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Jim Hill’s back with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim talks about the backside of Expedition Everest, Pixar’s possible impact on DCA, Pleasure Island’s old “Forbidden Disney” show, how Buzz Lightyear got his voice and the DVD debut of “Dream On Silly Dreamer”



First up, Trey S. writes in to ask:

Hi Jim

A quick Why For for ya. I had a great time riding Expedition Everest last weekend at the preview. But one thing really perplexed me as I drove into the parking lot at Animal Kingdom that morning…why oh why didn’t they finish the back side of the mountain? This seems like such bad show, they had to know you were going to be able to see the thing from the parking lot. Any ideas?

Dear Trey S.

Yeah, admittedly the back of Forbidden Mountain doesn’t look all that hot from DAK’s parking lot. And I’ll bet that everyone from Joe Rohde (I.E. Animal Kingdom‘s lead designer) down to the hourly cast member who works the cash register at Serka Zong Bazaar knows this too.

But right now, the backside of this new DAK thrill ride isn’t really the top priority, Trey. Making sure that the cast is properly trained to run “Expedition Everest” (So that at least 1800 guests can then be safely and efficiently moved through this attraction each hour), making sure that all of those additional show effects are properly installed, not to mention making sure that EE is properly broken in and (more importantly) ready to go for its grand opening in April … THOSE are the top priorities for all the folks working on “Expedition Everest” right now.

I guarantee you, Trey, that once EE is finally officially open and this attraction is deemed a success … THEN the Imagineers will turn their attention to the backside of Forbidden Mountain. See if there’s enough money left in the budget to properly camouflage this enormous show building.  Though I’d imagine that a single can of Look-Away-Grey paint isn’t going to cut it in this particular case.

FYI: That really is the name of the paint that Disney uses to paint the backside of all of its theme park show buildings. I’m told that it actually comes in two shades: Look-Away-Grey and Go-Away-Green. Anyway …

Next up, Karen checks in to ask:

Hi Jim,

Last week, I took my 8yr old son to Disneyland for a few days for some special one-on-one time together. He absolutely loves trains. So we waited at the Main Street station to be able to ride in the tender with the engineers. Wow, what an experience. Not just the different view of the park and seeing the interior of the engine, but getting to talk to those guys for the whole ride!

We were talking (with the engineers) about the history of the parks and the differences between WDW and DL. And I said that although I’ve been to WDW many more times than DL since I live on the east coast, I really prefer Walt’s original park. And that if only DL had a Test Track and a Mission: Space, it would be about perfect.

One of them told me that they had recently had some Imagineers riding with them who told them that Test Track was indeed coming to DL. To DCA, actually. Kind of behind DCA in the space that is now the Timon parking lot. That it would probably be breaking ground in 2007 or 2008. If this is true, I’ll be thrilled, but have you heard anything about this? They also said that around that same time, DCA was to get a complete overhaul, even changing the name, since it hadn’t been very well-received by the public.

That sounds kind of extreme to me, have you heard anything about this?

Thanks for any additional information you may have, I just love your site!


Dear Karen:

These engineers were probably talking about the “Cars” -themed attraction that the Imagineers have been toying with adding to DCA. As I understand it, this proposed addition to California Adventure would basically be a souped-up version of Disneyland‘s Autopia. One that would supposedly feature some of the more thrilling aspects of Epcot‘s “GM Test Track,” but — at the same time — basically be a family-friendly attraction.

Of course, that was before John Lasseter came on board as WDI’s new Principal Creative Advisor. And given that John has issued his “No more mediocre attractions” edict … Well, chances are that the proposed budget for DCA’s “Cars” -themed ride just got a very healthy boost. More importantly, that the plans for this would-be California Adventure addition are now being revisited. With the hope that this proposed attraction can then meet Mr. Lasseter’s exacting  standards.

So — if I had to make a prediction right now, Karen — I’d say that a 2008 ground-breaking for DCA’s “Cars” -themed attraction would probably seem more likely. Given that WDI’s top priority right now isn’t what new rides & shows should be added to DCA. But — rather — what should be done with that entire theme park. What the Imagineers can do to make California Adventure that much more appealing to Southern California locals as well as tourists in general.

