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Why For?

Jim Hill returns with an extra special edition of this site’s Q & A column. This week — in one marathon-length response to a single question — Jim reveals why a WDW clone of Disneyland’s popular “Indiana Jones Adventure” attraction hasn’t been built yet, what happened to that faux-wooden roller coaster that was supposed to have part of DAK’s Dinoland U.S.A., as well as the bizarre chain of events that lead Hill to find out some of the info that was used in today’s column.

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Alan U. writes to ask:

Dear Jim,

I live on the East Coast and I am a WDW Trivia buff. I’m always on the lookout for new news on the parks. I would really like to visit Disneyland for one real reason, to ride Indiana Jones. I have looked and looked but I have never found any word on this attraction coming to WDW. Do you have any information on this possibility? Many WDW attractions have been going to Disneyland. Is there any chance of the opposite happening with Indy?

Love the site and Thanks,

Alan Urtz

Alan –

Thanks for your question. Regarding the “Indiana Jones Adventure” coming to Walt Disney World … actually, I do know a little something about those plans. But — tell to that story — I have to tell this story first.

You see, back in early 1994, Michelle Smith (AKA the Fabulous Disney Babe) and I were married and living (somewhat) happily in an apartment complex just down the street from Universal Studios Florida. We had just had our beautiful baby daughter, Alice. All in all, it was a pretty nice time for us. Couple-wise, that is.

Mind you, at the time, I was trying to support our small family through what I was writing. Which — as is probably evident by the poor quality of the prose that I post to this site — meant that we were always teetering on the brink of financial ruin.

Yes, it got pretty stressful at times. But what helped was that we had lots of friends who worked at the Walt Disney World Resort. People who’d regularly invite us to do this extra special, after hours, truly cool behind-the-scenes type stuff. Which would — at least for a while — alleviate the gloom.

One of these nice folks was Cindy S., a long-time Epcot employee as well as an old friend of Michelle’s. One day, Cindy called us up and invited Michelle and I to be her partners in that year’s “Goofy Studio Mystery Tour.”

“And what, pray tell, is a ‘Goofy Studio Mystery Tour’?,” you ask. Well, it’s this great after-hours cast-members-only activity where you wander around the Disney-MGM Studio theme park after dark and try to answer trivia questions as well as solve logic puzzles. You’re competing against 100 other teams (made up of cast members and their friends) for trophies and prizes. Oh … and did I mention that — while you’re trying to complete all of these tasks in under two hours — that you have to remain bungy-corded to your three other team mates?

Okay. I know. That all sounds kind of involved. But trust me on this, kids, the “Goofy Studio Mystery Tour” is really a lot of fun. If you ever get a chance to take part in this event, do it. You won’t be sorry.

Anyway … Michelle and I were just about to take Cindy S. up on her kind offer when we suddenly remembered that we weren’t just Disney dweebs anymore. We were actually parents of a newborn. Which meant that we weren’t really in a position to just charge off into the night and go do something fun, leaving our only-several-months-old-at-the-time daughter behind. To do that would be wrong. Irresponsible. Shamelessly self-indulgent …

Cindy S. interrupted our litany of excuses. “Look, not to worry. Just throw the kid in a snuggly and come out to the event, okay? No one’s gonna gripe if you have an infant there. It’s a family theme park, for Christ’s sake!”

“Come on! It’ll be fun! It’ll get you out of that apartment … Besides, I need you two weenies to help me answer all of those stupid Disney trivia questions … “

Which is how — several nights later — the five of us (Myself, Michelle, Alice, Cindy S. and Arlen M. – if I’m remembering correctly) ended up bungy-ed together, taking part in that year’s “Goofy Studio Mystery Tour.” Alice was stashed safely in a snuggly that was strapped to Michelle’s front. And my darling daughter pretty much slept through the entire event as we raced around New York and Residential Street, answering trivia questions and trying to solve various logic puzzles.

