Friday, September 28th

Sitcom Roulette

I’ll be doing a new feature where I write about different TV shows. If you want to discuss a certain show, leave me a comment and we’ll talk about it. No big whoop.

Coffee Talk

Have you seen The New Normal? New to NBC this season, this show was controversial before it even aired. One Million Moms, a jerky anti-gay organization caused a scene and a Utah affiliate refused to air the show. Hate on, haters, because you probably made the show that much more successful. Although it remains to be seen just how successful it will actually be.

The New Normal

The premise: A handsome, well-off gay couple in L.A. wants a baby and finds a surrogate. Bryan and David are lucky to find Goldie, a sweet single mother looking to escape her small-town life. She moves to L.A. with her precocious daughter, Shania. Goldie’s meddlesome, bigoted grandmother, is played by an over-the-top Ellen Barkin. Oh yeah, Bryan has a sassy assistant, inexplicably played by The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s NeNe Leakes. What?! I know.

So how is it? I won’t lie and say that it’s perfect. I love the premise and am slowly warming up to the characters. Very slowly. I guess I was hoping for more of a Modern Family vibe, where the characters are each strong on their own merits. Family’s amazing characters work individually or together. Normal‘s characters feel cliched and haven’t developed enough facets to be interesting on their own. Frankly, as a group they aren’t that interesting either.

So far Shania shows the most promise. She spent the second episode impersonating Little Edie from Grey Gardens. It was fabulously weird and spot on. Here’s a clip:

I wish this had been better cast. Sure, Ellen Barkin is a big name, but it’s wasted on her dreadful character. The rest of the cast…meh. I’m hoping The New Normal improves in time. It’s a great concept and I am rooting for NBC to bounce back to its former glory. The network’s answer to Modern Family feels anything but modern. But with the support of the gay community (I’ve noticed lots of my Facebook friends responding positively) it may develop a strong enough following to pull through. The potential is there, and in a sea of bad pilots this season, this may float to the top and stick around.

What do you think about The New Normal?

Thursday, September 27th

Ramen Adventure

It’s been a couple months since I attempted to make my own ramen at home. I studied for a few days, shopped many, many times and blocked off about 48 hours to do this. I documented every step of the process and am going to walk you through the whole thing. I used a few different recipes, relying the most on Serious Eats: The Food Lab and No Recipes.

There are many variables to making a good bowl of ramen. Obviously getting the broth right is essential. But it’s also important to nail the chashu pork belly, the marinated soft boiled egg, the intensely flavored mayu, and the alkaline noodles. There are plenty regional additions that could increase the complexity and time of making ramen. I chose to keep it simple, although you’ll see that simple is a relative term. It was, by far, the most complicated dish I’ve ever tried to make.

First, let’s make the Chashu Pork. The succulent, melt-in-your-mouth slices of pork belly are integral to the dish. I love to braise. I love to watch the liquid level drop, and the smell of something cooking for hours on end.

Due to a language barrier when I ordered my pork belly, it was cut incorrectly. Ideally, you want thick slices to roll up and tie with twine. Mine were thin, which made them hard to tie and really hard to slice. But I worked it out.

Start with two pounds of pork belly and roll it up, skin side out . Tie tightly.

Pork bellyPork belly

 

Make a broth with:

  • 1 cup sake
  • Chashu braising liquid1 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 scallions
  • 6 whole garlic cloves
  • 2-inch piece of ginger
  • 1 whole shallot, split in half

 

I had trouble finding mirin, so I substituted with cooking sherry sweetened with a little more sugar.

Place the pork rolls into broth and put in 275° oven for three to four hours, turning pork occasionally.

Before cooking Chashu

And here it is, hours later:

Chashu

Place the pork in a sealed container and refrigerate until ready. Strain the broth and reserve the liquid. You’ll be using it to marinate the soft boiled eggs. So let’s go ahead and make those now.

Ajitsuke Tamago is a marinated soft boiled egg and my favorite ramen topping. A creamy, perfectly cooked egg makes the dish that much more decadent. Plus, it looks pretty.

To make perfect soft boiled eggs, push a thumbtack into the round end of the eggs. This prevents them from cracking in the water.

Pin in egg

Boiling eggs

Gently place eggs in boiling water and reduce to a simmer. Cook for six minutes then peel under running water. Place eggs in a small bowl and cover with braising liquid. Placing a paper towel on top will ensure that they are covered and submerged. Let marinate in fridge until ready to use, but no longer than 12 hours.

