Wednesday, November 12th

Bess Bistro

In our quickly evolving restaurant environment, it’s nice to see some of our older eateries hanging in there. Now most people wouldn’t classify a business that opened in 2006 as old but given that most places we talk about in Austin came into play after 2008 or so, let’s go with it. I believe each generation of Austinites has a valid point of view in the Old Austin vs. New Austin debate, as old means something different to all of us.

Anyway, Bess Bistro has been around for about eight years, a mainstay on West 6th for locals and tourists alike. Sandra Bullock’s name brings a bit of glamour and a lot of cache, but Bess doesn’t want to ride on that indefinitely. To keep up with Austin’s changing tastes and constantly elevating standards, they’ve reinvented their New American menu, while keeping the same cozy, romantic ambiance.

In fact, it’s so dark and cozy in there that my photos didn’t come out. Luckily, I was able to snag some professional photos* of what we ordered. First—my favorite dish of the night—mussels sautéed in a rich tomato broth with lardons and crunchy ciabatta to soak it all up.

Sauteed Mussels at Bess BIstro in Austin Texas

We also had Mushroom Arancini as a starter, and they were crunchy on the outside with a dense and fragrant center.

Mushroom Arancini at Bess Bistro, Austin Texas

For our entrees we had the Diver Seared Scallops and Berkshire Pork Chop. Of the two, the chop was better cooked. But I’m a professional scallop eater and am extra particular about my sear. It should be noted that when I ate at Bess my plates looked just these, so beautiful and artfully presented.

Pan Seared Diver Scallops at Bess Bistro, Austin Texas

Berkshire Pork Chop at Bess Bistro, Austin Texas

The Chocolate Hazelnut Napoleon was a perfect finish with its comforting flavors and satisfying textures. The hazelnut mascarpone ice cream was so decadent and would be a fantastic dessert on its own.

Chocolate Hazlenut Napoleon at Bess Bistro, Austin, Texas

Have you been to the new Bess Bistro yet? What are your favorites from the fall menu? What do you think Sandra’s favorite is? Probably something light…

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

*All photos by Jody Horton

Thursday, November 6th

Bloggy School

Bloggy School

Almost everyday someone asks me questions about blogging. Or advice about social media. Or general questions about branding or marketing. And there’s nothing I love to talk about more. I do it for a living, I talk about it for fun, and most of my dinner conversations revolve around bloggers, blogging, tech, social media…and TV. (TV doesn’t apply here, but I’m always up to talk about The Real Housewives of New Jersey.)

So I’m taking all this blog conversation and turning it into a class series with good friend and brilliant, knowledgable blogger Corrin from Oh Hey, What’s Up. We’ll be scheduling classes around Austin (and maybe further!) and offering sessions for all levels of bloggers. We’re also planning more intimate, guided courses for newbies and will walk you through the entire process, from buying your domain and hosting, to choosing a platform, to creating content and establishing a social media presence.

At some point we’ll put these sessions online so that people around the world can access them, too. Information on how to do these things is out there, but it’s scattered, always changing, and for the most part takes a trial-and-error approach to get it right. We’d like to make it easy for you.

Our first class is scheduled on November 18th and tickets are available now. We’ve compiled feedback from our recent speaking engagements at Byte of Texas Conference and DFW WordCamp and honed in on what people really seem to want to know. We’ll utilize further feedback from this first Blogging 360 class to help inform next sessions. (And if you’re going to SXSW Interactive, we’ll be speaking there, too!)

Bloggy School

We’re excited to be holding classes at Center61 and if you haven’t been in that coworking space yet, you should check it out. Not only is it cool, but it’s a community-driven place where creatives and entrepreneurs do work that contributes to Austin’s success. Joining our class is a way to skip the wait list and get in their doors.

The Bloggy classes are designed to help people reach the next level in their personal blogs, assist businesses develop a corporate blogs that work, teach nonprofits to use digital to further their missions, and everyone in between. We’re excited to share the bloggy love and hope to see you on the 18th!

Spock Blog Meme

Want to win a free ticket to Blogging 360? Leave a comment and share something you’d like to learn about blogging. A random winner will be chosen on November 14th.