And — just like Cindy said — no one ever made a stink just because we’d brought an infant to this special after-hours cast-members-only event. If anything, the only comment that I ever remember hearing about Alice that entire night (And we must have heard this a couple of dozen times) was: “Hey, that’s a really cute baby that you’ve got there.” (Well, Alice WAS a really cute baby … Anyway …)

That year’s “Goofy Studio Mystery Tour” was a really fun outing for myself and Michelle. And, while we didn’t win, I know that our team did well enough in the overall competition for Cindy to say “Well, we’re definitely all going to have to do this again next year.”

Which is why — 12 months later — we got the call from Cindy S. saying “The ‘Goofy Studio Mystery Tour’ is coming up this month. Can I still count on you guys?” We asked if we could still bring Alice. Cindy said “I don’t see why not … “

Which is why — several weeks later — we threw Alice in a stroller and made our way backstage to Disney-MGM. And we were just seconds away from getting started in that year’s competition when an officious member of the WDW Cast Activities department steps up to us and said “What’s that baby doing here?”

Michelle and I explained that Alice had been part of our team last year. And that — just as we had done during the 1994 version of the “Goofy Studio Mystery Tour” — we planned to have our daughter safely tucked away in a snuggly (with Dad doing snuggly duty this time around) during the competitive portion of the evening. To prove this to the rep, Michelle even pulled out last year’s team photo (which showed Alice smiling broadly). So which is why there shouldn’t be a problem with our daughter being a part of our team now.

The WDW Cast Activities rep (of course) has a very different opinion. He said that for insurance purposes it just wasn’t safe for a baby girl (even if she was going to be safely strapped in a snuggly) to take part in that year’s “Goofy Studio Mystery Tour.” So Alice — and Michelle and I — would have to leave the park immediately. And Cindy’s team — due to a lack of necessary players — would, of course, have to forfeit the game.

My soon-to-be-ex-wife heard this and … well … there’s no other way to describe it, kids: Michelle exploded! She climbed up one side of this poor WDW Cast Activities rep and down the other. “How dare you …” this and “I have never in my life been treated so shabbily in my whole life …” that. All in all, it was a really impressive performance.

Those of you who have made the mistake of going head-to-head with my ex-wife in the JimHillMedia.com discussion boards are already (no doubt) learned of my ex-wife’s awesome fury. This WDW Cast Activities rep certainly became aware of it that evening. The poor slob got the full brunt of it.

Which is why — in a desperate attempt to escape Michelle’s wrath — this WDW Cast Activities rep immediately began back-peddling. “Did I say that Cindy’s team was automatically disqualified? What I meant was that it’s perfectly okay for her team to compete tonight with only three players?”

“And did I say that you three had to leave the park immediately? What I meant was one of you can sit in comfort in one of our backstage conference rooms with your child and watch television while the other takes part in tonight’s ‘Goofy Studio Mystery Tour.’ “

Michelle continued to glower darkly. The WDW Cast Activities rep then squeaked “Snacks. Did I mention that I’d personally be checking in on whoever stays in the backstage conference room and regularly bringing them snacks?”

I know, I know. This wasn’t exactly what either Michelle and I really wanted. But it was better than being tossed out of Disney-MGM for the night. So — as we pushed Alice in her stroller — we followed the WDW Cast Activities Rep (who never did stop apologizing, by the way) to this backstage conference room. As we walked, Michelle and I tried to decide who was going to take part in that night’s activities and who was going to stay behind with Alice

So we enter this darkened conference room. And then the WDW Cast Activities Rep flicks on the lights. And there — on the walls all around us — are the next five year’s worth of expansion plans for Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park. Artwork and blueprints and site plans for “Fantasmic!,” the “Indiana Jones Adventure” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” Not to mention that full-sized, double-sided classic drive-in theater that the Imagineers wanted to build in the backmost corner of Disney-MGM’s parking lot, near the Buena Vista Avenue entrance.

Michelle and I just stood there with our jaws agape. The WDW Cast Activities rep asked “Will this room be okay? If not, I’m sure that we could find another … “

“No,” Michelle and I say simultaneously. “This room will be just fine.”

“And I’ll stay with the baby,” I said.

“No, I’ll stay with the baby,” Michelle said.

“No, I’ll stay.”

