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Why (For) did Walt Disney actually have Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage built ?

Jim Hill reveals the hidden history of this soon-to-be-re-opening Tomorrowland attraction. Which only came about because the Ol’ Mousetro was determined to “one up” the competition. Which — back in 1958 — was this recently rethemed Santa Monica amusement pier that had just been dubbed “Pacific Ocean Park”

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Julie L. writes in to say:



All of the other Disney sites have been running stories this week about Disneyland‘s “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage“. So what’s your take on this classic Tomorrowland attraction coming back to life after being shut down for almost nine years now ?


Dear Julie —


To be honest, what I find interesting about Disneyland’s old Submarine Voyage attraction isn’t that it’s returning with a “Finding Nemo” -themed overlay. Or even that this Tomorrowland classic is returning to service at all.



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No, what I find fascinating about the Submarine Voyage is that it may be the very first theme park attraction to ever have been built out of spite.


Don’t believe me ? Then check out this article that legendary Hollywood gossip Hedda Hopper wrote for the Los Angeles Times back in February of 1965, which featured this attention-getting headline:


Rumored Sell-Out Denied by Disney



Another rumor bit the dust when I called Walt Disney to check the story that he was selling out everything — studio and Disneyland — to CBS. “Absolutely untrue,” said he. “With the business ‘Mary Poppins‘ is doing, Disney might make an offer to buy CBS. Years ago, I tried to sell them on coming in with me at Disneyland. They weren’t interested. They put their money in Pacific Ocean Park instead, and lost their shirts.”



Vintage postcard courtesy of Google Images


Walt sounds pretty angry in that quote, don’t you think ? Well, there’s good reason for that. You see, in September of 1953, Roy Disney flew out to NYC to meet with the various heads of the television networks. Roy was looking to trade a Disney-produced weekly TV series for the funds that Walt desperately needed to get started on construction of Disneyland.


As the story goes, Roy’s first stop was the corporate headquarters of the Columbia Broadcasting System. Which only made sense given that CBS was then known as the “Tiffany Network” because it was perpetually No. 1 in the ratings. More importantly, because execs who worked at this network always made sure that they only presented top-quality programs that featured the very biggest stars.


Anyway … It would have been quite the feather in Roy’s cap if he had been able to cut a deal with CBS. Have Disney’s very first weekly TV series debut on the nation’s No. 1 network. But the way I hear it, CBS officials rejected Roy’s proposal. Supposedly because Walt refused to shoot a pilot. But also because the “Tiffany Network” didn’t want to be associated with something that sounded as low-class as that “Coney Island” clone that the Disneys wanted to build in an Anaheim orange grove.



Vintage postcard courtesy of Google Images


Of course, hindsight is always 20 / 20. And once Disneyland opened in July of 1955 and proved to be a huge financial success, CBS immediately wanted in on the theme park business. So after spending a year or so scoping out possible construction sites (As well as persuading executives from the Los Angeles Turf Club — I.E. The operators of the Santa Anita Race Track — to come in on the project as their financial partner), “Tiffany Network” officials officially unveiled the project in January of 1957.


According to an article that appeared in the January 30th edition of the New York Times :



The Columbia Broadcasting System is going into the amusement park business, following in the footsteps of American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres and Walt Disney.



Vintage postcard courtesy of Google Images


C.B.S. and the Los Angeles Turf Club, it was announced today, will develop the Ocean Park Pier area in Los Angeles and Santa Monica into a thirty-acre family amusement park. The project, featuring an Oceanarium and a South Seas island among other attractions, will be operated as a year-round enterprise. It is expected to be ready for business early in the summer of 1958.


The joint announcement by Frank Stanton, president of C.B.S., and Charles H. Strub, executive vice president of the Turf Club, said the Santa Monica City Council had voted to grant a twenty-five year lease on the tidelands property.


Now did you notice the most important part of the above article? That CBS was going to take a previously existing amusement pier and radically retheme it? So that this new entity (Which would eventually become known as Pacific Ocean Park) would be as good as Disneyland? If not better?



Vintage postcard courtesy of Google Images


So Ocean Park Pier closes in March of 1957. And CBS hires top people in the then-still-new field of theme park design to come create new rides, shows and attractions for this nearly 60-year-old structure. While press accounts from this period talk about how the “Tiffany Network” was planning on spending some $30,000,000 on their Southern California amusement park project … Truth be told, the total amount that CBS & the Los Angeles Turf Club were willing to invest in the initial overhaul of this Santa Monica landmark was just $10,000,000.


Anywho … Pacific Ocean Park opens with great hoopla on July 28, 1958. With over 20,000 guests turning up for the festivities. Which — of course — featured appearances by dozens of celebrities who were then appearing in various CBS television shows. And over the next week or so, POP (As Pacific Ocean Park eventually came to be known) actually proves to be a bigger draw than Disneyland. With hundreds more tourists pushing their way through the turnstiles in Santa Monica then there were out in Anaheim.


This — of course — does not go unnoticed by Walt Disney, who is just livid about this whole development. First of all because CBS had initially rejected the idea of Disneyland as being something that was far too carny for the “Tiffany Network” to be associated with. And then because the theme park designers that this top-rated television network had hired had so blatantly ripped off many of the rides, shows and attractions that Walt’s designers had created for his park.



