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You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like … Richard Nixon?!

In honor of Presidents Day, Jim Hill throws a spotlight on Uncle Walt’s unique relationship with “Tricky ***.”



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If you were to ask the typical Disney dweeb about which President of the United States they most strongly associate with the Walt Disney Company and its theme parks, I’m betting that 99.9% of them would go with Abraham Lincoln.

And why not? After all, Honest Abe plays a huge part in the Disney theme park legacy. First of all, there was that Abraham Lincoln AA figure that the Imagineers created for the State of Illinois pavilion at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair. This eerily life-like Audio Animatronic recreation of our 16th President caused a sensation at the Fair, not to mention ushering in a whole new era of achievement for the Disney theme parks.

By January 1965, Disneyland had its very own version of the “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” show installed in the Main Street Opera House. Six years later, Walt Disney World got its “Hall of Presidents” (in which Honest Abe also played a very prominent role). So — as I was saying — it would be a pretty safe bet to assume that most Disneyana fans would say “Lincoln” if they were asked “Which U.S. President do you most closely associate with the Walt Disney Company and its theme parks?”

So — given that today is the tail end of the Presidents Day weekend (the three day long holiday when we’re supposed to celebrate the birth of both Lincoln as well as George Washington) — I guess the smart thing for me to do would be to cook up a column about Walt Disney and Abraham Lincoln. How these two great Americans are joined at the hip, etc. etc. That might make for a timely bit of writing.

The only problem is … no one ever accused me of being smart. Me personally, the U.S. President that I mostly closely associate with the Walt Disney Company and its theme parks is Richard Mihouse Nixon.

Why for? Well, surely you’ve seen those photographs of Nixon and Walt Disney that were taken back in June of 1959. The ones that show the then-Vice President of the United States and his family standing with Walt on the Tomorrowland platform, getting ready to officially cut the ribbon for the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail.

What I like about these pictures is that Nixon brought along his daughters — Tricia and Julie — so that they can take part in the ceremony. And (according to eyewitnesses who attended the event) the girls did try to cut the ribbon. The only problem was that the enormous pair of scissors that Nixon’s daughters were wielding in the ceremony didn’t really have an edge to its blades.

So — as the photographers snapped away — Tricia and Julie tried repeatedly to cut through that ribbon, but to no avail. Finally, Walt took pity on the girls. Quickly whipping out his pocket knife, Disney sliced through the ribbon, then ushered Vice President Nixon and his family on board the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail for its inaugural run.

To hear Imagineering legend Bob Gurr tell the story, the Monorail’s first official trip around the Park was probably a bit more exciting than it was originally supposed to be. You see, as the sleek futuristic train pulled out of the Tomorrowland platform, Walt, the VP and his family were aboard … but the security detail that had been tasked to protect the Vice President had accidentally been left behind at the station.

As you might understand, the Secret Service agents who were assigned to Nixon’s detail were frantic. And they were made even more frantic when the Monorail returned to the Tomorrowland station. And — rather than stopped — the futuristic train slowed for a second, then zipped on through for another trip around Disneyland.

Why’d it do that? Because Tricia and Julie — being typical kids — had had a great time on the inaugural run of the Monorail. So — as the train headed into the Tomorriowland station — the girls turned to Walt and their father and said “Please? Can we got around just one more time?” And Disney and Nixon of course said “Yes.”

Bob Gurr reportedly still has mixed emotions when he thinks back on what it was like to go zipping through Tomorrowland station that hot and humid June day. (FYI: Bob was the guy that Walt tasked with piloting the Monorail during Nixon’s 1959 visit to the Park.) By that I mean: Gurr reportedly thought it was extremely comical to see the Secret Service running alongside the futuristic train. The agents trying to decide if there was a safe way that they could leap aboard the still-moving vehicle.

On the other hand, Bob was supposedly concerned that — once the Monorail finally came to a full and complete stop — that these same Secret Service agents would leap aboard the train and beat him within an inch of his life.

Thankfully, the Monorail finished its second, unexpected and unscheduled lap of the theme park without incident. And the Secret Service didn’t end up wrestling poor Bob Gurr to the ground. In part because Nixon stepped on the train, laughing, telling the head of his security detail “You should have seen your expressions …”

I know, I know. It’s kind of weird to hear a story about Richard Nixon laughing. To read about how this controversial figure in American history supposedly once behaved like a normal human being. Out for a day at the theme park. Out having some fun with his family.

After all, that’s NOT the Richard Nixon that most Americans know. These days, most people seem to prefer to remember the late President (Nixon died back in 1994) as “Tricky ***.” The only U.S. Commander-in-Chief to ever resign in disgrace. The man who lied about the Watergate break-ins. The guy who said “I am not a crook.”

