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You’re KNOTT going to believe where “Disney’s America” almost got built

Jim Hill reveals a BERRY interesting story about where the Imagineers were thinking about resurrecting that history theme park that the Walt Disney Company originally had wanted to build in Virginia. (What’s that? You say you don’t like puns? Well, FARM be it from me to keep on torturing you, then. Here’s the article …)

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Given that last Tuesday’s story about “Disney’s American Celebration” was such a hit with JHM readers, I thought that it might be fun to reveal yet another piece of the “Disney’s America” puzzle. Tell a part of the story that happened long after most folks thought that the Walt Disney Company had abandoned all plans to build a history-based theme park.

This would be the late Fall / early winter of 1994. Long after Michael Eisner had formally announced that the Disney Corporation would not be going forward with its plans for Prince William County. Long after the “Disney’s America” visitor center in Haymarket, VA. had locked its doors. And long after the folks on the Piedmont Environmental Council had held their victory celebration, thinking that they had successfully driven Mickey out of Old Dominion.

Well, as it turns out, the Mouse hadn’t actually vacated Virginia. At least not yet, anyway. For a few months more, the Imagineers wandered up and down Interstate 95. Checking out other possible construction sites for “Disney’s America.” They even considered one piece of property that was actually located inside the Beltway. A beautiful 1000-acre parcel that sat right at the edge of the historic Potomac.

Given that Disney had always wanted the 19.5 million tourists who annually visit Washington D.C. to also come to “Disney’s America,” it seemed like this waterfront parcel would have been the ideal place to build their history theme park. But — having already been savagely hammered by the press as well as by Washington’s elite for daring to try & bring a little fun to Foggy Bottom — Mickey was a very skittish mouse at that moment. Disney Company execs were concerned that — no matter where they tried to build “Disney’s America” now (Be it in Virginia, the District of Columbia and/or any other state along the Eastern Seaboard) — that DA’s critics would still rise up and loudly decry the project.

Which was why — even though the Mouse would have been able to pick up the property along the Potomac for a very affordable price — the Imagineers eventually abandoned the Beltway. Heading back to the part of the country where they knew that the Disney name was still loved & appreciated: Southern California.

Now you have to understand that — about this same time — that Disney Company executives were starting to get cold feet about Westcot Center, that $3 billion dollar project that was supposed to be built in Disneyland’s old parking lot. That state-of-the-art mix of theme park & hotels that would have turned the Anaheim theme park into a real destination resort.

So, as Westcot’s fortunes waned, Disneyland Resort officials whined. “How are we supposed to become a destination resort like Walt Disney World if we don’t have a second gate?”

Clearly building anything in Disneyland’s old parking lot was going to be an expensive proposition. Then — when you factored in how the construction of a new Disney theme park was going to make it extremely difficult for guests to get in & out of “The Happiest Place on Earth” for 2 or 3 years — Mouse House managers began to wonder if all the cost & hassle involved with building a second Southern California gate was really going to be worth it.

“Wouldn’t it be great,” mused the higher-ups in the Team Disney Burbank building, “If we could just acquire a second theme park in Southern California? Without having to go through all the trouble of actually having to build a new one?”

Well, as it turns out (At this very same moment. Which was mid-to-late 1995), the Knotts family was reportedly getting tired of running their Buena Park-based theme park. Which is why the children of Walter & Cordelia Knott quietly put out the word in themed entertainment circles that they would soon be accepting bids for Knott’s Berry Farm.

And — as soon as Disney got the word that Knotts was officially up for grabs — representatives from WDI drove down to Buena Park to check the place out. To see if there might an affordable / logical way to take the Farm & its hodgepodge of rides, shows and attractions and turn it into a Disney quality theme park.

At first, this challenge seemed rather daunting. As the Imagineers wandered around the Old West Ghost Town, Fiesta Village and the park’s Roaring 20s section, the arrangement of the elements in this theme park seemed so random, so arbitrary. There really didn’t seem to be a way for WDI to turn Knotts into a place that would deliver a Disney-quality guest experience.

But then one Imagineer saw that exact replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall that sits out toward the theme park’s parking lot. And then — in a flash — it all came to him. The way to “fix” Knott’s Berry Farm was to — over the course of several years — slowly turn it into “Disney’s America.”

The plan — as this Imagineer laid it out — was nothing short of ingenious. It called for starting out by radically expanding the area around Knott’s Independence Hall recreation. Building many other colonial-style buildings around that hall until this area would then begin to resemble Liberty Square at WDW’s Magic Kingdom.

This expanded part of the theme park would then become Knott’s Berry Farm’s new entrance area. Acting much as Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. does to set the stage for the rest of that Anaheim theme park, KBF’s Presidents Square would now be where the new Knott’s Berry Farm / “Disney’s America” story would get started … And then gradually unfold over the next several years.

“Why would this part of the theme park have been called Presidents Square?,” you ask. Because the big attraction for this area was supposed to be a radically revamped version of that old Disney World favorite, “The Hall of Presidents.” An attraction that Walt Disney himself had once dreamed of bringing to Disneyland. Pretty cool, huh?

