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Why For did Rocky the Rhino wind up getting cut out of Disney’s “The Jungle Book” ?

Jim Hill's back with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim tells you where Richard Nixon was in "World of Motion," why Rocky the Rhino wasn't in "Jungle Book" and what's become of the Mouse's plans to build a 5th theme park in Central Florida.

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First up is Miss Bebe Gunn, who writes to ask:

Dear Jim –

I really enjoyed the story you did earlier this week about Walt Disney and Richard Nixon's friendship ("You Ain't Never Had a Friend Like … Richard Nixon?!"). But — based on what veteran EPCOT Center cast members have told me — Nixon wasn't all that popular with the guys over at WED. Particularly Ward Kimball.

If the story that I've heard is correct, Kimball actually cast our 37th President as a used car salesman in the old "World of Motion" ride. Is this true?

Dear Bebe –

Well, it's true that Ward Kimball was not exactly a Richard Nixon fan. And — given Kimball's infamously subversive nature — I'm sure that it would have given Ward great pleasure to cast "Tricky Dick" as a used car salesman in Future World's "World of Motion" ride.

Unfortunately, even though Kimball was the lead designer on this particular EPCOT Center attraction (which put him in the ideal position to slip a joke at Nixon's expense into "World of Motion"), there was just no way that then-Disney Chairman Card Walker was going to let that happen. Card was extremely conservative (the standing joke about Walker was that his political leanings were " … just to the right of Attila the Hun"). So if he ever got wind of Ward doing something like this, first Card would have fired Kimball, then he would have pulled that gag right out of the show.

Which — given that Kimball was determined to poke some fun at "Tricky Dick" in this EPCOT Center show — is why Ward was forced to be somewhat sly.

What do I mean by "sly?" Well, to avoid having Walker's wrath ran down on him, Kimball would have to slip his Nixon gag in some place where it could be seen (and appreciated) by Disney insiders … but not be out in the open and/or so obvious that Card Walker or his minions would find out about it.

So I don't honestly think that Ward Kimball would have dared to go ahead with putting a Nixon joke in "World of Motion" if a surprise cost-cutting measure by Disney management hadn't presented Ward with a unique opportunity.

You see, EPCOT Center was only supposed to cost $800 million. But — as the construction costs of the project began to soar seriously north of that number — Card Walker decreed that the Imagineers working on this theme park had to cut corners wherever they could.

One of the cost cutting measures that the heads of WED proposed was — rather than sculpt new faces for every AA figures to be used in the Park — was that Disney could recycle a few of the "heads" that the Imagineers had created for earlier AA figures. Re-using some of the faces that Disney Legend Blaine Gibson had created for "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Hall of Presidents" so that they could be used for background characters in "Spaceship Earth," "American Adventure," and "World of Motion."

So where exactly were these recycled AA figure faces used? Well, do you know that scene in "Spaceship Earth" where the Pharaoh is dictating a letter to his scribe? The very next time you roll through that attraction, take a close look at that bald, portly eunuch that stands watch over the throne room. His face comes from the William Howard Taft AA figure used in WDW's "The Hall of Presidents."

Further on up in "The Ball," you'll also get to glimpse another recycled president. You know that scene that's set inside the medieval monastery? The one where the monk is painstakingly copying an illuminated manuscript by hand? That brother who's fast asleep on the other side of the desk is wearing Woodrow Wilson's face.

So when Ward heard that the Imagineers were now expected to recycle the facial sculpts that had been used in WDW's "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Hall of Presidents" AA figures in order to keep EPCOT construction costs down, Kimball realized that his chance to twit Nixon has finally arrived. The question now was … how to slip the gag into the show without Card Walker noticing?

After carefully reviewing every scene in the show, Kimball finally found what he was looking for in "World of Motion"'s Babylonian throne room sequence. Do you remember those three hopeful inventors who stood before the smiling and nodding king? In particular the AA figure with the thick black beard who was clutching a triangle shaped wheel? That character was wearing Richard Nixon's face.

Why did Kimball cast Nixon as a failed inventor of the wheel? Well, it wasn't exactly a used car salesman. But — to Ward's warped way of thinking — it was pretty close.

And what's the deal with that thick black beard? Well, that hairy chin served a twofold purpose. For one, it kept Card Walker from ever finding out that Kimball had used the former president as part of a gag in the "World of Motion" ride.

As for the other reason … well, to really appreciate that part of the beard gag, you have to remember that many people believe that the main reason that Nixon lost the 1960 Presidential election to John F. Kennedy was because his 5 o'clock shadow had been so heavy during the televised presidential debates.

So what better way to send up "Tricky Dick"'s 5 o'clock shadow problem than to give the Nixon-faced AA figure in "World of Motion" a really heavy beard?

So — to finally answer your question, Bebe — no, Nixon wasn't a used car salesman in that old EPCOT Center show. But a failed Babylonian inventor … sure.

Next, Queen Louise swings in to ask:

Dear Jim –

I saw "Jungle Book 2" this past weekend (My eyes! My eyes! They still burn! AIEEE!) and noticed a bunch of dancing rhinos on one of the movie's production numbers.

Didn't I hear somewhere that the original animated feature of this Rudyard Kipling classic was supposed to have a rhino in it too? I remember something about Walt himself cutting this sequence out of the movie because it was too slapsticky … or something like that.

