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Why For?

This week, Jim’s taking a break and letting JimHillMedia.com readers answer your Disney related questions. Why For? Because they’ve got some interesting things to share on the Disney Company and Harry Potter rumors, as well as a follow-up to last month’s “Captain Eeyore” story.

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I know, I know. Normally, this is where I answer the questions you send in. But — given that so many JHM readers have written in over the past couple of weeks, offering up their insights about various “Why For” questions — I wanted to share some of this extremely cool info with you.

So let’s start with that “Does Disney have the theme park rights to Harry Potter?” questions that we dealt with back on August 15th. The evidence still seems to point in all sorts of interesting directions. For example, a veteran Imagineer passed along this somewhat depressing tidbit:

Jim,

There has been NO indication here that Disney has any involvement with Harry Potter. We’re having enough trouble trying to get the company to back worthwhile projects for (“Finding Nemo.”) If corporate has struck some kind of deal, they (are) certainly not sharing it with their creative resources. If they DO have something (in the works), let’s hope it doesn’t fail like their Marsupilami character rights (deal) did (back in the 1980s).

But then Bill Zanetti — the owner of MagicalEars.com — chimed in with this really intriguing Harry Potter/Disney related story to share:

Hello Jim.

I’ve been reading your columns for a long time now, and I love them.

There is something I’d like to add to your Harry Potter article from the 15th of Aug. My friend and I went (to Epcot) on a weekend sometime earlier this year … This was the day when Mr. Eisner was in the park. He had come to ride the new improved “Journey into Imagination with Figment,” which was the same reason we were there. Mind you, we didn’t know he was in the park at the time, or we would have gone to look for him.

(Anyway) It was about lunch time, so we were heading toward the Land’s food court from Spaceship Earth. As we walked, we encountered a man who was on a cell phone. (Everyone is on one nowadays) But this guy was walking very quickly. And it wasn’t his walking that caught our attention. It was what he was saying.

Now, remember, we were having trouble keeping up with this guy because he was moving so quickly, but we did hear him say the following, and I quote, “Okay, well, I need the Harry Potter Ride Storyboards done by next week… ok.” At that point we started following him, but he then hung up and just left and headed toward the Imagination pavilion… which we found out was where Mr. Eisner was at the time.

Bill Zanetti – MagicalEars.com

Now, given Bill Z.’s reputation (plus the fact that his website — MagicalEars.com — has been around since June of 1996. So this is clearly not a fly-by-night operation. Nor is Mr. Zanetti a flake), I’m extremely reluctant to automatically dismiss what Mr. Z says he heard.

But here’s my problem, people. Just because Bill overheard someone inside a Disney theme park talking about a Harry Potter ride doesn’t automatically mean that Zanetti was listening to a Disney World employee. For all I know, the person talking on that cell phone could have been a Warner Bros. employee who was on vacation in Orlando. Rather than some Imagineer.

“Why a Warner Brothers employee?” you ask? Well, as Joe Kleiman, the editor of “The SFC Review” was nice enough to write and point out:

Jim,

I find it interesting that nowhere in the discussion of Disney having (the) theme park rights to the Harry Potter characters (on your site or others) have I found mention of his previous two theme park experiences:

A Harry Potter attraction at Warner Brothers MovieWorld, a joint venture between Warner Brothers and Village Roadshow in Australia, closed this past May.

Harry Potter also appeared in the Bill and Ted show during Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights in 2001.

It is possible that the rights may be split by territory (I.E. Sesame Street is held by Busch Entertainment in the US, but by Universal Recreation Group in Japan).

Best,
Joe K.

Joe is right, folks. It *IS* possible that multiple parties could hold the theme park rights to the Harry Potter characters. With one corporation holding the stateside rights, while J.K. Rowling could have awarded the overseas rights to an entirely different company.

