Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recipe: Strawberry-Filled Lemon-Ginger Cupcakes With Cardamom Cream Cheese Icing

I was introduced to these cupcakes a few years ago by a couple of my friends who baked them and brought them along to a picnic. They were incredible. So recently I demanded that they provide me with the recipe, and they directed me to this LiveJournal entry. Today I went ahead and made them and despite my poor baking skills, they were still incredible. Sure, I could just link you to the recipe and be done with it, but 1) if you're as lazy as I am, you will never click that link and 2) what would one of Architectural Appetite's recipes be without Sarah's fun tips and notes?

12-14 strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
Splash of orange juice

Chop the strawberries into itty bitty pieces, to the point where you would feel comfortable calling them "filling." Add the sugar and orange juice, then set aside. That was easy.

1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
1¾ cups sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
2½ teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup milk
1/3 cup lemon juice, from 3 lemons
1 tbsp grated raw ginger
zest of two medium lemons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter into a large bowl and mash it until it's creamy. Add the sugar and beat the combination until it's light and fluffy (it should end up looking like really white couscous). Add one egg, beat for 30 seconds, add the other egg, and then continue beating until it's all mixed together.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add this to the main mixing bowl (with all the butter and eggs and stuff) and mix it together. Then mix in the milk, ginger, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Fill the cupcake papers or pan or whatever you use half way, add a little bit of strawberry filling, and then put another layer of cake batter on top. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick (or in my case, a fondue stick) comes out clean.

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ground cardamom

In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese and butter until it becomes one creamy substance (I needed a machine to do this). Add the vanilla and then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar and cardamom (I just did one tablespoon at a time for the cardamom). Make sure to taste it when it's all mixed together, so you can add a little more sugar or cardamom to adjust to your taste preferences.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Nicolai Ourousoff Totally Reads Architectural Appetite

As you may recall from my August 22, 2008 post, I called on Nicolai Ouroussoff to review the new 2 Columbus Circle. And on September 26, 2008, he did. It was everything I could ever hope for.

And today, Nicolai went a step further - to my delight - by listing the new 2 Columbus Circle as one of the seven buildings he feels should be demolished. I commend him for limiting his list to seven, as if I were to make a list of my own of buildings that should be demolished (future blog entry?), I would have extraordinary difficulty narrowing it down to 100, let alone to a number under 10.

Something I never really thought of that Nicolai brings up in his article today is the idea of tearing down Madison Square Garden and creating a contemporary design for Penn Station, rather than moving the train tracks to the Post Office across the street. While I am quite excited to have back a Beaux-Arts Penn Station (that's not to say that I'm old enough to remember the old Penn Station that used to sit where MSG does now), I think a light, contemporary design for the LIRR and Amtrak is actually quite compelling. Imagine being able to see SUNLIGHT upon arriving in New York City? That sounds quite lovely.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sarah's Favorite Buildings: Learning To Speak Positively About Architecture

I think, perhaps, I've focused too much on sucky new designs in this blog thus far. Time to write something positive, no? From now on, I will try to maintain a "Sarah's Favorite Buildings" entry at least once a month to limit my bad-architecture venting.

Astoria. If you know me at all, you probably know about my affection for this little Greek enclave of Queens. After two walking tours of the area in the summer of 2006, I was hooked. I think this crush, if you will, officially started when our class stood in front of a little, rundown 3-storey building situated on a thin, triangular block and our professor pointed to it and called it "the Flatiron of Astoria." Those with any sense of humor laughed for a good two minutes afterwards, despite the professor being completely serious. And while that building isn't the pick for this month (it really should be), it still maintains a place in my heart as an introduction to the endearing-ness/charm of Astoria.

Removed from the Astoria nightlife and the restaurants and the - well, everything but factories - is this house:

The Steinway House
Images from The New York Times

Oh hey there, enormous 1858 granite building that overlooks the East River and has its own lawn. You don't exactly look like you belong in Astoria, do you?

Why I Like This Building: It's enormous and grandiose and intimidating and beautiful, all at the same time. Sure, I would prefer it without the white paint in the front (oh wait, I'm supposed to be positive - white paint is great!), but it's really gorgeous overall. Secondly, William Steinway used to live in it (this is why people refer to it as the "Steinway House"). Thirdly, it is a really scary place to visit. This house is literally in the middle of nowhere, and the only sound is the quiet humming of a ConEd plant that's a few blocks away. Fourthly - and this one kind of ties into my third reason - it is quite the trek to get there. The 30-40 minute walk from the subway will make you appreciate being so close to history even more once you reach the top of the hill.

