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Why For are the ride vehicles for Luigi’s Flying Tires being retooled

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Pirate Pete wrote in this weekend to say:

Have you been following what's been going on with the
Luigi's Flying Tires ride at DCA's Cars Land? Why exactly did they remove the
balls from that attraction? Was it a safety issue?


Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer. Copyright Disneyland. All rights reserved

Pirate Pete —

The balls weren't removed from this reimagining of
Disneyland's classic Flying Saucers ride because of safety concerns. But —
rather — because they were slowing down the load / unload procedure for what
was already a very slow loading / low capacity attraction. And given the large number
of Guest complaints that this newly-retooled theme park was getting from people
who've literally spent hours in line on to then have a two minute-long
experience aboard Luigi's Flying Tires … Well, the Imagineers knew that they
had to do something.

Mind you, what's kind of ironic about this is that the Spring
2012 decision to add all of those beach balls to Luigi's — give this new DCA
attraction a colorful, kinetic element (which was then supposed to distract Guests
from noticing that the Flying Tires don't exactly zoom around. That this
supposedly thrilling, interactive ride is really more of a mild, slow-moving
experience) — came very late in the game. With the Imagineers reportedly drawing
their inspiration from a piece of archival footage that they'd discovered of Disneyland's original
Flying Saucers attraction which showed this Tomorrowland attraction filled with
colorful balloons. Which were then knocked into the air as Guests deliberately
drove their Flying Saucers through those piles of balloons that were scattered
around the floor.

Of course, what the Imagineers didn't initially realize was
that this archival footage of Disneyland's Flying Saucers attraction had come
from a 1960s era episode of "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color."
And because the film crew which had been tasked with filming this then-still-new
Tomorrowland attraction had decided that the Saucers were (all of their own) a
little too slow-moving & bland-looking to give them the sort of colorful,
dramatic footage that they really needed for this TV show … Well, that's when
the decision was made to pour hundreds of balloons to the air cushion pen that
Disneyland's Flying Saucers floated around in.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So as you can see, even back in the early 1960s, Disney
insiders were looking for ways to make this floating-on-air attraction appear to be far
more exciting & colorful than it actually was.

Anyway …  Now that
all of those beach balls are gone, what are the Imagineers going to do to try
and improve the ride experience that Guests have once they climb aboard one of
Luigi's Flying Tires? Given all of  this
attraction's safety protocols (i.e. each vehicle must be individually visually inspected
to make sure that all occupants are restrained by a safety belt before the Cast
Members are then allowed to fire the underground engines which then provide the
cushion of air that these oversized tires ride on), it's always going to be a
very-slow-to-load attraction. So what WDI is now concentrating on is trying to
make Luigi's Flying Tires an overall far more satisfying ride experience.

"And how exactly are they going to pull that off?,"
you ask. Well, you have to understand that — during the initial test phase of
Luigi's Flying Tires — each of these Flying Saucer-like ride vehicle was equipped
with a joy  stick-type control mechanism.
Which — depending on what direction you pushed this joy stick in — sent your
Flying Tire floating off towards that side of the attraction.


John Lasseter in an early promotional video for Luigi's Flying Saucers. Please note
— directly to the left of Lasseter — the original joy stick / ride control mechanism for
this DCA attraction. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The only problem was the Disneyland Resort Cast Members who
were recruited to take part in the early, early onsite tests for Luigi's Flying
Tires found this joy stick-like ride control system confusing / difficult to
use. And the Imagineers figured that — if Cast Members (some of whom literally
spend 8 hours a day dealing with the balky ride control systems on various DCA
& Disneyland attractions) couldn't figure out how the ride control system
on Luigi's Flying Tires actually operated … Well, what chance did members of
the general public have?

So during the test-and-adjust phase for this new Cars Land
attraction, the Imagineers actually removed these joy sticks from all of the
control consoles on the Luigi's Flying Tires ride vehicles. Though — that said
— there's still 20 pounds of hardware hidden deep  down inside of each of these Tires which was
supposed to respond every time you pushed that joy stick.

The Imagineers are hoping that — if they remove the rest of
that joy stick hardware (and thereby decrease the weight of each of these ride
vehicles by 20 pounds) — that single change will make Luigi's Flying Tires that
much more satisfying an attraction. That — because all of these ride vehicles will
soon be lighter — they'll then be able to zoom around the air cushioned floor of this
Cars Land attraction that much quicker. Which will make for a far more
satisfying Guest experience.


Tony Shaloub at Uptempo Studios earlier this year recording the
audio components for Luigi's Flying Tires. Copyright Uptempo

That's WDI's hope, anyway. But let's remember that these are
the same folks who brought Tony Shaloub back in at the last minute to record
all of these "Cars" – inspired Italian parody songs. With the hope
that this new musical element would then add an additional layer of fun to this
DCA attraction.

But the hard fact of the matter is — no matter how many
beach balls WDI adds and/or Italian-inspired comical songs they play — there's
just no getting around the fact that Luigi's Flying Tires (just like the
classic Disneyland ride which inspired it) is always going to be a slow loading
/ low capacity attraction with a short ride time which is also short on thrills.
Which means that DCA's Guest Relations staffers are pretty much guaranteed to
be getting a steady stream of complaints about Luigi's Flying Tires from people
who feel that they spent far too much time in line to then experience such an
underwhelming attraction.