Marinating eggsMarinating eggs

Mayu is black garlic oil and the easiest thing to make. Grate five cloves of garlic into 1/4 cup sesame oil and cook in a pan until black. It smells weird and you feel like you’re burning it, but trust me, it’s right. I used spicy sesame oil to give it a kick. When finished, set aside. This is used as a condiment.

MayuMayu cooking

Okay, now we’ll go into the hard part: the broth. The most traditional broth for ramen is tonkotsu, which is pork based. The creamy stickiness develops from dissolving gelatin, fat, and marrow over hours and hours of boiling. The desired color is a clean, pale, opaque broth. Not brown. To achieve this you need to blanche the bones and clean them with chopsticks under running water.

Pig trotters

Cover three pounds of pig trotters (cut into rounds) and two pounds of chicken backs (skin and fat removed) with water and bring to a boil. Dump everything into the sink and start cleaning those bones. When you scrub off every bit that isn’t white or light beige, toss it all back into the pot.

Next you want to add aromatics. It’s traditional to use charred onion, garlic and ginger. Leave the skins on and just give a rough chop. Char in a hot pan with vegetable oil until nice and black.

Charred aromaticsAromatics

Next add in some mushrooms and scallion whites. We’re going for umami here, so don’t be shy.

MushroomsGreen onions

 

Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.

Broth starting

While boiling, skim off any skum that appears and use a paper towel to keep pot rim clean. After 20 minutes, reduce heat to a low simmer and cover. With the lid on, you want your broth to come to a low rolling boil. Adjust heat accordingly to make that happen.  Add a large piece of fatback to cook for four hours. It won’t dissolve into the broth, but will get very soft. You are supposed to whisk a little into each bowl of broth before serving. But I was grossed out by the texture of the boiled fat and threw it out. Hangs head in shame.

Let broth cook for 12-18 hours, topping off with water when necessary. Strain broth a few times to make sure there’s no trace of bones or vegetables. For the record, the broth should look like this:

Tonkotsu broth

Also for the record, mine didn’t come out that way. What I ended up with was a decent soup, but it just wasn’t correct. I’m not sure what went wrong in the process. Luckily, my toppings were all good. To assemble your dish, fill bowl with cooked alkaline noodles and top with broth. Then gently place toppings on top in a pleasing arrangement. Take a photo and eat!

Tonkotsu Ramen

Will I keep trying this until I get it right? Maybe. But it’ll be a year or so before I attempt it again. It took a whole damn weekend to make. I envision making this during a cold weekend while I’m snowed in at my country cabin in the mountains.*

*I do not own a country cabin in the mountains. Yet.

Tuesday, September 25th

Beaujolais and Burgers

Last week I attended a foodie event at Parkside. Wine author Mark Oldman schooled us on the varietals of Duboeuf, all of which were served chilled.

Georges Duboeuf Wine

My favorite was the Beaujolais Village, which was so light and refreshing. The perfect wine to sip out on the rooftop patio in the warm night air. The theme of the evening was Perfect Pairs, and Lauren Modery joined Oldman in moderating a fun Newlywed-style game with guests.

Lauren Modery and Mark Oldman

Speaking of perfect pairs, a match made in heaven is wine and burgers. We sampled all the delicious burger offerings: Classic, Lamb, Tuna and Veggie. So tasty! The tuna was so perfectly (un)cooked it melted in my mouth. And I have a soft spot for a good veggie burger. The tiny burgers were served alongside marinated vegetables and Parkside’s famous crispy, seasoned fries.

Parkside

Parkside vegetables

Parkside fries

The food and spirit of the night was all about light-hearted fun. Before we picked up our gift bags and headed home, we were treated to one last tasty surprise. Chocolate peanut butter ice cream sandwiches!

Ice cream sandwich

All in all, a great night!

Monday, September 24th

And the Emmy goes to…

Last night the Emmy Awards were hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. He can do no wrong in my eyes and he was fabulously funny. If you missed it, here’s his monologue:

The night’s big winners were Modern Family and Homeland. I guess I’d better see what Homeland is all about. Julie Bowen wore one of my favorite gowns of the evening. A stunning electric yellow green that contrasted perfectly with her skin, not to mention the red carpet. I’m in love with this dress.

Julie Bowen

I was really hoping to see Jon Hamm take home an award this year. But alas, it’s still not meant to be. And for once, it wasn’t stolen by Bryan Cranston. It went to some guy I don’t know Damian Lewis from Homeland. Claire Danes took home the female role in that category as well. Also wearing a yellow dress. Julianne Moore, too.