This post has managed to reveal more about my quirks than information on the building, but I hope your interest has been piqued enough to go on an adventure to Astoria.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Restaurant Review: Wait, What Kind Of Food Do They Serve?

Turkish Cuisine. Both the name of the restaurant and the type of food they serve. Crazy! Unfortunately, it does not seem like the straightforward technique works for this little establishment on 44th Street and 9th Avenue. The few times I've visited or passed by, only two or three tables had actual people seated at them. And maybe that's why the wait staff seems to be sort of nonexistent most of the time. Really, the place is so tiny that I have absolutely no idea where they go to, but the waiters apparently do not like hanging around their 4-10 customers. Sadface.

Uncreative name and somewhat bad service aside, Turkish Cuisine does have a few things going for it. First off, the interior is designed and ornamented beautifully.

Every decoration is Turkish-ified on some level and the colors are extremely vibrant and lovely. Motifs are carried throughout, including on the furniture and napkins, showing that a lot of thought was put into the design (as opposed to the restaurant's name).

There is a wide variety of dishes, albeit all Turkish dishes, on the menu. I decided to go for the Spinach Plate, because I love spinach and was enticed by the tomato sauce/yogurt combination. I think my main problem with the food was the rice, which resembled the rice that comes out of those bags of frozen rice and vegetables. Too thick, too shiny, too white, and has corn kernels interspersed throughout. The spinach dish itself was not bad, but not amazing. I will say that the combination of spinach, tomato, and yogurt (which is really more of a tzatziki sauce) is a very good mix of flavors, and their tomato sauce had just the right amount of spice in it.

Some additional observations: their pita is delicious and put on your table fresh out of the oven, their hummus is quite good, and their Turkish iced tea kind of tastes like non-carbonated apple soda.

Overall: good atmosphere, semi-bad service, decent food, somewhat reasonably priced. B/B+

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fancy Address + Lazy Design = $$$?

Well it looks like the former Newsweek Building at 251 West 57th Street is being hacked away at:

Fact is that 251 West 57th Street is slimming down for its fancy, new address: 3 Columbus Circle. Situated two blocks south of 59th Street, 3 "Columbus Circle" is actually not part of a circle. Or a half-circle. Or a semi-circle. Or even a curve (OK, maybe you can argue that Broadway kind of curves somewhat near it, but we'll just disregard that for now). It's in the heart of the city's grid system, and I'm not sure how the owners or developers managed to get away with latching on to the Time Warner Center's Circle of Capitalism. Well done, though.

Now on to the real problem I have with "3 Columbus Circle:" the design.

Nope. Your eyes are not deceiving you. It is in fact the same exact structure. All they're doing is stripping off the facade and putting up a glass curtain wall (remind you of any other recent Columbus Circle projects?). Everything else looks pretty much identical.

There is only one reason for such laziness: the less thought that goes into a new design that is meant to exhibit sleek capitalistic ideologies, the less money that needs to be spent on ideas, resulting in a greater profit when renting out space. Add that whole new "3 Columbus Circle" cherry on top to this money-making sundae, and it all becomes too, too clear.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Coffee Pick of the Month

This pick is actually a coffee recipe. One of my friends reminded me of the article in the New York Times from last summer that had a formula for making your own iced coffee at home. Well, last night I put it together and this morning I drank it for the first time and it was magical. I realize fall is just around the corner, but there are a still a good few weeks left where drinking iced coffee remains socially acceptable.

Here you go:

1/3 cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best)
Milk (optional)
[Sugar is also optional]

1. In a jar [I used a thermos and it worked just fine], stir together coffee and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.

2. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. If desired, add milk.

Very simple, very yummy. Provided that you use good coffee, of course.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

LPC Loves Water, Hates Hipsters

The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved the $50 million redesign of McCarren Park Pool this past Tuesday. Be nice to your hipster friends this week - these are tough, tough times.

image from

So it looks like the pool won't return to its Olympic size, but instead will take over about 70% of the space. The remaining area will be filled with things like pavilions (who can't get enough of those?), cafes, and some indoor space. There is talk that this "indoor space" will be used for concerts - an attempt to appease those who were vehemently opposed to removing the large Williamsburg concert venue. Even if there does end up being an area for shows, the space will be at least 90% smaller. Pittance!

