[VENICE] HOW TO EAT AND DRINK LIKE A LOCAL IN…

Couple of days back, I chanced upon this interesting site that arranges professional gourmet food tours in Italy. The foodie in me was jumping for joy! I wish I had done more research before my trip to Venice (2014), which led to sub-par pastas and touristy rip-offs (although you never go wrong with seafood risottos). Venice is a perfect locale for sightseeing, but at the same time the hustling-bustling city is bound to overwhelm you unless you come prepared with a solid list of where to go and what to do. Loads of pizzerias and pasta houses would lure unsuspecting tourists into their midst and serve up mediocre cuisines, tricking you into believing that this is the best you can get in Venice.

There’s this Italian saying, “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.” – literally translated as “not all donuts come with a hole”, metaphorically alluding to things not always turning out as we expected. I’d projected all Italian restaurants to be fantastico. Truth is, locals have got way higher expectations than the average tourist, so it turns out you can actually hire a tourguide to bring you around for the best cuisines! Next time round probably I’ll be engaging tours – what better way to pamper your belly than Emilia Delizia’s filtered list of delis, chosen through personal samplings from the native Italians themselves. Way too cool!

Where: Emilia Delizia

Who: Experts in food and wine travel in Parma, Modena and Bologna

What: Holiday planning to various Italian destinations in your native language (Russian, English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, you name it)

What I love: Cicchetti Crawl
The same question popping up in your head right now was in my own, the first time I read about cicchetti. What’s that?

Well essentially they are snacks, rather like Spanish tapas, served in wine bars and taverns. According to Emilia Delizia, a cicchetti adventure should begin at bacari (wine bars) or osteria, both of which serve such simple, traditional snack foods: chunks of salami, pieces of cheese, fried olives and fried seafoods. However modern cicchetti can be much more elaborate, and can even be dinners in miniature. Also what better way to sample the best local wines than to get locals to drink them with you! The Italian vocabulary for wines is amazing: did you know, ombra are small glasses of wine (about the size of a double shot), and also nicknamed ‘shade’ after wine sellers in the Piazza San Marco, who kept in the shade to keep the wine cool and fresh. I remember having an aperitivo (a pre-dinner drink to whet my appetite) during my trip, and was awed by the wine selection. Due to our language disparity, unfortunately, the Italian wine connoisseur could not express what was in the aperitivo – I think it had something to do with sparkling wine and bitters. Which is why a food tour would be extremely helpful, and could save you a lot of trial and errors in the Venetian food-maze.

I should probably warn you not to read Emilia Delizia on an empy stomach…I got so hungry after reading their gourmet descriptions. I needed no further proof that these guys know their stuff. Popular cichettis include “tidbits served on toast (crostini) or on squares of savory grilled polenta”, and “squid ink toast with or without curried shrimp”, and “tramezzini (little triangular sandwiches) made from special, soft white bread, stuffed with a delectable variety of fillings including ham, olives, cheese or tuna”. Tramezzini. What a mouthful.

Where To Go: Rialto Fish Market
The best seafood based bacari and osteria are in San Polo, where they serve “swordfish croissant and scallops served in the shell – all served in a buffet style” and “hearty plates of polpette (meatballs) served with an aioli sauce, topped with truffles, cheese and mushrooms”. Honestly, I never knew these existed till I read this off E.D.!

Venice, I’ll be back for you with a hearty appetite!

P.S. All pictures are my own, circa 2013

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

♛ Scarlet Carousel | oo4

{Installation} – [oo4]

You trust us to find her? Your trust is cheap.

February 2017
South Korea

“Here, this is the source of our system’s hijack, Mr Yamaguchi.”

The aforementioned ran his eyes across the network protocol and address. “A one-man operation?”

“Indeed. Helluva a genius this one is. Shall I get rid of him? Your call, Sir.” His proud lackey rubs his hands together, eager for mission. He shifts his weight from foot to foot – the only sound that could be heard in the Yamaguchi headquarters.

Yamaguchi grits his teeth and lets his thoughts fill the silence. Finally, he lets out a deep chuckle and says, “Let this go on.” He swivels around to face the vast skyline of metropolitan Seoul.

“But Sir, this man has obtained crucial information –

“Let him pass system security for a whee bit longer.”

“Sir, our database has been compromised –
“You heard me.”

“Sir, for someone to hack into the system, he’s not simple to begin with…”

“I have made myself very clear. You may go.”

Puzzled, his subordinate hastens to retreat. Meanwhile, the stack of sheets containing the hijacker’s information goes alight with a flick, and disappears amongst dark wisps of smoke. Within minutes it is nothing more than ashes in Yamaguchi’s wastebasket.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“For God’s sake what this lady needs is the hospital!” Eiji does not follow the party up the flight of stairs leading towards a dimly lit private apartment.

In Pierre’s arms, her arms and legs droops like a lifeless ragdoll.

Pierre grits his teeth. “Keep this up and you’ll be the one needing a medic.”

