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Why For?

At the risk of offending even more JHM readers, Jim Hill now answers your questions about the “Ward Kimball” steam engine & Disneyland’s “Alice in Wonderland” dark ride, talks about which attractions were actually open at that theme park on July 17, 1955, reveals WDI’s capacity concerns about “Expedition Everest” as well as looking back at the “Country Bear Jamboree” ‘s beginnings.



Okay. Let’s review. In the past four days, I have managed to offend:

  • People who love to hate Hong Kong Disneyland
  • “Save Disney” supporters
  • Fans of “Dream On Silly Dreamer”
  • Looney Tunes enthusiasts who had already decided to dislike “Loonatics”

And — what with this being Friday the 13th and all — I’m not sure if I should now press my luck right now. After all, if I answer some JHM reader mail today, I’m almost certain to upset somebody else.

But — then again — if I don’t post a new “Why For” today … Well, that’s bound to tick off a lot of readers too.

So I guess I’m damned if I do here, damned if I don’t … Soooo … To hell with it. I might as well get started on answering this week’s questions. And I can only hope that I don’t offend too many people in the process.

First up, Gene writes in to say:


I thought I had heard that Disneyland was getting a 5th steam engine, the Ward Kimball, on the DLRR as part of the 50th? Yet nothing has been mentioned about this for awhile and the celebration in now in full gear. Did the Kimball get side tracked?


Dear Gene:

No, the “Ward Kimball” wasn’t side-tracked. Just temporarily delayed.

The way I hear it, some technical issues prevented Disneyland’s newest steam engine from officially being rolled into service as part of the official kick-off of the Anaheim theme park’s 50th birthday celebration back on May 5th. But now that all the bugs have been worked out, the big question is: When should the “Ward Kimball” now make its big debut?

I’ll tell you what Disneyland’s PR department would like. They’d love to hold off on bringing this new steam engine on line ’til on or about July 17th. So that — what with the relaunch of Disneyland’s “Space Mountain” attraction — the Mouse’s marketing staff would then have a great hook to hang a new feature story on.

Whereas Disneyland train buffs (And their number is legion, folks) are pushing for the “Ward Kimball” to initially be “steamed up” on June 18th.

“Why June 18th?,” you ask. Well — as it turns out — June 18, 1955 was the date that Walt first took the E.P. Ripley (I.E. The first of the “Santa Fe & Disneyland” steam engines to be delivered to the Anaheim theme park) out for a spin around the berm. Which (for sentimental reasons) is why steam enthusiasts are now holding out for the “Ward Kimball” to officially be brought on line at Disneyland on the 50th anniversary of that date.

So who’s going to win in the end here? From what I’ve been hearing, Disneyland’s PR department seems to have the inside track. Which is why train buffs are now reportedly pressing for a private event that can be held on June 18th before the theme park officially opens for the day. 

That way, the Mouse’s marketing staff’s need for a new news story to throw to the media is met. While — at the same time — Disneyland’s steam enthusiasts’ need to see this anniversary properly observed can also be honored.

Either way, look for the “Ward Kimball” to be available for guests to ride on or about July 17th, okay?

Next up, John F. writes in ask:

I was wondering if on Friday you could tell us readers how the Alice In Wonderland Attraction came to be at Disneyland and why Disney has never exported this attraction to any other Disney theme Park.

Thanks for your time,

John F.

Dear John —

To be honest, the reason that Disneyland’s “Alice in Wonderland” attraction hasn’t been cloned yet is … Well, some of it is financial. While the rest of it is just some tough breaks for this colorful dark ride.

To explain: By the time the Imagineers had finally gotten around to designing the Fantasyland section of WDW’s Magic Kingdom, a budgetary decision had already been made that the Florida theme park would only have three traditional dark rides. And — given that the Magic Kingdom was already slated to get a “Mad Tea Party” (More importantly, given that “Mickey Mouse Revue” was supposed to feature a fairly large “Alice in Wonderland” production) — the feeling within WED was that this 1951 animated feature was already well represented at the Florida theme park. So there was no point in going forward with a recreation of the two-story Disneyland ride.