One thing that's kind of awesome about the redesign is that the pool will be turned into an enormous ice skating rink during the winter. Do hipsters ice skate? I guess we'll find out.

I do wish that someone would save this little...pavilion?:

picture taken by me at the last mccarren park pool party 8/24/08

I don't really know if it's historic, but it is awesome.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Recipe: Spinach & Feta Rice Balls

These cute, scrumptious morsels can be used for an appetizer, a snack, or a meal-that-keeps-on-giving for those of us on a tight budget. The traditional recipe for Greek rice balls calls for each ball to be covered in bread crumbs, but because I have never really developed a fondness for bread crumbs, I decided to go a slightly different route.

2 pounds fresh spinach - remove large stems and wash thoroughly
1 cup chopped scallions (about 7 scallions, I'd say)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2.5 cups cooked brown rice (only 2 cups if you decide on using bread crumbs)
2 teaspoons dill weed (or 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, if you're feeling fancy)
1.5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (will probably take 2 lemons to create)
1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
salt and ground black pepper to taste
OPTIONAL - 1 cup bread crumbs

After washing the spinach, place it directly into a very large pot and cover it. Steam for about three minutes, and remove from heat once the leaves begin to wilt. Drain and chop the spinach, and then put it into a large bowl. Place the large bowl to your left. Or right. Or on a different counter. Don't take those last three sentences too seriously.

Combine the olive oil and the chopped scallions into a pan and sauté until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). At this point, you should preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bring back the large bowl with the spinach and add the scallions, rice, dill weed, feta and lemon juice. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Stir well with a large spoon until the mixture begins to hold together.

Get out a large baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Run your hands under water for a bit, and then begin the fun: taking handfuls of rice mixture and rolling it up into snowball-like creations. They should be about the size of a ping pong. I highly recommend washing your hands clean of rice mixture every once in a while so that the process remains easy. If you have decided to use bread crumbs for the recipe, roll the ball in the bread cups before placing it on the baking sheet. This is what the rice balls look like without bread crumbs, before being cooked:

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Even if there are no bread crumbs on the surface, the rice balls should turn out crisp on the outside. Recipe makes about 24 rice balls. Bon appetit. Or kali órexi, as they say in Greece (I think).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dish Review: Café Lalo's Moroccan Delight

I will probably never review Café Lalo as a whole in this blog. While the name might not immediately ring a bell with some people, it is as famous as it is because of its guest appearance in that delightful Upper West Side romantic comedy You've Got Mail. Lalo may shamelessly have stills of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks chatting it up in the café plastered over parts of its façade, but despite being an obvious tourist destination, it still maintains a chic, laid back feel and does not overcharge to the same extent as some other popular NYC tour guide favorites.

Because of its fame, there are enough full reviews of it out there. I am trying to remain original here at Architectural Appetite. AA: Blogging with integrity since...3 weeks ago?

Today I would like to focus on a Café Lalo brunch dish that may get shortchanged because of its appearance:

The Moroccan Delight

So some of you may be looking at this image now and are saying "ew" quietly to yourself. Others may be more sympathetic and just curious as to what it is. Is it chicken? Fish? Something that was scraped off the streets of New York and covered in tomato sauce and garnished with olives? Well, your made-up-by-me guesses are wrong.

The Moroccan Delight is an amazing egg dish. The eggs are are baked with a really delicious sauce made of "fresh tomatoes, tricolor bell peppers, garlic, jalapeno, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh mixed herbs," and served with two pieces of pita. The jalapeno and the herbs (I am still trying to figure out which ones they use) really make this dish quite the flavorful experience, and separate the the topping from being confused with a regular tomato sauce. It is extremely unique, and gets extra bonus points for that fact alone.

The Moroccan Delight is - yes, I'm going to say it - a "delight." Make sure to try it out the next time you dine at Lalo.

Friday, September 5, 2008

NoHo Historic District Successfully Extended!

City Council approved the landmark designation of the NoHo Historic District Extension yesterday! Yay! The extension stretches from Lafayette Street to the Bowery, and from East 4th Street to Bond Street, adding 56 new buildings to the district. Some of the newly landmarked buildings date back all the way to 1820, though the majority were built between 1860 and 1900. The great thing about this area is that while it's filled with all different types of buildings with all different sorts of styles, it still feels like it's all apart of one great plan to create an area of Manhattan called NoHo. Maybe that's just me.