“No, I’LL stay!”

We bickered back and forth for a bit. But — knowing all too well that it’s not very smart to get Michelle mad — I eventually acquiesced. As I exited the conference room with the WDW Cast Activities rep (Who’s still not finished trying to make my soon-to-be-ex-wife happy, asking “What sort of soda do you like? Do you want juice for the baby? How about cookies?”), I looked over my shoulder to see Michelle — holding Alice in her arms — staring in wonder at the storyboards for the original version of Disney-MGM’s “Fantasmic Hollywood” water pageant. You know, the version of the show that featured a sequence where a full-sized version of the Nautilus did battle with an giant inflatable squid? While Mickey sat on stage — in a Phantom-of-the-Opera costume, no less — and hammered out Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.”

You people ask where I get all of the snazzy information for my stories? Sometimes, it’s just crazy moments like this. When a well meaning person — totally by accident — leads you into the right conference room …

Anyway … getting back to your original question here, Alan. Which was (for those of you who may have forgotten by now): Why doesn’t WDW have its very own version of Disneyland’s popular “Indiana Jones Adventure” attraction yet?

Well, based on those blueprints and sketches that Michelle and I saw that evening back in 1995, WDI had planned to fast-track construction of a Walt Disney World version of this extremely popular Disneyland attraction. The original site plan called for a massive show building to be built right behind the “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular” amphitheater, effectively creating a mini-Indy-themed land on this side of the park.

And — when I say “massive” — I truly mean massive, folks. The blueprints tacked up to those conference room walls that night showed a structure that extended at least 10 rows out into the pre-existing Disney-MGM parking lot. Concept paintings in that same room showed that the exterior of the structure (the side facing the parking lot, anyway) would have been themed to look like an ancient Mayan temple.

So why did Disney decide not go forward with these plans? Well, some folks at Imagineering will tell you that — just as officials at WDW were about to announce their plans to bring the “Indiana Jones Adventure” to Central Florida — they allegedly began hearing stories about how some Disneyland guests were experiencing weird symptoms as soon as they exited this Adventureland attraction. These isolated cases of neck injuries, blinding headaches and/or bruised ribs were supposedly enough to make senior officials at the Walt Disney Company wonder: Is the “Indiana Jones Adventure” ride really TOO rough? And, if so, why should we be rushing to build another one of these things in Florida?

But other Imagineers will tell you that all of those reports of guests allegedly being injured on Disneyland’s “Indiana Jones Adventure” ride weren’t the REAL reason that plans for another version of this attraction got side-tracked for Disney-MGM. To hear these folks tell it, what actually happened was that the Imagineers who were working on Disney’s Animal Kingdom wanted Indy’s EMV (Enhanced Motion Vehicle) ride system to make its Central Florida debut at their park, NOT Disney-MGM.

Why for? Well — to explain THAT part of the story — we’re going to have to make another digression. (You folks are all seated in comfortable chairs, right? If not, go find a pillow. And maybe a blanket. And — if you’re also in desperate need of a potty break — now’s as good a time as any to take one. Don’t worry. We won’t get started ’til you get back … )

Okay. Everyone comfy now? Then let’s continue …

Why did Disney’s Animal Kingdom need Indy’s EMV system more than Disney-MGM did? Well, to understand that, you have to understand that as that animal-based theme park was being designed, the project underwent repeated reductions in scopes. (“Reduction in scope” — for those of you who don’t know — is an-house WDI term for “cutting money out of the budget.”)

Anyway … the “Dinoland U.S.A.” section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom was really suffering because of all these budget cuts. EX: Did you know that this part of the park was actually originally supposed to have had TWO E-Tickets? A version of “Countdown to Extinction” that was supposed to have used the “Star Tours” simulator technology as well as a massive faux-woodie roller coaster called the “Excavator”?

What do I mean by a “faux-woodie”? Well, are you folks familiar with “California Screamin'” at Disney’s California Adventure theme park? Well, that’s a steel roller coaster that — thanks to its exterior detail and styling — masquerades as a classic wooden roller coaster. DAK’s “Excavator” was supposed to be just like that: a steel roller coaster that — thanks to clever theming — appear to be a woodie.

