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Expert Interview with Julie Carlyle of Gourmet Getaways on Travel Destinations For Foodies

GourmetDo you love food? Do you also love to travel?

For most of us, these two things are not mutually exclusive, yet the way people think and write about them are. Putting together a culinary vacation involves some complex triangulation between various food and travel websites.

That’s where Julie Carlyle comes in. She shares not only a love of excellent cuisine and exotic locales, but also a love of writing and sharing that information. She shares her advice, passion, and exquisite taste at the website Gourmet Getaways.

She took a moment to tell us about some of the highlights of running Gourmet Getaways, delicious dishes and inspiring destinations to get you thinking about your own gourmet getaway.

How did Gourmet Getaways get started? How are you different than the other food-related websites around?

Gourmet Getaways was born out of a love of food and travel. My travel plans have always centred around the desire for new food experiences. I think I am quite an excitable person, and when I find something amazing I want to share it with the world.

In 2008, I started an online travel diary for friends and family when we undertook an extended trip venturing to the tip of Cape York and travelling extensively throughout far North Queensland. We swam in the most beautiful waterfalls, camped in secluded spots and always ate delicious gourmet campfire food. Unbeknownst to me, the website received a decent amount of traffic; and soon we were being featured in 4WD magazines and photography magazines and being interviewed for women’s magazines.

The public interest was quite a surprise, and it all occurred toward the end of the journey. Once we arrived home, I missed the daily writing, photography and engaging with readers. I started to realize that although big trips are fantastic, mini breaks and gourmet getaways are so much more manageable for most people. Starting Gourmet Getaways was my way of continuing to share food, wine and travel with like-minded readers.

I think Gourmet Getaways is a little different than most websites because we only talk about the things we love. I only share the very best things I find in each area – the best tours, restaurants, activities and accommodations I find. I’m not a critic if I don’t enjoy myself; I chalk it up to experience and I don’t share it on Gourmet Getaways. I have a philosophy: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Who is your main audience? What do they like about Gourmet Getaways?

Statistics tell me that Gourmet Getaways tends to attract a “thirty-something” reader in a professional field. I think this is due in part to my writing style, the style of travel I undertake, and perhaps my age.

Readers follow for getaway ideas and a little escapism. If you can’t travel ,the next best thing is planning for a future trip.

I think readers also like to know that we have scoped out the area and have a list of great places to visit ready for when they arrive. Gourmet Getaways does the research, and if we are featuring a romantic getaway, we may include a cute B&B, wine tasting, day spa review, restaurant review and yoga class – all the activities needed to provide the perfect getaway.

Where are you based out of, and what are a few of your favorite places to eat and get quality ingredients in your area?

I am based in Coffs Harbour, and Gourmet Getaways has another writer Alesah who features travel stories from the Philippines and surrounding countries.

We are very lucky in Coffs as we can access some magnificent produce directly from the farmer. Just up the road, Raging River Wagyu produces certified 9+ wagyu beef. I promise one bite will spoil you for anything else. Beth from Burrawong Gaian has beautiful fat Muscovy ducks that go to some of the best Sydney restaurants.

Eating out is a joy in Coffs Harbour. We have quite a lot of exciting chefs and wonderful restaurants. Latitude 30 is a favourite of mine, as the restaurant is situated on the breakwall and looks out over the water. Zulus features an authentic African menu, and chef Joel McCune is one of our more innovative chefs. The atmosphere and food at Café Fiasco, Macauley’s & Lime Mexican is perfect for an intimate meal, and the service is so attentive. I could honestly list so many places you simply have to visit in Coffs Harbour.

What have been some of the most fabulous destinations you’ve visited during the course of writing Gourmet Getaways?

There have been so many great places and experiences. One holiday I particularly enjoyed was a feature series on Singapore. It was a series of family-friendly travel stories, so I had the children with me. The series featured family-friendly attractions, accommodation and tours, so we all had an absolute blast! We took the opportunity to stay on the resort island of Sentosa. I was amazed at the experience. It was so easy and fun! The island has 14 resorts, so there is something to suit every style of traveller; and it’s home to Universal Studios, an Oceanarium, Adventureland and so much more.

