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Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, he sets the record straight on “Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow,” reveals where else in the world the Imagineers wanted to build some new theme parks, talks up what else is in the works for Disneyland’s Tomorrowland …in addition to answering other queries.



First up, Robert writes in to say:

You write a great column. I am addicted. But I did notice one fact that did not ring true. You commented on “expensive CG extravaganzas as “Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow” in your article on April 25. While it was a great looking picture, I’ve heard it was far from expensive. In fact, the studio supposedly claimed it cost more to produce than it actually did, so it would look like more of a blockbuster. The actual production costs are supposedly as low as 35 million. The actors worked cheap, there was never a physical set, only a tiny production crew, and all the animation was put together by a relatively small team in a converted warehouse. An “extravaganzas”, maybe, but expensive it was not.

Robert —

Thanks for the kind words. But — you know — you’re right. Kerry Conran did deliver one truly spectacular looking film for (what I’ve heard was) under $40 million. So I guess it’s not really fair to lump “Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow” in with “The Polar Express.” Particularly when we’re talking about CG projects that blew through a lot of coin during production.

But — that said — I think that you then have to look past what Kerry actually spent on making “Sky Captain” and talk about what Paramount reportedly spent on promoting “World of Tomorrow.” I’ve heard figures as high as $60 million. And — when you take into account all of the ads that ran on television in the weeks prior to “Sky Captain” ‘s theatrical release — I’d have to say that that figure sounds about right.

So — when you fold what Paramount spent to market this movie into what Conran actually spent to make “Sky Captain” — you’re talking about a Hollywood blockbuster-sized budget, Robert. And for “World of Tomorrow” to only earn $37 million during its initial domestic release (I.E. Not even cover its production costs) … Well, there’s really no other way to paint that but as a disappointment.

Sure, if you factor in “Sky Captain” ‘s overseas ticket sales, pay TV revenues, the sale of the film’s broadcast rights to cable & network television, not to mention DVD sales … I would imagine that “World of Tomorrow” will eventually earn a profit for Paramount. But we’re talking three or four years down the line, Robert.

The only problem was … Viacom wanted a cash cow NOW. They wanted a “Sky Captain” to quickly become a hot property. So that the studio could then turn “World of Tomorrow” into a film franchise, with new installments coming out every three years or so. They also wanted “Sky Captain” to seasonally drive toy sales, to have its characters potentially spun off into theme park attractions for Kings Island & Kings Dominion, etc.

So — as you can see — Viacom had really high hopes for “Sky Captain.” And making a little money a few years down the line wasn’t really part of Paramount’s master plans for this project.

Me personally? I loved the look of the movie. And I have to admit that I’m fascinated by the way Kerry used the technology. Combining CG and greenscreen to create this lush-looking Fleischer-esque feature.

But — that said — “Sky Captain” ‘s story still left me cold … I wonder why that is.

Anyway, I hope the above clarifies what I was trying to say in Monday’s article. It really wasn’t my intention to portray Kerry Conran as a spendthrift. Truth be told, I think that he’s a pretty ingenious film-maker. More importantly, he’s a guy who really knows how to stretch a buck. So I’ll genuinely be intrigued to see what sort of opus he cranks out next.

Speaking of next … Next up is Wayne G., who ask:


I was reading the 1998 autobiography of Canadian activist Maude Barlow, and she made a curious comment while referring to the removal of shanty towns around Manila Bay in the Philippines for the 1996 APEC Summit. She wrote: “The land…will house the first Disneyworld of the region.”

Is there any basis for her comment? I know it has never happened, but was it considered?



Dear Wayne G.

You’d be surprised to hear where else the Mouse has considered building additional Disneylands over the past 45 years. For example: Just this week, Singapore’s minister of industry and trade Lim Ng Kiang revealed to the press that the Walt Disney Company had been negotiating with his government. With the hope of building a huge new theme park on a 300-hectare parcel in this Southeast Asian country.

Unfortunately, Disney’s negotiations with the government reportedly broke down over the financial terms of the deal. In essence, the Mouse wanted the Singapore version of DL to be Hong Kong Disneyland II. In that the Disney Company wanted the government to cover 90% of the project’s construction costs, but then still cut Mickey in for over 40% of the theme park’s profits.

