Connect with us


Why For wasn’t this episode of “Dinosaurs” ever broadcast on ABC ?

In honor of next Tuesday’s DVD release of the third & fourth seasons of this acclaimed Touchstone Television / Jim Henson Productions series, Jim Hill talks about a particular show that never actually aired on ABC. A brutally funny send-up of Disneyland & Walt Disney World called “Variations on a Theme Park”



Karl T. of Watertown, MA. writes in to say:

I just discovered your “Making Fun of the Mouse” series from last year. And I really enjoyed reading through that trio of stories. I was wondering : Do you have any plans to continue that series? Because I am sure that there are lots of other cartoons and TV shows that made fun of Disney’s theme parks and movies.

Indeed there are, Karl. With one of the very best being an episode of “Dinosaurs,” that satirical television program that aired on ABC from 1991 to 1994.

 Copyright 2007 Disney

These days, not a lot of people seem to remember that witty Touchstone Television / Jim Henson Productions co-production. And when they do talk about it, they tend to lump “Dinosaurs” in with all of those other animated series that were hurried onto the air in the early 1990s in an effort to quickly cash in on the success of “The Simpsons.” You know. “Fish Police,” “Capital Critters” and their ilk.

But “Dinosaurs” deserves better than that. Starting with a concept that Jim Henson himself dreamed up, Michael Jacobs created this brutally funny TV series that — under the guise of being a family-friendly program — took on a wide variety of targets. Politics, the environment, evolution, consumerism were all mercilessly sent up over the four year run of this show.

“So why did ‘Dinosaurs’ get canceled?,” you ask. Well, to be honest, the final decision to pull the plug came not because of low ratings. But — rather — because Touchstone executives honestly had trouble stomaching all of the costs associated with producing this ambitious mix of puppeteering and animatronics. Henson veterans (Who have likened working on “Dinosaurs” to trying to produce a brand-new installment of the “Star Wars” film series on a weekly basis) recall how Disney continually pressured Jacobs & his production team to keep costs down.

 Copyright 2007 Disney

To his credit, Michael wouldn’t ever compromise when it came to quality. Which is why — in the end — Disney opted to shut down production of “Dinosaurs” after only 65 episodes had been shot. Which then gave Touchstone Television just enough shows so that they could then (in theory) successfully syndicate this program.

Disney’s decision to shut down production of “Dinosaurs” for strictly monetary reasons didn’t sit all that well with Jacobs & his production team. Which is why — as part of the fourth & final season of the show — Michael & his crew decided to bite the three-fingered hand that fed them with an episode that gleefully took aim at Mickey and his money-grubbing ways.

“And what was the title of this particular episode?,” you ask. “Variations on a Theme Park.”

  Copyright 2007 Disney

As this episode of “Dinosaurs” gets underway, we find that dinosaurs everywhere are working so hard that that they have been literally dropping dead on the job. Which is why — as veteran reporter Howard Handupme explains on DNN (I.E. The Dinosaur News Network) ‘s nightly newscast …

“In a bold move to stem the tide of exhausted dead guys in the workplace, the government announced that — starting today — all employees will be entitled to take off from work for a period of time to be known as ‘A Vacation.’ All workers who feel exhausted and put upon by the extensive demands of their employers may take off two full weeks to rest and recuperate.”

Which sounds like a really wonderful idea to Earl, the over-worked tree-pushing head of the Sinclair family. He’d love to spend all 14 days in front of the boob tube, catching up on his favorite shows.

Copyright 2007 Disney

But Earl’s wife, Fran, won’t hear of it. She thinks that the Sinclairs should spend their first vacation doing something that will bring their family closer together. Like taking their son Robbie, daughter Charlene and the aptly named Baby Sinclair away from their home in the suburbs to someplace remote in the country. Like Pap Geezer’s Rustic Retreat Swamp Cabin and Condo Time Share.

