A Hole In The Wall

A little “wine window” in Florence.

If you strolled through the cobbled lanes of Florence, you’re likely to see little apertures in old buildings that are about the size of an airplane window.

Well, they are windows.

In the mid-16th century, when the grand duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’ Medici, decreed that wine could be sold out of people’s cellars—bypassing the taverns and innkeepers—Florentine nobles built these buchette del vino (Italian for “holes for wine”) into the walls of their palatial residences. By selling directly to the consumers, they evaded taxes in the process.

In the early 1630s, when an outbreak of the plague swept through this town and elsewhere in northern Italy, these dainty architectural features allowed sellers to pass a flask of wine into the hand of a buyer, without coming into contact with him or her.

In the era of the coronavirus, they’re are enjoying something of a Renaissance.

Beware Of This Tricky Candy

As the biggest candy-eating holiday of the year appears around the corner, remember not to gorge on black licorice.

Eating two ounces of the dark confection a day, for two straight weeks, could lower our body’s potassium to such dangerous levels that it could trigger arrhythmia and heart failure. The chemical responsible for that is glycyrrhizin, the sweetener found in the root of the licorice plant.

DŌ: A Place To Eat Dough

Catmint has nothing to do with paws.

To me, New York was once, what it’s to many, something to be drooled over in pretty postcards. A quasar, a lustrous urban object, too far away. But I’ve come to see it in living color, know it from the inside and in the process, learn a thing or two about its features that are hidden to the holidaymaker or a conference attendee, mere passersby. The famous Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River, for instance. Or what a co-op is.

Last decade, when I was a noob to Gotham, M. and I would wander through this sparkling island, never in a hurry to get somewhere. We’d amble past folks dining al fresco, under awnings, on wrought-iron tables, lit with small votive candles in frosted glass holders. Their menus, either scrawled in chalk on a sandwich board propped on the sidewalk or on a stand. Almost all would offer à la carte; sometimes, du jour, but never, buffet.

It was in the course of those flâneries that one afternoon we came across a Thai bistro at 149 West 4th Street in the Greenwich Village. When we stepped inside Galanga, we had no foretaste of its offerings. Instagram was still in the future. As was the collective wont of the era, we simply took a chance.

We sat down to order a plate of the “drunken noodles,” which had three little serrano chilies drawn next to it. We’d been warned. It’d be hot. At the time, I must have had an ogre’s tolerance for culinary heat, for the preparation of flat, wide rice noodles, bell peppers, broccoli and chicken, didn’t burn my tongue.

That paired well with a simple salad of cucumber, lettuce, carrot, red cabbage and tomato, dressed with a sweet peanut sauce. The meal was delicious; the size of the portion, adequate; and the price, very reasonable. We were left the poorer by $15.95.

The cream custard wheel cake is filled with custard.

Lately, the sort of eateries we’ve been seeking out are not quite what you’d call a “restaurant,” a place where people pay to sit down at a table and have their order taken by a waitron who comes up to the table.

Like an ice-cream parlor, they sell just one thing and like a McDonald’s, they prepare it fairly quickly. But they offer very limited seating. You place your order at the counter and wait for your name to be called. If you’re eating in, you mosey over to a slender—or squat—communal bar table and perch on a stool.

Catmint is a ducky little shop on MacDougal that sells “wheel cakes,” made fresh. A round, muffin-size waffle sandwich, this sweet treat is Japanese, but made its way to Taiwan during the former’s occupation of that nation. Enjoy them on a bench by the window or on the two poufs around a little coffee-table. Or have it on the go.

Yes, you can eat that cookie dough.

Two blocks behind is DŌ, which focuses on (edible) cookie dough in many flavors and toppings.