Tuesday, July 29th

aRoma: Italian by way of South Austin

Neapolitan Pizza at aRoma, Austin Texas

Located in the base level of the 704 Apartments on South Lamar is aRoma Italian Kitchen & Bar, which has been open for almost three months. Here’s a look at some of their menu, which I tasted at a media event shortly after they opened.

Salumi & Formaggi. The selection of meats and cheeses were paired with castelvetrano olives and condiments.

Salumi & Formaggi at aRoma, Austin Texas

Barbarietola. A salad of roasted beets, goat cheese, pine nuts, farro, crispy onions, and red wine vinaigrette.

Barbabietola at aRoma, Austin Texas

Margherita Pizza, Neapolitan style.

Margherita Pizza at aRoma, Austin Texas

Fettucine Gamberetto. The pasta is made with shrimp, prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, arugula, and smoked tomato cream.

Fettuccine Gamberetto at aRoma, Austin Texas

Brasato al Vino. Red wine braised short ribs, mascarpone potatoes, wilted spinach.

Brasato al Vino at aRoma, Austin Texas

Biscotti and Brownies

Biscotti and Brownies at aRoma, Austin Texas

In addition to a sizable wine list, aRoma makes specialty cocktails like the Americano or the Nonino Sour, a frothy, sweet concoction that was perfect for dessert.

Americano at aRoma, Austin Texas

Nonino Sour at aRoma, Austin Texas

aRoma has a great happy hour M-F 4-7, with ½ price pizzas, $1 sparkling wine, and $1 off all other drinks.

aRoma, 3403 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704

M-F 4-10, Sat & Sun 5-10

Thursday, July 24th

Dang Banh Mi

Dang Banh Mi

The much-anticipated Dang Bánh Mì opened this week. The passion project from the Pluckers owners was born out of a love of Vietnam and its cuisine. I attended a media preview and was pleasantly surprised by the authenticity and attention to detail in the food.

Lemongrass pork and shrimp spring rolls were light and fresh, but the real star was the peanut dipping sauce. My dining companions and I looked for anything and everything to dip in that sauce.

Lemongrass Pork & Shrimp Spring Rol

At first glance we were surprised to find one lone Thai dish on the menu, but the Som Tam was so well done that we agreed that its inclusion was warranted. A 6 oz portion is $2.50, a bargain.

Som Tam at Dang Banh Mi, Austin Texas

I tried three bánh mì. The Dang Original was my favorite, made with 15 ingredients including pork belly, pork tenderloin, ground pork, and homemade pâté. The Char Siu Chicken was just as hearty and flavorful. The Oxtail, which is a limited offering, was a labor of love having been braised for 12 hours in pho stock. All were delicious and on the heavier side for bánh mì, and as with most bánh mì found in Austin, the bread’s not quite as light/crusty as you might find in other cities. Each sandwich is topped with a fried egg, which I found to be a nice touch.

Banh Mi at Dang Banh Mi, Austin Texas

The pho broth was incredibly flavorful and beefy, delighting my good friend Peter, whose opinion holds a lot of weight. I really liked the inclusion of mint in the toppings, which brought a burst of cool flavor that contrasted nicely with the brisket, sirloin, and eye of round. Meat-lovers will really love this pho.

Pho at Dang Banh Mi

Already full, we pushed on to sample the grilled lemongrass pork bún, which was chock full of vegetables, making it lighter than many other bún I’ve had. It’s worth noting that the fish sauce was aromatic, citrusy, and just very special. Maybe my favorite fish sauce ever! I also loved the generous portion of fried shallots on the dish.

Grilled Lemongrass Pork at Dang Banh Mi

Although it was later than my cutoff for consuming caffeine, I couldn’t help but indulge in the Vietnamese iced coffee. Sometimes they can be too sweet for me, but this particular cup had just the right amount of sweetened condensed milk. Perfection!

The prices are a little higher than typical Vietnamese restaurants. The pho is $9.50 and bún are $10. Most of the bánh mì are around $8.50, with the most expensive being the oxtail, which is $12.50. But the popularity of Elizabeth Street Café suggests that people are willing to shell out more for Vietnamese, so we’ll see how it goes.

