Name: Murissa Shalapata
Occupation: Marketing & sales for environmentally friendly building materials / freelance writer
Hometown: Born in Merritt, BC but have lived all over British Columbia
Residence: Kelowna, BC
I began The Wanderfull Traveler 4 years ago while I was in University. I had just returned from Italy where I studied art history in the Veneto area. It was like something had been turned on in my brain. I suddenly had this passion to eat and learn about food, wine, beer, and their histories. I wanted to talk about it and connect with others who had a passion for culinary travel.
Approaching graduation with a creative writing and art history degree, I wanted an outlet that kept me writing and researching – cue TheWanderfullTraveler.com.
Since then I have been exploring the culinary scene of the Okanagan wine country of British Columbia and travelling abroad as often as I can.
How would you describe your travel style?
I like to intermingle exploration and relaxation. I have learned in my 27 years that it can be a detriment to rush and try to see everything but it can also be a terrible loss to be stuck at a resort without experiencing the culture. When I travel with others balance is key. I just planned a trip for 6 of my family and friends to travel to Europe. It was crazy but a lot of fun. I am looking forward to traveling alone or with my partner so I can go at my own pace, whether it is balls to the wall or slow and relaxed, whatever I feel like. That often includes a lot of wine.
When choosing travel destinations, how important are food/drink choices and experiences to your overall decision-making process?
Food and drink are the first things I look up about a city or country. I am in the midst of planning a trip to Boston and I find myself researching restaurants, gastro pubs, and hidden little bars with character. What to eat and drink where are important questions that I ask before booking a flight but I would never turn down a trip if the food scene wasn’t prominent. I know there’s always something to discover whether it is well written about or not.
Culinary traveler or food explorer? Which do you identify with more closely with?
Both really. Food explorer to me means to intentionally seek for the food culture both on the surface and underground. Culinary travel is traveling for culinary experiences whether they be in the kitchen of a local or at a dinner table in a restaurant. I try to include and do all these aspects while traveling.
If we ask your best friends if you’re a foodie, what would they say?
That would be my sister and I have a feeling she would laugh then say… “Yeah, she loves food.”
What’s in your carry-on? Any essential food or kitchen tools you won’t leave home without?
A bottle opener is certainly in my carry-on but I also like to bring recommendations from my trusty “Where Chefs Eat” guide that directs me to both the popular and lesser-known spots approved by local chefs.
What’s the most unusual food you’ve eaten?
Most “foodies” wouldn’t consider this unusual but in New York City at Eataly I ordered the uni, or sea urchin, under the guidance of Anthony Bourdain and many other chefs and culinary heavyweights. When it arrived at my table I saw thick slabs of bright yellowy orange strips layered over long slices of baguette. I eagerly tried it but was underwhelmed. It disintegrated on my tongue like half-melted butter and was just as rich. Whether it was the portion size or just wasn’t my cup of tea I am not sure.
What’s the best culinary travel experience you’ve ever had?
It started off as a bunch of art history students on a budget, starving and cranky while roaming the hot summer cobblestone streets of Bologna. There were about 7 of us who decided to look for some lunch after we toured the unairconditioned University of Bologna, in particular the old room where they would perform autopsies for audiences. The presentation we received there was very graphic and in the restored room of wooden decor in the June heat it quickly transformed into a sauna. Some of the students became nauseous and had to excuse themselves.
It had quite the opposite effect on me and I was famished. Bickering over the importance of budget versus air-conditioning versus vegetarian options versus traditional Bolognese fare we collapsed at a random restaurant with outdoor seating. We were all grumpy and irritated with each other. That is until we fed ourselves. The moment the freshly made pumpkin ravioli with balsamic reduction hit my lips I realized that there are worse things than arguing over a restaurant to dine at in Bologna with famished university students figuring out what Italy meant to us.
Yes, the ravioli was a heavy option in the summer but my need for nourishment prevailed. It was also one of the best things I ate while in Italy and later I found out it is a Bolognese specialty.
Our moods improved immediately and we once again understood where we were in the world and how lucky we were to be there.
Any great travel tips to share?
Carry-On! My first time traveling I packed a 50 lb suitcase and lugged it through the cobblestone streets of Vicenza and over the bridges of Venice. Little did I know that I was capable of packing a carry-on while avoiding baggage fees and lost luggage. It’s amazing how much you can pack into a small space with packing cubes as well.
If you aren’t quite ready for that then at least be sure to relax, don’t take yourself too seriously and laugh at your mistakes because in travel something is always bound to come up. The way you roll with the unexpected can make or break your trip.
Favorite Culinary Destination: Italy
Favorite Cuisine: French, Italian & Jamaican
Favorite Restaurant: It depends on my mood but I remember shared moments with shared food more so than restaurants. One of my favourite restaurant memories was while I was in Howth, Ireland at a small café overlooking the harbor. The seafood was fresh served with soda bread. The white wine, view and my sister as company in a place we’d never thought we’d be, and frankly wouldn’t have been without my blog, gave me a profound feeling of gratefulness. You never know where life will bring you nor what it’ll serve you. Cherish those moments. It is something as good yet as simple as this.
Favorite Street Food: Vij’s Railway Express Food Truck in Vancouver. Everything is so flavourful!
Favorite Food Market: Venice’s Rialto Market for the history, produce, fish, colours and textures.
Favorite Gourmet Shop: Sheridan’s Cheesemongers in Dublin, Ireland
Favorite Winery: Mission Hill, West Kelowna, BC
Favorite Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California
Favorite Cooking Class: Sandrine’s Macarons Class, Kelowna, BC
Favorite Food/Tasting Tour: Walks of Italy Food Tour of Venice
Favorite Culinary Tour Operator: Context Travel, in particular their wine tour of Venice led by a sommelier.
Favorite Travel App: I am a huge fan of Instagram and I take pride in making my photos look as good as possible. Snapseed is one of those apps that does some amazing things with dark photos, over exposed photos and even photos of food.
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Laura Goyer is a world traveler and culinary travel professional, on a mission to help busy prime-time women find the best local food when they travel.