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Once again, Jim Hill answers your Mouse-related questions. This time around, Jim talks about NYC’s Jekyll & Hyde Club, Epcot’s proposed Russian pavilion, WDW’s never-built Mediterranean Resort as well as revealing what became of former JHM columnist, Chuck Oberleitner.

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First of, Nick T. writes in to say:

Dear Jim,

I really enjoyed the stories that you did earlier this week about about NYC’s “World of Disney” store . (I wish you’d given your Tri-State readers a heads-up that you were coming into the City this past weekend. I know that if I’d had some advance notice that you were coming, I’d have made a special trip into town just to meet you, Cory & Jeff. Maybe grab a bite to eat together so that we could all schmooze about the Mouse).

Speaking of eating, I was wondering if you could tell me something about one of my favorite dining spots in the city, the Jekyll and Hyde Club on Seventh Avenue. For years now, I’ve heard that this horror themed restaurant has had some sort of tie to the Walt Disney Company. But none of the staff at the club will ever talk about this whenever I ask them.

Which is why I turn to you, Mr. Hill. Do you know anything about NYC’s Jekyll & Hyde Club (which certainly looks like it belongs in a Disney theme park) and how this restaurant is tied to the Mouse?

Thanks in advance for your help, Jim. ( And seriously, the next time you’re headed into the City, let me know, okay? I’d be happy to buy you lunch at the Carnegie Deli sometime.)

Nick T.

Dear Nick,

Thanks for the kind offer of lunch at the Carnegie Deli. Which I may actually take you up on someday. (That’s one of the problems of living way-the-hell out here in the woods. Sure, you get to see some pretty amazing wildlife. Like the 11 turkeys that strolled up our driveway yesterday afternoon. But — that said — it’s still quite a schlep whenever you’re jonesing for kosher pickles & chicken liver.)

Anyway … You asked about NYC’s Jekyll & Hyde Club. Which I have to admit is a pretty fun place to eat. Yeah, this horror themed restaurant should seem familiar to Disney theme park fans. After all, much of the theming for this Manhattan eatry was “borrowed” directly from two WDW icons: The Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island and the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom.

Don’t believe me? Then take a look at this photo of the Grand Salon at the Jekyll & Hyde Club.


PHOTO BY JEFF LANGE

Please notice the large semi-nude statue of Zeus at the center of the room. Well, how many of you remember the statue that strikes a similar pose at the center of the main salon at WDW’s Adventurers Club?

Or — better yet — how about this picture of Fang the Gargoyle.


PHOTO BY JEFF LANGE

Who periodically comes to life and hassles the patrons at the restaurant. In much the same way that Colonel Critchlow Suchbench will suddenly awake from his nap and harass WDW visitors as they tour the Adventurers Club.

As for the atmosphere of the Jekyll & Hyde Club, that seems to have come straight from WDW’s Haunted Mansion. For example, the wall of its library are lined with portraits that make use of that old Rolly Crump gag (I.E. Their eyes seem follow your every move). And — every so often — an animatronic band of ghouls suddenly come to life, playing oddily appropriate songs like Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” and Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.”


PHOTO BY JEFF LANGE

Okay, I know. I can hear the more kind-hearted of you JHM readers out there saying stuff like: “Oh, Jim. It’s just a co-incidence that NYC’s Jekyll & Hyde Club has all of these Disney-esque elements. I mean, it’s not like the Mouse actually has a copyright on portraits with moving eyes and/or animatronics.”

Well, what if I were to tell you that the guy who helped create NYC’s Jekyll & Hyde Club was a former WDW cast member? More importantly, that this gentleman (who wrote many of the sketches that are performed at the restaurant) actually once worked at the Adventurers Club? As a member of the opening cast of that Pleasure Island nightclub no less?

So is it really a co-incidence that this Manhattan eatry features many of the same show elements as the Adventurers Club? That its design seems to be heavily influenced by that Disney theme park favorite, the Haunted Mansion? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

PHOTO BY JEFF LANGE

Anyway …  If you’re looking for an unusual place to dine the next time you’re in Manhattan, you might want to go check out the Jekyll & Hyde Club. A little slice of Orlando just down the street from Central Park.

If you’d like further information on the Jekyll & Hyde Club (And/or if you’d like to see additional photos that will give you a real sense of just how much this horror themed restaurant “borrows” from Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction as well as WDW’s Adventurers Club), we suggest that you follow this link  to the official Jekyll & Hyde Club website. Which will give you the restaurant’s operating hours, tell you how to book birthday parties in advance, etc.

And — speaking of Disney attractions — LanaLovesLois writes in to ask:

Jim:

About 10 years ago, I remember hearing that Epcot’s World Showcase was supposed to get a Russian pavilion. Whatever happened to that plan?

Dear LanaLovesLois:

Yeah, the Imagineers had a really great plan already to go. I mean, take a look at this killer concept painting:


CONCEPT PHOTO COURTESY OF DISNEY WORLD PUBLICITY

Originally envisioned as one of the signature pieces of the Disney Decade (You know? That ambitious expansion plan that Michael Eisner announced in the late 1980s which detailed all of the cool stuff that the Mouse was going to add to its theme parks during the 1990s? Only to have just a handful of these projects actually ever make it off the drawing board? Anyway … ), this elaborate Epcot addition would have been impressive, to say the least. Its St. Basil’s inspired central building was to have housed “Let the Bells of Freedom Ring,” a Soviet history show which — just like “The American Adventure” — was to have featured a clever mix of film & audio animatronics. This proposed World Showcase pavilion was also to have housed a kid-friendly dark ride, where Epcot visitors would have boarded brightly colored sleds & slid past scenes from Russian folklore.

