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Why For?

After far too long a delay, Jim Hill’s back with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim talks about his plans for Philly, the next set of JHM Disneyland tours as well as answering questions about why he includes negative comments in his articles, what he thinks Roy Disney will say at the Academy Awards this weekend and what’s going on with Epcot’s “The Land” pavilion.

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My apologies, folks. I know that “Why For” has sort of fallen by the wayside for the last couple of weeks. But — what with all the Disney-related news that’s been breaking lately — I was kind of hoping that you’d understand why I haven’t be able to answer your Mouse-based questions for a while. Hopefully — in the weeks ahead — things will start to calm down again (as I was saying to Rebekah Moseley of LaughingPlace.com as we spoke on the phone earlier this week: “Man, I’d kill for a slow news day”), we’ll get back to some sort of regular schedule ’round here.

Okay. Enough excuses. Let’s get to it, shall we?

First up, John Lasseter’s Evil Twin writes in to ask:

Jim –

Thanks so much for doing such a super job with your coverage with all the stuff that’s been going on with the Walt Disney Company lately. Quick question, though. Will you be in Philadelphia next week to attend the “Save Disney” rally as well as the shareholders meeting? If so, would it be possible to hook up with you while you’re in town? I’d really like to shake your hand as well as pick your brain about what’s been going on with the Mouse.

J.L.E.T.

Dear J.L.E.T.

Yeah, I’ll be down in Philadelphia to cover both the “Save Disney” Briefing and Reception as well as the Walt Disney Company’s annual meeting. Though — given the somewhat negative stuff that I’ve written about Shamrock this week as well as the extremely negative stuff that I’ve been writing about Disney CEO Michael Eisner since about … Oh … I don’t know … March of 1999? — I can’t imagine that I’m going to be greeted with open arms as I arrive in the “City of Brotherly Love” late next Monday night.

Which is why it might actually be nice to see some friendly faces while I’m in Philly. So … what the hey. Why don’t we try and set up a time and a place where JHM readers can meet while we’re all in town? Anyone have any suggestions?

If so, drop me a line at stadlerhill@mindspring.com over the next couple of days. Eventually, we’ll pin down the arrangements. Hey! Maybe we can even get a group photo taken while we’re all in town. Get a picture for posterity of all the dweebs who actually made the trek to Philadelphia to take part in Disney Company history.

And — speaking of history — Linda G. writes in today to ask:

Jim –

While poking around www.savedisney.com, I discovered a link back to your site. I have to say that I love all of your articles. Particularly the ones about Disney theme park history.

Which brings me to my big question: I notice that, last year, you gave a couple of tours of Disneyland. Will you be doing that again sometime in the future? And — if so — how can my husband and I reserve a spot for one of your tours?

Please keep up the great work,

Linda G.

Dear Linda G.

Funny you should mention the JHM tours of Disneyland. For I was just about to announce another round of them.

Yep. Just as the swallows return to the Mission San Juan Capistrano every year on March 19th, I’m returning to the Disneyland Resort on March 20th and 21st. I’ll be doing two days of tours at the theme parks that weekend. As part of this two-hour-long treks through Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, I’ll be talking up the behind-the-scenes stories of various attractions. At the end of each tour, there’ll be a Q and A session where — yes — I will answer your questions about what’s really been going on in the Mouse House over the past three months.

So — if you’ll be in the Anaheim area during that weekend in March and would like to take part in the tour — just drop me a line at (you guessed it!) stadlerhill@mindspring.com and I’ll send along the particulars.

Just be advised, though, Linda G. that space on these JHM tours is limited. (I find that — the smaller the tour group is — the easier that group is to manage. Plus it gives me more time for one-on-one talks with JHM readers. Which is always the most fun part of the tour. For me, anyway …)

Anywho … Robert H. — in response to yesterday’s “This isn’t a sprint anymore. This is a marathon.” article — writes in to ask:

Why do you quote people like B.B. in your articles? Does his opinion represent general feedback that you have received? To me his thinking is so obviously flawed. Is he suggesting that it would have been better for Disney and Gold to maintain the status quo and hope that no one figured out that WDC was a good takeover target. I hope that WDC stays independent, but if WDC is taken over it will be primarily due to Eisner and the Board of Directors not the Save Disney campaign.

Thanks, Bob

Dear Bob –

It’s all about balance, really. I think that it’s important that people always remember that there are usually two sides to every story. Yes, the majority of Disneyana fans seem to be solidly in Roy’s corner. Rabidly supporting his “Save Disney” effort.

But that doesn’t mean that ALL of the Disney faithful are marching in lock step with the folks over at Shamrock. Based on the e-mail that I keep getting, there are still a number of Disneyana die-hards out there who really disagree with what Disney and Gold are trying to accomplish here.

Hell, there’s even one guy out there who’s set up — I kid you not — a “Save Michael Eisner” site. Mind you, I’m still not entirely sure whether this website is actually an attempt at satire or someone’s deadly serious attempt to save Disney’s CEO. Either way, I found that image of the Comcast version of the Skyway pretty amusing. So maybe you’ll find it amusing too.

Next up, David P. writes in to talk about:

Hey Jim. Love the site, keep up the great work.

Given that the Academy Awards (Oscars) are coming up, I was disturbed to find out that they will be broadcast on the ABC network.

I can’t help but think that, in the event that Roy Disney’s “Destino” wins for Best Animated Short, he may get a chance on national television to dig at Michael Eisner a little bit. That would be good television and good for the Save Disney campaign, but what’s stopping Eisner from pulling the plug on Roy?