Now jump forward to the early 1980s. When the Oriental Land Company were trying to decide which version of Fantasyland to have replicated at Tokyo Disneyland … Well, given that OLC execs had already agreed to go with a clone of WDW’s Cinderella Castle, it only made sense to stick with Florida’s version of Fantasyland. Which — given that this part of the Japanese theme park also featured a “Mad Tea Party” as well as the “Mickey Mouse Revue” (Which had actually been imported from Orlando) — again, it was felt that the characters from “Alice in Wonderland” were already well represented at TDL. So there was really no need to recreate Disneyland’s “Alice” dark ride at the Tokyo park.

Then come the 1990s and the Euro Disneyland project. Where the Imagineers felt that it was vitally important to represent as many European nations as possible in Fantasyland. So “Snow White” (with its ties to the Brothers Grimm) was placed in that theme park in a deliberate effort to appeal to Germans. While “Pinocchio” (Given that this story’s author, Carlo Collodi, was Italian) was deliberately dropped into Fantasyland with the hope that Euro Disneyland would then be more appealing to Italians.

Unfortunately, given the large number of Disney animated films that are based on popular English children’s books, the Imagineers then had to figure out how to spread the wealth around, so to speak. Which is why — at EDL — while “Peter Pan Flight” remained a dark ride, Mr. Toad went from being the featured star of a Fantasyland attraction to the proprietor of a Fantasyland restaurant.

And though the “Mad Tea Party” spinner ride arrived at Euro Disneyland virtually unchanged, Disneyland’s “Alice in Wonderland” dark ride underwent a curious transformation. It changed from a traditional dark ride to “Alice’s Curious Labyrinth,” the first maze-based attraction to ever be built inside a Disney theme park.

Now does this mean that we’re never going to see a clone of Disneyland’s distinctive “Alice in Wonderland” dark ride ever built? Well, to be honest, I’m kind of encouraged by the fact that Hong Kong Disneyland is based on the look & layout of the original Disneyland.

And — given that HKDL’s “Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” dark ride (Which is located in the same approximate position as Disneyland’s “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”) seems to have a very large piece of open property located right next door … So could it be that — two or three years after Hong Kong Disneyland officially opens — that a brand-new version of Disneyland’s “Alice in Wonderland” dark ride (complete with its multi-colored caterpillar cars that roll leisurely down that oversized leaf) could be built at the Penny’s Bay theme park?

I’d love to answer that question. But … “The time has come,” the walrus said, “To talk of other things … “

And among those “other things” is this e-mail from Cris C. Who writes in to say:

Hey Jim,

Just wanted to point out that you left off “Peter Pan Flight” and “Casey Jr.” off of the list of Disneyland Fantasyland attractions in your Hong Kong Disneyland article. These two attractions were included in the black and white television broadcast of Disneyland’s opening day.

If you want to be technical, Disney actually listed “Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship” among the attractions for opening day . . . But I think it was just as much an attraction as Fantasia Gardens or Sleeping Beauty Castle in HKDL . . a cool looking location, but not an attraction.

I do enjoy your site, btw.


Dear Chris:

Technically, you’re right. “Peter Pan” and “Casey Jr.” were both shown as being fully operational on that live broadcast of Disneyland’s grand opening. But the fact of the matter is these two Fantasyland attractions were barely up and running on July 17, 1955.

Don’t believe me? Then ask Bob Penfield. Who — before he retired in 1997 — was the last remaining member of Disneyland’s opening day crew to work at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

Bob doesn’t have very happy memories of July 17, 1955. He recalls originally being assigned to work on “Peter Pan Flight” on that date. But — because that Fantasyland dark ride would only work in fits & starts — Penfield eventually found himself being sent over to the King Arthur Carousel to help deal with the crowds. Bob vividly remembers seeing parents flinging their children over the fence toward the still-spinning ride. With the hope that this would then somehow make their kids eligible to ride this Fantasyland attraction next.