Will you be checking out Dang Bánh Mì? Leave me a comment and tell me your favorite Vietnamese joints.

Dang Bánh Mì

9070 Research Blvd, Ste 303, Austin, TX 78757

Mon-Sun 11-9

Monday, July 21st

What It’s Like to Get Botox

So you’re curious about Botox. You’re afraid time will ravage your face and you will look like the Crypt Keeper by the time you are 35. I totally get it. 

Crypt Keeper

Several months ago I saw a Groupon-ish deal to get 20 units of Botox at a discount. I wasn’t sure how much that was in relation to what a normal face needs. So I called the doctor’s office to see what they recommended. To get the full treatment in the forehead, a person uses around 40 units. I opted to just go for the 20 units. Because I don’t have the “elevens” between my eyebrows, I can get away with less.

I sat on the deal for months, intimidated. As the expiration date grew closer, I realized I needed to bite the bullet and make an appointment. When B-day arrived I woke up nervous and made my way to the office. The waiting room was full of plush furniture and there was a television looping a video promoting a fat-removing contouring treatment. There were also some signed celebrity photos and different surgery ads. Weird. Please excuse the stealthy iPhone photos.

Tyra Banks

Once inside the exam injection room, there were more surgery ads and to my delight, a Nip Tuck poster. And implants!

Nip Tuck

Breast Implants

Breast Implants

Soon, the child young girl came in with the needle. It was small and was going to be stabbed in five places: One in the center of my temple, and two above each eyebrow. I tried not to wince as each injection went in and asked what age it’s recommended to start Botox. 22! Well, I missed the deadline on that one. But it’s a preventive treatment so earlier is better than later.

Botox needle

How bad did it hurt? Enough that I had to sit for a few moments afterwards, woozy and weak. But not enough that I wouldn’t do it again, if the circumstances and price were right.

I took before and after photos, but they don’t really look that different. I would have been better off recording short before and after videos so that you could see how I couldn’t move my eyebrows much afterwards. It took a couple days, but indeed my forehead felt paralyzed.

Another thing to note is the tipping. In a clinical setting, tipping can seem out of place so I asked and was told it was acceptable but not expected. (I chose to tip because I felt embarrassed about feeling faint and having to stay and ask for water. I’d base future tipping decisions on each situation.)

This experience taught me that I’m not going to take extraordinary measures to preserve my youth. No fillers and definitely no surgery. I’m not comfortably with being “sold to” in a doctor’s office or taking large unnecessary risks with my health, nor am I interested in spending thousands of dollars this way. No judgement to those who do, it’s just not for me.

Have you tried (or are you interested in trying) Botox? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 9th

Kin & Comfort

Kin and Comfort, Austin Texas, Krapao Pork Belly Buns

Open since April, Kin & Comfort is just starting to heat up. I predict that with food this excellent and prices so reasonable, it will be a full-fledged flaming volcanic uproar, hot enough that Satan himself will dine in once a week. There will be lines, people.

Located in the small food court inside the Hana World Market, it’s the most casual of dining experiences, with friendly counter ordering and fast table delivery. There’s no alcohol, nor can you buy some from the market and bring it into the food court. The experience is utilitarian, so there’s nothing to distract from the pure artistry of the food. And boy, is it incredible.

A group of friends and I have a monthly dinner series called the Asian Supper Club and we went to Kin & Comfort for our most recent event. We ordered freely, trying a large portion of the menu and sharing everything. The prices are so reasonable, I believe we averaged about $13 a person for all this. I suggest showing up with a group of four or six and just get everything.

Kin & Comfort, Austin, Texas

One of my favorites was the Son in Law Deviled Eggs, which were tangy, crunchy, and creamy in one bite. The pork buns, pictured up top were the best I’ve ever tasted, as well as the messiest. The buns are stuffed with crispy, perfectly cooked pork belly, Asian pear, cilantro, onions and Thai basil.