Mind you, Earl’s boss at the Wesayso Corporation — the fearsome Mr. Richfield — has another suggestion. Which is why he tells his employees about ” … an exciting way to spend your new vacation — Wesaysoland !

Richfield then reveals a map of the world’s first theme park. Which should look somewhat familiar to all you Epcot & Disneyland fans out there. He then goes on to explain that ” … a theme park is a magical place where Wesayso employees can spend their vacation … and their money. There are rides & food & family fun for the young and the young-at-heart and fat worthless tubs like you.

Copyright 2007 Disney

While Sinclair & all of the other tree-pushers “Oooh” & “Aaah” at the map of Wesaysoland, Roy (I.E. Earl’s best friend. Who is a dim-witted tyrannosaurus) raises one tiny arm and asks Mr. Richfield a question. “Since vacations was only created yesterday, sir,” Roy stammers, “I was wondering how is it possible to design & construct a world-class family resort in a single day ?

Richfield replies that ” … No challenge is too great when you attack it with imagination, ingenuity and a relaxed attitude toward building codes.

Earl then tells his boss that he personally thinks that Wesaysoland looks wonderful. But — that said — Sinclair still says that he’s going to have to take a pass on visiting the park. Given that Fran already has her heart set on their family spending the entire 14 days in one of Pap Geezer’s swamp cabins.

This is when Mr. Richfield hands Earl a glossy Wesaysoland brochure. After pointing out that all of the park’s toy concessions & candy stands have been circled in red, he then suggests that Earl give this brochure to Baby Sinclair.

 Copyright 2007 Disney

One extremely loud & long tantrum later … The entire Sinclair family stands outside of the gates of Wesaysoland. Where they’re then greeted by that theme park’s whimsical and highly copyrighted mascot, Moolah the Cash Cow.

Moolah then directs Earl to one of Wesaysoland’s admission booths. Where Sinclair is then encouraged to ” … trade in your cash for colorful, playful Moo Money. Which can be used anywhere inside the park. Except to purchase food, merchandise or emergency medical treatment.”

After Earl buys their tickets, the entire Sinclair clan walks through the main gates at Wesaysoland. Only to discover ” … a vast world of enchantment (that’s) still under construction.”

Copyright 2007 Disney

As they pour over Wesaysoland’s souvenir map, Earl & his family find that almost none of the park’s promised shows & attractions are actually ready to ride. These include:

  • Moolah’s Cow Milking Spectacular (Still under construction)
  • Pirates of the Dairy Belt (Closed for repairs)
  • The Land of the Future (Coming in only 10 years)
  • Fantastic Journey through the Four Stomachs (Never existed)
  • The Haunted Slaughterhouse (Ditto)
  • Salt Lick Mountain (Ditto squared)

And even the handful of rides that actually are operating in the park that day (like Dr. Terror’s Twirling Tea Cup of Doom and Mr. Amphibian’s Wild Rocket Mars Crash Landing) leave a lot to be desired. Take — for example — that “Mars Crash Landing” attraction. Which is — truth be told — just an empty refrigerator carton that the Wesaysoland cast member then tips over once the guest is seated inside. But take a gander at the cautionary warning that’s posted right outside the entrance to the “Mr. Amphibian” ride. Which advises Wesaysoland visitors not to ride this attraction if they’re …

 Copyright 2007 Disney

… prone to heart attacks, sudden spleen ruptures, rapid blinking, hiccups, pregnancy, lazy foot, phlebitis, mange, rickets, hoof and mouth, scurvy, fallen arches, nearsightedness, halitosis, arthritis, shingles, flatulence, tourette syndrome, warts, pink eye, shingles, chapped lips …

There were 15 or so other medical conditions also listed on this warning sign. But the type got so small at that point it then became impossible to read.

Okay. At this point, it’s obvious that Michael Jacobs & his production team are out to spoof virtually every aspect of the Disney theme park experience. Ridiculing everything from the names that are used in these places (Wesaysoland is broken up into three separate domains: ExcitementLand, Souvenirland and FriedFoodLand) as well as those ridiculously long lines that people typically encounter whenever they visit one of these parks (Earl & Roy stand in one queue for 9 hours. Only to discover that there’s not actually a ride at the end of this line. But — rather — Wesaysoland’s stroller rental office).

