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.

Friday, May 30th

Review of Pharrell’s Album “Girl”

Girl album cover by Pharrell Williams

I waited two years for Pharrell Williams to release Girl. I ran to Waterloo Records and picked up a copy the day it dropped and have been listening to it nonstop in my car ever since. After giving it a listen between 100 and 200 times, I’m finally ready to talk about it. Let’s do this.

I’ve been with Pharrell through every N.E.R.D. album. I saw them when they played in Austin in 2010. I’ve been obsessed with everything The Neptunes touched and have read just about every interview. So, yeah. I’m a huge fan. (No disrespect to those of you who are just getting on board with Happy. Now go buy some old stuff.)

I should quickly note that this is a pop album, not hip-hop. So fans looking for that N.E.R.D. edge will have to look elsewhere.

The album opens with the infectious Marilyn Monroe. The initial strains are reminiscent of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills theme song. I don’t hate it. Mr. Betty says sounds like Pharrell is saying, “The diarrhea is happening yeaaaaaah!” It’s true. Anyway, it’s got a video so here you go.

The collaborative songs on the album are all strong. The chemistry between Pharrell and Justin Timberlake is great and Brand New is a likely contender for a single. (Every song on the album is radio friendly, actually.) Duet Know Who You Are with Alicia Keys is a personal favorite. The laid back vocals and upbeat soul are perfect to showcase both their voices. Gust of Wind proves that creative lightning indeed can strike twice. Like Lose Yourself to Dance or Get Lucky, his partnership with Daft Punk results in pure magic. It’s my favorite song on the album, hands down. It’s groovy, funky, and reminiscent of Jamiroquai…but with French robots. And violins.

Genre exploration is the Girls bedrock and Hunter is solidly in the 80s. It’s another one of my favorites. Less successful is Lost Queen which is overly simplistic in its South African folk inspiration. Although there’s another song hidden on the track (Freq) and it’s worth the wait. It Girl closes out the album and feels the most like N.E.R.D. than any other song. Fantastic.

I’m just crazy about Girl as a body of work. A great listen in its entirety, which is rare. (For me at least. I’m a track skipper.) Not to say Pharrell doesn’t have his weak points. First…let’s get rid of that fucking hat already. The park ranger look is so over. He used to wear normal hats:

Pharrell Williams

Secondly, lyrics have never been his strength and he hasn’t improved over time. As huge as Happy is, I think the lyrics could be better. What the hell is a room without a roof?

Here’s an example from Gust of Wind: When I open the window/I want to hug your/Cause you remind me of the air/yeah.

I mean, one can hug almost anything. But not air. Anyway, the lyrics aren’t ruining the songs, but they could be better.

Discopop recently alleged that Pharrell can’t write an intro and relies on the same looping technique to open each song. They even put together a playlist of intros, so you can check it out for yourself.

When I listen to this I’m just reminded of how much I love so many of his songs. I’ll leave you with one more video. Some classic N.E.R.D.

Wednesday, May 28th

Sweet Heat Chicken Sandwich

Sweet Heat Chicken Sandwich

Austin-based Cookwell & Company makes a line of high-quality dressings, sauces, marinades, soups, and tons of other stuff. Their products are made from their all-natural ingredients and they are famous for their diverse selection of flavors and unique combinations. When they sent me some products to try, I used a couple to create this delicious chicken sandwich.

Cookwell and Company Honey Lime Vinaigrette

 

  • 2 Chicken Breasts
  • ½ cup Honey Lime Vinaigrette
  • Ciabatta Loaf
  • 6 Slices Bacon, cooked until crispy
  • ½ Avocado, cut into thin slices
  • 3 TB Sweet Heat Grilled Pineapple and Candied Jalapeño Sauce

Marinate chicken breasts in vinaigrette for at least two hours in the refrigerator. Brown in pan and finish off in the oven until chicken is cooked through. Shred and set aside.