Mind you, there used to be people who worked at Walt Disney
Imagineering who knew things like this. Veteran Imagineers who had actually
worked on the original Disneyland version of  Flying Saucers and who could speak at
great length about how difficult it was to operate & properly maintain this
particular Tomorrowland attraction. Which is one of the main reasons that the
Flying Saucers only operated at 
Disneyland from August of 1961 through August of 1966 before Walt
himself pulled the plug on this problematic ride.


John Hench and Walt Disney onsite as the demolition
of Disneyland's original Tomorrowland gets underway
in September of 1966. Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

You get that, right? That Walt Disney himself — when he was
putting together his final plans for 1967's New Tomorrowland — deliberately
decided not to include a revamped version of the Flying Saucers as part of his
Disneyland redo because — even back then — this ride for slow to load,
difficult to operate and didn't deliver all that great a Guest experience.

Which perhaps explains what I witnessed on the night of June
13th of this year. Which was the night that the Disneyland Resort's PR staff held their big
Cars Land Media Party.

Let me take a moment to properly set the stage here: I'm in
line for Luigi's Flying Tires. And as I'm making my way through this
attraction's queue, I realize that there's something very  familiar about the older gentleman who's
directly ahead of me in line. Eventually I realize that this guy is Disney
Legend
Ron Dominguez.


This obviously isn't how it actually went down. But — rather — its Charles Boyer's fantasy
of how young Ron Dominguez learned about what Walt Disney had in the works for the
orange groves that his family opened in Anaheim. Boyer painted this image for the
cover of the Disneyland Line (i.e. that theme park's employee newsletter) which
was published on July 17, 1980 for the 25th anniversary of this theme park.
Walt Disney Company. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

For those of you who don't know: Dominguez literally is a
native Disneylander. His family actually owned 10 acres of the land that Walt
Disney had to purchase in Anaheim in order to build the Happiest Place on
Earth. And to hear Ron tell the story, the Dominguez family manse (which had
been built in Orange County back in the 1880s) was originally located in New
Orleans Square, somewhere between Pirates of the Caribbean and Cafe Orleans.

Anyway, given that Ron was looking for a summer job back in 1955, four days
before Disneyland opened to the public, Dominguez took a position as a ticket
taker at this theme park's front. And Ron then stayed on at the Disneyland
Resort for the next 39 years, eventually rising through the ranks to become
Executive Vice President of Walt Disney Attractions for the entire West Coast.

So you get what I'm saying here, right? If there's ever a
person who knew his early Disneyland history, it's Ron Dominguez. By that I mean,
this guy lived it firsthand.


Ron Dominguez (on the right, wearing the dark tie)
rides the Tomorrowland Skyway with his then-boss
Dick Nunis in the Fall of 1980 as they discuss the
upcoming reimagining of Disneyland's Fantasyland
section. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Which is why — when Ron finally made it to the part of the Luigi's
Flying Tires queue where you can actually look out  and see the ride vehicles — I just had to
laugh. Dominguez took one look at those Flying Saucers-like ride vehicles and
then loudly said "Oh, God. Not these things again." And with that,
Ron turned around and — after saying "Come on. We're getting out of
here" to the pair of women he was traveling with that night —
Dominguez quickly exited the queue.

Okay. I know. That's the reaction of a single individual.
But you gotta remember that — back in 1962 — Ron Dominguez was actually named
supervisor of  Tomorrowland. So if
there's ever been a person who's intimately aware of how difficult Disneyland's
Flying Saucer attraction was to operate, it's this guy. So the fact that Ron
would immediately turn tail and run at the mere sight of Luigi's Flying Tires
… Well, that doesn't exactly bode well for the future of this Cars Land
attraction.

I'm told that — after all of the ride vehicles for Luigi's
Flying Tires have been lightened up (which should be completed sometime later
this month) — DCA's going to commission yet another Guest survey to see if the
lightened-up versions of these tires are delivering a better Guest experience.
And if not … Well, it'll be interesting to see what the Imagineers do next
here. Whether they do what WED did back in the mid-1960s, replace this Flying
Saucers / Flying Tires ride with something that's easier to operate / more of a
Guest satisfier. Maybe take that nearby expansion pad (which has been set aside
for the DCA equivalent of DHS's popular Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant) and
combine it with the property that Luigi's Flying Tires currently occupies to
create a Cars-themed attraction which has a far higher theoretical hourly ride
capacity as well as being a better overall Guest experience.


The interior of the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Does that answer your question, Pirate Pete? I hope so.

And just in case you're wondering, folks: Yeah, we're doing
a little experimenting with JHM's content. Seeing how this site's readers might
respond to Why For being a daily — rather than weekly — column. So if you've
got any Disney or theme park-related questions that you'd like to see answered
as part of this week's experiment, please send them along to
whyfor@jimhillmedia.com.

Your thoughts?

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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