Kin & Comfort, Austin, Texas Son in Law Deviled Eggs

Rich with cheddar, the Panang Mac & Cheese was topped with curry beef. The rice pasta keeps the dish from being too heavy. I really loved it, although it wasn’t a group favorite. Curry can also be found under crispy strips of catfish and a pickled cabbage salad. You might not expect a dish named “Catfish Fries” to come seated on a huge portion of rice, but it does. This is a filling dish and the crisp cabbage and fresh cilantro brighten each bite.

Panang Mac & Cheese at Kin & Comfort, Austin, Texas

Catfish Fries at Kin & Comfort, Austin, Texas

Now, beef tongue isn’t my favorite ingredient, but my dining companions are all big fans and ordered the Peppered Beef Tongue. Even I had to admit that it was tender and flavorful, complimented with raisins, broccoli, and broccoli slaw. Mr. Betty always makes a joke about the tongue “licking you back.” I’ll probably never love it.

The dish that reigned supreme, although it’s the least photogenic, is the Tom Kah Shrimp and Grits. What a knockout! As if the vibrant hot and sour coconut soup wasn’t enough (and it was) at the bottom of the bowl were the creamiest grits I’ve ever met. These grits are my soulmate. This was the dish that made our eyes roll back into our heads. It’s my favorite dish of 2014.

Peppered Beef Tongue at Kin & Comfort, Austin, Texas

Tom Kah Shrimp & Grits at Kin & Comfort, Austin, Texas

Perhaps the food most reminiscent of tradition and comfort (in America, at least) is meatloaf. Meatloaf is one of those meals you kind of love, kind of hate, and everyone’s mom makes it different. Kin & Comfort’s Thai Meatloaf and Gravy ain’t like your mama’s version. (Unless…is your mom Thai? Please invite me over for dinner.) The exotic meatloaf sat atop a mound of lush mashed potatoes; Pickled mushrooms and veggies round out the plate. If you only want to spend ten bucks and get a huge, satisfying meal, this is the dish to get. Really incredible.

Thai Meatloaf and Gravy, Kin & Comfort, Austin, Texas

On a return trip, Mr. Betty and I also tasted the Taro Hush Puppies and Home-Fried Chicken Thighs. I can vouch for their deliciousness as well, although I didn’t snap any photos the second time around. You’ll just have to trust me.

1700 Parmer Lane, Austin, TX 78727

Open Wed-Mon 11-8, closed Tuesdays

Friday, July 4th

Happy Independence Day!

Hope you are all doing a little flag dance today.

Tuesday, July 1st

That Time I Started a Business

Maybe you’ve noticed that my blog posts are a little less frequent these days. For the time being, I won’t be as prolific on Mad Betty as I used to be, and that’s because my focus is on my work.

Giant Squid Media

Introducing…Giant Squid Media. I’ve taken all my advertising, branding, strategy, social media, and of course, writing experience over the last decade (plus) and am putting it to use for a tough boss. Myself. Those of you who work for yourself know how scary, and time-consuming, and intense, and wonderful it is.

I have the best clients, truly. And I am looking for more. So if you know someone who needs help with a website, social media, branding, marketing, or just wants damn good content, please send them my way. I’m not doing it alone. I have great access to the deep, deep pool of talent we have in Austin, including the fabulously creative Mary Makes Pretty, who designed everything for Giant Squid Media.

To that end, Mad Betty is very important to me and I’m putting some plans in place that will allow me to keep up with regular postings. I am looking for an intern, someone who wants to learn more about blogging and get some practice creating online content and social media follow-through. This person will get to learn how to use WordPress and cover some fun Austin events with media credentials. If interested, please send me an email telling me a little about yourself: madbettyblog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, June 25th

The Farm at Travaasa

Travaasa Farm

Last week I had the pleasure of touring the beautiful farm at Travaasa. It’s been around for a few years and has been producing food for the resort for the last year. It’s really a lovely setup with happy horses and chickens running around. Crops include beets, okra, onions, radishes, tomatillos, corn, squash, beans, and tons of other things. I really loved the fresh herbs and we plucked gorgeous mint leaves from the earth to nibble on as we enjoyed our serene, if hot, surroundings. I found myself feeling envious of our guide Kim, for her job of working the land and communing with nature.