 Copyright 2007 Disney

And if the “Dinosaurs” production team hasn’t gotten their the-Mouse-is-mercenary point across already, Mr. Richfield now appears on monitors all throughout Wesaysoland and riffs on Walt’s old “Disneyland will never be completed” speech by saying …

“Yes, we’re still building the dream. For as long as dinosaurs have imagination and children have discretionary income, Wesaysoland will never be truly finished. Welcome to Wesaysoland. Where everyone has a good time because We Say So.

Earl bluffs & blusters, insisting to his family that it actually was a smart move for them to spend their first vacation at Wesaysoland. Where ” … I hear it really comes alive at night.” But eventually even he breaks down and says:

Copyright 2007 Disney

“Oh, what could I have been thinking of. I should have known that a big amusement park with rides & attractions would have been the worst possible place for a family!”

It’s at this point that the Sinclairs now attempt to leave Wesaysoland. Only to be told by the dinosaur at the admissions gate that — since they booked a 14-day package — the family must now spend the next two weeks inside the theme park. Where they’ll then be forced to purchase over-priced snacks like “Ice on a Stick.” Which sells for $6 a pop.

When Earl refuses to listen, the gate attendant then suggests that the Sinclairs might take this news better from Moolah, Wesaysoland’s “ … charming and legally unassailable mascot.” The costumed cow then waddles up to Earl & family and says: “Hi, folks! What’s your beef ?” He also tells the Sinclair family that they really do have to spend the whole two weeks in the park, closing this speech out with an “And that’s no bull !

 Copyright 2007 Disney

Earl then pushes past Moolah (Which then causes this character to cry out: “Oh, don’t hurt Moolah ! He’s just a teenager who needs a summer job “) and tries to lead his family out of Wesaysoland. Only to have the park’s gate snap closed in his face, as an automated recording now blares that ” … The gate is now electrified. Please step back from the gate.” More importantly, that “… this is not a ride. This is not a ride.”

These are just a few of the Disney-related jabs that Jacob & his production team try to land over the course of “Variations on a Theme Park.” And just wait ’til you hear about the pay toilet that the Sinclairs find in their Moolah-the-cash-cow-themed hotel room. Or the half-hearted, under-paid teenage employees that they encounter as they wander through Wesaysoland.

As you might expect, the folks at Touchstone (And at ABC, for that matter) weren’t all that thrilled when they finally got to see this episode of “Dinosaurs.” Which is why “Variations on a Theme Park” never actually aired (stateside, anyway) during the fourth & final season of the show. This and six other episodes were held back, never officially airing on the American Broadcasting Company’s airwaves. Only after “Dinosaurs” was broadcast overseas (As well as when this show began being syndicated in the U.S.) did the public finally get to see these seven episodes.

Copyright 2007 Disney

You can see “Variations on a Theme Park” for yourself — as well as the controversial “Dinosaurs” finale (Where Jacobs first has the dinosaurs ruin the Earth’s environment. Which then brings about the Ice Age. And — as this series draws to a close — it’s insinuated that the entire Sinclair family is about to freeze to death) — by picking up a copy of the “Dinosaurs – The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons” DVD. Which officially goes on sale next Tuesday.

Me personally? I still think that “Dinosaurs” is a ridiculously entertaining show that’s woefully under-rated these days. I mean, even though it’s been 13 years since this ambitious puppeteering program last aired on ABC, it holds up beautifully. The writing’s sharp. And as a direct result of all that money that Michael Jacobs made Disney spend on “Dinosaurs,” the individual episodes still look great.

So if you’re in the mood to see the mighty megalasaur “Making Fun of the Mouse,” then I suggest that you pick up a copy of this new DVD set sometime next week.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.


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