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Why For Returns

Jim Hill answers even more of your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim politely pulls the plug on that DCA “Western River” rumor that’s currently making the rounds, tries to find out what actually became of those missing “TL2005” recordings and then announces a new set of JHM tours as well as revealing the website’s new promotional partner.

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First up, it’s a note from Noreen. Who wrote to me earlier this week to share what she thought was some great news:

Jim —

Did you see today’s article over at Screamscape.com? The one that says the Imagineers are supposedly thinking about dusting off the plans that Marc Davis drew up for Disney World’s ‘Western River Expedition’ ride and reinvent that attraction as a possible post-TOT addition to DCA. Isn’t that a really cool idea?

Dear Noreen —

It is — admittedly — a really cool idea. Unfortunately, it’s also an idea that only seems to exist on the Internet. I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, Noreen … But every Imagineer that I spoke with this week about this Screamscape.com story immediately dismissed it. Brushing the whole thing off as wishful thinking on some Disney dweeb’s part.

Don’t believe me? Then — here — let me share an excerpt from an e-mail that I just received from Mortimer Mouse:

Yeah. I heard about that Screamscape story too. It’s making the rounds at work today. Everyone here just finds the story hilarious.

I mean, the very idea that Disney would actually tear down every ride, shop, show and attraction from “Golden Dreams” to “Burger Invasion” just to resurrect Marc Davis’ plans for ‘Western River” is laughable. Not to mention completely impractical.

The plan — as Screamscape lays it out — just makes no sense. I mean, why propose building something in that exact spot? The one part of DCA that cozys right up against the Grand California? Don’t the weenies who make up these stories realize that tourists pay top dollar for the rooms that face INTO the park? So that they can see Paradise Pier’s twinkling lights at night before they go to bed?

So now — in an effort to “improve” California Adventure — Disney’s now supposed to build an attraction that’s so large that it has to be housed inside of a five story tall show building. Which would then effectively block that spectacular view that people are paying big bucks so much to see

Never mind all of the back-of-the-house stuff that would also have to fit into that long, thin piece of property between the Grand California and Paradise Bay. Plus the fact that Disney would — in effect — be ripping four rides & shows out of a theme park that’s already woefully short on rides & shows in order to replace them with a single E Ticket. There’s nothing about this Screamscape story that makes any sense.

Particularly when you realize that DCA already has a huge piece of property that’s standing empty right now, just begging to be used as the site for a major new attraction for the park. Where am I talking about? That chunk of land right behind the Pacific Wharf food court area. You know, where they build that motocross arena for the XGames Xperience last year.

Yeah, Disney’s just going to ignorant that space and tear down “Golden Dreams,” “The Golden Zephyr,” “Jumping Jellyfish,” “Mulholland Madness” and the “S.S. Rustworthy” — plus all those shops & restaurants — to build “Western River.” Does that make any sense to you, Jim?

Whoever submitted this story to Screamscape really didn’t know what he was talking about. I mean, saying that Disney’s also toying with tearing down “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play it!,” “Superstar Limo” and “Hollywood & Dine” to put in a “Monsters, Inc.” coaster. Yeah, we are toying with putting in a “Monsters, Inc.” ride. But not in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area.

The site that we’ve tentatively selected for this “Monsters, Inc.” themed ride is — you guessed it — where the old XGames Xperience arena used to be. (That’s why Al Lutz made that “X Marks the Spot” joke last week in his MiceAge column. And — frankly — I’m amazed that more people didn’t pick up on Al’s rather obvious hint …)

But the people who make up these stories, they never go with the obvious, logical choices. They’ve always got the Imagineers flattening dozens of buildings in order to put in one mega-attraction Which just makes no economic sense.

I kind of feel sorry for the guys over at Screamscape, though. For falling for what’s obviously a bogus story. But — what the hey, Hill — you’ve fallen for a few bogus stories over the years too. So don’t get too smug.