The storyline behind Dinoland U.S.A.’s cancelled coaster was to have built off of the “Boneyard.” You know, that kiddie play area toward the front of this part of the park where children can climb up, down, in and around a fake archeological dig? Well, the Imagineers had originally envisioned extending these story elements all the way to the back of Dinoland … where we would have found an abandoned part of the dig.

Now, the archeologists were supposed to have stopped digging in this part of the park not because they’d run out of fossils. But rather, because the soil here was just too unstable. Which meant that there was a real danger of cave-ins.

But — if DAK’s guests were to make their way through the “Excavator”‘s queue — they would have found that the ore cars that the archeologists had been using to remove materials from deep inside the dig site were still rolling along their rickety tracks. And if a really brave person were to climb into one of these ore cars, they might be in for an exciting ride through the abandoned portions of the dig site.

Let me clear about this, folks. The “Excavator” was supposed to have been huge. It would have easily towered up over the trees toward the back on Dinoland U.S.A. It would have been one of the very first things that you would have seen as you pulled into DAK’s parking lot. This thrill ride was supposed to have been the “weenie” that would have drawn DAK visitors deep into this portion of the park.

And — as for the simulator version of “Countdown to Extinction” — well … this was actually supposed to have been the next generation of the “Star Tours”-like simulator theater cabs. How so? Well, instead of having one movie screen toward the front of the vehicle, you would have had FOUR movie screens. One to the front, a slightly smaller screen to the left and right as well as an itty-bitty one (similar in design to a moon roof) on the ceiling of the theater cab.

The storyline of this proposed version of the attraction was basically the same as what we’ve got today with “Countdown to Extinction / Dinosaur – The Ride.” You (and 31 of your other close personal friends) journey back in time, precisely three minutes before the giant meteor that strikes the Earth and wipes out the dinosaur hits, to collect specimens.

Only in this version of the show you’re not in a jeep. But rather, you’re traveling inside a modified tank that has a steel cage-like structure overits open front. Which (hopefully) will keep all of the passengers safely inside, protected from those prehistoric lizards.

SLIGHT DIGRESSION HERE: (Which – technically – means that we’re making a digression within a digression. So everyone remember where we parked, okay?) This next generation version of the “Star Tours” ride vehicles was actually created by WDI for a “Roger Rabbit”-themed attraction that was supposed to have been part of the original version of Disney-MGM’s “Sunset Boulevard” expansion area. The “Toontown Transit” ride would have put studio theme park guests on board Gus the Bus with Roger acting as their tour guide. This version of the theater cab (which lacked the moon roof screen on the ceiling) would have given Disney-MGM visitors a spectacular almost-180-degree view out of the front of the car. Which would have really helped pull off that illusion of speed as they went whizzing — totally out of control — down the steep slopes of Mount Toonmore.

Anyway … getting back to our original disgression … your time traveling tank was supposed to have been beamed into the remote past at one set of co-ordinates. DAK guests were then supposed to capture a specimen as they made your way to a second set of co-ordinates, whereupon they would have been beamed back into the present. En route, these Animal Kingdom visitors were (what a surprise) supposed to have been attacked by raptors (who actually appear to leap onto the steel cage toward the front of the vehicle and attempt to bite the guests through the bars), almost crushed under the foot of an ultrasaur and rammed by a herd of startled triceratops.

Mind you, all of this was going to happen on film. With your theater cab moving in perfect synchronization to all the imagery on the surrounding screens. The only audio animatronic figure that DAK guests would have seen in this entire attraction would have been in the post-show area. Where — as visitors exited the building — they would have caught a quick glimpse of a small robotic version of the prehistoric specimen that they supposedly successfully brought back from the past.

Both of these attractions (By that, I mean: The “Excavator” as well as the original version of “Countdown to Extinction”) sound like wonderful rides, don’t they? DAK executive designer Joe Rohde and his team of Imagineers certainly thought so. Which is why they were crestfallen when the word came down from on high that Animal Kingdom’s budget was being cut. Again.

