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Why “Western River” Went South — Part 8

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OUR STORY SO FAR: Marc Davis was tired. Tired of the excuses he kept getting as to why “Western River Expedition” (WRE) wasn’t getting built. Tired of having his other new attraction ideas never make it off the drawing board. Most of all, Marc was tired of repeating himself.

So – when Davis was asked to do yet another version of Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction for Tokyo Disneyland – Marc decided it was time to pack it in. So Davis retired from Walt Disney Productions in 1978, preferring to work at home on two book projects: “The Bite of the Crocodile,” a collection of Marc’s New Guinea inspired paintings, as well as “The Anatomy of Motion,” a volume that will someday be considered *THE* drawing reference book for animators.

So – with Marc Davis, “WRE”‘s biggest champion. gone – “Western River” should have just faded away, right? With all its models packed away, its concept drawings stuffed in filing cabinets at WED, there was no reason why anyone at Imagineering should have still been talking about this dead- in- the- water, never- to- be- built ride. Right?

But they did. And they do. Even today at WDI, Marc’s concept drawings for “Western River” are regularly pulled out of the files by folks at WDI and still “Oohed” and “Aahed” over. The Imagineers look to this material for inspiration (as well as for ideas to incorporate into other Disney theme park attractions. )

Which attractions? Funny you should ask…

The heads at WED should have known they were in trouble after the robbery.

After all, how many times before had someone stolen *ALL* the figurines from a scale model of a proposed attraction? One or two figurines disappearing? That was understandable. It happened all the time. (The guys working in Imagineering tend to be a sentimental lot. They’re always taking home a little something to remind them of a show or attraction they’ve just worked on.)

But nothing on this scale had ever happened before. Folks working in the WED model shop in 1975 returned from a three day weekend to find that every figurine from the 1″ to 1′ “Western River Expedition” model had disappeared. Mind you, we’re talking about over 100 eight inch tall, hand painted and sculpted figures. It would take thousands of dollars – and hundreds of man hours – to replace all these figurines.

Given the number of figures missing – as well as the high security complex these items were stolen out of – this was obviously an inside job. But who at WED would be nutty enough to have snagged all these “Western River” figurines? Disney security investigated the case for months, but could never find the culprit.

Years later – in the mid 1980s – two of these “Western River Expedition ” figures (a medicine man as well as a drummer from the Indian village rain dance sequence) turned up in an auction held by the Howard Lowery gallery. Initially, there was hope that these two figures might help solve this 10 year old caper. Alas, these two “WRE” pieces had been placed in the auction from a reputable Disneyana dealer. He had purchased them from a third party who had no knowledge of the figurines’ shady past .. or what might have become of the other 100+ “Western River” figures.

But this was the sort of madness that “WRE” inspired in Imagineers. If they couldn’t get the actual attraction built, they’d steal pieces of the model. Or they’d quietly slip scenes from the proposed attraction into other Disney theme park shows. All out of love for Marc’s designs for the attraction.

Take – of example – Epcot’s “World of Motion” ride. Though noted Disney animator Ward Kimball had done some preliminary design work on this attraction, it quickly became obvious that Ward didn’t have what it takes to be an Imagineer. So WED quietly made a call to Marc Davis in early 1980, asking him he’d be willing to unretire for a few weeks and help them get this GM sponsored ride back on track.

Davis initially said “No.” He had heard that Card Walker was up to his old tricks, asking the Imagineers to recycle masks and molds from other Disney attractions so that the Mouse could save some money on the “World of Motion” AA figures. (Indeed, many of the faces used on the figures in the GM ride were painfully familiar to Marc. They were the very same masks that he had had Blaine Gibson sculpt for Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” back in 1966 – some 14 years earlier. ) Davis wanted no part of another Disney AA attraction that would be done on the cheap.

But then the show producers of “World of Motion” took Marc to lunch. After a few drinks, these Imagineers admitted that it wasn’t much fun using old faces on the new AA figures in their GM ride. So these guys decided that they wanted to pull a fast one on Card Walker. And they needed Davis’ help to pull it off.

Do you remember the “Train Robbery” sequence in GM’s “World of Motion?” It featured some broadly comic western characters – masked bandits, the schoolmarm, a heroic sheriff with a tin badge on his chest – in a setting that featured a steam train as well as the bright red rocks of the American Southwest. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

It should. It’s just the Imagineers paying tribute to “Western River Expedition,” with a scene created by Marc Davis himself. True, it’s not really a sequence that was slated to go into the original attraction. The train scene in “World of Motion” is loosely based on similar scenes Davis had drawn up for WDW’s “WRE” ride. But – by slipping that sequence into the GM pavilion – Marc finally moved “Western River Expedition” off the drawing board and into reality. And that felt pretty damned good.