(Interesting bit of Disney trivia here: Nixon actually made his infamous “Crook” remark while he was on Disney property. Strange but true, kids. Back on November 17, 1973, the then-President flew down to Orlando to speak to 400 Associated Press editors, who were holding their annual meeting at WDW’s Contemporary Resort Hotel. These days, no one remembers what else Nixon said during his day at Disney World. But that off-the-cuff comment haunted him ’til his dying day.)

But the guy I just wrote about in the previous paragraphs wasn’t the Richard Nixon that Walt Disney knew in the mid-1950s / early 1960s. Walt actually thought of *** as a friend and a colleague. Someone that he could count on whenever Disney needed help generating publicity for his then-fledgling theme park.

I’m told that — given the number of times that Nixon visited Disneyland and/or attended the grand opening of various new attractions during the park’s early years — that Disney’s publicity department actually had a standing joke that they used to tell about the then-VP: “Hell, we could open up an envelope and *** would offer to attend the ceremony.”

Okay. So maybe they made fun of the guy behind his back. But that doesn’t mean that Disneyland’s Publicity Department didn’t really appreciate it when the then-VP would pull a few strings to help make the opening of a brand new attraction something really worth writing about.

Take for example, the dedication of Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage (Which — not-so-co-incidentally — occurred on the very same day in June of 1959 when Nixon’s kids helped cut the ribbon for the Monorail). To add a little oomph to this ceremony, Nixon persuaded a really-for-real senior U.S. Navy official — Rear Admiral Charles C. Kirkpatrick — to take part in the festivities.

Why would Nixon do this? Well, to be honest, a lot of it has to do with Richard Nixon being born and raised in Orange County, CA. Which is why he took such great pride in the idea that Disney had selected Anaheim as the site for his first theme park. And — more importantly — why Nixon did everything he could to help Walt’s project succeed.

Even after he was elected President of the United States in 1968, Nixon was still trying to throw business Walt’s way. When foreign heads of state or dignitaries would visit him at the White House, Nixon would ask about their travel plans during their stay in the U.S. If any of his visitors even casually mentioned that they were headed to Southern California, Nixon would almost automatically chime in with “Oh, then you’re going to have to go to Disneyland. It’s a wonderful place. Nothing else like it in the whole world.”

I know, I know. That’s kind of a strange way for a President of the United States to behave. But Nixon did this because … well … he really liked Walt Disney. Tried to do whatever he could to support Walt’s endeavors. Like the time when Walt suddenly found himself in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, CA. Disney called the then-VP up and asked if he’d agree to formally open the Games. Nixon immediately said “Yes.”

Never mind that Nixon had to take time out from his presidential campaign. Never mind that the guy had to fight his way through a fierce snowstorm to get to the stadium. If Walt asked *** for a favor, Nixon was happy to do it.

Nixon’s loyalty — his sense of friendship toward Walt Disney, the man — extended long after the old Mousetro passed away in December 1966. EX: Even though the ex-president had basically been living in seclusion since his resignation in August 1974, turning down invitations to all sorts of exclusive events, Nixon did agree to come on down to Orlando in October 1982 to take part in the grand opening of what was then being hyped as “Walt’s last and greatest dream: Epcot Center.”

But perhaps the clearest indication of how Richard Nixon felt about Walt Disney came in March 1969 when the then-President presided over a ceremony where he presented the first Walt Disney commemorative medal to the Disney family. (FYI: This medal was actually commissioned to help pay for the California Institute of the Arts. Which is probably best known to all you animation fans out there by its severely abbreviated name: Cal Arts. )

In a ceremony that was held at the White House — with Walt’s widow, Lillian; his two daughters, Diane and Sharon; as well as his brother, Roy O. Disney, in attendance — Nixon spoke of his friendship with Walt Disney. Of the fun times that he and his family had had at Disneyland:

“It is very hard to describe our feelings about Walt Disney. I say our feelings, because my wife and I had the opportunity of knowing him personally. He was just as exciting and interesting personally as he was in all those wonderful movies that we remember through the years, starting with the cartoons and then the real life ones and then ‘Mary Poppins’ and all the rest.

To know this man was to know that we had been fortunate to have a spirit with us that perhaps come once in a generation to a fortunate people.

He was a great artist. He was a perfectionist. He was a wonderful human being.

All of that he shared with us, not just with his family that loved him because they knew him, but he shared it with the world, and the world is a better and a happier and a more joyful place in which to live because he was there.”

Not a bad little speech, eh? I’m told that Nixon wrote this one all by himself. That he didn’t have his press secretary, Ron Ziegler (who spent several summers piloting a “Jungle Cruise” launch around Adventureland. FYI: Ziegler passed away just last week) or H.R. Haldeman (another old Disneyland hand) massage the text. That the President wanted this speech to come from the heart.

I know, I know. It’s still kind of weird to read a sentence that says something like “Nixon had a heart.”

Look, there’s no getting around the fact that our 37th President made an awful lot of mistakes in his life time. Not to mention a great many enemies. But Richard Nixon also managed to make at least one friend: Walt Disney.

Make of that what you will, okay?

Happy Presidents Day!

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 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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