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Donkey Stew®

It was a dark and stormy night...
With a final, desperate gasp of life, the rental car made it to the top of the hill before sputtering to a halt. Thankfully, there were lights nearby - hopefully, a bar or pizzeria. I made my way to the entrance and found a welcoming environment at the bottom of a few stairs.

Laughter and friendly shouting filled the room. I didn't recognize the language the locals were speaking, although I was pretty sure I was still in Italy. There was a single, large table in the middle of the room, and - oddly - everyone appeared to be eating out of the same, large bowl placed at its center. There was a big wooden spoon everyone used to fill his plate, after which, great care was taken to wipe the spoon clean with a hankerchief before passing it to the next diner. A family gathering, surely.

I sat on a stool at the bar. There was a small blackboard hanging on the wall behind the bar. The only thing written on it was "sta sera tapolon!". OK - Italian tapas maybe? A large, friendly woman in a house coat like my grandmother used to wear came out from the kitchen and greeted me. I smiled and replied in one of few Italian phrases I know and pointed to the board and gestured to my mouth. She wiped her hands on her apron excitedly and ran back into the kitchen exclaiming something.

A few minutes later, a young man - obviously a student, probably the owner's son or nephew - came out of the kitchen carrying my food and a place setting. He was followed by the entire kitchen staff and by the eyes of everybody else in the place. He cleared his throat several times and, encouraged by the owner, smiled widely and said to me in English, "Enjoy your donkey stew, Signore!" Wait, what donkey stew? Who ordered donkey stew? I had. That's why everyone was looking at me with such pride.

You'll want to avoid this and other embarrassing moments at restaurants in Spain, Italy, France and Portugal with Donkey Stew® menu assistant.

Eat like a local. Or maybe not.
In many countries, people eat animals which we think of as pets. And even if the animal is one that we do eat, such as pork or veal, they consume certain parts which we do not eat. These parts are usually innards, unfamiliar to many of us and used in a surpising variety of ways . Not only are they consumed as a principal course, they can often appear in other dishes. In most cases these foods are part of local or regional traditions. While you might not see them in restaurants geared to tourists, they will appear on menus at smaller places where the locals eat. And they are often listed by their name as spoken in the local dialect.

Some items are listed on menus in a kind of "shorthand", such as referring to goat cheese as "goat". Others are referred to by the way they are made (eg, "guitar" - a traditional pasta type made with a tool that looks like a guitar) or by some special terra cotta pot traditionally used for cooking or aging (the locals know what's in the pot). There may be no menu in English, your pocket dictionary may leave you scratching your head, and there may be no WiFi or cellular connection for your smartphone.

Donkey Stew® menu assistant does not require an Internet connection (except to download any updates), and it has over 45,000 individual entries and recognizes many thousands more. You don't need to tell it where you are; you simply type in what you see on the menu.

In addition to its large database, you'll find helpful hints and a "point-and-shoot" selection of images to assist you in getting the food or service you deserve. Now with AMI® - Artificial Menu Intelligence.

Available at Google Play Store.


Think fast: those cherries you saw at the market were 4,75€ a kilo. You only wanted about 1/2 pound. What's 1/2 a pound in kilos anyway? And how many dollars are we talking about? Too easy? OK, how about this: the restaurant is charging 30,00€ for a 300gr Florentine steak. Am I being overcharged or underfed? Is 10cl of beer even worth considering at any price?

With Xchange, these conversions and calculations are a couple key presses away. You can update the exchange rate manually or, if you have an Internet connection (eg, at your hotel or a nearby WiFi cafe) with a simple button click.

Xchange also includes clothing size charts in case you're wondering if you those size 96 European slacks you were contemplating will be too big.

Available at Google Play Store.

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