As for that complete overhaul / name change that you talked about … One of the concepts that’s supposedly being considered is that Disneyland becomes the home to just the Disney characters while DCA becomes the home to just the Pixar characters.

Of course, the problem with that plan is — given the tens of millions of dollars that the Disney Company has just poured in the construction of “Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters” as well as the on-going work on the new “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” attraction — it would be hard to believe that the Mouse would suddenly turn its back on an investment of that size. Just so all of the Pixar-themed attractions could then be grouped together over at California Adventure.

But then again, “It’s Tough to Be a Bug,” “Flik’s Fun Fair,” “Turtle Talk with Crush,” “Block Party Bash” (I.E. DCA’s daily street party that stars ” … your Pixar film pals!”) and the recently opened “Monsters, Inc. — Mike & Sulley to the Rescue” are already up & running over at California Adventure. So this troubled theme park already has a very strong Pixar presence.

So now (I guess) the big question is … Would the “You can only see the Pixar characters if you go over to California Adventure” gimmick actually be enough to boost DCA’s attendance levels? More to the point, given his well-known love of Disneyland, would John Lasseter really go for an idea that would deliberately keep the Pixar characters out of “The Happiest Place on Earth”? All as part of a last ditch effort to save/revive California Adventure? Somehow, I don’t think so.

Let me do a little more poking around here, Karen. Call a few friends at WDI and see what else I can find out.

In the meantime, Travis R. writes in to say:


I enjoyed your article on the changes at PI for 2006. I was fortunate enough to participate in the WDW College Program (in the) Summer (of) ’89 and your article resurrected memories of all of the fun that my friends and I had at PI. We remember XFR’s Beach Club, the cowgirl riding a real horse around the island “shooting” shots (liquor) for guests, the lighted Jessica Rabbit over the old gift shop, and especially the Comedy Warehouse. One of our favorite skits was the parody of a day at Walt Disney World. There were skits including the characters of “it’s a small world,” and other truly funny and irreverent looks on the guest experience.

I wonder, if with your connections, you might be able to secure a script or rundown of some of that old act, now forbidden. Matter of fact, I think I remember from somewhere that it might have been called “Forbidden Disney.” Anyway, thank you for your columns, they are very enjoyable.

Travis R.
Birmingham, AL

Dear Travis:

You know, I’m kind of ashamed to admit this. But — while I was actually on hand for the grand opening of Disney-MGM Studio theme park in May of 1989 — I was back up in New England by the time Pleasure Island had finally officially opened a month later. And then — by the time I got back down to Disney World in December of that same year — the “Forbidden Disney” show had already been discontinued. And in its place, the Comedy Warehouse had begun running improv sets instead.

Still, I’ve heard from various PI vets that some of the shorter skits from the original “Forbidden Disney” show were occasionally folded into the improv sets that were presented at the Comedy Warehouse. I recall one bit in particular where two performers —  illuminated only by flashlight — played  tourists trying to find their rental car in a pitch-black Disney parking lot.

But as for the full-blown version of “Forbidden Disney” … Sorry, Travis. I never got to see that. Mind you, I’ve had WDW cast members describe — in painfully funny detail — the “World of Crotons” sketch (Which managed to send up each & every Epcot pavilion) as well as the “Casey at the Park” poem (Which depicted — in verse, no less! — one man’s attempt to ride every single attraction at every Disney theme park in Florida in a single day). But that’s not like actually having seen the really-for-real show.

Soooo … I don’t suppose that some kind JHM reader out there ever made a tape of the “Forbidden Disney” stage show? And — if so — I don’t suppose that they’d then be willing to send me a copy of that tape?

Better yet, I don’t suppose that some nice Pleasure Island vet has a copy of the original “Forbidden Disney” script that they’d like to lend me? My understanding is that Michael Eisner — after attending a late-in-the-game dress rehearsal — actually ordered that a number of the show’s funnier sketches be cut. All because Disney’s then-CEO either didn’t get the jokes and/or because Eisner worried that some of the skits made too many jokes at the expense of Disney World’s paying customers.