Eiji’s head snaps up. He charges forward. Reina quickly blocks the stairway with her frame and shakes her head vehemently. “We need to lay low,” Reina lays a hand on Eiji’s forearm an leads him up the stairs, “as we’re clearly on the run now. Showing up at the public hospital would only cause a hoo-hah we don’t need.”

Pierre lets out a low whistle. “Thank god someone here’s got brains.”

Eiji’s fists clench at the other man’s remark, but with Reina’s soothing hands running up and down his arms, he could no longer stay angry.

A swift intercom call later, they are introduced into a dark studio apartment. The world outside is cut off by a sharp, almost inaudible click of an automatic door security system. As the door shuts quietly behind their backs, Reina registers a monochrome space with patches of greys and startling implants of scarlet red. Beyond the walls, nothing from the inside can be heard even to anyone pressing a stethoscope to the cold metal of the door. Hence nobody, save for Eiji, would ever have heard Reina’s soft, surprised gasp as she first lay eyes on Jae – a tall stranger of which she could only make out the sharp contours of his deepset eyes, high cheekbones and strong jaws. In the dim of the lights, he looked even darker in a full suit of black, eyebrows in thick slashes of rich chocolate brown furrowed in an inconspicuous frown. So natural was this look of intense concentration that this man did not appear to be frowning at all, until you took a closer look at the lines at the base of his forehead.

Taking her gasp as an indication of fear, Eiji steps protectively closer to Reina, and this movement leads Jae to frown in their direction. He immediately recognizes the face from a recent seige of the nation’s identity databases – a Reina Yamaguchi who Pierre asked to keep tabs on.

This close, Jae is stirred by the girl’s dark, startling beauty. Keeping his cool, he steps one forward, deliberately closing the distance between them. He takes one look at the unconscious girl in Pierre’s arms, then back at Reina and Eiji. “If the pair of you so much as breathe a word to anybody outside of this room, you two are as good as dead.”

With a chin-tilt, he gestures for Pierre to go forth into another room. “I’ll be attending to the wounded. The two of you need to remain on this couch, within our sight.”

From the room, Pierre replies, “the female identity is verified. You can just discard the boy.”

“Hey we came here together and I’m not leaving without Reina!”

Jae sighs gravely as he pushes both of them onto the couch. “Oh Pierre, why the heck did you bring the boy here.”

“I couldn’t run with one girl’s body and securely ditch another. The pretty one is too fragile to be of any help.” Pierre steps back into the room, wiping his hands on a bloodied towel.

“Could the two of you not speak as though we don’t exist?” Reina points back and forth between Eiji and herself, emphasising their presence.

“Yup, pretty one’s got guts and brains,” Jae confirms, “and so I’d expect you to know how to shut your trap. If you guys try to run, you’ll only escalate your deaths. Not to mention your room-mate’s.”

“Noemie? You know where she is?” Reina stands abruptly. Suddenly, the couch tilts back and Eiji is flung onto the floor. “Hey!” he gets back on his foot and looks befuddled.

“Watch it. My home is booby-trapped everywhere to disarm intruders. If you don’t wish to be caught off-guard, don’t make sudden movements. The trick is – stay still, don’t leave the premises unless you’re with Pierre or me. Also, the studio with the red door is out-of-bounds.” Jae throws out the warning before leaving the room.

Eiji tugs Reina down to his side and pulls her close. “You guys are insane!”

“Are we? Your roommate is insane. This Noemie. Tell me, why would she stalk me in the middle of the night, dressed like a whore.” Pierre questions.

Reina frowns in concern. “You met Noemie? Is she safe? She was supposed to meet me at my dad’s bar but was uncontactable all night.”

Pierre slips a hand into his jeans and pulls out the device. “Because I have her cellphone. And she has mine. We had a confrontation but I didn’t hurt her, or see her after. I was hoping to find her in that apartment to return it.

“We stay together in that apartment…” Reina lets her voice trail off. The room they shared was now ransacked and destroyed.

“And we don’t know who that girl is.” Eiji chin tilts to gesture towards the room where Pierre had carried the injured girl earlier.

“The main thing now is to make sure that girl lives to tell the story.” Jae says as he returns with 2 Styrofoam cups of water. “Drink up, you look like you need it.”

Thirstily, the two downs them. Reina wipes her mouth with the back of her hands and says, “Thanks. I really need to know if Noemie is safe. Can you find her?”

Jae takes the empty cup and thrashes them. “If she’s important, we’ll look for her, dead or alive.”

“Of course she’s important! Don’t even mention dead. I can’t hear it. If you brought us here, you must know what happened to her.” Reina’s eyes start to fill and Jae has to look away from them.

“Give me a reason we have to bother with you kids fouling up our plans.”

“We have no such intentions. If you know where Noemie is, would you find her? For me?” Reina pleads with desperation in her eyes. She searches Jae’s face to no avail – a cold hard emotionlessness is all he shows.

