Connect with us


Why For isn’t WALL•E rolling around the Disney theme parks yet?

Jim Hill’s back with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim talks about what’s going on with the Living Character Initiative program, why it may be a while before DAK’s Yeti gets repairs and all the stuff that the Mouse almost did in New York



First up, Cameron writes in to say:

Hi Jim,

Last year when Wall-E came out I was looking forward to
visiting the park(s) and getting to meet an actual Wall-E.  I thought this would be part of the Living
Character Initiative and would be a grand opportunity after seeing Dr Bunsen
Honeydew and Beaker.  I saw some
publicity of Wall-E on the red carpet and making visits to the studios and
science museum appearances, but so far haven’t seen him at the parks.  Any chance I might see an actual rolling, talking
and interactive Wall-E on my next visit?

The Living Character Initiative version of WALL•E hit the road last year, at one point stopping in Seattle to visit that city’s science museum. Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Thanks very much.

Have a happy!


While Lucky the Dinosaur, Muppet Mobile Labs and the Living
Character Initiative version of WALL•E may
make for great photo ops … From an
operational point of view, these incredibly complicated machine are kind of a

Take – for example — WALL•E. The Imagineers really did an
amazing job of recreating the title character of this Academy Award-nominated
Pixar film. The only problem is … Because of all of the machinery necessary to
run the thing, the Living Character Initiative version of WALL•E weighs 700 pounds. So were WDI to send this cute little robot out into the Parks
to do meet-and-greets with the Guests and were WALL•E’s tread to accidentally roll over some child’s foot … Well, we now exit the Magic Kingdom and enter LawsuitLand.

Then when you factor in how delicate these Living Character Initiative
machines are (more importantly, how truly difficult they are to operate). I was
on the Disney lot late last summer and I remember overhearing this protracted
negotiation between the Studio’s Marketing staff and the folks who run the
Tokyo’s International Film Festival. The people behind TIFF really wanted the
Living Character Initiative version of WALL•E to roll down the red carpet at
this Pixar film’s Japanese premiere.

But before Disney’s PR officials
would allow this to happen … Well, they needed to know exactly what the WALL•E robot was expected to do, who this Living Character Initiative creature would be interacting
with. In short, Disney wanted to see the full script in advance to that it
could then ensure that this cute not-so-little robot didn’t malfunction and/or
misbehave in front of the entire Tokyo press corps.

As you can see by the photo below, WALL•E’s red carpet appearance at the Tokyo International Film Festival back in
October seems to have gone okay.

(L to R) Takahiro Suzuki, “WALL•E” producer Jim Morris, director Andrew Stanton, sound
designer Ben Burtt and Toshikazu Miura at the closing night of the Tokyo
International Film Festival.
Photo by Sarah Cortina

But as for the Living Character Initiative version of WALL•E turning up in the Parks on a regular basis anytime soon and mingling
with the public … I wouldn’t count on that, Cameron. Just the insurance issues
involved here make Disney’s lawyers queasy.

Mind you, there’s been some semi-serious talk lately about WDI creating
a WALL•E–themed attraction for the Parks. Some
sort of ride-thru that would then be dropped into various Tomorrowlands around
the globe. But we’re still a number of years away from that particular Blue Sky
project becoming a reality.

So – until that happens – I guess that we’ll just have to make do with
these WALL•E–themed
photo ops that you find around the Parks.


Next up, Andrew from Phoenix
writes to ask


I loved last week’s “Why For” article. So I
decided to write and ask a question of my own. All of us Disney dweebs know
that the Yeti on Expedition Everest has been broken for quite some time now.
But there seems to be no plans on fixing the poor guy. Any idea what’s going
on? (I) can’t imagine (that) Disney is just gonna let its pride and glory that
they hyped so much sit there broken!

Thanks for your time,

Andrew from Phoenix

Sadly, it’s going to be quite a while before this enormous AA figure
takes any more swipes at tea trains.

What’s the problem? In short, the Imagineers – back when they were
designing the Yeti – didn’t take in account what the long term effects of continually
operating an Audio Animatronic of this size might be.

For all your engineers and physics fans out there, let me throw out a
few quick stats. So that you can then get a rough understanding of the issues
that WDI is dealing with here:

  • This 22-foot tall AA figure weighs 20,000 pounds
  • Because of the dramatic positioning of the Yeti (i.e. this fearsome
    creature literally hangs down from the ceiling as it takes swipes at passing
    trainloads of tourists) , in order to keep this AA figure airborne, the Imagineers
    could had to attach a structural boom to its back.
Photo by Jeff Lange
  • Every 40 seconds, the 19 actuators that actually drive the Yeti have to
    move this huge Audio Animatronic 5 feet
    horizontally and two feet vertically … and then quickly reset for the next
    trainload of tourists
  • To give you some idea of the amount of power we’re talking about here …
    Just the thrust of the Yeti’s arm has the equivalent amount of force to a 747
    jumbo jet taking off
  • The amount of power necessary to drive this 20,000 AA figure? Slightly
    over 259,000 pounds force

Now picture a heavy-duty yet sophisticated machine like this – the
largest, fastest moving AA figure in history — having to work non-stop 10 – 12
hours each day, 365 days a year. With the vibrations caused by all those pounds
force being used repeatedly resonating up through that structural boom that
supports the Yeti and then down through the sled that actually drives this AA
figure’s back-and-forth movement.

In short, it’s the very force that drives the Yeti that caused this AA
figure to break down. In the Imagineers’ quest to create a machine that looked
& moved like this wild, living creature … Well, they built a robot that was
almost destined to rip itself to shreds.