The beauty part of this “WRE” scene being in “World of Motion” is that Card Walker never caught on to the gag. He personally okayed all the sequences that were to be featured in Epcot’s GM attraction, but never recognized the train robbery scene featured in this Future World ride as something that might have been designed for “Western River Expedition.”

As word began to spread around WED about the “WRE” stuff that was being slipped into “World of Motion,” other Imagineers wanted to get in on the gag too. The guys putting together the “Listen to the Land” boat ride for Kraft Foods’ “The Land” pavilion also decided that they wanted to put one over on Card Walker. And so they did.

Do you recall those AA buffaloes and prairie dogs featured in the “Prairie Fire” sequence early in the attraction? Did they also look vaguely familiar? They should. These robotic animals are based on designs Marc Davis originally drew up for “Western River Expedition.”

Again, Card Walker never had a clue to the significance of the AA buffaloes and prairie dogs in Kraft Foods’ Future World pavilion. He never heard the Imagineers snickering behind his back, secretly thrilled that another piece of Marc’s dream attraction had made it off the drawing board.

Mind you, putting one over on the boss is fun. But it wasn’t quite as satisfying as actually getting a full- size, really- for- real version of “Western River Expedition” would have been. So WED’s “WRE” fans – every couple of years – would once again pull out the plans and try to sell their bosses on the idea of actually building the attraction.

Once Michael Eisner came on board at Disney Company CEO in the fall of 1984, he too got a sales pitch from WDI about building “Western River Expedition.” Given how passionate the French were about the American West, the Imagineers had hoped that they be able to get Eisner to sign off on adding Big Thunder Mesa to the list of attractions that would be featured in Euro Disneyland’s Frontierland area.

But – in the end – Eisner didn’t bite. He preferred a more elaborate version of that old Tony Baxter favorite: Big Thunder Mountain Railway. Only this time around, that thrill ride was to be located in the middle of the Rivers of America – occupying the spot that Tom Sawyer Island traditionally held in the Disney theme park landscape.

This didn’t deter the Imagineers from folding bits of Marc’s “WRE” plans in the company’s European theme park. If you look closely, there’s at least three tributes to “Western River Expedition” to be found in Euro Disneyland’s Frontierland area. They are:

* The finale of “Phantom Manor.” As guests go underground and find themselves moving through an actual ghost town, many of the characters and set pieces featured in this section of the ride were inspired by similar scenes that Marc designed for the “Dry Gulch” section of “Western River Expedition.”

* “Thunder Mesa Mercantile Building.” This Frontierland building – which actually houses four different shops – borrows its name from the massive show building that was to have housed the “WRE” attraction.

* “Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing.” This Frontierland landmark, which serves as the docking area of the “Molly Brown” and the “Mark Twain”, also gets its name from “WRE”‘s proposed show building.

So – given how enthusiastic the Imagineers remain about Marc Davis’ concept drawings for “Western River Expedition” some 32 years after they were originally created – is it wise to consider this long proposed project dead? Is “WRE” an idea that will never make it off the drawing board?

Please keep in mind the “UFO Show” mentioned in Part VII of this series. It took almost 25 years for this ride concept to be married to the right story material – the Buzz Lightyear mythology from the “Toy Story” films – before that proposed show finally became a reality.

Right now, the “Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin” is one of the hottest attractions to be found in the entire WDW resort. WDI is already working up plans to add this amazingly popular target practice ride to the Anaheim, Tokyo and Paris Disneylands. This “Toy Story” inspired show will also be an opening day attraction when the Hong Kong Magic Kingdom opens in 2005.

All this happened because someone in Imagineering burrowed around in the pile of old, rejected ride ideas, unearthed the concept for the “UFO Show” and thought: “I think I know a way to make this work now.”

Walt Disney Imagineering vice chairman and principal creative executive Marty Sklar has said: “Good ideas never go away. They are a precious commodity, whether developed right away or not. A good idea is never forgotten. It may turn up sometime later for use in some other project, in part of in its entirety.”

So maybe someday soon, an Imagineer – looking for an idea to replace Disney Quest’s “Virtual Jungle Cruise” attraction – will come across Marc’s artwork for “Western River Expedition” and say “I think I know a way to make this work.”

Stranger things have happened, kids.

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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