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Why For was Michael Clarke Duncan’s Grizz character cut out of Disney’s “Brother Bear” ?

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Danielle F. wrote in yesterday to say:

I really enjoyed today's story about Luigi's Flying Tires
and like the idea of you turning Why For into a daily feature at your site. I
just hope you get sent  enough questions
to actually make this happen.

And speaking of questions: I was sorry to hear that Michael
Clarke Duncan died today
. I don't suppose that you have any Disney-related
stories that you can tell about him?


Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan in "The Green Mile." Copyright 1999 Warner
Bros. / Castle Rock Entertainment. All rights reserved

First off, I just wanted to say — to the friends &
extended family of this Oscar-nominated performer — that the staff &
readers of JHM are genuinely sorry for your loss. Michael was literally &
figuratively a huge talent. And to lose someone like this at just 54 years of
age is … Well, tragic.

But that said … Yeah, I do have a Disney-related story or
two to share about Mr. Duncan. And these have to do with Walt Disney Animation
Studio
's 2003 release, "Brother Bear."

If I'm remembering correctly, it was back in 1997 when I
first heard that Michael Eisner had suggested to the powers-that-be at
WDAS that they put a movie about bears in development. To be specific, Michael
wanted the animators there to use Shakespeare's Macbeth as their inspiration
for a film which should be set in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.


(L to R) Director Bob Walker, Rick Moranis & Dave Thomas [The 'SCTV" vets who
voiced moose brothers Rutt & Tuke in "Brother Bear"], producer Chuck Williams
and director Aaron Blaise. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which — I know — at first glance, seems kind of like a
nutty idea But you gotta remember that "The Lion King" had been a
huge hit for the Company back in 1994. And given that that animated feature —
over the course of its very troubled production — had kind of backed into
"borrowing" the story structure of Shakespeare's Hamlet (i.e. The
brother of the King first engineers his demise and then assumes the throne. And
it's up to the King's hesitant son to set things right / restore the kingdom)
… Well, given that WDAS was hoping that history would repeat itself with its
next animal-based, full-length animated feature, "borrowing" from the
Bard when it came to possible story ideas for "Bears" (FYI: That was
the original title of this movie. Just plain "Bears") only made
sense.

So Aaron Blaise was tapped to be this project's first
director. And over time, Aaron was joined by Bob  Walker (who eventually became Blaise's
co-director on "Bears") and Chuck Williams (who WDAS vet Pam Coats
had recruited to become this film's producer).

And for the next three years or so, whenever Nancy and I
visited with friends who worked at Walt Disney Feature Animation – Florida, as the
two of us walked through that studio, we'd see these amazing pieces of "Bears"
concept art (many of which drew their inspiration from Albert Bierstadt's
landscape paintings of the American West). But then when we'd go out to lunch
with friends who worked at WDFAF and ask them how work was going on "Bears,"
we'd hear these painful & protracted tales about how Blaise, Walker and
Williams were still struggling. How Aaron, Bob and Chuck had come up with these
memorable characters and a colorful, evocative setting for their film. But what
this trio hadn't yet found was a story.


Paul Felix's concept art for "Brother Bear" 's northern lights / transformation sequence.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which sounds kind of weird, I know. But as Don Hahn (i.e. the
producer of "Beauty and the Beast
," "The Lion King" and Tim
Burton's soon-to-be-released stop-motion animated feature,
"Frankenweenie") is fond of saying: "Sometimes you have to be right
in the middle of making a brand-new animated film before you then discover what
your story is actually about."

But starting in 2000 or thereabouts, I began hearing that
"Brother Bear" had finally found its footing, That — thanks to
Michael Clarke Duncan (who had just come on board this project as the voice of
Grizz, this older male Grizzly that Kenai reluctantly befriends after he
undergoes his man-to-bear transformation) — this animated feature now had a
solid emotional center. That Duncan's deep booming voice, his natural warmth
and good humor had made Grizz this character that audiences could immediately
relate to. And that — thanks to Grizz's Falstaff-like physique and joie de
vivre (not to mention  Michael's terrific
vocal performance) — "Brother Bear" was going great guns now. That
WDAS seemed to have  another
sure-to-be-"Lion-King"-sized hit on its hands.

But then a year or so later, I began to hear that
"Brother Bear" was being radically retooled. Again. More importantly,
that Grizz was now out as Kenai's mentor & companion. And that — in the
latest version of the storyline for this Walt Disney Feature Animation –
Feature production — it was Kenai who was now going to be the reluctant mentor
/ father figure for Koda,  this brand-new
character that the filmmakers had just come up with. Koda was this precocious,
motor-mouthed bear cub who was going to be voiced by Jeremy Suarez from
"The Bernie Mac Show."