And as for the “Casey Jr. Circus Train” … On Disneyland’s opening day, this miniature train literally just ran long enough to make an appearance on the ABC broadcast. Then — out of safety concerns (I.E. A few members of Walt’s staff felt that some of the grades along Casey’s railbed were just too steep. Which could potentially cause the engine to tip back over and fall on  the passenger cars while the ride was still in motion) — “Casey” immediately shut down. And then wouldn’t carry any of Disneyland’s paying customers until at least July 31st of that same year.

So — as you can see, Chris — depending on how you define “opening day attraction,” Disneyland’s “Peter Pan Flight” & the “Casey Jr. Circus Train” were opening day attractions. In that they were shown as being operational on that live broadcast on ABC.

However — were you to ask anyone who was actually inside the theme park on July 17th as to whether these two Fantasyland rides were really available for riding — I’m pretty sure that you’d get a very different answer.

Next, Greg S. writes in with a quickie question:

Is Expedition Everest a part dark ride and roller coaster like Universals revenge of the mummy?

Yes, it is, Greg. Deep within the interior of this DAK mountain, you’re going to encounter several highly detailed show scenes. Including a couple of far-too-close encounters with an enormous & very ticked-off Yeti.

Disney’s hoping that “Expedition Everest” ‘s combination of high-speed coaster thrills as well as sudden appearances by an angry Abominable Snowman audio animatronic will help relaunch Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. In much the same way that the June 1959 opening of Disneyland’s Matterhorn helped re-excite the public about that Anaheim theme park. Making the “Happiest Place on Earth” a must-see again.

Of course, coaster buffs are thrilled that the Mouse is putting this sort of highly themed thrill ride into what (up until now) has been a somewhat tame theme park. But what bothers a lot of these folks is what’s not being said about “Expedition Everest.” As in: How many people does the Mouse expect to move through this man-made mountain each hour?

During last week’s WDW press event, the Imagineers were being extremely cagey about EE’s THRC (Theoretical Hourly Ride Capacity). According to one pal who was at DAK last Friday for the official announcement of Disney’s really-for-real expedition to Mount Everest, the closest that the guys at WDI would come to going on record about how many people they expect to get through “Expedition Everest” each hour was to say that they hoped to be able to accommodate at least 1700 – 2000 coaster fans on an hourly basis.

Which admittedly sounds a little vague. But — then again — you have to figure that it’s going to take at least a few months for DAK’s ops staff to finally get the hang of safely operating this extremely complex new thrill ride. Once they get all the kinks out, I’m that this DAK attraction’s THRC numbers will start to climb.

But — if you really have your heart set on riding “Expedition Everest” during this attraction’s first few months of operation — my advice is that you be sure and bring a nice, big, thick book with you whenever you go into DAK while this new thrill ride is still in “soft opening” mode. Ideally something with a high page count like Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and/or Stephen King’s “The Stand.”

Why For? Because — given how slowly “Expedition Everest” will undoubtedly be loading as the attraction’s opening crew initially learns the ropes (More importantly, given the amount of “down time” that this new WDW thrill ride is bound to experience as various glitches in its operational software suddenly emerge) — being able to keep yourself entertained as you stand there waiting in line for hours at a time is really going to be a plus.

So — if you’re not a Tolstoy or King fan — then how about something by Michener? Or — better yet — a copy of “A Confederacy of Dunces.” Which — given that you’re almost sure to feel somewhat foolish standing there in line with all those other hardcore coaster fans, hoping that you get to be one of the very first folks to experience “Expedition Everest” during its “soft opening” phase — a book about a bunch of dunces sounds rather appropriate, don’t you think?

Photo by Joe Apel

Seriously, though … From everything I hear, DAK’s new thrill ride will be worth the wait. Both the almost-two-years that it took to construct “Expedition Everest” as well as the what-will-probably-seem-like-two-years-time that you will stand waiting in line for your first chance to ride the thing.