Monday, November 3rd

Fall Back

(512) Brewing Company

It takes awhile for autumn to creep into my Austin life. But fall is finally here, months after the back-to-school seasonal merchandise change told us it was time to start wearing coats and clothing with leather and wool trim. Personally, I still have another month or so in flip flops. (My flip flops and sandals don’t get much of a break at all, actually, and my poor feet have paid the price.)

If a few cooler days in Austin didn’t force us to embrace autumn, setting the clocks back certainly will. I’m writing this on the first evening of the time change and it feels later than it should. I’m not a fan of messing with our clocks.

Since I left the east coast and moved to Austin, I’ve had to reevaluate what fall means to me. It was easy back home. Jewel-toned mums from the farmers markets were on everyone’s porches, people would clutch their steaming cups of coffee and cider to watch Halloween parades, and most notably, the leaves turned stunning colors. Fall in Austin means the heat subsides and I get to cease my strike on outdoor activities. I go back to the greenbelt, resume patio dining, and soak up the best season in our fair city.

(512) Anniversary Party keg fence

The real turning point is the annual (512) party, a kickoff to Austin Beer Week. Originally held in midsummer, (512) mercifully moved their anniversary party to cooler days a few years ago. For me, sipping special beers on the grounds of their brewery with giant carved pumpkins is the official start of the season. Despite it being about 90° out, this year I reveled in the spices of Pecan Porter served out of a pumpkin and idled away a few hours with friends in patches of shade. Some people come dressed for the heat, while others dress for Halloween. Like this guy, who dressed as a keg:

Keg Guy

Talk about committing to a theme!

(512) Brewing Company anniversary party

So when does fall start for you?

Wednesday, October 29th

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Disclosure: I attended the R3 Prevention Summit as an invited guest. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this post. 

Prevention R3 Summit logo

 

It’s been a little over a week since I went to the Prevention R3 Summit. And like the theme suggested, I feel refreshed, revived, and reinvented.

Resistance the Film

The summit started off with a movie and panel discussion. After a sunset cocktail party full of excited mingling, we headed into the Long Center to watch Resistance, a sobering documentary on the overuse of antibiotics, our growing resistance, and the disastrous effects that result from the loss of their effectiveness. As expected, the film was depressing and scary. But I left feeling empowered, vowing to  do my part. I will only buy antibiotic-free meat and get rid of the antibacterial soaps and products I use, as well as give my body the chance to recover on its own from illness before seeking medical intervention. I encourage you to seek out this movie and watch it when you have a chance.

The following day, my mom and I woke up bright and early to head to the summit. If we’d realized the whole thing was going to be outdoors we’d have dressed for the 90+ temperatures and worn sun shielding hats. I have a good sunscreen regimen and wear it daily, but my morning application was not sufficient for the long hours in the sun. Sunburn aside, it was a great day of interesting panels and things to do.

Henna

I might be obsessed with henna now. The talented artists whipped out intricate designs at lightning speed and everyone showed off their decorated limbs like peacocks. We sampled drinks and bites, scents and beauty products, and learned a few new workout moves, too. It was a full day of enjoyment and information.

Salada Tea

Applegate Hotdog

Where the conference really dazzled was the programming. Personal favorites were the Love Your Age panel with Andie MacDowell, Mallika Chopra, Annabelle Gurwitch, and Dr. Holly Phillips, as well as a one-on-one interview with Andie MacDowell. I attended a workshop with Mallika Chopra to learn a few breathing exercises which I’ve already utilized a few times since. Turns out a few deep, controlled breaths truly make a difference in moments of stress. Even for a spaz like me.

Love Your Age Panel at Prevention R3 Summit

Annabelle Gurwitch at Prevention R3 Summit

For me, the biggest takeaway from the conference was realizing the small changes I can make to improve my health and well-being. I don’t need to overhaul my whole life, but tiny shifts can make a real difference.

Thank you Prevention Magazine and Rodale for including me in such a special weekend. Hope to see you back in Austin next year!

Tuesday, October 21st

Anyone Can Learn to Write

This post was sponsored by The Loft Literary Center, a nonprofit that advances the artistic development of writers, fosters a thriving literary community, and inspires a passion for literature. 