The Singapore government balked at those financial terms. Which is why the Mouse eventually walked away. Opting instead to go to India, where the Disney corporation’s stiff terms supposedly met with little if any resistance.

Anyway … To finally get back to answering your original question, Wayne: Yes, I’ve heard stories about the Walt Disney Company exploring the idea of building a theme park in the Phillipines. Likewise Australia, South America and even Dubai. Various factors (EX: Insufficent tourism base, political upheaval, unstable currency, etc.) have thus far prevented the Mouse from building theme parks in these corners of the globe. But that isn’t to say that Mickey won’t revisit his decision in the decade yet to come.

In fact, that’s what I keep hearing from my sources inside of WDI: “Wait ’til you see where we’re going to build new theme parks between 2010 & 2020. Particularly if people take to the Hong Kong version of Disneyland with its smaller scale. If that theme park wins over the public, Disney is going global in a really big way.”

So I guess we’ll have to wait & see what the next 15 years brings.

Next up is Angela, who asks:

Hi Jim,

I have thoroughly enjoyed your articles about all things Disney! My question for you (and I’m not sure if it’s been covered already, so sorry if it has) is what is the fate of the PeopleMover attraction? I know the Disneyland one is closed, I haven’t been to WDW since 2002 so I don’t know about it. Also, do you know how this attraction came to be in the first place, and if it was ever changed during it’s ‘life?’ Thanks a bunch!

I’ll say this much: Disney’s PeopleMover really does have a rather interesting origin. I’m told that the late Disney Legend John Hench actually got the idea for the contraption ‘way back the early 1960s, when he was visiting a Ford assembly plant.

During his tour of the facility, John watched as a cauldron full of molten steel was being moved down through the production area on a complex conveyor belt. Hench said that he was impressed by the fact that — even though this container was obviously heavy, what with being filled with white hot metal & all — the cauldron quickly made its way across the factory floor without spilling a drop.

John figured that — if this system could be used to safely transport tons of molten steel through a factory each day — its basic idea could then be adapted for use in a Disney theme park. Which is how the PeopleMover eventually became a key compoment of Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland. Which first opened to the public in July of 1967.

As for the PeopleMover’s future … Well, I’ve been hearing the same rumors that Al Lutz has been hearing. But — that said — let me add a few more pieces to the puzzle.

The real reason that the Imagineers are reportedly looking into bringing back the PeopleMover is that — what with all of the new Tomorrowland shows that have either already been built (I.E. “Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster”), have yet to be officially announced  (I.E. Space Mountain’s new night-time only soundtrack, “Rockit Mountain”), are still in the process of being constructed (I.E. The new “Finding Nemo” version of the Subs) and/or are moving rather swiftly through WDI’s developmental process (I.E. “Star Tours II” and the “Cars” -based retheming of Disneyland’s Autopia) … Well, the Imagineers are anticipating that by 2008, Disneyland ‘s Tomorrowland is going to have some very serious traffic problems. With most of the park’s guests trying to cram their way into this very small portion of Disneyland in order to sample all of the new rides & shows.

So — obviously — some people-eating attraction have to be quickly added to this side of the theme park so that Disneyland can then better handle all of these additional bodies. So among the ideas that are currently being kicked around is — yes — bringing the PeopleMover back on line. As well as removing the Astro Orbitor from its current position at the entrance to Tomorrowland (to make it easier for guests to get into this part of the park) and then placing this ride on top of the PM’s old loading station.

Mind you, this isn’t the only idea that WDI currently has in the works. I think all you Douglas Adams fans out there will be pleased to hear that — should the movie version of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” prove to be a hit (More importantly, inspire a sequel or two) — that the Imagineers would then like to replace “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” with a brand new “Hitchhikers” inspired 3D movie.

Now I would imagine that even Marvin the paranoid android couldn’t be depressed about news like that … Anyway … Moving on to our next e-mail now. Chris W. writes in to ask:

Dear Mr. Hill,

I have been a fan of your writings for a long time now and I really appreciate your insite into all things Disney. The reason I am writing you today is because I am graduating from Cal-State Long Beach with a degree in film and for one of my final classes, we need to do an oral report on a theater of some kind. Being a huge fan of the Disney parks and imagineering, I thought it would be interesting to report on The Hyperion at DCA. I was wondering if you had any information about any original concepts or maybe things that changed between the drawing board and the finished project or maybe even an interesting story about its construction. Any help would be appreciated.
Thank you,

Chris W.