That’s where the folks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom find themselves
dealing with right now. Expedition Everest’s Yeti has multiple operational
issues. In order to bring this AA figure back on line, get the Yeti once again
performing in A mode (i.e. so that this enormous robot dramatically lunges at
each tea train as it passes, lashing out with his arm at WDW Guests) is going
to take months as well as a ridiculously large amount of money.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

And given that “Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain”
is still a heavy attendance driver for Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park,
there’s just no way (particularly in this troubled economy) that WDW is going
to be willing to take this thrill ride off-line for a lengthy repair.

I mean, if you’re willing to overlook this one element of “Expedition
Everest,” this DAK thrill ride is still wildly entertaining. As is evidenced by
the 1800+ Guests who whiz around its 4,424-foot track every hour that this
theme park is open to the public.

So sorry if I’m the bearer of bad news here, Andrew. But it could be
quite a while before this AA figure is back in A mode.

And — finally — Madelyn writes in to ask …

Hi, Jim,

I’m Madelyn. You know
how there is a Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida. Will there
ever be a Disney in New York, like a theme park ?


Well, The Walt Disney Company came awfully close in the
past. Perhaps the first time that the Mouse toyed with doing something of size
in and around NYC was back in early 1961. When the owners of Freedomland allegedly
approached Roy O. Disney and asked if Walt Disney Productions would be interested
in taking over the then-troubled theme park. In essence buying these folks out.

As I understand it, Roy O. at least went through the
motions. He reportedly asked to see Freedomland’s books as well as sending a
veteran Disneyland official to the Bronx to go check out the park itself. Though
– given that, at this time, Walt was talking with Robert Moses about possibly doing
something for the New York World’s Fair –
I think that the real reason that Roy O. met with the Freedomland folks was that
he was on a fact-finding mission.

I mean, Roy O. was a numbers guy. Which is why Walt’s
brother wanted to see information on Freedomland’s attendance levels. How much
visitors to that park spent on food and souvenirs. So that he could then share
this information with his brother. So that Walt would then at least have some
realistic expectations as he began working on the ’64 World’s Fair with Moses.

Mind you, Walt himself once toyed with building something of
size in New York State. But this wouldn’t have been in or around the Big Apple.
But – rather – in the westernmost portion of the Empire State. Niagara County,
to be exact.

Based on what veteran Imagineers have told me over the
years, what Walt envisioned building near Niagara Falls wasn’t exactly a theme
park. Sure, it would have had a few shows & attractions. But this project’s
main purpose was to celebrate the natural beauty of this area. To give Guests a
real appreciation of the power & the majesty of the Falls.

So why didn’t Walt go forward with this project? I’m told
that the over-built area around Niagara Falls itself reminded Disney of Anaheim’s
urban sprawl. Which is why – even though
Niagara County already had strong enough tourism numbers that it could have supported
a Disneyland-type park — Walt eventually abandoned this idea and went off in
search of a blank piece of canvas. Which is why he wound up in the swamps of
Central Florida.

Had The Walt Disney Company gone forward with its 1995 era plan, it would have built a 47-story hotel right on this corner

Speaking of urban … Back in the 1990s, Disney’s then-CEO
Michael Eisner once actively toyed with building a resort / indoor theme park
right at the edge of Times Square. At that time, The Walt Disney Company held
the option to build on a piece of property on the corner of 42nd
Street and 7th Avenue. Right next door to the New Amsterdam Theatre.

And the Imagineers … They came up with quite the ambitious
plan for this project. A 47-story building that would have been Disney’s DVC property
for NYC. Guests who visited this resort
would have be able to book special packages that would have then gotten them
primo seats to Disney’s Broadway shows. Not to mention taking special
Disney-hosted tours of the City. And did I mention the smallish coaster that
was supposedly to have rolled along the rooftop before plunging down the side
of the building?

So why didn’t Disney go ahead with construction of this
Times Square structure? The way I hear it, in the wake of Euro Disney
under-performing, Michael got cold feet and eventually allowed Disney’s option
on that piece of land at 42nd & 7th to slip away in
late 1995 / early 1996. Though I have also heard that – given NYC real estate
exploded in the late 1990s / early 2000s – it is now allegedly Eisner’s
greatest regret that he didn’t allow the Company to go forward with this
particular project.

So will Disney eventually do something in NYC? Well, as
recently as last fall, the Company was exploring the idea of building an entertainment
 / retail complex right in the heart of Times
Square. Taking over the space that the Virgin Megastore currently occupies and
then changing it into this weird hybrid of the World of Disney on 5th
Avenue and  the El Capitan & Soda
Fountain on Hollywood Boulevard.

Unfortunately, given what’s going on with the economy right
now, The Walt Disney Company has lost its taste for adventurous &
experimental. Which is why the space that the Virgin Megastore occupies in
Times Square was recently snatched up by the people who run the Forever 21
retail change.

That said, just because that spot on Times Square got away
doesn’t mean that the Mouse isn’t looking for another spot in the City to set
up shop. Especially when you take into consideration that Disney’s lease on its
5th Avenue flagship store is up in 2010 … Well, it’s only a matter
of time ‘til Mickey takes Manhattan. Again.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

And speaking of time … I’m out of time for this week. But if
you happen to be down in the City this weekend, be sure and swing by the Jacob
K. Javits Center and check out the third annual New York Comic-Con. Which (as I
mentioned earlier this week) will feature cool Disney-related events like that
preview screening of the first 50-minutes of “Up.”

Speaking of Disney-related crud … If you’d like your
Disney-related questions answered as part of this weekly column, please send
them along to

That’s it for this week. See you next Monday !

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.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



Listen to the Article

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 prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Continue Reading


Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



Listen to the Article

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

Continue Reading


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



Listen to the Article

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

Continue Reading