Anyway … Once theme park guests had grown tired of exploring Colonial America, they could have  walked across an old covered bridge (which would have taken them above the theme park’s main entrance road over to where the bulk of Knott’s Berry Farm’s rides, shows & attractions were actually located) and then … Several existing parts of the Buena Park favorite would have been pressed into service to help tell the stories that the Imagineers had already wanted to tell at the Virginia version of “Disney’s America.”

Take — for example — that trio of attractions located to the back of the Old West Ghost Town (I.E. “Mystery Lodge,” “Indian Trails” and “Bigfoot Rapids”). That part of the theme park was to have become “Disney’s America” ‘s “Native American” territory. (To explain: “Disney’s America” wasn’t going to be like “Disneyland.” It wouldn’t have had “lands.” DA was supposed to have had “territories.”)

Anyway … This part of Knott’s Berry Farm was now supposed to pay tribute to America’s native people and how they lived so close to the land during the years of 1600-1810. And — as for “Bigfoot Rapids” — that whitewater raft ride would have acquired a much more serious sounding name: “The Lewis & Clark River Expedition.”

Knott’s Roaring 20s section? … That was (over time) to have been reconfigured as “Enterprise,” a factory town that celebrated American ingenuity. This part of theme park would have eventually become home to “The Industrial Revolution,” a high speed thrill ride that was to have taken guests through a recreation of a working steel mill. Including a far-too-close encounter with a huge vat that seemed to be filled with molten metal!

As for the rest of Knott’s Berry Farm … With little or no change, the theme park’s Old West Ghost Town would have told the tale of our nation’s western expansion. Reflection Lake was eventually slated to become Freedom Bay. On whose shores a recreation of the Ellis Island immigrant reception center was going to be built.

It really was a rather clever sounding plan, don’t you think? And the best part of it was that — as the Imagineers slowly transformed Knott’s Berry Farm in a west coast version of “Disney’s America” — Disney would have still been able to keep most of that Buena Park theme park up & running, making lots of money for the Mouse. WDI would deliberately have done the project in a somewhat piecemeal fashion, working on just one section of the theme park at a time. In order to keep the operational disruptions to an absolute minimum.

“So — if this was such a clever plan — why didn’t the Walt Disney Company actually go forward with it?,” you query. Well, for one reason, Michael Eisner wasn’t all that keen on the idea of taking someone else’s old theme park and then trying to turn it into a newish Disney-style theme park. Back then, Uncle Mikey had a healthy enough ego that he wanted to make sure that whatever Disney built in Southern California had to have his own personal stamp on it.

Well, Eisner got what he wished for. Like it or not, Disney’s California Adventure and the public’s not-all-that-enthusiastic response to the Disneyland Resort’s newest theme park are now part of Michael’s legacy. One that (I’d imagine) he’d just as soon forget.

Anyway … Getting back to the Knott’s Berry Farm / “Disney’s America” saga … Another factor that ultimately derailed this deal was that the Imagineers could never quite figure out was how they were going to safely transport those thousands of Disneyland Resort guests back and forth between the two theme parks each day.

Building a new monorail line to take guests the 7.9 miles between DL & DA would have been prohibitively expensive. Not to mention all of the right-of-way and clearance issues. The more affordable alternative was to just run buses back & forth from Anaheim to Buena Park. But (as you might imagine) the very idea that Disney was thinking about taking busloads of tourists out onto the 5 & the 91 gave the people who handled Mickey’s insurance absolute fits.

But you want to know what really sank this plan? The Knotts children actually rejected Disney’s bid to buy the property. Not because the Mouse wasn’t offering enough money. But — rather — because Walter & Cordelia’s kids were worried that, as part of the proposed “Disney’s America” retheming, the Imagineers would wind up destroying much of what their parents had personally put into that theme park.

Of course, those who know about what has happened to Knott’s Berry Farm ever since Marion, Toni, Virginia and Russell Knott sold the theme park off to Cedar Fair, L.P. in December of 1997 will appreciate the irony of that concern … Given that the Cedar Fair folks have already ripped up and/or closed down many more quintessential pieces of this Buena Park favorite that the Imagineers were ever planning to.

Of course, by the time the Knotts finally announced that they selling the Farm to Cedar Fair, L.P., the Walt Disney Company had long since committed to the construction of DCA. Then-Disneyland president Paul Pressler unveiled plans for Disney’s California Adventure in a press conference back on July 17, 1996. And the rest of that story … you know.

Still, every so often, you’ll hear disgruntled Disneyana fans saying things like: “This whole California theme thing isn’t really working for me. I wish that the Imagineers would just give it up and make DCA tell a stronger, more exciting story … Like Disney’s America!”

To which I reply: “Jeese, you don’t know how close that wish came to actually coming true.”

“How close?,” you ask.

“Just 7.9 miles to the northwest,” I say.

Anyway … That’s another part of the “Disney’s America” saga that (to date) hasn’t really been told in public before.

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.

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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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