Cookwell and Company Sweet Heat Grilled Pineapple and Candied Jalapeño Sauce

Slice entire loaf of ciabatta in half and spread sweet heat sauce evenly on one half. Layer sandwich with shredded chicken, crispy bacon, and sliced avocado. Slice into four equal pieces and serve.

This sandwich is really simple to make and very flavorful. The cilantro and lime in the dressing give the chicken a zesty brightness. The sweet and spicy sauce are enhanced by the salty bacon and creamy avocado. This flavor profile would work with any protein or even your favorite sautéed veggies.

Sweet Heat Chicken Sandwich

What’s your favorite sandwich to make? Have you tried any Cookwell & Company products?

Monday, May 26th

Mad Men: Waterloo

Last night we were treated to the midseason finale of Mad Men, and indeed, what a treat it was!

Peggy on Mad Men

The moon landing set the tone and we got to watch this momentous piece of history through the eyes of the characters. Even old Burt is giddy during the launch.

Don's Secretary on Mad Men

Don receives a breach of contract notice for crashing the cigarette client meeting. (His secretary makes a big dramatic scene out of it and kisses him when she delivers the letter. It’s hilarious and Don’s face is priceless. I can’t help but think the old Don would have fired a secretary for this. New Don is a bit softer and has a sense of humor.) Remember, a stipulation of Don’s contract states that he can no longer speak to clients without prior authorization and a script. They lost that cigarette business, by the way, and Lou poops his pants over it. Jim calls Lou the hired help and puts him in his place. Hurrah!

Jim on Mad Men

Don starts screaming for all the partners to gather so he can confront them. Jim calls him a bully and a drunk, a football player in a suit. Turns out, no one else knew about the letter and they aren’t happy with Jim acting alone on their behalf. They put it to a vote and most vote for him to stay; Jim and Joan vote for him to leave. WTF, Joan? Why all the bitchiness?

Megan is sunning herself in California when Don calls her to let her know the agency is pushing him out. She suggests that maybe it’s better for him to move on and he agrees, saying now he can move to California. Confronted with the possibility of a full time marriage again, Megan’s wishes are clear. They break up. The marriage is over. Don quietly accepts it, knowing it would always end this way. Shit. Am I the only one who is sad about this?

Poor lonely Peggy is having building work done and hitting on the repair man. It seems the only man in her life is the ten-year old neighbor kid who hangs out, watches TV, and eats popsicles. Peggy asks him for fashion advice for the Burger Chef pitch. He tells her he’s moving and the look of anguish on her face is devastating. She enjoyed having this little boy to come home to and it’s clear that she’s a real mother figure for him. She cries and we feel her heart break.

Don and Pete on Mad Men

Eventually the gang heads to Burger Chef for the pitch. They watch the moon landing together in a hotel room. The Francis-Draper household watches with their houseguests, the family of one of Betty’s old friends. The hot older boy comments that the landing is expensive and unnecessary, and then Sally reiterates the snotty teenage comment to Don on the phone. He tells her to stop being so cynical so she goes outside for a cigarette and kisses the hot houseguest’s nerdy younger brother. Interesting choice, Sally.

Roger on Mad Men

While the landing is still on TV, Roger gets the call that Burt died. Roger is deeply saddened and heads to the office. Joan meets him there and the two embrace. Jim comes in and immediately starts making plans to move on, including ousting Don. Says he has a vision for the future with Harry and the computer. It’s calculated and callous, but Jim knows without Burt’s vote against him, he can do what he wants now. Roger calls Don to share the news about Burt and let Don know that he won’t be able to save him. Don insists that Peggy lead the Burger Chef pitch now, since it won’t be his business to win. She balks. She’s not prepared, but he makes her do it anyway and it’s a thing of beauty. They win the business.

Peggy pitches Burger Chef

Roger doesn’t want to lose the agency he built. Before he died, Burt frankly told him he wasn’t a leader. Yet he does what a leader does and swallows his pride for the good of the company. He arranges for rival agency McCann to buy them, while retaining their name and autonomy. It’s a good deal for McCann because they won’t have to compete with the superior creative at SC&P. It’s a good deal for SC&P because…I’m rich, bitch! The buyout will make them all millionaires, except Harry, who hadn’t signed his partnership paperwork yet. OMG, that’s totally something that would happen to me.

