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Why For?

Jim Hill’s back with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim talks about what was almost done with Disneyland’s Grand Canyon & Primeval World dioramas, brings us an update on the “Cars” premiere event in North Carolina as well as sharing some info about what Disney Theatrical has been up to lately

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First up, Ted H. asks:

Why hasn’t Disneyland done anything with the Train dioramas? I mean the dinosaur one isn’t too bad. But the Grand Canyon thing is lame.
Plus is Disneyland the only place (that) these exist?

Thanks for your great knowledge on all things Disney!

To answer your second question first, Ted: Actually, the Primeval World sequence from the Disneyland Railroad was faithfully recreated for Tokyo Disneyland. You can see this cloned sequence by climbing aboard the Western River Railroad. Which — oddily enough — can’t be boarded in that theme park’s Westernland section. You’ll find TDL’s one-and-only train station over in Adventureland.

As for Disneyland – Paris, a somewhat modified version of the Grand Canyon diorama actually serves as a transition point between Main Street U.S.A. to Frontierland. But — just as with the Anaheim original — you’ll only be able to see this scene if you’re seated on the steam train.

Now — as to why the Imagineers have never made any attempt to update and/or change out these somewhat tired scenes at Disneyland … Actually, they have, Ted.

For over 30 years now, the guys at WDI have suggested numerous ways that Disneyland’s dinosaurs could be repurposed. Among the ideas that have been trotted out over the past three decades are:

  • When the Imagineers were toying with building Discovery Bay back in the 1970s, one of the ideas that was floated as a possible attraction for this expansion area was a boat ride that would take Disneyland guests into the distant past as well as the far-off future. For this proposed ride’s “distant past” sequence, what the guys from WDI wanted to do was pull all the dinosaur AA figures out of Primeval World and then place these robotic reptiles (Which had originally been built for the 1964 New York World’s Fair) along the river bank of the time travel attraction.
  • During the 1980s, when the Imagineers were looking for a way to add a little oomph to Disneyland’s dated & tired “Jungle Cruise,” one of the concepts that was considered was moving the dinosaurs over into this Adventureland attraction. Where — as part of the new finale for this boat ride — guests would find themselves venturing into a previously unexplored portion of the jungle. Where creatures that were once thought extinct were shown to be very much alive.
  • Perhaps the most intriguing ideas dates back to in the late 1990s, when the Imagineers still thought that Disney’s Animal Kingdom‘s “Countdown to Extinction” attraction (AKA “Dinosaur“) might be a franchisable attraction. Given that 1998 redo of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland had been deemed a total bust, the guys at WDI were desperate to come up with some sort of future-themed attraction that they could then drop into this part of the Anaheim theme park. Something daring & dramatic that might then possibly change the public’s perception about the New New Tomorrowland.

    Among the ideas that were proposed was cloning DAK’s “Countdown to Extinction” ride. This would have involved shutting down and then gutting the “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” theater to make room for the Dino Institute portion of that attraction (I.E. The queue, load/unload as well as the gift shop area).

    As where the actual ride track for the Disneyland version of the CTX ride would have gone … Well, this was where the Imagineers were planning on being extremely crafty. What they were basically looking to do here was pull down the Anaheim theme park’s old Administration building as well as leveling the Grand Canyon diorama and placing the “Countdown to Extinction” show building there.

    Mind you, the Primeval World was to have remained pretty much where it is today. The only difference was that — in addition to those dinosaurs from the ’64 World’s Fair — guests on the train would then have been able to see Time Rovers rolling through this setting. Carloads of happy Disneyland visitors narrowly avoiding being eaten by allosauruses and carnotaurs.

    Speaking of which … Yes, you would have still be able to see the Primeval World sequence from the train. Only — in this version of the Disneyland Railroad story — your steam train would have just passed the Dino Institute. And clearly some of the Institute’s time-traveling equipment must be malfunctioning. For a “temporal rift” has formed outside of the building. And — for a few brief moments, anyway — Disneyland Railroad passengers would have been able to peer into the distant past.