I signed a letter to send to City Council so I feel partially (cough fully cough) responsible for this very exciting new designation. Here's a map from the Historic District Council's website of the newly designated area, just in case you'd like to take a stroll around HISTORY (!) this weekend:

The blue area is the newly designated section. Enjoy!

Image from the Landmarks Preservation Commission's website. Check out their press release on designating the extension from back in May.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Death of Coney Island


Coney's Astroland to Die on Sunday: "Barring a last-minute change, Astroland will actually die on Sunday. Owner Carol Albert, who sold to developer Joe Sitt for $30 million two years ago, has told employees the amusement park will really walk the plank on Sunday."

This comes a few days after sharing my theory that maybe Coney Island has just been threatening its demise to increase popularity (hey it's worked for the past two summers, right?). Well, everybody makes mistakes.

Last year, I went to one of the Municipal Art Society's Coney Island programs to hear about the plans straight from the horse's mouth. And quite honestly, they didn't sound so bad. They even promised to preserve the three main landmarks and keep development far enough away from shore. They were also so nice. And from Brooklyn (strategic!).

But the more I really think about it, the sadder I get that these plans are being carried through. Why do I like Coney Island? It's because when I go there, I feel like I'm being transported into a different era of New York. And really, that whole dilapidated/falling apart look that Coney Island has gives it its charm. When the new rides come in, and the new real estate adds value to the land, will Coney be able to maintain its wholly-different-from-New-York character? Will it still be a place for the lower middle/middle class of New York? I suppose we'll find out soon. Let's just hope it's not a complete wasteland come next summer.

picture from one of my summer 2007 trips to coney

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The African Battle for Best Cuisine

Some of you Ethiopian food lovers (or soon-to-be Ethiopian food lovers) who live in/visit Morningside Heights or the Upper West Side might often face one of the most difficult decisions to make on a weekly basis: Massawa or Awash?

Sitting only 14 blocks away from each other on Amsterdam Avenue, Massawa and Awash are two of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. And that's mainly because they both serve incredibly tasty Ethiopian food. But for people who don't eat Ethiopian food as often as I do, and therefore won't find themselves going back and forth between restaurants regularly, I have done a compare/contrast study of the two so that you can make an informed decision when you suddenly are craving African cuisine and are at a loss of which restaurant to pick (I am so nice, I know).

Before I begin, I should note that I am a vegetarian, and consequently this analysis will only focus on the two restaurants' vegetable dishes . However, everyone I have met who eats meat at Ethiopian restaurants seems to prefer Awash. Yay Awash. OK, onwards:

Has significantly better Tej Honey Wine & spiced tea
Has much better Shiro (cooked and spiced chickpeas)
Offers rice as a substitute for injera for the gluten-free among us
Has an awesome collection of hard candies to select from when you're done with your meal
Massawa's "Can't Miss" Dishes
Duba - "pumpkin tenderly sautéed with berbere, tomatoes and rosemary"
Hamli - "spinach sautéed with spices and garlic" The Hamli is really good paired with the Shiro (which I would put in the "can't miss" list if it weren't a staple at every Ethiopian restaurant)

Sometimes gives you warm towels before you eat
Has a much better collard greens dish
The injera is generally of a better quality
Awash's "Can't Miss" Dishes
Key Sir Alicha - a combination of red beets, carrots, and potatoes (so good - especially if you like beets, which Massawa is sorely lacking)
String beans and carrots (cooked and seasoned in spicy garlic sauce) - this kind of tastes more like a Thai dish than an Ethiopian one, but that doesn't stop it from being delicious. Plus, how often do you get to eat Thai food with injera?

The "Best Meat" Award goes to Awash.

The "Best Beverages (Including Alcohol)" Award goes to Massawa

The "Best Shiro" Award goes to Massawa

The "Best Injera" Award goes to Awash

I will not come to any conclusion on which restaurant is better overall, though I am slightly biased towards Massawa because I had my first taste of Ethiopian food there my first week of college, and maintained a weekly ritual of eating there for the remaining four years. So dear readers, it will be your task to go out to both restaurants and form an objective opinion.