The Loft Literary Center

I feel like I’m always talking about writing because it’s what I do for a living. And then I do more of it for fun, in the form of this blog. But I don’t often write about writing. Or even think about it. It’s just what I do. When The Loft Literary Center approached me recently and offered an online class I was forced to evaluate my work and be more attuned to the process.

First, a little about The Loft Literary Center. For 40 years they’ve been helping writers write. And turning non-writers into writers. I really dig their core values of inclusiveness, community, and most importantly, that writing can be taught. Many people don’t realize that just because writing may not come easily to them at first, it doesn’t mean there’s not a wealth of talent lying dormant or that it will always be difficult. Like learning to play a musical instrument, it takes time, education, and practice. And the journey should be an enjoyable one. It doesn’t have to be grueling.

Based in Minneapolis, Loft has made their fantastic offerings available to everyone with a great online format. I found my own class to be interesting and informative. Not only did I find the readings and advice from the teacher most useful, but I truly enjoyed the community of the class. Writers from all walks of life and at various stages were working towards a common goal and as different as we all were, everyone was so supportive of each other. It’s been a while since I ventured into a class setting and this was the ideal way to dip my toe in again. The classes are affordable and the personal attention from the teacher increases the value even more. I found the whole thing just a real pleasure. The site was easy to navigate and it was friendly and low-pressure.

Beyond classes, Loft has manuscript critiques, conferences, residency programs, and scholarships to help you get there. They’re welcoming the talented people of Austin with open arms, and you might spot them at the Texas Book Festival this weekend. If you see them, say hello!

And if you’re looking for help with a writing project, need to accomplish some writing for your job, or just want to explore a creative outlet, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out the courses at The Loft Literary Center.

Fountain pen

I was offered a class at Loft free of charge and compensated for this post. All opinions and grammatical errors are my own. 

Monday, October 13th

Epicerie

Epicerie, Austin Texas

I’m jealous of the people who live within walking distance of épicerie Cafe & Grocery because it’s just the nicest little place to have in a neighborhood. From the ivy-covered exterior to the bright modern interior, épicerie is an ideal spot for drinks, dinner, lunch, or a quick cup of coffee. Or in the case of Mr. Betty and I, a leisurely brunch.

Epicerie, Austin Texas

Cheese Counter at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Epicerie, Austin Texas

Part of the casual charm of épicerie is the small grocery where you can browse specialty cheeses, beer, and yummy specialty items while you wait for your food. It really does feel like a tiny French neighborhood spot that you’d stop by on your way home to pick up some delicacies to enjoy with your fancy poodle. Now, I don’t have a fancy poodle but I do have a coffee habit. And the Blue Bottle Coffee made in a Chemex is some of the finest to be found in Austin.

Chemex pour over coffee

Coffee at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Famous for their beignets, we had to try a batch. They were warm and fluffy and sweet. I’d happily go back for just coffee and beignets any day of the week. We also had the Shrimp & Grits and the Croque Madame. Both were filling and decadent. This is a robust brunch that keeps you full till dinner.

Shrimp & Grits at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Croque Madame at Epicerie, Austin Texas

I ogled the brownies and shortbread, which looked positively sinful. Someday soon I’ll be asking one of you to meet me at épicerie under the guise of having a productive meeting, when I really want to gossip over top-drawer coffee and a little something sweet.

Brownies at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Shortbread at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Do you have any neighborhood gems that I should be checking out? Leave a comment and let me know.

Epicerie Cafe & Grocery

2307 Hancock Drive, Austin TX 78756

M-Th 10:30am-9:30pm, F-Sat 10:30am-10:30pm, S 10-3 

Tuesday, October 7th

On Fear

The other day I was having lunch with a friend and conversation turned towards our fears. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. On some level, I consider myself a pretty brave person. I’m not afraid to move across the country and start a new life, or jump in a cage in the middle of the ocean to get closer to massive sharks, or drive on the Jersey Turnpike. I’m not afraid to fly or speak in public or be the only one dancing.

Shark cage North Shore Shark Adventures, Hawaii

Shark infested waters, Hawaii

However the smallest of spiders will stop me in my tracks, filling me with sheer terror. I don’t remember an instance where I didn’t have this fear; I guess I was born this way. People asked if there was an incident that caused this, but I can think of lots of incidents. Every encounter with a spider has been jolting, leaving me reeling for days. To the untrained eye, I don’t appear to be a basket case. The casual observer wouldn’t know that I scan the walls and ceiling of every room to search for the offending beasts. I minimize the danger by not going to the jungle or going camping or hanging out under trees.