A storyboard for a scene from "Brother Bear" where Grizz was supposed to have
interacted with Rutt &Tuke. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"So what happened here?," you ask. "If Grizz
was such a great character and everyone had been so in love with Michael Clarke
Duncan's vocal performance, why then was Grizz cut out of 'Brother Bear' only
to then be replaced by cute little Koda?" To be blunt, Blaise, Walker and
Williams learned a hard lesson very late in the game during the production of
this animated feature. Which was that they had accidentally built their movie  around the wrong character. That — when you
got right down to it — "Brother Bear" was about Kenai's
transformation both inside & out. How this troubled teen finally grew up, learned
to be a better man by becoming a bear. And as long as Grizz was still in this
picture, with that oversized character serving as Kenai's mentor (rather than
having Kenai learning about kindness, compassion & responsibility by
becoming Koda's reluctant father figure), "Brother Bear" just wasn't
going to work. At least as a truly satisfying piece of cinematic storytelling.

So Aaron, Bob and Chuck now had to call Michael and let him
know that he was no longer the big bear that this new Walt Disney Animation
Studios production was built around. Mind you, Duncan wasn't completely out of
the picture. Blaise, Walker & Williams had so enjoyed Duncan's vocal
performance as Grizz that they immediately found him a brand-new character to
voice in their film: Tug, the oversized Grizzly who's the defacto leader of all
the bears at the salmon run.

And the way I hear it, Michael was very gracious to Aaron,
Bob and Chuck when he heard that the character of Grizz had been cut out of
"Brother Bear." Even though this former body guard had only been in
show business for six years or so at that point, Duncan was enough of an
entertainment industry vet by then to know that these things happen. More
importantly, that it wasn't personal. That WDAS was making these changes not
because they hadn't liked his vocal performance. But — rather — because the Disney
Studio was just trying to make a movie that (they hoped) would eventually
connect with a very broad audience.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And Michael clearly enjoyed doing voice work for animation.
Given that — on the heels of his "Brother Bear" experience — Duncan
would then go on to voice characters for feature-length theatrical releases
like "Dogs & Cats" & "Kung Fu Panda
" as well as
home premieres like "George of the Jungle 2" and "Air
Buddies
." Not to mention animated series for television like "Spider-Man,"
"The Proud Family," "King of the Hill," "Family
Guy
," "Static Shock," "Teen Titans" and "Green
Lantern."

So while it's sad to think that Duncan's basso-profundo voice
has now been silenced … At least we still have Michael's previous work . The
obvious enjoyment that he got from performing, the real skill & craft that
Michael would draw from whenever he stepped in front of a camera or a
microphone.

And just so you know: Duncan isn't the only performer who
found themselves — after months & months of standing in a recording booth,
voicing a character for a new Disney animated feature — who suddenly find
themselves out of the picture entirely and/or cast in a new role after that project's
storyline had suddenly been retooled. Just ask Reese Witherspoon about all of the
voice work that she did on the character which was originally supposed to be
the lead in Disney's "Rapunzel." Likewise Holly Hunter about the
months she spent behind a mike, voicing the title character for Disney's
"Chicken Little."


The title treatment & concept art for Disney's
"Chicken Little" from back when this film's
title character was supposed to have been
a girl. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

When I recently asked Penn Jillette about this (He was the
voice of Wolf-in-Sheep's-Clothing, the original villain for Disney's
"Chicken Little." This character wound up being cut out of that animated
feature entirely when WDFA dropped this picture's original sleepaway-camp-based
plot  and opted to go with an aliens-fron-outer-space-invading
storyline instead), he was fairly philosophical about the whole matter:

"Look, I had a lot of fun working on that project. But
Disney's been doing this for a long time. So you have to trust their judgment
when they say 'This isn't working. We're going to take things in a different
direction and your character's no longer part of the story that we're trying to
tell here. So sorry about that. Bye.' It's nothing
personal. They liked my work and I liked working with them. It's just show biz.
These things happen sometime."

But even so … Well, I keep hoping that — what with all of
these loaded-with-extra-features Blu-rays that Walt Disney Studios Home
Entertainment has been releasing lately (Take — for example — that "Pocahontas"
Two-Movie Special Edition

that hit store shelves back on August 21st. This
Blu-ray actually includes a Special Feature where animation master Eric
Goldberg
walks you through a lot of the storyboards & concept art that was
originally created for Disney's aborted animated version of
"Hiawatha" from the late 1940s / early 1950s) — that the Studio will
eventually open up its vault and actually let us see what a "Chicken
Little" that was to have been built around Holly Hunter's vocal
performance would have looked like. Likewise Reese Witherspoon's take on
"Rapunzel." And — of course — give us a glimpse of what Michael
Clarke Duncan's performance as Grizz in "Brother Bear" (which — back
around 2000 — I heard was as much fun as watching Phil Harris' work as Baloo
in Disney's "The Jungle Book" was) would have been like.


Concept art for Grizz, the character that the late Michael Clarke Duncan
was originally supposed to have voiced in Disney's "Brother Bear."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

EDITOR'S NOTE: So far, we've been getting a very nice response to this week's experiment of running Why For as a daily, rather than a weekly feature. If you'd like to see your Disney, animation or theme park-related questions answered on this website, please send them along to whyfor@jimhillmedia.com.

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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