    Of course, what the Imagineers were hoping was that — once those Disneyland Railroad passengers got a glimpse of what was going on inside the Dino Institute — they’d then race on over Tomorrowland and immediately get on line at “Countdown to Extinction.” That was the plan, anyway.

    Unfortunately, given how poorly the 1998 redo of Tomorrowland was received, the then-management team at the Disneyland Resort wasn’t all that eager to throw good money after bad. They preferred to save the company’s cash for the then-still-under-construction Disney’s California Adventure theme park. So the Disneyland version of CTX never really got past the talking phase.

As for what might have been done with the Grand Canyon dioramas: Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve heard a number of suggestions from Disney Company employees. Among the ideas that have reportedly been pitched was incorporating all of those stuffed animals as well as that spectacular backdrop of the Grand Canyon into the queue area of a brand-new version of “Western River Expedition” (I.E. That Disney theme park ride that Marc Davis always dreamed of building). But I bet you can guess how far those plans got, Ted.

Anyway … That’s a little background of what was almost done with Disneyland’s Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas. I hope that that answers your question, Ted.

Next up, Charlie B. drops by with a quick note of congratulations:

Jim —

Congrats on breaking that “Cars” premiere story earlier this week. Just today, Disney officially admitted that they would indeed be holding the premiere of this new Pixar Animation Studios’ film at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. It must feel great to be able to scoop all of the other Disneyana sites like that.

It’s articles like that that keep me coming back every day to JHM. So please keep them up!

Charlie B.

Dear Charlie B.

Well, to be honest, I’d feel a whole lot better about breaking that story if A) I’d actually gotten the date of the “Cars” premiere right (In my original article, I said that this screening would be held after the Coca Cola 600 was run. In truth, this Pixar Animation film will actually debut before that NASCAR race is run. The official date of the “Cars” premiere is May 26th, while the Coca Cola 600 doesn’t get underway ’til May 28th) and B) if I’d gotten the number of tickets that will be sold to the public right (I counted on Disney trying to fill the stands at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Which have a seating capacity of 167,000. In truth, the Mouse is only looking to fill about a fifth of those seats. Seeing as current plans call for only 30,000 seats to be sold to the public for this once-in-a-lifetime event.)

But — beyond that, Charlie … Yeah, I guess you could say that I did okay.

FYI: Here’s a copy of the official Walt Disney Pictures press release for the premiere:

Cars World Premiere at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on May 26th

First-Ever Multi-Screen Digital Cinema Premiere; Vocal Cast From Film Along
with Racing Legends and 30,000 Guests to Attend Benefit Event Sponsored by Kodak

Disney?Pixar’s exciting new computer-animated feature “CARS” will stage its World Premiere on May 26th at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina in one of the most unique and elaborate movie events of all-time, it was announced today by *** Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. Paul Newman, Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip, and others from the voice cast of the film will be joined by a host of stars from the racing world and 30,000 guests that are expected to attend the “CARS” World Premiere, taking place at the same location as that weekend’s famous Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race.

The screening of the film represents the first multi-screen digital cinema premiere ever, with Texas Instruments and its DLP Cinema® technology serving as Disney’s event technology partner in providing the digital cinema projectors. A series of four giant custom-built outdoor movie screens (115-feet wide and 50-feet tall) will be constructed at Lowe’s Motor Speedway at Turn #2 of the track. Each screen will have three DLP Cinema 2K digital projectors dedicated to it. A state-of-the-art sound system is also being created and installed for the event. Academy Award®-winning filmmaker John Lasseter (“Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2“), who directed “CARS” will also be attending along with producer Darla K. Anderson (“A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.“), and other key players from Pixar Animation Studios and The Walt Disney Studios.

Tickets for the premiere will be made available for purchase by the general public starting today. Proceeds will benefit Speedway Children’s Charities, and Association of Hole in the Wall Gang Camps. For tickets, call 1- 800-455-FANS, visit the Lowe’s Motor Speedway box office, or order online here.

