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Why For?

Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim talks about Disneyland’s guest list for July 17th, why “If I Never Knew You” got cut out of “Pocahontas,” when Epcot might get a new nighttime fireworks show, as well as your very last chance to get on the official notification list for that JHM Disneyland history CD.

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First up, Peter S. writes in to ask:

Jim —

Sorry to hear about you missing out on the Disneyland’s 50th celebration. But look on the bright side: This was just the kick-off of the “Happiest Homecoming” festivities. Disneyland’s real birthday isn’t ’til July 17th. So why don’t you have Angela & Jeff stay home and watch the site then while you come to Southern California and party?

Speaking of the 17th … Do you have any idea what sort of festivities Disneyland has planned for its real 50th birthday?

Peter S.

Dear Peter S.

Boy, it’s funny that you bring this up. For — just this afternoon — an old friend of mine gave me a “heads up” on Disneyland’s potential guest list for July 17th. Some of the people who’ve already agreed to appear (EX: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s scheduled to read an official proclamation which pays tribute to the huge impact that “The Happiest Place on Earth” has had on Southern Californian tourism) aren’t really all that surprising. While still others (EX: President George H. W. Bush. As well as every other living ex-President) have at least indicated their willingness to appear … Provided (of course) that all the necessary security precautions can be addressed.

But here’s the real surprise. Guess who Disney Company management has allegedly asked to stand in for Walt during the theme park’s official rededication ceremony? As in: Who gets to read the famous “To all to come to this happy place, welcome! Disneyland is your land …” speech?

Would you believe Roy?

That’s right. Mr. “Save Disney” himself. Roy E. Disney, the former chairman of Disney Feature Animation. The nephew of the company’s founder. More importantly, the guy who’s been calling for Michael Eisner’s head on a platter for the past 20 months.

But wait. It gets better. Guess who supposedly suggested that the Walt Disney Company reach out to Roy and ask him to play a prominent part in the festivities on July 17th? CEO-to-be Robert Iger.

Now before everyone gets giddy about the long-range ramifications of all this, I should caution you that Walt’s nephew hasn’t said “Yes” yet. And — to be honest — given the personal note that Roy posted over on SaveDisney.com yesterday, in which he wrote:

Having been present on Opening Day, July 17, 1955, it will be sad for me not to be around for this momentous piece of history, and certainly this July I’ll feel a pretty strong pang of nostalgia…

The early signs aren’t all that encouraging. Particularly since TransPac (I.E. That biennial yacht race from LA to Honolulu that Roy usually takes part in) is being held this year between July 11th – 17th. Which means that — if Walt’s nephew is out in the middle of the Pacific, sailing “Pyewacket” in competition … Well, then obviously the man would be physically unable to attend the event.

More to the point — strictly as a matter of principle — Roy may steer clear of  Disneyland on that official anniversary date. Just to make sure that people understand that Walt’s nephew will still have nothing to do with the Walt Disney Company as long as Michael Eisner remains in a position of power.

But — that said — there have recently been some signs of Roy softening his stance. Take — for example — his surprise appearance inside the Anaheim theme park this past Sunday.

Roy was seen on the balcony of the Disney Gallery being interviewed for Australian television. And — based on comments I’ve heard from JHM readers down under who actually caught this interview when it aired on a morning chat show — Roy was his usual folksy self. Clearly getting across how much he cared about Disneyland and (more importantly) the creative legacy of the Walt Disney Company.

So what should we make of Roy’s appearance in the park this past weekend (FYI: That was the very first time that Walt’s nephew had been back to Disneyland since he’d officially resigned from the corporation back on November 30, 2003)? Was this just a one-time-thing? Or an early indicator that Roy might be willing to play ball … If certain conditions were met (I.E. Michael Eisner has next to nothing to do with Disneyland’s rededication ceremony come July).