Claire Danes

Julianne Moore

While my favorite funny ladies did not win anything, both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler looked glamorous. They’ve both had red carpet blunders in the past, but there were no missteps this time around.

Tina Fey Jon Hamm

Amy Poehler

Awards I was not happy about: Jon Cryer’s win for Two and a Half Men. Nothing against Cryer personally, that show is just terrible. The Daily Show winning was a letdown, only because it would be nice to see The Colbert Report win one. And Mad Men won NOTHING. What the hell?

Okay, more fashion. Only Sofia Vergara could pull off this look:

Sofia Vergara

While I no longer support Ginnifer Goodwin’s haircut, I love this dress:

Ginnifer Goodwin

My pick for worst look of the night goes to Girls’ Zosia Mamet. It is weird and unflattering and her severe hair does not help.

Zosia Mamet

I’m leaving you with the finest moment of the evening, the opening. See you next year at the Emmy Awards!

Thursday, September 20th

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Have you checked out Jerry Seinfeld’s new web series? I am totally obsessed. The premise is right there in the title. Jerry picks up a fellow comedian and they go get coffee, bullshitting and making each other laugh for roughly eleven minutes. Each episode features a different classic car, and Jerry gives a few fun facts about the car in the opening. I assumed they were all gems from his famous car collection, but only a couple actually were his. The rest were rentals.

I’ve also loved the Seinfeld outtakes where Jerry breaks into laughter while shooting. This series feels like that all that time. Plus, there are lots of beautiful shots of coffee and espresso. It makes me crave a really good cup.

Alec Baldwin is a favorite of mine. He and Jerry have lunch and banter with the waitress. All the episodes are good, but the one I’ve embedded here features Larry David. The rapport he and Jerry still have together is so great. I believe they are comic soul mates, and this is as close to a new Seinfeld episode as you are going to get.

Enjoy. You can catch the rest of the episodes here. Check out Ricky Gervais, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Colin Quinn and more.

Ricky Gervais and Jerry Seinfeld in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Wednesday, September 19th

Jurlique

Early this summer I was contacted by Jurlique to see if I would be interested in trying out some of their products. I knew their quality natural products were a bit pricey, so I was thrilled to test out a few things for free. So yes, while I received these items for free, I promised the company nothing and my review is honest. Truth!

Also, my photos were nothing special so I took these directly from Jurlique’s website. The packaging looks identical (40 ml) and is quite plain. The metal tubes keep air from getting in and ruining the products. A+ on that!

Jurlique Purely Age-Defying Refining Treatment

The Purely Age-Defying Refining Treatment is a medium grit exfoliator and smells faintly of citrus. I am always somewhat exfoliated, so I had to give up my Clarisonic for a few days to give this a good test. I found that it left my skin feeling soft and refreshed. It claims to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but I didn’t notice that. Any lines I’ve noticed on myself are around my eyes: the smile crinkles. I’m definitely not going to exfoliate there, so I can’t comment on line reduction. Exfoliation in general removes dead skin and gives skin a healthy glow. For me, this one is the perfect texture. Not coarse enough to cause irritation and not too fine either. A 40 ml tube retails for $35.

Jurlique Intense Recovery Mask

I was extra excited to receive the Intense Recovery Mask. Who wouldn’t love to slap on a nice clay mask and pretend you are at the spa? This one is silky and green. It’s beautifully hydrating without being greasy. If I had to compare it to something, it would be an avocado. It just feels so smooth, lush, and natural. The directions say to leave on for ten minutes before washing off and to use weekly. This was my favorite thing they sent. It is $39.

Jurlique Calendula Cream

The Calendula Cream is a rich, pale yellow moisturizer. If applied directly to the skin this would be too heavy for me. Luckily I read the instructions and applied properly by warming a small amount between my fingers and tapping onto the skin. It’s a lovely little cream that will last a long time because it doesn’t take much. Rather than an every day cream, this is a rescue product, meaning it is to be used after sun or other harsh conditions. I limit my exposure to harsh elements, so this wouldn’t be particularly useful to me. But I did enjoy the feel of the product and love the calming properties. It is $35.

Arnica Cream

I was also sent Arnica Cream, which is the one product I didn’t test out. The homeopathic cream is meant to soothe traumatized skin, which thankfully, I do not have. It is cooling and provides protection against antioxidants. I imagine that this would be ideal after an accident or surgery. It’s good to know that a product like this exists although I hope to never need it. It is $36.