Anyway … Here’s hoping that some nice JHM reader out there can come through with this material that I’m looking for. I’d dearly love to be able to write a story someday about Pleasure Island’s “Forbidden Disney” show.

Next up, TJ writes in to ask:

… a question I’ve been meaning to ask for a while. Are the two main characters of John Lasseter’s “Toy Story,” Buzz and Woody, a reference to the team from SDI, Buzz Harrison and Woody (C.V. Wood), who did–well, you know what they did. From a Disney geek like Lassester, this pairing seems too unique not to be an intentional reference to the men who did the land use and site report for Disneyland in 1953 and 1954.

Dear T.J.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I mean, that’s definitely an intriguing theory and all. But — based on conversations that I’ve had with several Pixar vets — Buzz Lightyear and Woody don’t have any ties to (respectively) Harrison “Buzz” Price & C.V. “Woody” Wood (I.E. The two gentlemen from the Stanford Research Institute who actually did the initial site survey work for Walt’s Disneyland project). It’s just an (admittedly bizarre) co-incidence that these “Toy Story” characters share the same names as these Disney Legends.

But here are two very cool “Toy Story” -related pieces of trivia that you may not know:

1) Care to guess which actor was Pixar’s first choice for the voice of Buzz Lightyear? Would you believe Billy Crystal, the veteran comic who would eventually provide Mike Wazowski’s voice in “Monsters, Inc” ?

Pixar really went out of its way to try & woo Billy for this role in “Toy Story.” Even going so far as to put together a piece of test animation (Which actually starred a very earlier version of Buzz Lightyear. Back when this character was still called Lunar Larry) that was done to dialogue that Pixar’s animators had culled from Crystal’s 1989 hit, “When Harry Met Sally.”

But in the end … Billy just didn’t get “Toy Story.” He didn’t understand the appeal of this proposed CG project. Which is why Crystal turned down the role and Tim Allen then wound up as the voice of Buzz Lightyear.

As you might expect, Billy eventually came to really regret this decision. Which is why the very next time Pixar came calling, Crystal immediately said “Yes.” Which is how Billy wound up playing Mike Wazowski.

2) Getting back to Buzz Lightyear now: Who do you suppose inspired the final look of everyone’s favorite toy astronaut? Would you believe that it was Disney’s new Big Cheese, John Lasseter?

Strange but true, folks. You see — back in the days when the artists at Pixar were initially boarding this film and still trying to get a handle on Buzz — John would stride into the room and say: “No! He’s got to look more heroic. Buzz should stand like this.” And Lasseter would then strike a heroic pose and the storyboard artists would quickly sketch him.

And — eventually, over time — that’s how Buzz Lightyear began to look like a lot like John. From Lasseter’s slightly oval face right down to his somewhat pointy chin.

Anywho … In our final question from this week’s JHM mailbag,  Lauren H. writes in to ask:

Hey Jim,

I’ve been wondering what Dan Lund and Tony West are up to lately. What’s going on with “Dream on Silly Dreamer” ? Will it ever be released on DVD?

Thanks in advance,


It’s funny that you should bring this up now. Just last week, I got an e-mail from Tony West. He wanted to let me know that he & Dan Lund’s film about the demise of Disney’s traditional animation unit will soon be available on DVD. In fact, according to, the DVD version of “Dream On Silly Dreamer” actually goes on sale on February 14th! Which will be a really sweet valentines present for all you animation fans out there.

Soooo …  If you missed your chance to see this remarkable little movie while it was out on the film festival circuit, now you can own your very own copy. It’s like a “Dream” come true, don’t you think?

Of course, what would be a real dream come true would be if John Lasseter were to actually revive Disney’s traditional animation unit. And according to the rumors that have been bouncing around Burbank this week … That may happen. And sooner rather than later.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, people. That’s a story that’s best saved for another time. Like — say — maybe next week here at JHM?

Anyhow … That’s pretty much it for this week here at Except for a private message for Brian. Which reads: “Sure. I’d be happy to look at that. Please send it along.”

See you folks next Monday morning. When JHM rolls out its very next edition of “MouseWatch.”

Til then, 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.

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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