But my crazy is right under the surface. I’ve pulled over numerous times to ask strangers to kill a spider in or on my car. Once, I just jumped out at an intersection when there was daddy long legs on the radio console of a borrowed truck I was driving to help my mother move furniture into her kindergarden classroom. Did it matter that I left my mom screaming in a truck with a stick shift that she couldn’t drive? No. Because all rational thought goes out the window when you’re running for your life.

Mr. Betty says he knows when there’s a spider because my screams reach a different pitch then normal. Luckily he’s not afraid, so I have a spider-killer on hand to take care of business. He smacks them with a shoe or paper towel or whatever’s on hand and in a slow southern drawl says, “He deaddddd.” I’ve accused him of missing them and lying to pacify me, so now he always tries to show me the corpse. No thanks. 

I’m in good company with many, as arachnophobia is the most common of phobias. We’re not just afraid of the terrible beasts themselves, but also of photos, seeing them on TV, the webs, killing them ourselves, and everything even remotely related. Even other people’s spider stories scare us. Revisiting the lunch where fear was discussed, my friend told me she and her mother saw a tarantula the size of a rabbit in New Mexico. Mental note: Never go to New Mexico. I’ve searched for this monstrous spider-rabbit hybrid around my apartment complex ever since, because it probably hopped to Austin by now. I’m sure it will kill me in the mail room one day.

Rabbit

I guess my other major fear is not as easy to talk about, and I guess most can relate it it, but death is pretty high on my list of terrors. I saw a therapist when I lost my nana years ago and while I don’t think it helped me vanquish all my grief, the hypnotherapist did help me relax a bit during those sessions. Later, I lost a grandfather and then another grandmother. That’s when the panic and reality set in that I —and worse, everyone I love— will die. I let these dark thoughts ruin me for about five years before I was finally able to shove them back down to an unaccessible place where they will surely bubble up again one day.

Eventually I will have to make peace with death. I’m not ready to confront this devastatingly sad and lonely reality, but I know I need to. As for spiders, well, that’s just not something I’m willing to accept. One by one, Mr. Betty will eradicate them all. We simply cannot coexist on this planet.

What are you afraid of, my friends? Leave me a comment and let’s hash it out.*

*Note that if you send me photos of spiders I will (for the first time ever) censor your comments and not post them. Yes, I’m pretty messed up. Sue me.

Friday, October 3rd

Spend the Day in Lockhart

Lockhart BBQ

Most of my ventures outside the city take place on a plane. Even though it’s been years since I moved to Austin, I haven’t taken much time to explore much of Texas. Lame, right? An exception has been Lockhart, a small town so famous for its barbecue that they estimate a quarter million people travel there annually just to eat meat.

On this particular trip I was with a group of people who were working on a large barbecue write-up. Now I’m not going to write about barbecue or try to compare who had better meat because y’all be crazy when it comes to barbecue and I’m not claiming to be an expert. I know my place as a yankee is to just shut up and try not to cover everything in sauce and rudeness.

Kreuz Barbecue Lockhart Texas

We ventured to Kreutz, Black’s, and Smitty’s, in that order. Kreutz was my favorite. Maybe it was because it was our first stop and that’s where we were hungriest. And I think the atmosphere had something to do with it, as it was my favorite setting of the three, too. Just nice and large with fun stuff to look at while you wait in line. We agreed that the spare rib was nothing short of a miracle.

Barbecue from Lockhart, Texas

Black’s is where I learned I do not like beef ribs. After spending about $35 for a rib that was mostly fat and gristle, I was reminded of a valuable lesson: Bigger doesn’t mean better. Maybe it was the just a bad rib or the wrong day, but I’m hesitant to ever try again. Black’s had the most interesting selection of sides and we sampled our fair share.

Black's Barbecue, Lockhart Texas

Black's Barbecue, Lockhart Texas

Smitty’s Market made me feel like I had stepped back in time when I walked through the door. From the classic market in front, to the burning fires inside the place, it felt historic. Like I was eating in a museum. We loved the brisket here and we finished off the meaty day with ice cream cones.