Jae fights an urge to let down his guard; in his defense he’s not usually weak when it comes to girls. In Reina’s records, she was an actress with accolades to her name – a girl like that could charm the pants off a man without lifting a finger.

Jae shrugs. “You trust us to find her? Your trust is cheap. Lesson number one: don’t finish your drinks so quickly.”

It takes them 2 seconds to digest this piece of news. In the next instant, they had fallen into deep sleep.

In the makeshift surgery room, Jae grits his teeth and frowns in concentration. With doctor’s precision, he weaves the stitch needles in and out of the fresh wound. Pierre hands him a hot sterilized napkin, which he dabs on the face of the wounded girl.

“Jae. You think we can get much out of her when she’s conscious?”

“I think she’s as innocent as those two out there. One less life on my bad karma, one less load on my conscience.” With an inbuilt flashlight on his Swiss army knife, Jae examines her pupils. “Any idea where this girl comes from?”

Pierre shakes his head as he winds up the bloodied sheets and tucks them away in the washer, and quickly checks the security screen with cameras reflecting all zones of Jae’s apartment. Huddled on the couch, the screen showed Reina and Eiji fast asleep.

“I’m still confused. Are you gonna tell me what’s all this about? First you check up on this Reina Yamaguchi. The next moment you show up with her, plus an almost-dead chick and a dumbass.”

“So that girl is Reina Yamaguchi?”

“Yea. What’s the story? Start from the beginning.”

“Okay, so, a briefcase full of bio-hazardous drugs should have been on that flight to Vegas an hour ago, but nobody showed up to hand them over to me. I couldn’t leave for Vegas. My guess is, peddlers of the patented drugs killed my messenger. I got shot in the alley, hence my bleeding head if you haven’t noticed. Out of nowhere, I found a girl who’s been following me. I thought she had shot me in the first place, but turns out she’s just a very sexy whore. Her name’s Noemie Matsumoto. We had a scuffle; I tried to get information out of her. She acted all girly and weak in front of me so I let her go. Then our phones got swopped, and I know I got that girl into trouble because if she picks up any of my calls at all, she’s dead meat. That Reina Yamaguchi had been calling the whore’s cellphone the entire night, so I figured she knew something. When I got to their shared apartment, I found her,” he points to the makeshift surgery table, “and none of us know who the fuck is she. Their apartment got torn apart.”

“Right, this is not confusing as hell. Who do you think wants those drugs?”

“Man you have no idea. If news had been leaked, countries would pay gazillions for these drugs as investment in biological warfare. These new anti-retroviral drugs are deadly. You don’t need internal ingestion to kill an entire population within seconds. When genetically altered, these viruses can be timed into action, so if you want a person, or a society, to die at a specific time and date, that can be made possible.”

Jae curses under his breath. “And that stuff was carried around in a briefcase?”

“Discreet huh. At the moment the drugs are unnamed, manufactured by a private South Korean organisation nicknamed Cave, which coincidentally also sold the satellite database system to the government.”

“Really? Coincidentally, I was skyjacking the government satellite system earlier. Guess what? Complete access.” Jae winks.

“Nice.” Pierre holds up a hand for high-five, and follows Jae into the red room where his devices were stored. “I was hoping to find out more about Cave through the drugs transaction. Did you find out more?”

“See? Sceenshot here says interference on my skyjack was from a source name Yamaguchi. I was totally blocked after that. Considering my system is still up and running I’m surprised they didn’t try to shut me down completely. My guess is, Cave built this the database for the government, but for Yamaguchi to hack into government files and change records. Afterall, Cave sold the system to the government many years ago. So Cave is in fact working for Yamaguchi. Coincidentally, that girl outside shares the last name.”

“But when you ran a check on Reina there was nothing on her.”

“Not her. Her family.”

“Family. So you’re saying…”

“We need to find out more about her family. Then we need to find Cave’s headquarters.”

“Jumping into conclusions aren’t we. I like that. Where do we start?”

“Before we go anywhere let me look at that gunshot. That sniper got you good.”

Writing Prompt: Mint

Describe the taste of mint, without using the words blue, green, cool or fresh.
No, you can’t use “minty” either. — Sarah Selecky

You place it gently at the tip of your tongue, slowly wrapping it in a fold, delivering it into the moist cave between your lips as you clench your teeth shut. You close your eyes to savor the first burst of sharp flavor and here comes your first thought – it tastes like the sea on the cusp of summer’s noon.
Its circular body is flipped through and through, crashing against the banks of your teeth like a pebble in restless tides, chipping away each time it hits the shores. Alongside the summer heat, it glows with a force. It is a piece of invitation – come to the sea where it is cold, and I will melt the heat away.

At its peak, it throbs with torridity, fighting with a fervor to be scorchingly cold.

At the close of the day it is chipped to its core, releasing feeble spurt of tangy tremor as the setting sun retreats.
Its purpose dutifully served, it fades to nothingness.

xoxo viktoriajean

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