“You can’t have both E-Tickets for Dinoland U.S.A.,” said the accountateers at Imagineering. “You only get to build one of these rides for Phase One of the park. So choose.”

So what did Rohde and his DAK creative team decide to do? They chose … Neither! At least not in their original forms.

What Joe and his crew opted to do instead was keep the original premise of “Countdown to Extinction” but ditch its ride system. Since Dinoland U.S.A. could now only have one E-Ticket, Rohde wanted it to be a real doozy. Which is why he proposed taking the “Indiana Jones Adventure” EMV jeeps and having those roll through a show building that would be filled with full-sized audio animatronic dinosaurs.

As you might imagine, this idea didn’t exactly thrill the accountants at Imagineering (Who were hoping that – by scaling back Dinoland U.S.A. so that it featured just one E-Ticket – they might be able to save the Walt Disney Company a couple of million bucks. Now that Rohde was pitching this elaborate new ride for DAK that would be filled with robotic reptiles, all of those projected cost savings just flew right out the window). Nor were the folks in management at Disney-MGM all that excited when they heard about Joe’s. They knew that if Animal Kingdom got to use the EMV ride system for their “Countdown to Extinction” ride before the studio theme park’s version of the “Indiana Jones Adventure” was built, that meant that DAK would (of course) insist on having an exclusive on this cutting edge technology for at least four or five years. Just so DAK would have a ride that none of the other WDW theme parks had. Which (hopefully) would compel guests to go through the turnstiles and try Animal Kingdom on for size.

The folks at Disney-MGM fought fiercely, insisting that they get first use of the EMV ride system. That Disneyland’s “Indiana Jones Adventure” ride would be a logical addition for their park. Something that the guests would really enjoy riding.

The people in senior management positions at the WDW resort agreed with Disney-MGM’s position. The only problem was … they didn’t really see a reason to rush into constructing a clone of the popular Disneyland thrill ride for the studio theme park. The “Indiana Jones Adventure” attraction would still be a hit with Disney-MGM guests whenever the Walt Disney Company finally let the Imagineers get around to building the thing … be it 2004, 2005, 2006. Whenever.

Which is how “Countdown to Extinction / Dinosaur – The Ride” ended with getting first dibs on using the EMV technology. (If – of course – you’re willing to overlook that the cars that roll through “GM Test Track” at Epcot have a lot of the same properties at the jeeps in Indy. But – hey – I’m digressing again. Let’s see if I can actually wrap this story up, shall we?)

So to finally get around to answering your question, Alan – the “Indiana Jones Adventure” WILL be coming to Florida … eventually. I’m told that the latest timetable shows that a clone of this popular Disneyland ride (which will feature some of the newer ride elements that the Imagineers created for the Tokyo Disney Seas version of the “Indiana Jones Adventure,” AKA “The Temple of the Crystal Skull”) could be up and running as early as 2006 … just in time for Disney World’s 35th anniversary celebration.

Mind you, the smarter money is on the Mouse holding off on making a final decision about building a Disney World version of this Disneyland favorite ’til after management sees how this new “Indiana Jones” movie that Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas reportedly have in the works does.

Yep, you heard right. A brand new Indiana Jones. To borrow a joke from the late, great Douglas Adams, this as-yet-untitled film will be the fourth in the trilogy. Production is tentatively slated to get underway in the summer of 2004 (Right after Lucas wraps up production and promotion of Episode III of the “Star Wars” saga) using a screenplay that will be written by noted director Frank (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) Darabont. This much anticipated project even has a tentative release date already: July 1, 2005.

If Indy 4 hits (and hits big), you can anticipate, Alan, that Disney-MGM management and the Imagineers will immediately hit up Disney Company management and say “Look, we’ve waited long enough. DAK’s had an exclusive on that EMV ride system technology for — what? — over seven years now. That’s long enough. Let’s dust off those plans and finally put an ‘Indiana Jones Adventure’ where it’s belonged all along: Out behind the ‘Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular’ at Disney-MGM.”

That answer your question, Alan? Hope so.

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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