Joan and Pete on Mad Men

The deal is contingent on keeping Ted, who really wants to quit advertising altogether. Earlier in the episode he takes the Sunkist execs up in his little plane and cuts the engines with talk of ending it all, while the plane free falls for a few minutes. Don convinces him that as a creative, he needs to work. They vote to go through with the deal.

The partners join the rest of the company for an office memorial party for Burt and Don heads back to his office to work. He hears Burt’s voice and witnesses a song and dance number. Although it’s a weird way to end the episode, and the year, it’s a nice farewell to Burt. Actor Robert Morse has an esteemed broadway background and at 83, can still cut a rug. Each season closes in a place of optimism, and this midseason finale is no different. Because the show is so dark, I’m appreciative of the lighthearted ending.

Burt on Mad Men

So there we have it. What did you think of the episode and final season so far? Do you have any predictions for what’s to come next year?

Friday, May 23rd

Melvin’s Deli Comfort

Melvin's Deli Comfort, Austin, Texas

Long have the masses cried, “Where can I get a decent sandwich in this town?!” And they have a point. Austin is so masterful with tacos that we’ve become spoiled by the many places that create Picasso-like works of art on a tortilla. But when it comes to putting something between two slices of bread, that’s where we fall short.

Melvin’s Deli Comfort is changing all that, helping to elevate the sandwich landscape and meet Austin’s high standards. Owners Melinda and Kevin Ennis (hence the name Melvin, get it?) realized a need in the local cuisine and set out to satisfy it. And in December 2012, sandwich-seekers found a new love on the corner of 53rd and Duval.

Melvin's Deli Comfort, Austin Texas

Remember when George Costanza tried to incorporate food into his bedroom antics? His meal of choice was the pastrami sandwich. Turns out the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats can cast a spell on even the toughest of cowboy hipsters, whose moustaches tingle at the thought of a well-executed Reuben. For his highly-regarded pastrami and corned beef, Kevin butchers and cures more than 200 pounds of brisket each week which is slightly less than enough. But running out is a good thing, as any restaurateur will attest. It cuts down on waste and creates demand. Sometimes, it creates a sensation. See: Franklin Barbecue.

Deli sandwiches this good have all the authenticity of New York City…by way of Alaska. Kevin and Melinda might have a background in fish, but you’d swear they’ve been serving Woody Allen his favorite lunch their whole lives. The passion in the creation of deli meats is clear, but these two radiate talent and it’s not really a stretch to say they’d command any genre of food.

Melvin's Deli Comfort, Austin Texas

What makes Melvin’s Deli Comfort so much better than the average sandwich is the attention to detail. There are no shortcuts taken here. The Hot Italian Beef has calabrese peppers which can only be procured through one distributor and are fetched from San Antonio. The tomatoes are always heirloom. Multiple vendors are required so that each sandwich has just the right bread. During cooler months when heat and humidity aren’t a factor, even the chips are made from scratch.

Critical response has been overwhelmingly positive, largely in part to the Pork Confit Sandwich, a heavenly creation of seared pork belly, brie, and mustard greens. The tender, succulent meat is less salty and smoky than the typical pork belly, letting the cheese and warm vinaigrette sing on the hearty roll. It simply must be tasted to be believed.

Melvin's Deli Comfort, Austin Texas

Melvin’s is keeping it real with prices fit for a deli. Sandwiches run from about $7-$9, and customers have the option to get it stacked (extra meat and cheese) for a couple bucks more. These sandwiches are made for the blue collar lunch lover and will provide sustenance for a hard day’s work. But lazy Costanza-types will enjoy them just as much.

Melvin's Deli Comfort, Austin Texas

501 E. 53rd Street, Austin, TX 78751

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 am- 2:00 pm

This article originally appeared in Austin Food Magazine.