Again, here’s hoping that “Expedition Everest” does to Disney’s Animal Kingdom what the Matterhorn did to Disneyland. Which is re-excite the public about this animal-based theme park.

And — speaking of animals — Ted writes in to ask:

We all know that Bear Country Jamboree was originally created for a ski resort that Disney was going to buy. Which one? Where? What happened? Also will Bear Country Jamboree be coming back? Rumors coming to DCA?

Ted —

Actually, Disney wasn’t out to buy a ski area. What Walt wanted to do was build a brand new ski resort in California’s Mineral King Valley area, which is located right next door to Sequoia National Park.

Of course, Walt being Walt, no dinky little ski area was going to do. According to the 10-year development plan that Walt Disney Productions put together … By 1978, the Mineral King Ski area was supposed to have 14 operating ski lifts, two huge resort hotels as well as an underground parking garage with room for more than 2,500 vehicles. (Can you now understand why the Sierra Club decided to take the Mouse to court in 1969 in an effort to shut this overly-ambitious project down?)

Anyway … Walt wanted Mineral King to be a full-service, year-round resort. Which mean that Disney figured that visitors (what with all the skiing & hiking) would be able to keep themselves entertained during the day. But — at night … Well, that was another story.

Which was why Walt envisioned building a bowling alley at Mineral King. Not to mention a movie theater, several bars and restaurants. As well as the “Country Bear Playhouse.”

Why the “Country Bear Playhouse”? Well, you have to remember that this was 1966. And Audio Animatronics were still fairly new. And — to be honest — Walt was in a mood to show off.

Which is why he had Marc Davis work up a show that was originally only supposed to be presented in the main lodge of the Mineral King ski area. With the gimmick of this attraction being that these were the bears that didn’t want to waste their time hibernating. They wanted to spend those cold winter months indoors with the humans, where it was warm. Where these bruins could earn their keep by putting a show for the resort guests each night.

I’m sure that most of you are already aware that Walt’s last laugh (at least while he was at WED) reportedly came in November of 1966. As he was touring Imagineering headquarters for one last time. And Davis showed Disney some of his preliminary sketches that he had done for what was then known as the “Bear Band Show.”

Well, after Walt died … Disney company executives sort of lost their enthusiasm for the Mineral King project (Though — to be honest — that lawsuit that the Sierra Club brought against Walt Disney Productions didn’t much help matters). But — that said — people still loved all of that preliminary development work that Marc Davis had done on his “Bear Band” show. Which was why the “Country Bear Jamboree” eventually found a home in Florida in October of 1971, as one of the original assortment of attractions presented at WDW’s Magic Kingdom.

Now — as for your question about whether Disneyland’s “Country Bear” show will ever return to Anaheim … Or — at the very least — will those bear AA figures be popping up as new additions to DCA’s “Grizzly River Run” attraction … I’m afraid that I have some sad news, Ted. To my knowledge, there are no current plans what-so-ever to revive the “Country Bear” show at either of the two theme parks at the Disneyland Resort.

The best that you can really hope for is that — on occasion — the “Country Bear” walk-around characters may make an appearance in Disneyland. Like they did a week or so back as part of the kick-off of that theme park’s 50th anniversary celebration. Beyond that … Look for the Disneyland to basically remain a “Country Bear” -free zone.

Okay. Now I’ve done it for sure. Between calling coaster fans dunces and/or disappointing all those “Country Bear” afficiandos, I’m almost certain to have ticked off some more JHM readers. Which means that they’re all probably banding together with the “Save Disney” supporters, the Hong Kong Disneyland haters as well as Thomas Adams’ friends & family and marching on New Boston, N.H.

Which is why that it’s probably wise that I’m heading down to Connecticut this weekend for some R & R. Which — in this case — stands for “Relocation” and “Reconstructive Surgery.”

So look for me to have a brand-new outlook on life (not to mention a brand new face) come Monday morning. Til then, you folks have a great weekend, 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.

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“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.

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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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