You ever heard anything about a rhino character getting cut out of the original "Jungle Book"?

Dear Queen Louise –

Yeah, I've heard about Rocky the Rhino, the nearsighted rhino who was slated to have a run-in with Mowgli and Baloo. Rocky was supposed to be the featured player in a high energy slapstick chase sequence which was supposed to have occurred in the movie right after King Louie's palace came crashing down.

Rocky's sequence for "The Jungle Book" actually got fairly far along in the production process before Walt decided to axe it. How far along? Detailed storyboards for the scene were created. And Disney Studios had even gone so far as to hire an actor to provide the voice for the short-sighted, short tempered rhino: singer/comic performer Frankie Fontaine (best known to Jackie Gleason fans as the man who did Crazy Guggenheim).

You wanna see what Rocky was supposed to look like? Go pick up a copy of Bob Thomas' "Building A Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire" (Hyperion Press, 1998). Then take a peek at that great picture of Walt and Roy the back cover. Just behind the Disney brothers is a Rocky the Rhinoceros storyboard.

Or — if you'd prefer to see a picture of Rocky with the rest of the cast for Disney's "The Jungle Book" — go chase down a copy of Don Hahn's "Disney's Animation Magic: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at how an Animated Film is Made" (Disney Press, 1996). On Page 9 on that book, right under the title "Act 1 – The Idea" is a size comparison chart of the entire original cast of this animated feature. And there — right between the vulture and the baby elephant — is beady eyed, slack jawed old Rocky the Rhino.

So why did Disney decide to cut this particular sequence out of the picture? Floyd Norman — animation legend, recent Winsor McCay life-time achievement award recipient and all-around nice guy — told me that Walt "just didn't find the business (that Disney's animators had come up with for this 'Jungle Book' character) very funny." I've also heard that Disney decided to cut this slapstick-heavy scene because it came right on the heels of the King Louie palace sequence. Walt reportedly thought that it was bad movie making to put two high energy comedy sequences back to back.

So — even though Frankie Fontaine had already recorded Rocky's voice, and the "Jungle Book" production had already cut together a leica reel of all the storyboards to be used in this sequence — once Uncle Walt said that the rhino scene was out, that scene was out. No questions asked.

Still, wouldn't it be cool someday if — as they're prepping the next DVD version of the original "Jungle Book" — that someone at Buena Vista Home Entertainment would go digging around the Animation Research Library and unearth that Rocky the Rhino leica reel? That way, we could all get a sense of what this Crazy Guggenheim-like creature would have looked like in action.

One last bit of Rocky the Rhino trivia for all you animation history buffs out there (courtesy of Mr. Norman): Legendary animator Milt Kahl was the artist who was supposed to animate Rocky. It was only after the rhinocero's big scene got cut out of the picture that Milt got assigned to Shere Khan. So pretty much by default, Kahl ended up working on "Jungle Book"'s main villain, the character that many animation fans consider to be Milt's finest work.

Isn't it funny how things work out sometimes?

Finally, Brad G. writes in to ask:

Jim –

What ideas are the Imagineers kicking around for the 5th DW theme park?

Dear Brad –

Jeese, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But — given that attendance levels at all of Disney World's theme parks have been down since 9/11 — all talk of adding a fifth theme park to the Central Florida resort has been tabled. At least for the foreseeable future.

These days, most of the emphasis is being placed on creating ways to compel guests to return to the previously existing WDW theme parks. This is why the Mouse has suddenly become so gung-ho about adding high profile attractions to the Parks like Epcot's "Mission: Space" and Animal Kingdom's soon-to-be-officially-announced "Forbidden Mountain." Mickey's doing everything he can in order to get us all to book another Disney World vacation.

So when will Disney start to get serious about adding another theme park to the WDW resort? Tell you what, Brad. Drop me a line after the Mouse finally takes Disney's Pop Century Resort out of mothballs. Once Mickey has enough customers booking Disney World vacations that they can fill all 5,760 of those hotel rooms on a regular basis … then I'll give my friends in Imagineering a call and see what's going on with WDW's 5th theme park.

But for right now, it's all Disney can do to keep the parks it already has in Orlando open. As I previously mentioned in this week's "Project Gemini" story: if the upcoming war with Iraq has a prolonged negative impact on WDW's attendance levels, the Mouse is supposedly giving semi-serious thought to shutting down each of its Central Florida theme park for at least one day every week. Doing everything they can contain costs 'til the conflict is over and the tourists start flocking back to Florida.

So — at least for the foreseeable future, Brad — you can just put on hold any thoughts of visiting "Disney Seas Florida" or any of the other theme parks that the Imagineers have previously proposed for that parcel of land directly across from the Epcot entrance ramps on World Rive hold. 'Cause nothing's going to get built there 'til attendance levels and on-property hotel occupancy rebound big time.

Okay. That's it for this week, kids. And — since it appears that Darkbeer and Lord Niekon will hunt me down and shoot me like a dawg if I don't finally get the revamped version of "Remembering Light Magic" underway ASAP — look for Part One of that series to turn up on the site first thing Monday morning.

Or maybe Tuesday. (Just kidding. Monday morning. Swear to God, Okay?)

Have a great weekend,
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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