Walt Disney Company executives, by the way) ever to close their deal with EM.TV to acquire the Jim Henson Company, that sooner or later these two guys would be bringing the Muppets back to Disney. Whether it would be to make more Muppet direct-to-video projects and/or new feature films or TV shows, who can say?

But the smart money has always been on Marcus and Valentine using their old corporate ties with the Mouse House to help Kermit & Co. to find a new home in Hollywood. And — perhaps, sometime further on down the line — a new generation of Muppet-related rides and shows for the theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando and Paris.

But now that all the financing that Dean and Mort reportedly had in place to acquire Henson appears to be falling through, who can say for certain what’s going to happen to the Jim Henson Company next? The only thing that is CERTAIN is … this story isn’t over yet, folks. Which is why it’s wise not to count the Mouse out just yet. Who knows? There may be a few more twists left in this tale after all.

And finally, R. Ramjet wrote to say:

Mr. Hill:

I can not believe that you were so stupid as to nominate internet muckmeister Al Lutz as JimHillMedia.com’s person of the year. Are you on drugs, Jim? I mean, did you actually ever read any of the nasty trash that Lutz used to post over at MousePlanet? Al is a loathsome, negative person who doesn’t deserve ANY recognition – let alone being recognized as a “man of the year.”

How could you do this, Jim?

Actually, I didn’t. It was C.W. (Chuck) Oberleitner AKA DizBiz who actually wrote that story. But — given that the piece was published at JimHillMedia.com — I guess it’s easy to understand how you could have made that mistake, R. Ramjet.

But — as for recognizing Al Lutz’s contributions to the web — I actually thought that this was a pretty good idea. Which is why I gave Chuck the “go ahead” when he first suggested this story to me a week or so back.

Oh, sure. I don’t agree with absolutely everything that C.W. had to say in his story. But then again, I’m fairly certain that you folks don’t always agree with absolutely everything that I put in my stories either. So why quibble over minor crud like this?

The real point that I (and Chuck) are trying to get across here is that Al Lutz usually writes a pretty entertaining and informative column. Maybe I don’t always agree with what the guy has to say. But 9 times out of 10, by the time I finish reading an article by Al, I’ve usually learned something that I never knew about the Walt Disney Company and/or had a hearty laugh at some incredibly caustic comment that Al has made about the Mouse.

Yes, Lutz can be extremely negative. And sometimes he can go WAY over the top. But there’s also no denying that Al has some absolutely killer sources. I mean, I honestly don’t know how he does it. But the guy regularly gets his hands on this absolutely incredible inside info about the Walt Disney Company. Stuff that no one else ever gets access to.

Which is why I always make a point of trying reading Al Lutz’s latest column. Which is why I followed the guy when he and Kevin Yee left MousePlanet to go form MiceAge. Just so my steady flow of juicy Disney inside info wouldn’t be interrupted.

“Wait a minute, Jim,” I hear some of you saying. “Why are you saying nice things about Al Lutz? Isn’t this the same guy who fired you from MousePlanet a year or so back? Why would you ever want to be kind to someone who treated you like that?”

Okay. It’s true. Al DID fire me from MousePlanet back in March of 2001. Which was pretty embarrassing. At the time, anyway.

But — given the way things whiz along on the Web — I figure that time here has to be measured in dog years. Which means — in order for me to still be angry with Al Lutz — I would have to have carried a grudge for over 10 years now. And life’s just too short for nonsense like that, isn’t it?

These days, I prefer to think of Al Lutz as the guy gave me my very first job on the Internet. Who did such a nice job with the layout of all of my old “View from a Hill” stories. A guy who could probably use a little help right about now as he and Kevin get their new website up out of the ground.

Look, based on personal experience, I can tell you guys how hard it is to start over again (and over again and over again …) on the Internet. Which is why I’m perfectly happy now to shine a spotlight on Al’s new website. To lend a hand. To try and make as many potential readers as possible aware of “MiceAge.” With the hope that it will send some sizable traffic their way.

Sure, I’m sure that there are people out there who will be extremely upset that I’ve taken this stance (two come immediately to mind). But I don’t care. It’s my website and I can say whatever the hell I want. So there! Nyah!

Anywho … I hope you all enjoyed Chuck Oberleitner’s latest column; I know I did. Which is why I’m now recommending that you all go check out Al Lutz’s new website, “MiceAge.” (Just be aware that this week’s column — the 2002 MouseTrap Awards — really isn’t the best introduction to Lutz’s stuff. Over-written and under-entertaining, the piece just tries too hard. Better you should go check out Al’s “Stitch Mountain” story from December 23rd. Just so you get a sense of what Al’s really capable of.)

As for me … Well, Nancy just informed me that the weatherman said we’ll be getting another 8½ inches of snow tomorrow. Which is why I’d better go pull on my boots and head out for the mall.

Speaking of the mall … so far, we’ve had a very nice response to last week’s offer of a free $10 off coupon for the Disney Catalog Outlet store to anyone who wrote in. Just be aware that the clock’s ticking, folks. That these coupons are in increasingly short supply and will only be good now through January 31st. So — if you’d like some of your own to use — send a self addressed stamped envelope ASAP to:

Jim Hill Media
P.O. Box 261
New Boston, N.H. 03070

And — provided that our local post office is not buried in an avalanche in the next week or so — I’ll put your $10 off coupon in the mail just as soon as I get your request in hand.

That’s it for now. Have a safe (and hopefully snow-free) weekend, okay? And I’ll talk to you all again on Monday.

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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