Jurlique Rose Silk Finishing Powder

As the name suggests, the Rose Silk Finishing Powder is very silky. It took me a while to even try it as I was dreading the smell. Rose is NOT my preferred scent, although the powder is so nice I will use it anyway. I can’t believe how well it sets my makeup. I may be a finishing powder convert. The packaging is sturdy and the puff feels expensive. It also comes in Lavender and Citrus, both of which appeal to me. I like this enough that I might buy it in another scent when I use it up. It is $36.

Perusing Jurlique’s website, I found about a million other things I want. I’d love to try the foaming cleansers, the mists, the Love Balm, Radiance Serum, and the hand creams and treatments. If you’ve tried anything from Jurlique, leave me a comment. I’d love to read your opinions. Overall, I am impressed and will use up the full-size products they sent me. They all feel luxurious and natural.

Finally, Jurlique is giving away 20 Clarisonics and brightening product trios. If you’d like to enter, check out the instructions on the left. Winners will be selected October 1st.

Tuesday, September 18th

Mizu Prime Steak and Sushi

I recently attended a blogger/media tasting at Mizu Prime Steak and Sushi in Lakeway. I don’t leave the city limits of Austin if I don’t have to, so I hadn’t been before. The drive to Lakeway was surprisingly quick, so don’t let the distance disuade you from going. The chic bar and innovative cocktails make for a good happy hour. I arrived early for a pre-event drink and bar snack.

I had the Cherry Fizz and Shishito Peppers. I’ve previously professed my shishito love, so I will order them whenever possible. The drink was refreshing and not overly sweet. Right up my alley.

Mizu Shishito PeppersMizu Cherry Fizz

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first round of food brought Spicy Edamame, Calamari and Miso Sea Bass. The real standout was the edamame with its salty, garlicky goodness. Edamame is usually pretty standard so I was excited to taste such a dynamic, exciting spin on the soybeans. It’s some of the best I’ve ever had. The calamari is a favorite among Yelp reviewers although for me it was maybe too fried. I had a hard time tasting the fish. The sea bass was tender and balanced nicely with the jicama salad.

Mizu Edamame

Mizu Calamari

Mizu Miso Sea Bass

The next course featured Hamachi Crudo, Tuna Tartar, and Usuzukuri Hamachi. I favored both hamachi dishes. The crudo had a ginger pear puree, kumquat and jalapeño, while the other had the bright flavors of plum, cilantro and lemon. Raw fish looks great on its own, but the presentation of these dishes was really outstanding. Aren’t they beautiful?

Mizu Hamachi Crudo

Mizu Tuna Tartar

Mizu Usuzukuri Hamachi

A food tasting with bloggers is an interesting thing. At a normal dinner with just Mr. Betty and I, he patiently waits as I move our plates around and take the photos I need. Then we eat. Done. Easy.

At this tasting, plates were shared by several of us, all of whom were angling for a shot. Various cameras, makeshift photography  lights, and serious note-taking did not take away from the fun and laughter. We discussed every bite, dipping our fingers onto plates to re-taste sauces. It was wonderful to share opinions with knowledgeable bloggers that I admire and discuss writing, our review processes and of course, our favorite restaurants. I highly recommend you check out Epicuriosities, Foodie is the New Forty, One Fit Pig, and Jetté Momant.

The third course was made up of four rolls: Fenix, Chorishi Fire, Mustang, and Baked. They provided a range of colors, flavors and textures, along with fresh grated wasabi.

Mizu Fenix Roll

Fenix Roll: Escolar, Tuna, Cream Cheese, Lime Gastrique, Tobiko

Mizu Chorishi Fire Roll

Chorishi Fire: Shrimp Tempura, Spicy Tuna, Crunchies, Tobiko, Avocado, Spicy Mayo

Mizu Mustang Roll

Mustang: Panko Crusted Soft Shell Crab, Avocado, Tobiko, Blue Crab, Wasabi Caramel, Sweet Miso

Mizu Baked Roll

Baked: Cream Cheese, Avocado, Crab, White Fish, Spicy Aioli, Yuzu Tobiko, Sweet Miso, Panko

The dessert round was a slam dunk. A table full of dainty ladies managed to devour the oversized slices of cake and other confections fairly quickly. We had: Banana Nutella Cake (served with a banana coconut ice cream that would be a fantastic dessert on its own,) Warm Brandied Bread Pudding, Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, Chocolate Chocolate Cake (with Ovaltine cream cheese icing. Ovaltine? They should call it Roundtine!) and a mixed berry house spun sorbet. They were all delicious, but my fave was the bread pudding.