But — if that’s really the case — then why does everyone keep associating Harry Potter with the Walt Disney Company? Perhaps it’s Gene L. who has the answer:

I wanted to chime in on the Harry Potter thing, and remind everyone that Disney acquired the rights to broadcast the Potter movies as they come out. The first one will be airing in May. The big debate right now at the network is over airing the movie in a 7-11pm block on a Saturday night, or splitting it up into two parts 7-9pm on Sat and Sun night. The network would love to split the film into two bits, since most kids can’t stay up ’till 11pm and they can pack more internal commercials into the movie. But they’re balking at pre-empting regular programming on a Sunday during May sweeps.

So maybe it was all this talk about ABC acquiring the American television broadcast rights for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” that initially caused all the confusion. That mistakenly made people think that it was the Walt Disney Company that had somehow acquired the theme park rights to J.K. Rowling’s characters.

I know, I know. This is yet another of those non-answer answers. But I promise you that the crew at JimHillMedia.com will continue to work at the does-Disney-have-the-theme-park-rights-to-Harry-Potter story. And — if and when we learn definitive about the subject — we’ll be sure to post it here.

Moving on now …

Another recent JHM article that generated a lot of reader mail was our August 11th story on “Captain Eeyore.” Well, as it turns out, I’m not the only one who looks back fondly on this weird little Disneyland cast member produced film. For David wrote to my ex, Michelle Smith (AKA The Fabulous Disney Babe, and co-founder of this here website), to share his memories of the project:

Hey Michelle,

Just read the article on Captain Eeyore. It’s funny because I worked on it. I was the assistant director to XXXX XXXXX, who directed (the film). I did the design of all the costumes (in “Captain Eeyore”), including the demented Minnie Mouse with pens and pencils attached to her fingers. (The female cast member who played that role) was a scheduler of dubious popularity. I can’t remember her name now…

I (also) remember going through all the costume bits in the back storerooms (at Disneyland and using that material to create the “Captain Eeyore”) character costumes.

Oh, and Captain Eeyore himself. XXXXXX XXXX was the man’s name, and he had seen “Captain Eo” so many times, he could reenact the entire movie. He was perfect for the part.

I hadn’t seen it in years and years. I used to have a video copy, but it disappeared somewhere along the moves.

David

In my “Captain Eeyore” article, I remarked that it seemed kind of a shame that more of these cool cast-member-only movies weren’t made. Well, according to C from WDW, more films WERE made:

I read with great interest you article on Disneyland Videos. There have been a few more produced, especially at Epcot in 1992, 1994, and 1995-6. Also Animal Kingdom Entertainment in 1999. (These special cast-member-only production were created) for Entertainment Banquets. The only caveat was (that) no copies could ever get out. (But) — of course — they did. (These films) are out there. Most do contain amateurish scripts, and bad video. But — (what the) hey — we wanted to see characters in UNCONVENTIONAL situations. A few of the segments (featured in these films included):

“Showcase Girls” (a takeoff on Showgirls) featured various Face Characters (Disney Princesses) in a strip club.

A Pocahontas sketch, filmed in Epcot’s Canada, where Pocahontas gets dumped by a gay John Smith.

Beavis and Butthead tour Epcot.

“Speed”, where an Epcot Omnibus full of Characters cannot drop below 5mph or it will blow up. This sketch ended spectacularly with Tigger getting his head knocked off when it smashed the top of the water tunnel on Backstage Lane behind France.

“Jurasservice Park”, a take off comparing Animal Kingdom to Jurassic Park.

“When Artimals Attack”- remember “March of the Artimals?”

Another great sketch had many straight, male Entertainment managers dressed in drag as various Disney Princesses. Too much.

And many more, with performers with heads off, making fun of guests, etc.

These have faded from memory. Most managers these days would NEVER allow this to happen anymore … It’s sad, really… We used to have some fun times. (Nowadays) Everyone is too afraid anymore to let loose.