As I said earlier, that note that Roy just posted over on SaveDisney.com doesn’t seem  all that encouraging. But — that said — there are still 10 1/2 weeks ’til July 17th finally rolls around. So who knows what might happen between now & then?

Now — as of right now — it looks like July 17, 2005 is going to be a very interesting day to be inside the park. To see who does (And — more importantly — who doesn’t) take part in Disneyland’s rededication ceremony.

Speaking of things that are missing, Jeremy H. writes in to ask:

Jim,

I didn’t know if you were going to cover it at all, but the newly released Pocahontas DVD features a seamlessly integrated re-animation of that excised love ballad, “If I Never Knew You” and I was curious about the history of this Stephen Schwartz song and how it came to be excised.

Thanks!

Jeremy H.

Dear Jeremy —

Actually, yes. There is a sad but still rather telling (in a Hollywood insider sort of way) tale to be told about this terrific Stephen Schwartz & Alan Menken ballad.

Virtually everyone who heard “If I Never Knew You” while “Pocahontas” was still in production thought that this heartfelt song was the film’s hit single. That this would be the tune that everyone would be humming as they exited the theaters. Having just seen this beautiful & ambitious new Disney animated feature during its initial theatrical release in June of 1995.

Well, imagine WDFA executives’ surprise when — as they initially began test-screening “Pocahontas” in the late summer & early fall of 1994 — and they saw how the kids in the audience reacted to Pocahontas & John Smith’s love song. It was if — from the very second that “If I Never Knew You” began — someone threw a switch that made all of the children in the auditorium whine, fidget and/or race to the bathroom.

According to one “Pocahontas” vet that I spoke with:

“Adults just loved that song. Loved the scene that it was in. ‘If I Never Knew You’ was an absolute winner with anyone over 18.

But the kids in the audience? As soon as that ballad started, they went bezerk. Children 10 and under just hated the idea that ‘Pocahontas’ — a picture that they already thought was far too serious & slow moving — slowed down even more to allow John Smith & Pocahontas to profess their love for one another in song.

I mean, it just killed us to have to cut that song. Particularly since — by removing ‘If I Never Knew You’ — a lot of the heat & emotion went out of the last act of the movie.

But — that said — as soon as that ballad was cut, the picture as a whole started playing better to smaller kids. They stayed involved with the story right up to the end. They didn’t run up & down in the aisle and disrupt ‘Pocahontas’  for all the other people in the theater.”

So you see, Jeremy, even though the folks who made “Pocahontas” recognized that “If I Never Knew You” was a beautiful ballad, that this was a song that perhaps could have had a life outside of the motion picture … they still had to cut the number.

Why For? Because ultimately the audience’s word is law. And — if a large enough percentage of your audience tells you that a particular song is significantly slowing down your movie … Then — no matter how heartfelt that tune might be, how quickly  that song moves members of the production team to tears — out it goes.

That’s what’s kind of neat about the new 10th anniversary edition of “Pocahontas” that Buena Vista Home Entertainment released this week. This 2-disc DVD actually features two different versions of this Academy Award-winning film: A kid-friendly version (where “If I Never Knew You” has once again been clipped out) as well as a more adult-oriented edition (where this Schwartz / Menken ballad is allowed to remain right where it was in the original cut in the picture).

Trust me, Jeremy. If you watch the longer cut of this movie (where that song is left right where it was supposed to be in the picture), the ending of “Pocahontas” will be that much more powerful, that much more meaningful to you. You’ll finally get a real sense of the huge personal sacrifices that John Smith & the Indian princess are making in order to maintain a fragile peace in the new world.

That — plus all the extras (I.E. The “Making Of” featurette, the nine deleted scenes, etc.) — make this new 2-disc version of “Pocahontas” well worth picking up. So make sure you pick up a copy of this DVD when it hits store shelves.

And — speaking of hits — Jasper J. writes in to say that he doesn’t think that Epcot’s nighttime lagoon is hitting on of all its cylinders anymore.