If you want to share this e-mail with your readers, feel free. The sooner that we can pull the plug on this whole stupid “Western River” rumor, the better.

Okay, Mortimer. Consider this plug pulled. Though — to be honest — I’m kind of sad that this particular “Western River” rumor turned out to be false. Mind you, if the stories that I’ve been hearing coming out of Disneyland Paris for the past few years eventually turn out to be true, this saga could still have a happy ending …

But that’s a story for another time …

Next up, Richard H. has a question about some music that was reportedly written for “Tomorrowland 2055,” that late, lamented Disneyland redo:

Hello, Jim.

I have a question regarding Tomorrowland 2055 music but — before I get to that –I’d like to thank you for providing a dependable and
interesting voice in the ever growing section of the web devoted to Disney. A few of us who are absolutely nuts regarding Disney theme park music have been debating a question for the past year now and I thought you might be able to shine some light on the subject based on responses to questions I’ve seen in your ‘Why For?’ column.

It is well known music was composed, arranged, and recorded for the Disneyland TL2055 project even though the attraction itself never quite made it off the drawing board. The tracks included in this score include many of the great, iconoclastic Epcot themes (‘Energy’, ‘Golden Dream’, ‘Listen to the Land’, ‘It’s Fun to be Free’, ‘One Little Spark’, ‘Universe of Energy’), some treasured Tomorrowland tunes (‘Monorail Song’, ‘Miracles from Molecules’, ‘Go Go Goodyear’, ‘Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow’), and other Disneyland and DisneyWorld songs all of which we can identify.

However, there were 4 tracks specifically authored for the project referred to as ‘TL2005 Fanfare’, ‘TL2005 Fanfare and Theme’, and ‘TL2005 Theme 1 and 2’ that we cannot track down. Some have speculated these were recorded at Fox Recording Studios in the early 1990s. But — other than that –I have no other information on these items. Should you find this request of interest, I’d be much obliged if you’d pass along our request to some of your colleagues who might be able to assist us in solving this musical mystery. Once again, thank you.

Best regards,
Richard

Richard —

What an interesting question. I too share your fascination with the musical tracks that were allegedly recorded for “Tomorrowland 2055.” Which — so the story goes — was supposed to played continuously in the room where all the TL2055 models & concept are were kept. With the hope that this futuristic mood music would then help convince Disney Company executive that this extensive & expensive Disneyland redo would be well worth its proposed $100 million-plus pricetag.

Okay, I know. That sounds kind of extravagant. But the idea was — once the execs said “Yes” and Tomorrowland 2055 actually got built — this same loop of professionally orchestrated & performed music could then be used inside the park. Only now to set the mood for the tourists who were exploring the full-sized TL2055, rather than inspire the executives who were looking down at the foamcore models.

Over the years, I’ve managed to hear some of the “Tomorrowland 2055” bathroom mix, Richard. (“Bathroom mix?!,” you query. To explain: Once Tomorrowland 2055 officially got canceled in the mid-1990s, the Imagineers who worked on the project mourned for a while. But then … Well, they wanted to make the best of a bad situation. Which is why — rather than just tuck that tape of TL2055 music in a drawer — they arranged to actually have that music played in the park. So that Disneyland visitors could at least have a little taste of what-might-have-been.

Unfortunately, the only place in the park that the Imagineers felt safe in doing something like this [a move that could potentially really tick off Disney Company executives] were the bathrooms in the exit area of Disneyland’s Space Mountain. Which was why this particular recording [which eventually became highly sought by Disney theme park audiophiles like Richard & myself] eventually became known as the “TL2055 Bathroom Mix.” Its other less-dignified name was the “Toilet Tape.” Anyway …)

Getting back to Richard’s questions … You know, while I have heard those wonderful redos of the signature tunes that used to be featured in Epcot’s Future World pavilions as well as those classic Tomorrowland anthems, I have yet to ever come across copies of the tracks you mentioned, Richard:

  • ‘TL2005 Fanfare’
  • ‘TL2005 Fanfare and Theme’
  • “TL2005 Theme 1 and 2”

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a JHM reader out there who hasn’t heard of these particular recordings. Who might then know what their production history was and — more importantly — might be able to tell us Disney audiophiles how we might be able to get our hands on these “TL2005” tracks.

