Venice: PISTACCHIO GELATO
This iced Italian treat is a must, but be warned that you will never thereafter savor an ice cream in the same way. Pistacchio is my flavor of choice but it's easy to get an artificial tasting one. The detection trick: make sure the color is a pale pastel green. If it's a vibrant neon, it's a no-go. A late night craving during a night out, this shop was one of the only places open - a Godsend. It passed the visual inspection, and consequently the taste test. Every scoop was silk on my tongue, hitting the spot as I could have only dreamed.
More flavored refresher came from the famed Mercato. On a warm summer day in this Spanish beach town, the dew dripping off the fresh fruits bathing in ice had me drooling like a Pavlovian dog. With many combinations, I opted for a richer coconut-kiwi-banana blend for only 1 Euro. (TIP: This is a popular product sold by many vendors. While you may be tempted to eagerly pick up the first you see, patiently wiggle to the back of the market for a cheaper price tag.) The coconut was creamy, the kiwi light, and the banana sweet. Sometimes a well-balanced smoothie is all the simple pleasure you need.
I couldn't go to Portugal and not have a taste of some authentic domestic Port. When in Rome, right? After a stroll led me to a casual park cafe overlooking the water, I slowly savored a healthy glass of this semi-sweet aperitif. It was rich and round, with a viscosity that lusciously lingered as it coated my throat. Vino al fresco certainly speaks my language.
I've had this tubular stuffed pasta staple many a time in the States, but they all now pale in comparison to the real deal. With a spinach-ricotta filling that overflowed into a fresh tomato sauce with every knife pierce, noodles never got me so excited. The mellow ricotta cheese was smooth between folds of perfectly cooked pasta sheets and was harmoniously offset by the salty bite of a generous dusting of powdery Parmesan. This indigenous dish made the most of its home-court advantage, and I relished in its victory.
A token taste is all you need to get the flavor of any travel destination, especially if you are only dropping in for a few hours. I'd say my transEuro sampling hit the mark one nibble at a time.