Travaasa Farm

Travaasa Farm

Travaasa Farm

Travaasa Farm

Travaasa Farm

After our group had our fill of the farm, we headed back to the resort and cozied up in Jean’s Kitchen. Our farm-to-table meal was even more special, having just witnessed the love and care that went into the ingredients. I was especially taken with the fresh, warm sourdough bread that came from a 175-year-old mother.

Next, we cooled off with a chilled soup made from Texas peaches and golden beets. My favorite part was the green swirl of shishito and habeñero peppers.

Travaasa

Travaasa

When I’m feeling ambitious I will try to recreate the Salad Niçoise, which was one of the best vegan dishes I’ve ever encountered. Made from sunflower seeds, almonds, vegan mayo, fennel, parsley, and green onions, it had a tuna essence and a pleasant nutty texture. Garnished with colorful veggies and a tempura farm egg, it was almost too pretty to eat.

A dessert of homespun chocolate mint and basil ice cream encased in chocolate was the perfect ending to a fabulous day. The freshness of the herbs prevailed in the sophisticated, non-sweet ice cream. I would drive all the way back to Travaasa just for this. But maybe I’d treat myself to some time at the spa, too.

Travaasa

Travaasa

Travaasa also has a location in Hana, Maui, and it’s a dream of mine to get there one day. Anyone who’s ever driven the Road to Hana knows that it truly is heaven on earth. But until then, we are lucky to have a luxurious getaway in Austin that celebrates and embraces its natural environment.

Have you been to Travaasa?

Tuesday, June 17th

First Look: Radio Coffee & Beer

Radio Coffee & Beer Austin Texas

I’ve been stalking Radio Coffee & Beer. Mr. Betty and I have walked over a few times to see the progress. (Yes, WALKED. In Austin. What a novelty.) They got the place going expeditiously and we walked over for Saturday’s soft opening.

Radio Coffee & Beer Austin Texas

Radio Coffee & Beer Austin Texas

I love what they did to the space, which used to be Cliff Fort’s Flower Market. The natural beauty of the wood floors, walls, and ceilings is the star of the show. Bright and airy, the light fixtures, framed menus behind the counter, and colorful beer taps give the place a touch of retro chic.

Radio Coffee & Beer Austin Texas

With lots of great beer and coffee offerings, the most special thing on the menu is definitely the cold brew on nitro. Yes, coffee on nitro. It was like I died and went to heaven. The coffee was rich and chocolately with a nice creamy head. Like a luxurious Guinness that wakes you up. The fantastic offering by Stumptown Coffee Roasters is a smooth cup that should be consumed black.

Nitro Cold Brew at Radio Coffee & Beer, Austin Texas

I’ll be back for more of those and also for some Veracruz tacos. They were closed by the time we got there on Saturday, but next time I’ll be sure to get there earlier.

Veracruz Tacos Austin, Texas

There’s plenty of seating, both inside and out. I’m sure they will pack it in on live music nights. The attendance at the soft opening was equal parts hipster and hippie, an accurate representation of our South Austin neighborhood. It’s got a big yard beautiful yard and already feels like home.

Radio Coffee & Beer Austin, Texas

Welcome to the ‘hood, Radio. This one’s for you:

4204 Manchaca Rd, Austin, TX 78704

M-F 6:30 am-Midnight

Sat-Sun 7 am -Midnight

Tuesday, June 10th

ATX Television Festival Season 3

Orange is the New Black ATX Television Festival

Photo by Jack Plunkett

The ATX Television Festival just celebrated its third year, or Season 3, as they call it. I’ve attended each year and I must say, this was the best yet. If you live in Austin and have never attended, I highly recommend it. Unlike other festivals, this one is not oversold, keeping it small and intimate. Badges are inexpensive and there’s very little stress, waiting in line, or fear of not getting into a panel. It’s easy, fun, and you get to hang out with the stars all weekend.