Jim —

What’s the deal with “Reflections of Earth”? Epcot has been presenting this same new-age-y fireworks extravaganza for nearly six years now. Once upon a time, my family and I really thought this World Showcase lagoon show was spectacular. But now it just seems tired & dated. Not nearly as much fun as “Wishes” is over at the Magic Kingdom.

So when is Epcot going to get a new fireworks show? Something that’s at least as good as “Wishes” is.

Jasper J.

Dear Jasper J.

You picked a great week to ask me this question. You see, right now, I’ve got friends in both Anaheim & Orlando who are attending Disney press events. So all it’s gonna take to get a highly detailed, almost instanteous answer to your question is one quick phone call.

Slight pause while I get KFO on the line.

Okay. KFO tells me that — based on a conversation that he had with some WDW pyro people yesterday — that Epcot officials are seriously looking into doing something with  “Reflections of Earth.” Not so much because this World Showcase Lagoon extravaganza is really showing its age. But — rather — because all the fireworks barges that are used in this show are in really bad shape after nearly six years of continuous use.

Now here’s where KFO’s story gets kind of confusing. You see, one pyro guy that he spoke with told KFO that — given the sorry shape of those barges — “Reflections of Earth” will be overhauled sooner rather than later. Which means sometime in the next year.

Which sounds kind of encouraging, don’t you think? Until you hear that another pyro guy just told KFO that Epcot won’t get a new fireworks show ’til the Fall of 2007. And that this new nighttime extravganza would help celebrate this science & discovery park’s 25th anniversary.

Of course, there’s another factor here that could be causing Disney to hold off on replacing “Reflections of Earth” for another year or two. You see, Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure is supposedly getting ready to debut its own nighttime waterfront extravaganza sometime in 2006. And — based on what I’ve heard so far about this proposed IOA lagoon show — this new nighttime entertainment could potentially blow anything that’s currently being presented over at Disney right out the water.

Which is why (me personally) I think that Disney is going  to hold off on staging a new nighttime show in World Showcase Lagoon ’til at least 2007. Just so the Mouse can first get a look at what Universal intends to do in IOA’s lagoon … then figure out a way to top it.

And — finally — here’s a nice surprise for all you JHM readers who live in the Orlando area and/or those of you who’ll be vacationing at the Walt Disney World resort over this coming weekend. The Mouse is desperately seeking people to take part in two tapings of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Which are being held in the Magic Kingdom this coming  Sunday, May 8th as well as on Monday, May 9th.

So — if you’ve always dreamed of appearing on ABC Television  … Well, now here’s your chance. And the best part is — as a special “Thank You” gift for agreeing to take part in these “AFHV” tapings — participants will be given a free Disney theme park ticket for every taping they take part in.

Mind you, the hours that these shows are supposed to be taped could be a little off-putting to some folks. By that I mean: The Sunday night taping is slated to run from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., while the Monday night taping is supposed to go from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

But if staying up late doesn’t really bother you … Well, Mickey’s still looking for 400 people (ages 5 to 60) to take part in each of these tapings. So give this phone number a call — 407-851-8010 — and let them know you’re interested.

Speaking of interested …  Jeff Lange wants me to remind you that — if you’re interested in getting on the official notification list for JHM’s Disneyland history CD — Well … Today’s basically the last day to sign up. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be sending out e-mails to everyone who expressed an interest in getting this disc, explaining how they can pre-order this sure-to-be-fun recording at a fairly significant discount.

But — like I said — today’s the very last day to get on that list. Soooo … If you’d like to hear the tales that Disneyland Security felt (to borrow a phrase from Berkley Breathed) were “too ticklish to tell” inside the berm, please drop me a line at jim@jimhillmedia.com ASAP.

That’s it for this week. See you again on Monday!

jrh

 Special thanks to Eric M. for providing additional research material for today’s column.

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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