Wednesday, August 13th

VERTS Kebap

VERTS Kebap, Austin, Texas

Did you know that August is National Sandwich Month? I like to think of it as Joey Tribbiani Month, the biggest sandwich lover since Mr. Betty.

In honor of the celebratory month, VERTS Kebap treated us to dinner one night and we happily accepted. We both ordered the special Döner Kebap, the signature Berlin-inspired wrap with a freshly baked flatbread. With the choice of meats, we chose the chicken and beef/lamb combo and topped both with loads of fresh veggies.

Doner Kebap at VERTS Kebap, Austin, Texas

The sandwiches are quite large and the crunchy vegetables keep it light. All told, it’s a very satisfying meal. For me, it’s the sauces that make it. The choices are garlic, spicy red, vinaigrette, house, and an intense hot sauce. I enjoyed a combination of spicy red and garlic, which was suggested by the server.

Doner Kebaps at VERTS Kebaps, Austin, Texas

Cheers to you, VERTS, and thanks for the sandwiches. It wasn’t my first visit and it won’t be my last. As Joey would say, How YOU doin?

VERTS Kebap, 1500 S. Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704 (Or visit one of their other locations.)

11 am-10 pm

Monday, August 11th

Roll On Sushi Diner

Roll On Sushi Diner Austin, Texas

Austin’s got a nice range of sushi options, despite being so far from the nearest ocean. We have fancy sushi, budget sushi, fast sushi, fusion sushi, creative sushi, etc. I’d say Roll On Sushi Diner fits into a few of these categories, namely fast and creative. I went to a media night a couple weeks ago to try some new menu offerings and updated seating.

I must admit, I’m less likely to go for outside the box offerings when it comes to sushi. I just love the classics so much and prefer fresh fish with little getting in the way. Still, it was nice to indulge in some wacky rolls like the 512 Club with chicken, bacon, romaine and guacamole. Or The Wave, with tempura shrimp and crab with eel sauce and wasabi honey.

Hamathai at Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Salmon Rockets at Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Crispy Brussels Sprouts at Roll On Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Presentation was beautiful with the rolls arranged on a large tray with fresh flowers, wasabi stars, and a Buddha statue immersed in a misty fog.

Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

What are some of your favorite creative rolls? Have you been to Roll On Sushi Diner?

Roll On Sushi Diner

5350 Burnet Rd, #2, Austin, TX 78756

M-Th 11am-9pm, F 11am-10pm, Sat 12pm-10pm, Sun 4pm-9pm

Friday, August 8th

What I Learned About Blogging

Grumpy Cat birthday

Happy Birthday, blog! It was three years ago today that my first post went up. Today’s post is my 500th and it feels like a good time for reflection.

I started blogging because I needed an outlet for writing when I was working a job that bored the crap out of me, the only job I’ve ever had that didn’t require me to write. I needed something challenging and fun, an expression of creativity that was all my own. And it’s served me well although there was a big learning curve. A few things I’ve learned along the way:

Just because you’re putting something on the internet doesn’t mean people are reading it. All the time I hear from people who want to start their own blogs. And the reservations are always the same: fear of making mistakes. But you know what? When you first start writing, no one knows about it. There’s no audience. There’s time to get comfortable before you decide to alert anyone to your presence online. And then, forever, you have to point people in the direction of your blog to get them to read it. (And then, forever, you’ll still make mistakes. And you fix them. No biggie.)

Blogging is WORK. Yes, it’s creative. And it’s fun. But it’s demanding, time-consuming and is like having constant homework. One can choose to do the work or not. Personally, I believe that if you’ve developed a readership then you owe it to them (and yourself) to stay active. I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” But I think that lack of motivation is very real and can be a tough hurdle. And like any hurdle cleared, we are better for overcoming difficulties and getting the job done anyway when we just don’t want to.

It’s not easy to make money off your blog. Think it’s going to be an extra source of income? For some it is, but for many of us it costs so much money and time that it never evens out. There’s also an integrity issue. Could my blog be making more money? Yes. If I took even 10% of the opportunities I was offered this place would be so crapped up I wouldn’t want to put my name on it. And if one is simply looking to make money, then that’s okay. It’s all in the intent. I figured out pretty quickly that this gig was better suited to me as a hobby. My financial goals are pretty low and easy to reach, paying for my hosting and some other blogging incidentals.