So — if someone out there can help Richard & I with our quest — I’d really appreciate it. So — if you can shed some light on what the real deal is with these “Tomorrowland 2055” fanfare and theme recordings — please drop me a line here at JHM. And I — in turn — will pass along the appropriate info to Richard.

Speaking of info, David F. just wrote in — seeking some advance info on the tours that JHM will be offering next year during Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Dear Jim:

Was very excited to hear about all the plans for Disneyland’s ’05 Celebration (and per your article today, ok, thanks, Al…). I did some
checking around on the official Disney website as well as some unofficial Disney travel planning websites, and it looks like Disney is offering
packages at the Disneyland Resort which include the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps guided tour.

My question is, will and how often do YOU plan to offer YOUR guided tours at Disneyland/DCA during the golden anniversary celebration? I think this would be a really good question to put up on Fri.’s Why For? column, for those of us out there who are already trying to set up next summer’s vacation plans (although if memory serves, you don’t tend to do your tours during the summer months, but anyway…). And if you’re not planning on doing any kind of tour, is jimhillmedia.com planning on doing anything in connection with the ’05 Celebration (à la Deb Wills’ MouseFest gatherings, which you’ve written about on your site)? I don’t know if you’ve even planned your calendar that far ahead yet, but just in case…

Thanks. A loyal MO reader…


(speaking of things MO, I would LOVE IT if you could come to Marceline’s ToonFest some day…I’ll even be your contact here in St. Louis.)

David F.

Dear David —

To be honest, it’s a little early yet to be announcing JimHillMedia.com’s plans in regards to what sorts of special tours the site will be offering its readers during the Summer of 2005.

But — please note — that I only said that it was “a little early” to announce this sort of stuff. You see, JHM does actually have some plans already in the works. Some pretty ambitious plans at that.

Which is why this site just formed an alliance with Mouseketrips.com. Get used to seeing that name, folks. For Mouseketrips — over the next few weeks — is coming on board at JimHillMedia.com as our promotional partner. More importantly, as the site’s new official travel provider.

And — as part of Mouseketrips’ new JHM-related duties — this snazzy little travel site will be handling all of the travel arrangements for all of our upcoming tours. Which will (hopefully) include a New York City theater tour. Which take a select group of JHM readers into NYC to see all three Disney musicals — “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Aida” — before “Aida” officially ends its Broadway engagement on September 5th.

That sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Well, that’s just one of the tours that Scott Liljenquest (AKA the Big Cheese over at Mouseketrips.com) and I currently have in the works. And — as for 2005 — I promise you, David, we are actually looking into doing something sizable to help celebrate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary. And — as soon as we’re free to talk about it — we’ll be sure to post info about that here at the site.

But — for now — we’re going to continue to go with what we already know. Which is why I’m pleased to announce that — on Saturday, June 26th and Sunday, June 27th — JimHillMedia.com will be hosting another round of Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure tours. For further information on this next set of tours, just follow this link over to Mouseketrips. Where Scott will explain all of the particulars.

And that — my friends — brings another installment of “Why For?” to a close. Again, my apologies to all you “Western River” fans out there. But — despite what it says over at Screamscape — this Marc Davis masterwork is NOT raising from the grave yet again, just so DCA can have its own “Pirates” – like attraction.

But — that said — all is not lost for all you WRE enthusiasts. What is it that Rick said to Ilsa at the end of “Casablanca”? “We’ll always have Paris.”

When I’m free to talk about this, I will spill the beans. But — for now — have a great weekend, okay?

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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