C at WDW

And — based on some of the other e-mail I’ve received — it would appear that the tradition of creating these kooky sorts of cast-member-only movies is also alive and well in Anaheim. Or should I say it was. At least until recently. Alice’s good friend wrote in to reminisce:

Two years ago we (shot) a light saber battle on top of the castle (between) Mickey and a manager! We have (also) done a “Survivor” spoof, a remake of the “Wizard of Oz” called the “Sorcerer of Toons”, and even a Twilight Zone in Toon Town called (what else) “The Toon Zone.” It’s about what happens to a bratty child guest that gets trapped there after the park closes. Just to name a few (of the cast-member-only films that we’ve produced over the years).

This year will be the first year we are not allowed to make a character movie and probably never be able to again. (Why for? Because the Disneyland) character dept. banquet is no longer being funded or recognized by the (Walt Disney) company. So we (no longer) have access to shoot in the park or (or the right to ) use company property — like costumes — (in these productions). So what fun would that be?

Well, I’m sorry to hear that the tradition of the cast-member-only movies is fading away. But — man! — would I love to see some of those older films! I mean, even some of the ones that have been produced by cast members at Disneyland-Paris sound like they would be a lot of fun to watch. Take for example, this sequence that Scott A. describes:

… This one made me laugh a lot for some reason. Filmed at the loading area for the “Pays de Contes Fees” (The DLP Storybookland Canals). You see the cast member walking on the loading turntable in the normal state of boredom that accompanies these types of attractions. He looks up at the stairs that lead the guests down to load as a female Cast Member is coming down the steps, presumably to bump into position. The loading cast member does a double take. But — when he looks back — the music to the song “My Heart Will Go On” from (the Academy Award winning movie) “Titanic” starts playing. And the girl is dressed up in an outfit like the one that Kate Hudson wore in the movie.

(Next) we cut to the big “Near, Far, Wherever you are….” part of the song. Now imagine the guy cast member in the Storybookland costume (little blue and white striped shirt, straw hat, etc.). And he and the woman are in the position like in the movie “Titanic” where Kate and Leonardo are on the bow of the boat with her arms outstretched, his arms around her. You know the scene. All recreated on the front of a Storybookland Canal boat!

Scott A.

Sounds like some funny, funny stuff. Which I’d dearly love to see someday. If anyone would ever send me a copy of some of these cast-member-only movies (hint, hint).

But what am I saying? Surely some of you JHM readers out there would also like to check out one of these cast-member-only productions. Well — if that’s really the case — then I suggest that you check out this QuickTime movie.

What exactly are you looking at here? Well, maybe we’d better let Jack P. explain

Huge fan of the site, been reading for a while… I missed your story about “Captain Eeyore” and I have to say that some films still get made…

I myself created a film for the Great Movie Oscars (an annual event held by and for Great Movie Ride cast members). One day before opening I went and filmed the Munchkins doing their thing and then re-dubbed the audio and worked with the film to sync their lips to the Budweiser “Whassup” commercial.

Anyways, it got great response, and I’d love for you to see it. (If you do like it and want to share it, you are more than welcome to.)

Well, I really did enjoy it, Jack. Which is why I’m sharing it this morning with JimHillMedia.com readers.

By the way, Jack P.’s company — Monkibrand Productions — doesn’t just make short subjects starting obnoxious Munchkins. They’re also a web savvy group of artists who produce high quality t-shirts as well as longer form films. You can find more information about Monkibrand Productions over at their web site.

Okay. That’s it for this week, folks. In next week’s “Why For,” I promise that we’ll deal with the origins of that whole “Applecore … Baltimore” thing. Plus address what’s actually going on with those “Wuzzles” character costumes that keep popping up on MTV, in print ads and even in mainstream non-Disney movies like “Old School” and “The Sweetest Thing.” It’s a pretty wild story.

Also … before I forget: My apologies for promising that “Post Eisner Era” story for last Tuesday and then not delivering. But I got tripped up by the Labor Day weekend, folks. Which is why this sure-to-be-controversial story will now be bowing on JHM on Monday, September 8th. So be sure to come by the site early next week to check that one out. And we’ve got a special wrap up for Jim Korkis’s history of the American comic book series; the last four parts will be published on the site starting today and over the next three days, so be sure to catch those.

Beyond that … have a great weekend, okay?

jrh

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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