To cap off the weekend, the #96 DLP HDTV car will be wrapped as the film’s lead character “Lightning McQueen” for the NEXTEL Cup series race in Charlotte the same weekend. Commenting on the announcement, Lasseter said, “We’re thrilled to bring the premiere of ‘CARS’ to Lowe’s Motor Speedway and excited to share this film with such a great community of race fans. Humpy Wheeler, the president and general manager of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, has become a great friend and helped all of us at Pixar when we were developing the story and characters for the film. In fact, Humpy provides the voice of Tex, a 1975 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. I have loved automobiles and the world of racing for a long time and ‘CARS’ is a very personal story to me. This premiere event is the perfect way to debut our film to racing and movie enthusiasts.”

Cook added, “Pixar has captured the feel and excitement of the racing world in their latest film, ‘CARS,’ and we felt that it would be great fun to stage the premiere in a setting that would do justice to the film. John Lasseter has done an amazing job bringing the world of cars and racing to the big screen, and combining it with that magic Pixar story sensibility that appeals to absolutely everyone. With the proceeds of this benefit going to two fantastic children’s charities, we hope to launch the film in grand style and help some worthy institutions at the same time.”

Humpy Wheeler said, “It’s a great honor to be working with Disney, John Lasseter, and his colleagues at Pixar in hosting the World Premiere of ‘CARS.’ This is a fantastic film that celebrates everything that we love about cars, and it also gives us a unique view of the world of competitive racing. All of us at Lowe’s are looking forward to the big event on May 26th, and are delighted that we have been chosen to participate.”

And — finally — Matt U. has some questions about what Disney’s doing on Broadway:

Hi Mr. Hill,

I was wondering if you could fill us in on the goings-on of Disney’s upcoming Broadway productions. I haven’t heard much of anything for a while now. So I was wondering if you could fill me in on how “Tarzan” is coming along, as well as what the future might hold for other projects.

Thanks!


-Matt U.

Dear Matt U.

Well, based on the large number of domain names that Disney Theatrical has been registering over the past few weeks, it’s clear that this arm of the Walt Disney Company has been busy trying to get its Internet house in order:

DISNEYSTAGE.COM
DISNEYSTAGEPLAYS.COM
DISNEYSTAGEPRODUCTION.COM
DISNEYTHEATRICALINTERNATIONAL.COM
DISNEYTHEATRICALTOURS.COM
HYPERIONTHEATRICAL.COM
BUENAVISTATHEATRICALGROUP.COM

Plus it’s pretty obvious that Disney Junior (I.E. That branch of Disney Theatrical that puts together stage versions of famous Disney films like “Aladdin,” “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book” and “101 Dalmatians” that can then be presented at the junior high & elementary school level) is becoming more & more important to this part of the Walt Disney Company.

DISNEYJUNIOR.COM
DISNEYJUNIORCOLLECTION.COM
DISNEYJUNIORSHOWS.COM
DISNEYKIDSCOLLECTION.COM
DISNEYKIDSHOWS.COM

But if I had to hazard a guess as to what was going to play a huge part in the future of Disney’s shows on Broadway, I’d have to say that it was group sales. Given the huge number of group sales-related domain names that Disney Theatrical has recently registered. These have included:

DISNEYGROUPSALES.COM
BEAUTYBEASTGROUP.COM
BEAUTYBEASTGROUPS.COM
LIONKINGGROUPS.COM
TARZANGROUP.COM
TARZANGROUPS.COM
MARYGROUPS.COM
MARYPOPPINSGROUP.COM
MARYPOPPINSGROUPS.COM
LITTLEMERMAIDGROUP.COM
LITTLEMERMAIDGROUPS.COM
MERMAIDGROUPS.COM

Mind you, group sales for “Mary Poppins” tickets (Which doesn’t even begin performances ’til October 14th) are already underway. While single seats for this new Disney show won’t actually be going on sale ’til June 11th.

But as for “Tarzan” … That new Disney Theatrical production actually begins previews tonight at the Richard Rogers Theater. And if you really want to know what that show is like … well, then you might want to drop by JHM on Monday morning.

Anyway … That’s pretty much it for this week, 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  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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