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black

A highlight for me was the Orange is the New Black panel. It took place the same day Netflix released the second season, so it was really exciting to watch the first episode in a theater with lots of other excited fans. Afterwards there was a panel with Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes,) Lea DeLaria (Big Boo,) and Danielle Brooks (Taystee.) All three were personable, funny, and excited to answer our questions without giving away any spoilers. They revealed they are currently working on the third season, which we’ll presumably get in 2015. Bonus, we saw them at a fabulous party sponsored by Netflix later that night. Follow me on Instagram to see Mr. Betty’s photo with Big Boo.

Archer

Archer

I also went to the Archer panel because I’m an H. Jon Benjamin fan. Like, HUGE fan. I sat in the front row and took so many photos of him that I saw him pointedly look at me. Ha! I don’t care. I’ve loved him since I was in high school from Dr. Katz. And Home Movies. And O’Grady, which is one of my favorite animated shows of all time. (Go watch it on YouTube if you haven’t seen it. You haven’t. I know you.)

Parenthood

Photo by Tammy Perez

Parenthood had a presence at the festival for the third year, with different cast members attending each year. (You may remember my interview with Mae Whitman the first year.) I’m so glad NBC is bringing them back for one more season.

Hey Dude

Photo by Jack Plunkett

Old Nickelodeon fans everywhere squealed for the Hey Dude! reunion. I’ll be happy to have the theme song out of my head for the next 20 years. Still know every word.

Henry Winkler

This year the festival stared a new tradition. They honored Henry Winkler with the first Achievement in Television Excellence Award. He was thrilled by the award and snapped a few photos of the audience while we snapped photos of him.

Henry Winkler

For over an hour Mr. Winkler regaled us with stories about Happy Days, jumping the shark, career highs and lows, and lessons he learned along the way. I had the chance to ask him about more Arrested Development episodes. (There are more coming, but we don’t know when.) The crowd cheered when he gave us a Fonzie moment. It was a moment in time I was so thrilled to catch.

Fonzie

Another great festival! Check out their site for news of next year’s festival, June 4-7, 2015.

 

Monday, June 2nd

Eyes on the Road

It’s no secret that Austin is in the midst of rapid growth, maybe faster than most of us can stand. Common gripes include the job market, the overcrowded restaurants, the condos going up everywhere, and always, ALWAYS…the traffic. I don’t know a person who doesn’t complain about the constant sitting in traffic.

Austin Traffic

Photo by Deborah Cannon for Austin-American Statesman

Spending more time in our cars is simply a fact of life that we have to get used to. I have to admit, I hate it. I’m not one to leave my house particularly early to get somewhere and I loathe wasting time.

A few years ago a friend of mine started a new teaching job that was only a couple miles away from her house, but it took a full hour to get there. In the morning and in the afternoon she sat an hour each way, slowly inching forward. When I asked how she could stand it she said, it’s my “me” time. In the morning I get to drink my coffee, mentally prepare for my day and enjoy a little peace and quiet. In the afternoon I go to the gym, run errands, pick up dinner, or stay at school and grade papers. What a great attitude.

It’s going to have to be a shift in attitude that saves us. Because lately, as I’ve been sitting on the highway and looking at the drivers next to me, I see lots of people on their smartphones. It might seem “safe” to talk, text, tweet, or check email when you’re at a standstill, but it’s really not. It’s distracted driving. Inevitably the traffic moves again and the phones stay out. As a driver or a passenger, I’d feel safer knowing everyone around me is alert and paying attention to the road. And I like to do my part by staying engaged in my surroundings and off my phone.

So how can we make the most of our time in traffic? It’s not like we can pull over to enjoy the scenery and some fresh coconut water…

Road to Hana, Maui

We can use the time to decompress and organize our thoughts. We can listen to music or audiobooks. We can make hands-free calls using Bluetooth. Or we can get off the road and wait for traffic to mellow out. When possible, we can take public transportation and then play with our phones all we want while someone else does the driving.

I fully support the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Auto Alliance in their efforts to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Right now there’s a contest to create the best slogan or catchphrase for the Decide to Drive campaign. Through June 13th, enter your slogans here and you could win a $1,000 or $500 Visa gift card.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.