Mizu Banana Nutella Cake

Mizu Warm Brandied Bread Pudding

Mizu Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Mizu Chocolate Chocolate Cake

Mizu Sorbet

If you haven’t checked out Mizu and you find yourself in the Lakeway area, give it a try and let me know what you think. For me, the setting, the bites, and the company all made for a fantastic night.

Monday, September 17th

Blogathon ATX

BlogathonATX

On Saturday I attended my first Blogathon, which was the fifth one to take place in Austin. My first, their fifth…got it? It was a twelve hour day that took place at Tech Ranch which is kind of a cool office space in North Austin. Lots of rooms and a mysterious collection of corks in the corner. This office has seen its fair share of parties.

Corks

And Blogathon really feels like a party. As is typical with any blogging conference, the mix of people was eclectic. From social bloggers (like myself) to business owners, brilliant techies and social media junkies, to people just contemplating a bloggy future, the place was buzzing with personalities.

I enjoyed the sessions I attended. Most meaningful to me were the sessions on WordPress (since I’m a WordPress user and it’s the freakin’ best!) and a Meet the Blogger Q&A. The blogger on the stand was Corrin Renee. You may remember that I did a guest blog on her site Oh Hey, What’s Up just last week. It was great to meet her in person and her frank and honest take on blogging won over the crowd. She bravely answered all questions that came her way and touched on marketing, writing, monetizing and best practices.  

Ilene Haddad and Corrin Renee

In addition to the learning sessions, attendees could find a nook and quietly blog, get some tech help, or have a one-on-one blog critique. Or just mingle and chat.

BlogathonATX

If you are wondering how one keeps a mass of bloggers sedate for twelve hours, the answer is simple. Feed them constantly. The culture of Blogathon is one of comedy and food. I spent the day indulging in breakfast tacos, wraps for lunch, cake, and sushi. Then to wind down they fed us pizza, wine and beer. Plus, there was always a fresh bowl of candy and gum within arm’s reach of every blogger.

Sushi

Cake

For Austin bloggers who are looking for a little inspiration, tech advice or new friends, Blogathon is a great bet. And for those who are contemplating blogging or just want to hang out all day, you should go, too. It really was a fun day and the hours flew by. I will definitely be attending a bunch of these.

Friday, September 14th

Oh Hey, What’s Up?

Happy Friday, you guys. Today I’m guest blogging over at Oh Hey, What’s Up? Check out my list of current raves on cool local blogger, Corrin Renee’s site.

Tomorrow I get to attend BlogathonATX, where I will learn a bunch of cool new stuff and go eat cake and sushi with Austin’s bloggity who’s who for 12 hours.

Have a good weekend and look for some new and improved Mad Betty-ness next week.

Thursday, September 13th

One Year Ago

Mad Betty quietly turned one without an acknowledgement. No cupcake, no birthday candle, no party. How sad for this blog! I am a bad, bad, neglectful blogger.

Middle Finger

The truth is, the year passed and I hadn’t realized I missed the anniversary mark. One whole year of blogging (and then some) went by very quickly. It’s been a good year and I feel lucky to have documented so much of it here. I’ve done, seen, and eaten a lot of things. I bought a serious camera. I switched from a PC to a Mac. After much soul-searching (and tears) I left a job that made me absolutely miserable. I guess you can say I grew up a lot.

What was happening one year ago on Mad Betty? This post. I loved that Standard Process Cleanse. It changed the way I viewed the food-body connection. Ever since that cleanse, smoothies have become a regular part of my life and I eat tons more veggies than I used to. Now if I ever feel crappy, I know that a couple days of produce will fix anything. My body definitely prefers a vegan diet, although I don’t know that I could sustain it forever. But every vegan meal is a good one and I incorporate them more and more.

One year later I’m doing Tracy Anderson’s 30-Day Method and I’m digging it. Twelve days down so far. I love these timed challenges. I love how quickly you see results and feel stronger from working out. By this time next year, maybe I’ll be thinner, stronger, vegan and working a job I love. Or maybe I’ll still be figuring it all out. Either way, I’m grateful to have a chance at another year. Life is fragile and I’m not taking it for granted. Happy anniversary, readers. Thanks for being here.