I haven’t seen any journalists, anyone from the Save Disney campaign, or anyone from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) mention this possibility and confront ABC.

Of course ABC would deny that anything like that would ever take place, but if no one makes it an issue before the Oscars, then if it does happen they could just claim it was an unfortunate “technical difficulty” but that “these things happen in live broadcasts.”

Once the issue is out in the public, they would know that people are watching to see if ABC does “accidentally” censor Roy and would be very careful to make sure it didn’t happen.

Hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I really don’t want to see Roy cut off for a car commerical in the event that Destino wins.

Hope you can help in some way,

David P.

Dear David –

Actually, I did write an article about this very same subject back on February 6th. And Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller also chimed in about what might happen on ABC should “Destino” actually win for Best Animated Short at this coming Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony in their February 19th article, “Short Film Has Tall Implication.”

But — as to what might happen if Roy actually makes it up on stage — I honestly don’t think that Disney’s CEO is stupid enough to order that Walt’s nephew be censored should Roy actually start saying mean things about Michael. More to the point, I think that Roy Disney is far too classy a guy to lash out at Michael Eisner in front of an estimated audience of 200 million people.

Mind you, a mild joke at Michael’s expense. A veiled reference to his “Save Disney” effort … THAT I could possibly see. But — as Roy Disney said to JHM’s own Chuck Oberleitner (when these two bumped into one another earlier this month at this year’s Annies):

“Folks don’t need to worry. I’m not going to say anything embarrassing. ‘Destino’ is about the fine work and efforts of people like John Hench at the studio.”

Like I said earlier, Roy just has too much class to openly attack Michael at the Oscars. However — this coming Tuesday afternoon at Philadelphia’s Loews Hotel — Walt’s nephew MIGHT be singing a different tune.

Speaking of tunes, Anthony T. now writes in to ask about what became of Epcot’s more tuneful shows, “Food Rocks”:

I just saw on a Disney info website that “The Land” pavilion at Epcot is closed for “renovations” while they put in that new “Soarin’ over California” ride. Is this the end of “The Land” that I know and loved from childhood, or is it only an addition?

I know “The Land” isn’t for everyone. But — along with “The Living Sea” (which may also be defunct) — it was my favorite Epcot attraction…

Anthony T.

Dear Anthony T.

Actually, most of the show and attractions in Epcot’s “The Land” pavilion have been left pretty much untouched. The “Living with the Land” boat ride (which replaced Future World’s original “Listen to the Land” show back in December 1993) is virtually unchanged. As is “The Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable” (the large format film that replaced “Symbosis” back in January 1995).

Unfortunately, “The Land”‘s “Food Rocks!” show has been tossed out in the garbage. This less-loved follow-up to “Kitchen Kabaret” may have debuted ‘way in March 1994 … but now it’s history. And the space that “Food Rocks!” pre-show and auditorium used to occupy? It’s now going to serve as the pre-show and queue for “Soarin’ Over California.”

Given what a lousy show “Food Rocks!” was, I seriously doubt that anyone — including you, Anthony — will miss it. Whereas “Soarin’ Over California” (which is — arguably — the very best attraction that DCA has to offer) will be a welcome addition to Epcot. I’m sure that thousands of Future World visitors will thrill to the simulated sensation of flying over San Francisco, Yosemite and Napa Valley.

Oh … just so you folks know: a friend who works at WDI told me earlier this week that there are already tentative plans to produce a new “Soarin'” show. Something that would probably fit in better with the Florida version of the attraction’s setting.

However, whether production of this new ride film for this somewhat-soon-to-be-opening Future World attraction (Tentative launch date: Spring 2005) will actually be greenlit in time for October 2007 (Epcot’s 25th anniversary) remains to be seen.

But — remember! — you heard it here first.

Next Chuckles writes in to ask:

Jim –

I recently discovered your web page through www.savedisney.com. Which is a cause I strongly believe in. I’d like to do whatever I can to help Roy and Stanley. Get the word out that something needs to be done and FAST if we’re actually going to save the Walt Disney Company. Since JimHillMedia.com seems to be doing such a good job of getting that message across, I was wondering if you suggest ways that a person like me could actually get Eisner booted out?

Chuckles

Dear Chuckles:

Well — for starters — if you actually owned some Disney stock, I think that probably the best way to help out Disney and Gold would be by withholding your proxy vote for Eisner, Bryson, Estrin and Mitchell. Or — if you live anywhere near Philadelphia — you could make the trek to the Loews Hotel this coming Tuesday evening and take part in the “Save Disney” Briefing and Reception, which is starting at 4 p.m. I know that the folks at Shamrock would really love it if a capacity crowd turned out for this event.

However, if you don’t live anywhere near Philly, Chuckles … you could write to Roy and Stanley’s people and request a “Save Disney” bumper sticker. Or you could just head over and order up a “Disappointed” t-shirt. That way, whether you’re driving or even if you’re just walking around, you’ll still be showing folks that you support the “Save Disney” cause.

Whatever you end up doing, Chuckles, I’m sure that the folks at Shamrock will appreciate the effort. (Hmmmn. I wonder how many of those “Disappointed” t-shirts I’ll be seeing this coming Wednesday morning at the Philadelphia Convention Center.) Anyway …

Okay. That’s enough for this week. I gotta go get started on packing for next week’s trip to Philly. I hope to see a lot of you JHM readers there supporting the “Save Disney” effort.

Til then, you folks take care, okay?

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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