Vintage postcard courtesy of Google Images


By that I mean : Disneyland had a “Rocket to the Moon” attraction. Pacific Ocean Park had a “Flight to Mars” ride. Disneyland had an Autopia. Pacific Ocean Park had a “Union 76 Ocean Highway.” Disneyland had a Skyway. Pacific Ocean Park had an Ocean Skyway. The list goes on and on …


But perhaps the rip-off that galled Walt the most was that Pacific Ocean Park had taken Disneyland’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Seas” walk-through and then used it as the inspiration for their own submarine-themed walk-through attraction. Only — in this case — it was the modern version of the Nautilus that POP guests got to tour. The USS Nautilus, to be precise. The world’s first nuclear-powered vessel. The first submarine to ever travel underneath the pack ice and reach the North Pole.


As Todd James Pierce (I.E. The author of a forthcoming book that documents the history of Disneyland’s earliest competitors) explains it, this was a crucial moment for the ol’ Mousetro :



Throughout his life, Walt was not so much an innovator as he was a person driven to produce technologically superior products. The early Alice comedies are a technologically superior version of the Koko (Out of the Inkwell) cartoons. “Steamboat Willie” is a technically superior interplay of sound and image compared to other earlier cartoons who experimented (rather unsuccessfully) with sound. “Steamboat Willie” is usually trotted out at the first “sound” cartoon. But as you know, more accurately, it is the first cartoon to very successfully synchronize music and movement.



Guidebook scan courtesy of Todd James Pierce


From where I stand, I see this same impulse at play (with Disney’s response to POP’s submarine attraction) … POP had a walk-through version of the USS Nautilus. So therefore Walt (– in order to “one up” his competition — had to then create) an actual working version of the Nautilus that took people beneath the polar ice cap.


I know, I know. Some of you may find it very hard to believe that kindly old Uncle Walt actually worked this way. That he could be fiercely competitive. But consider this : The memo that outlined Disneyland’s submarine project — listing which WED employees would tackle what aspects of this new Tomorrowland attraction construction — was dated July 23, 1958. Just five days before Pacific Ocean Park officially opened to the public.


And Walt ? He certainly wasn’t shy when it came to talking with the press in late 1958 & early 1959. During this period (When Pacific Ocean Park was viewed as being a pretty significant threat to Disneyland’s financial future), Disney regularly gave interviews where he talked about how his theme park was …



Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved



… pushing rapidly toward completion of a $5,500,000 development program, which will bring the total investment (in the Anaheim theme park) to some $29,000,000 and increase to forty-eight the roster of attractions. These numbered twenty-two when the park opened in 1955.


The big new additions are a scaled-down replica of the Matterhorn, the great peak in Switzerland; a mile-long monorail, and a submarine voyage, all executed with Walt Disney’s ever-surprising Barnum-like flair.


In the underwater feature, visitors will be transported on eight forty-passenger submarines through a man-made seas involving 9,000,000 gallons of water. It will be populated by hundreds of specimens of simulated marine fauna and other features, including a 2,300 pound sea serpent.



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Walt also made sure that the actual construction of Disneyland’s subs got as much press as possible. Check out this January 1, 1959 article from the Los Angeles Times:


Disneyland Orders Eight Submarines for Sight-Seeing



A West Coast shipyard with considerable experience in turning out ocean-going merchant ships and men-of-war had received an order to build a fleet of eight submarines.


The undersea craft, however, will never fire torpedoes in anger or stalk an enemy convoy. Instead they will be underwater passenger carriers on submarine sight-seeing tours at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.


The order received by the Los Angeles division of the Todd Shipyards Corporation calls for the construction of eight fifty-two-foot submarines complete with conning towers and diving planes. They will be powered by Diesel-electric machinery.



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Each of the craft will provide air-conditioned quarters for forty passengers, who will view underwater scenes through heavy-glass port lights. The submarines will operate in a lagoon being built in an expansion of Disneyland. The new section will be known as Tomorrowland.


The submarine flotilla is to be completed by May 1. Previously the shipyard built for Disneyland the steel hull for the stern-wheeler Mark Twain and the hull and skeleton framework of the square-rigged vessel Columbia, both of which are in operation at the park.


Then — of course — the actual opening of this new Tomorrowland attraction was one of the high points of “Kodak presents Disneyland ’59,” a 90-minute-long ABC television special that aggressively hyped all of the rides that had just been added to the Anaheim theme park. Which (hopefully) would then prove to the world that Walt wasn’t a man who’d just lie down and let his competition roll right over him.



Then-U.S. Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Lillian Disney
board Disneyland sub for inaugural voyage on June 14, 1959.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Of course, the irony of this whole situation was — by the Summer of 1959 — Pacific Ocean Park was already in serious financial trouble. This rethemed amusement pier never even came close to making the amount of money that CBS executives had originally hoped it would. Which is why — in November of that same year — rather than continue to ” … lose their shirt,” the “Tiffany Network” sold its oceanside theme park at a loss.


POP then changed hands a number of times before it finally closed for good in October of 1967. The now-abandoned theme park then became a popular hang-out for the local surfing community.


Anyhow … Long story short : That’s why (I guess) that I look at Disneyland’s subs a bit differently than most folks do. I see these vehicles for the interesting place that they occupy in theme park history. Back when Walt Disney was in an amusement park equivalent of an arms race. And he was determined that the “Happiest Place on Earth” had to top POP.



Vintage postcard courtesy of Google Images


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.

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“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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