Name: Laura Goyer
Occupation: Web Publisher, Culinary Travel Professional
Where were you born?: Hollywood, California
Where do you live?: Kelowna, BC
Laura is a passionate foodie with an obsession for cooking classes, leather luggage, and Julia Child. She’s the founder and editor of The Culinary Travel Guide, a Certified Culinary Travel Professional, and a proud member of the World Gourmet Society. When she’s not working, she’s creating new taste memories, searching for unforgettable land and seascapes, and brushing up on her Spanish.
How would you describe your travel style?
Affordable luxury. If I had to choose between 2 nights in a 5-star or 5 nights in a 2-star, it would be the easiest decision I’ve ever made. 5-star all the way. On longer trips, I like to rent an apartment with a decent kitchen and a washer/dryer.
What’s your earliest travel memory?
When I was five, my Dad was traded to the Black Hawks so my parents loaded five kids and a neurotic poodle into a wood-panelled station wagon and drove 1700+ miles from Portland to Chicago. To make the trip as quickly as possible, they drove continuously, switching off every six hours or so. As soon as night fell, they would pull into a rest stop, fold down the back seats, and line us up like sardines in a tin can, then hit the road again. To this day, I love falling asleep in a car, as long as I’m not the one driving.
When researching travel destinations, how important are food/drink choices and experiences to your overall decision-making process?
I rarely choose a travel destination because of the food and drink choices and experiences, although they always influence my wish to return (or not). Cuba is one of the prettiest islands I’ve ever seen, but the food was so bad that I don’t think I’d go back even if the trip were free. Now that the U.S. has relaxed its foreign policy, I’ve seen a lot of tour companies offering culinary vacations to Cuba – and I’m not the least bit tempted to join them.
Once I’ve decided on a destination, however, I spend an enormous amount of time researching the local food scene.
Culinary traveler or food explorer? Which do you identify more closely with?
When I think of food explorers, I think of Andrew Zimmern and his quest to eat the most bizarre foods he can find. I’m not the kind of girl who’ll eat scorpions on a stick, or monkey brains, or half-formed embryos. I like my cuisine authentic and I’m open to trying new foods, but I have my limits.
Since I started publishing the Style File interviews on The Culinary Travel Guide, I’ve been influenced by the answers of folks that are far better traveled than me. I’m starting to doubt there’s a difference between the two terms. Culinary traveler or food explorer? These days I’m leaning more towards food traveler.
If we ask your best friends if you’re a foodie, what would they say?
“Yep. She’s a foodie.”
I recently read an article that raged on about how it’s time to flambé the word foodie, citing it as over-used and offensive. I guess it really rubs some people the wrong way. To me, a foodie isn’t someone who’s snobby about food. It’s someone who’s passionate about it.
What’s in your carry-on? Any essential food or kitchen tools you won’t leave home without?
Mostly electronics – iPad, iPhone, Macbook Air, chargers, adapters. When I went to Paris, my camera konked out on me on day one so I photographed my entire trip with my iPhone – and my pictures turned out beautifully. Ever since then, I’ve stopped packing a camera. The only kitchen tools I pack are a corkscrew and a bottle opener (and one could argue those aren’t necessarily kitchen tools) but they go in my checked baggage where I know they won’t be confiscated by airport security.
What’s the most unusual food you’ve eaten?
Yak. Or maybe crocodile. Have you ever noticed that if you ask what food you’ve never eaten tastes like, the answer is always chicken? Don’t believe it. Crocodile does not taste like chicken.
If we handed you a ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Greece. Santorini and Mykonos have been on my lust list for as long as I can remember. All that gorgeous scenery paired with a distinct and historic food culture. Heaven.
What’s the best culinary travel experience you’ve ever had?
My best culinary travel experience was one that put me way outside my comfort zone. It was at the Ecole Ritz Escoffier in Paris where I was the only English-speaking student in a class of French speakers. Chef David (a very colorful character!) spoke rapid-fire French while his assistant, Sophie, translated for me. At least that’s how it was supposed to go down. The reality was a bit different. Chef kept her busy doing a million other things – setting the table, uncorking wine, fetching things. To complicate matters, the class was quite advanced. This was the Ritz, after all, the epitome of haute cuisine. We cut potatoes into tournes, prepped ‘yesteryear’ vegetables, butterflied guinea fowl, made puff pastry, and created a silky rich crème anglaise.
Surprisingly, the language barrier dissolved faster than a bouillon cube in boiling water. So many cooking terms are French in origin – julienne, sauté, soufflé, flambé – to name a few (even bouillon). Plus the chef demonstrated each technique.
The other students were all so friendly – and enthusiastic! There was not a shy person in the room. When the chef asked for a volunteer to try a particularly challenging culinary feat, people were nearly knocking each other over as they raced to his station.
Once we finished with the cooking, we sat down to eat this incredible feast fit for a queen. We ate on plates rimmed in gold. Drank bottle after bottle of exquisite wine. Shared plenty of laughter. Even though I had no idea what we were laughing at (it could have been me for all I know) I laughed just as loud as everyone else. It was just the best day ever.
In North America, our food madness began in the early 1980s and has built to a feverish pitch ever since then. The French, however, have been at it for centuries. Even Marie Antoinette was a foodie.
Any great travel tips to share?
Travel insurance. Don’t leave home without it.
Favorite Culinary Destination: Florence, Italy!
Favorite Cuisine: Italian
Favorite Restaurant: Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas. The food is great but it’s the patio that puts the experience over the top. I can sit there for hours, eating steak frites, watching the Bellagio fountain show, and the never-ending stream of party-loving tourists.
Favorite Street Food: Gelato. I ate it every day when I was in Italy. There was one day I think I may have eaten it twice. Gelateria Cinque Terre has the best!
Favorite Food Market: The Rialto Markets in Venice. The vegetable market, the Erbaria, is bright and cheerful while the vibe at the Pescaria is more shock and awe. If you’re used to buying seafood on a shrink-wrapped styrofoam tray in your local grocery store, then be ready to have your mind blown. I had never seen such a fascinating variety of sea creatures – some alive like the hordes of silver-dollar sized crabs clawing at each other’s backs, or the snake-like eels writhing angrily in shallow buckets, while others, like the gray mullet, stiffening with the first signs of rigor mortis. It’s just the most vibrant, colorful, authentic slice of Venitian life you can find in a city overrun by tourists. It’s also an awesome place to take pictures!
Favorite Gourmet Shop: Le Grande Epicerie at the Bon Marche in Paris
Favorite Winery: Mission Hill Family Estate in West Kelowna, BC
Favorite Brewery: Deschutes Brewery & Public House in Bend, Oregon. I love the Chainbreaker White IPA with its hint of bitter orange.
Favorite Cooking Class: Ecole Ritz Escoffier in Paris (see above)
Favorite Food/Tasting Tour: Taste Florence: Where Eating is an Art
Favorite Culinary Tour Operator: Global Gourmands
Favorite Travel App: When I travel I depend on Google Maps to get me where I’m going. If I’m outside of North America, I also rely heavily on iTranslate.