People are nice. When you put something out there you open yourself up to criticism. It’s bound to happen. But for the most part, people are pretty cool and will be supportive of any endeavors that we put our hearts into. I’ve had some hurtful comments on my blog that left me reeling. But when I compare those negative comments to the favorable ones, I realize what a small fraction the bad is.

The best part of blogging is the community. Bloggers, no matter what they write about, have something in common: The desire to put something out there and the determination to do so. That is something so fundamentally appealing to me, the idea that people will pour themselves into a passion project and really work at it. I’m drawn to people with a strong work ethic and an inclination for creative expression. People who are a little brave, a little driven, and maybe a little crazy. So many of my friends are bloggers and it’s enriched my life in a way that I never imagined.

Willy Wonka Meme

So how has Mad Betty done in three years? Pretty well, I guess. It’s opened a lot of doors for me professionally and personally. It’s not the world’s biggest blog or even Austin’s biggest blog. And it never will be. But I have a group of loyal readers that I’m grateful for and it’s made me a more disciplined in the way I approach both work and my hobbies.

Some Facts

My top ten most regularly visited posts, excepting TV recaps, which do pretty well:

1. Cheap Eats in Austin

2. Uchiko Social Hour

3. Why You Should Go to Uchi for Social Hour

4. First Look: Radio Coffee & Beer

5. Dang Banh Mi

6. Shishito Peppers

7. The Highs & Lows of Popovers

8. Standard Process Cleanse

9. Ramen Tatsu-ya

10. Kin & Comfort

My post with the most pins is Szechuan House. My most controversial post is Why I Forgive Lance Armstrong. Random old post that I love: Cool Yule, Fool, because I love the photos of my Christmas ornaments.

Some goals for the future

-Put more thought and effort into my social media. I have an embarrassingly low number of Facebook fans because I’m too proud to ask anyone to “like me.” I can’t make myself care about Facebook too much, but this page has caused me to lose out on a few cool opportunities.

-Redesign. Sometime next year I’d like to correct a few things I was too uneducated to ask for in my initial design. Better social sharing icons, more editing capabilities, and most importantly, a responsive theme.

-This is the hardest one for me, but I’d like to use this platform to show more vulnerability and maybe grow a thicker skin. My favorite blogs to read are deeply personal and authentic. It’d be nice to go there…just once in a while.

Anyway, it’s been a great three years. Thank you for reading, from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, August 5th

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy over the weekend and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s been a long time since a summer blockbuster blew me away. Sure, they always have spectacular CGI and a decent cast list. But so often the writing blows. (Ahem, Ironman. Cough.)

But Guardians of the Galaxy? Good story, excellent writing, and so damn funny. And also poignant. Dare I say, I shed a tear or two. No spoilers here, but check out the trailer if you haven’t already.

 

Our scrappy group of ex-cons is led by Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, played by the likable and buffed out Chris Pratt. This character seems like it was written just for for him and Parks and Recreation fans will rejoice in seeing him in a role more worthy of his talents. We learn a little about Star-Lord’s past, but many questions are unanswered. The door is wide open for the sequel, due summer 2017.

Peter Quill, Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy

The rest of the guardians are composed of Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana (who looks as lovely in Guardian Green as she did in Avatar Blue,) Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel, in his best role ever.) The foes are numerous and the tone and setting are evil and scary. Yet the movie doesn’t get bogged down with the darkness and there’s enough comedy to show it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Kind of the way Batman used to be. Fun, exciting, dangerous. Mr. Betty and I will probably see it again because we both liked it so much.

Gamora played by Zoe Saldana in Guardians of the Galaxy

Drax played by Dave Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy

Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper in Guardians of the Galaxy

Groot voiced by Vin Diesel in Guardians of the Galaxy

Anyway, I want to know what you guys thought of the movie. Share in the comments!

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.