Sounds like a pretty snazzy addition to that theme park, doesn’t it? So why didn’t Epcot ever get its Russian pavilion? To be honest, it was mostly because a suitable Soviet sponsor never came forward to pick up the projected construction & operational costs of this proposed World Showcase addition.

CONCEPT PHOTO COURTESY OF DISNEY WORLD PUBLICITY

This situation (as I understand it) was very similiar to the dilemma that Walt Disney Productions faced in the mid-to-late 1980s. When the Imagineers had an African pavilion all designed & ready to go. Only to find that the only companies who were willing to come forward and underwrite the construction of this proposed World Showcase addition were corporations that were based in South Africa. Which — thanks to that country’s apartheid policy — Disney didn’t view any South African companies as suitable partners for any Epcot projects. Which is why World Showcase’s African pavilion never came into being.

As for Epcot’s soviet pavilion … I’m told that the companies (in the late 1980s / early 1990s, anyway) who approached the Mouse about underwiting the cost of constructing this proposed World Showcase addition all had ties to the Russian mob. Which understandably made Mickey reluctant to accept their money.

Of course, one can always hope that some African company that DOESN’T have ties to controversial policies will eventually come forward and say: “I’d like to underwrite the cost of building Epcot’s Africa pavilion” and/or some enterprising & honest Soviet entrepeneur will whip out his checkbook and say: “How much would you need to build Epcot’s Russia pavilion?” But given current socio-economic conditions in these corners of the globe … Well, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

And — speaking of far-flung corners of the map — UglyPugDog writes in to ask:

Wasn’t Disney supposed to build another couple of hotels down along Seven Seas Lagoon? I remember reading somewhere that — back in the late 1960s — that the Walt Disney Company had all these plans for additional monorail hotels at Disney World. If I’m remembering correctly, one was supposed to be Persian-themed. While another (which I think was supposed to be built where the Grand Flo is now) would have been Thai-themed. While still another was supposed to have been Venetian-themed. Or was that Mediterranean-themed?

Whatever became of all these plans, Jim?

UglyPugDog:

Well, at least in the case of WDW’s proposed Venetian-themed hotel, the problem wasn’t that the Mouse had lost all enthusiasm for the project. In fact, for years now, Disney has desperately wanted to build a new resort along that weird piece of waterfront property that stretches from the TTC all the way to the Contemporary Resort. They know that tourists would pay top dollar for a room that would offer that sort of view of Seven Seas Lagoon.

The only problem is this piece of Disney World property is ridiculously swampy. “How swampy?,” you ask. So swampy that — on three separate occassions, when Disney’s engineers drove concrete pilings into the ground, to see if this area along Seven Seas Lagoon would be a stable enough spot to support a new resort — these test footings disappeared. Sinking straight down into the ground, never to be seen again.

Which is why the Mouse abandoned its plans to build a Venetian-themed hotel (Which was to have been a super-sized resort, something similar in size & weight to the Contemporary) and opted to go with something smaller: the Mediterranean resort hotel.

 
CONCEPT PHOTO COURTESY OF DISNEY WORLD PUBLICITY

As you can see by this photograph of a model of WDW’s proposed Mediterranean hotel, this would have been a much smaller project which would have occupied a much smaller footprint. Which Disney’s engineers hoped would make the safe construction of this resort along Seven Seas Lagoon possible. But when the test footings for this proposed WDW addition also disappeared into the mud, never to be seen again, Mickey finally had to admit defeat.

Which is why this stretch of Disney World’s waterfront — with its primo view of the Magic Kingdom — remains hotel-free. Mind you, the Imagineers remain hopefully that maybe someday a construction technique will be invented that will allow the Mouse to built a massive new resort on this soggy piece of property. But until that day comes, this corner of Seven Seas Lagoon remains hotel-free.

And — speaking of building new things: Remember how I told you folks that I’d give you a heads-up when former JHM columnist Chuck Oberleitner returned to the Web? Well, I’m pleased to report that Chuck has finally resurfaced. And that — rather than write for someone else on the Internet — Mr. Oberleitner has decided to start up his very website: www.o-meon.com

If you follow the above link, you’ll get to check out what is basically the beta version of Chuck’s site. O-meon.com’s official unveiling isn’t supposed to happen ’til Tuesday, November 9th. But — if you drop by the site right now — you’ll see that Mr. Oberleitner has put together a story that talks about the 50th anniversary of Disney’s weekly TV series. Which (not-so-co-incidentally) was actually this past Wednesday.

So — if you want a really good read — we suggest that you regularly drop by www.o-mean.com and see what Chuck is up to. I’m sure that Mr. Oberleitner will have plenty of stories to interest Disneyana fans in the weeks & months ahead.

Anywho … That’s it for this week, folks. Here’s hoping that you all have a safe & happy Halloween. Please remember to set your clocks back on Saturday night … And I guess we’ll talk again come Monday, okay?

j

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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