Dear Chris W.

As I understand it, DCA’s Hyperion Theater was actually an outgrowth of the Disneyland Bowl. An outdoor performance venue (very similar in construction to the Universal Amphitheatre) that was initially part of the resort’s master plan back when the Imagineers were still planning on building Westcot.

Sadly, the Disneyland Bowl was one of the very first things to get cut out of the $3 billion expansion. As people who actually live in the neighborhoods surrounding the Anaheim theme park zeroed in on the outdoor performance venue as potentially adding to the noise pollution that Disneyland already creates.

So WDI scrubbed its plans for the Disneyland Bowl. But — as Westcot eventually gave way to Disney’s California Adventure — there (in virtually the same place that the Imagineers had originally planned on building the Disneyland Bowl) was the Hyperion Theater.

However, the most interesting feature of this new Disneyland resort theater wasn’t that it was now enclosed. But — rather — as WDI originally designed the place, the Hyperion had two different sets of entrances & lobbies: One that faced into DCA’s Hollywood Pictures Backlot area, while the other one was actually located outside of the theme park. Facing into the Disneyland Plaza area.

Why For did the Imagineers do that? Well, the plan was that — during the day — the Hyperion would be used to present shows for California Adventure’s guests. But — once the theme park closed for the day — the stage of this same 2000-seat hall then could be used for nightly concerts. So that performers like Sheryl Crow & Alanis Morrisette would then have someplace other than the Pond to play the next time they appeared in Anaheim.

Sadly — as happened with virtually everything that was originally planned for Disney’s California Adventure — once the project’s budget began to get cut back, the Imagineers started to simplify DCA’s design. And one of the very first items to go was the Hyperion’s second entrance & lobby.

A lot of the Imagineers that I’ve spoken with still view this as one of the more short-sighted decisions that was made as California Adventure was being built. That — if the project’s managers had just stuck with WDI’s original plans — that the dual entranced version of DCA’s Hyperion Theater could have generated an awful lot of additional revenue for the Disneyland Resort.

Ah, well. Hindsight is always 20/20/ Or so they say. And speaking of looking back, Jesper A. writes in to ask:

Dear Jim!

I’m very interested in almost all Disney rides, but especially the unbuilt rides.

I would really like to buy a book about some of the unbuilt rides (plus the built rides) in Disneyland Paris and/or the other Disney parks.

My question then is… Do you have one that you will recommend to me, and one that is I can buy on the internet?

Jesper A.

Jesper —

Actually, if you can just hang in there for a year or so, I know just the book you’re looking for, Jesper. It’s called “Neverlands.” And it’s going to be published by Intrepid Traveler Press, a Connectict-based travel publishing company.

“Neverlands” will feature stories about Disneyland “lands” & attractions that never quite made it off the drawing board like “Big City U.S.A.” and “Mythia.” Not to mention entire chapters about never-built theme parks like “Disney’s America” and “Port Disney.” As well as projects like the Mineral King ski area or the Independence Lake resort that got tripped up by the approval process.

Yeah, “Neverlands” should be one hell of an interesting read … If I ever actually get around to finally finishing writing the damn thing!

And — speaking of gratuitous plugs — Jeff Lange wants me to remind you all that we’re still taking names for the offcial notification list for our soon-to-be-released Disneyland History CD. In fact, sometime next week, we plan on sending out an e-mail to everyone who’s already asked to hear more about this disc. In which we reveal how you can get a a price break on the thing.

Sooooo …  If you like bargains as well as warts-and-all stories about the “Happiest Place on Earth,” now might be a really good time to send a note to with your name & e-mail address on it.

Anywho … That’s pretty much it for today, folks … Though — if you’re looking for something fun to read this Saturday or Sunday, you might want to follow this link over to Where you’ll find Chuck Oberleitner’s coverage of last Friday’s “Aladdin” re-union event as well as last Saturday’s screening of “Dream On Silly Dreamer” at the Newport Bay Film Fest.

You folks have a great weekend, okay? Here’s hoping that we see you all here again bright & early next Monday morning. When I (hopefully) have some new stories to share with you.

Til then, you take care, okay?


Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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