Smitty's Market, Lockhart Texas

Smitty's Market, Lockhart Texas

Smitty's Market, Lockhart Texas

That’s a lot of barbecue for one day, isn’t it? We took our time and browsed the antique stores in between meats stops. Perhaps my favorite part of the day was sitting in dark bar lined with foil and loaded with hundreds of elephants, all facing the door for good luck. We drank cheap beers and searched the jukebox for something familiar as we talked about what it must be like to live in Small Town, Texas.

Lilly's Lockhart Texas

Lilly's Lockhart Texas

Lilly's Lockhart Texas

Sadly, we didn’t make it to the fourth must-do barbecue spot, Chisholm Trail, but that gives us a reason to go back. I know people feel a strong allegiance to these Lockhart barbecue joints. Do you have a favorite?

Tuesday, September 30th

Prevention R3 Summit: You’re Invited!

I have a long history with Prevention. My mom had a subscription forever and between her magazines and my Reader’s Digest, we always had small rectangles to stick in our beach bags. I don’t remember a time in my life where those Preventions weren’t in the house; my mom still reads it regularly and after decades, it’s just as good. When my best friend got a job with the publisher, Rodale, in the cookbook division, we devoured even more content from the healthy living outfit. I’ve been a fan of the company and their offerings for most of my life.

So I was happy to hear the R3 Summit was coming back to Austin for a second year. (The three R’s? Revive, Refresh, Reinvent.) I was out of town last year and missed it, but this year I’ll be there with bells on to see people like Andie MacDowell, Chris Freytag, and Mallika Chopra talk about health, diet, exercise, and wellness at the Long Center. On October 17th-18th, we’ll be getting tips on how to cook healthier, work out more effectively, and talk beauty, inside and out.

I’m particularly interested in the screening of Resistance, a documentary about antibiotics, our increasing resistance and the resulting superbugs that pose a huge threat. Scary stuff, but I think we need to talk about it.

Last week I met some of the Prevention staff who are working on the conference and I am so thrilled that Austin is the chosen city for this event. Over a lovely dinner at Eden East we talked about how our city is so passionate about living well. I love living in a place that’s known for not only spectacular food but also an exercise-happy culture and lots of outdoor spaces.

Eden East, Austin Texas

Guests will also enjoy lots of healthy eats, get their chakras cleaned, take a Barre3 class, have guided meditations, have face and tongue readings, and more. There’s tons a stuff to do, so we’ll each have the opportunity to make the day our own, whether we want to participate in more traditional wellness activities or explore the ideas that might be a little foreign to us. I’ve never had my chakras cleaned, so mine are probably filthy.

You can buy tickets and learn more about the R3 Summit here. Use code R3VIB to get $20 off your ticket!

R3VIB for $20 off!

Tuesday, September 23rd

Byte of Texas

Byte of Texas logo

The Byte of Texas conference is this weekend and there’s still time to buy tickets. What’s it all about? Writing, photography, food culture. What else? Networking, creativity, great eats. Local authors will be on hand to sign books and we’ll just soak up the love and hard work that goes into writing about food.

Among the more distinguished speakers, they’re also letting yours truly speak about writing. When I’m not yakking about style, discipline and writer’s block, I’ll be checking out Jeanine Donofrio discuss her incredible photography, watch panels on social media ethics, SEO, and lots of other fun stuff. Check out the full schedule here.

Easy Tiger bread will be served at Byte of Texas conference for breakfast on Saturday.

Fresh baked goodness from Easy Tiger. Photo courtesy of Stay Hoppy Austin.

So what about those great eats? Saturday’s breakfast will be from Easy Tiger and Sunday we’ll be chowing down on breakfast tacos sponsored by the Texas Beef Council. Lunch from Whole Foods, treats from Skull & Cakebones, and even a cheese and beer pairing. The big event will be a dinner at Salty Sow on Saturday night. That’s the thing about bloggers. They need to be fed constantly or they get cranky.

The conference is Saturday and Sunday, September 27th and 28th at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. You can purchase tickets for single days, key events, the dinner, or the whole enchilada. Use code: SAVE10 to get 10% off.

Hope to see you there!