What have been some of the most delicious and memorable things you’ve written about for the website? Where were they from, and what made them so memorable?

We visited some Japanese friends a few years ago and were very fortunate to share some amazing meals in a traditional Ryokan located at the hot springs near Asahikawa.

A Ryokan is the traditional Japanese accommodation. They are usually family-owned, and guests sleep on tatami mats together in the main room. There is nothing touristy or gimmicky about the Ryokan; they are steeped in tradition, and strict customs need to be followed.

The stay was so memorable because every moment was completely uncharted for me. We bathed in the communal hot springs, and I followed the very strict method of pre-cleansing in the preparation room with all the other ladies. I still remember that I was allowed to bathe in the hot springs despite having a tattoo. I was told that if I were a Japanese lady, I would have been banned.

While we bathed, the evening meal was set up on the tatami mats in our room. The dishes were cooked at a small table with tea lights and small cookers. The staff wore traditional dress and bowed often.

Our Japanese friends explained that some of the foods we saw they will usually only eat when they are at a Ryokan. I tried so many different types of Japanese food that evening and it was all amazing. The experience was made even more special because I was sharing the culture and the food.

While you write about exotic travel destinations, you also advocate for finding gourmet getaways in your own backyard. What are some ways people can go about finding these little treasures, and what are some reasons for looking in your own territory?

The best way to find hidden treasures in your own backyard is to look with new eyes. Imagine you are seeing your local area for the first time. Take out a map and look at it. Where would you take a visitor to the area? Google some local bloggers and see what great restaurants, cooking classes, activities or tours they have found. Check out vacation review sites and see what have the tourists found. Take notice of new businesses opening in your area and support them. Enjoy as much as you can in your local area.

Going to local markets is a great way of finding emerging businesses that may not yet have a shopfront. This can be a treasure-trove of unique gourmet experiences. Supporting these cottage industries helps build businesses that create a unique local experience.

How can good food and drink help people create new memories and feel closer together, and why is this important?

When you share a meal and a glass of wine, you share an experience. All the senses are ignited, and there is a shared bond. Food is also about culture, so you learn so much about a country by sampling the food and understanding the local traditions.

You and your husband frequently go in search of hidden gems. What have been a few of the most amazing places you’ve found?

My husband and I spent six months travelling throughout New South Wales and Queensland until we eventually made it to the tip of Cape York. We explored every little town, seaside village or hinterland hideaway. During this time, I came to appreciate all the hidden waterfalls and seaside villages you find by getting off the beaten track.

My favourite spots required some remote camping, but the reward was beautiful pristine swimming spots and the most picturesque images. If you have ever looked at a beautiful waterfall image by Ken Duncan, chances are it was taken at one of my three favourite hidden gems.

The Jardine National Park on the Cape York Peninsula is home to Elliot Falls, Fruit Bat Falls and Twin Falls – three of the most amazing places I have ever been. I honestly feel these places need to be seen to be believed.

When we returned from far North Queensland, we went in search of our own, local piece of paradise. Surprisingly, we found that Coffs Harbour has its own magic spots. We explored a little and found unspoiled beaches, waterfalls and swimming holes less that 20 kilometres from the city centre.

Can you name four of your favorite dishes and where they came from?

The moment I saw this question, amazing food images flashed before my eyes;

1/ Roti Cania with Curry Gravy – Breakfast at the Deluxicious Hotel Penang Malaysia – I still crave this dish today. I would return just for another serving of breakfast.

2/ High Tea – Raffles Hotel Singapore – Such an elegant and historic location to enjoy High Tea with my daughter – a mother-daughter must!

3/ Nirwana Pan Pacific – Bali Cooking Class – we made Dadar Gulung, which is a pandan crepe with a syrupy coconut filling. It is AMAZING! I have made this for so many friends and everyone loves this unique dessert.

4/ Mexican Pork Belly with Caramelised Pineapple Salsa – I am still salivating over this dish from Lime Mexican. I won’t go into too many details, but lets just say it’s orgasmic!

Do you have any advice for people who’d like a dash of deliciousness and exoticism in their life, but can’t get away from home at the moment?

When I can’t travel, I like to recreate dishes from places I’ve visited. I always take at least one cooking class whilst on holidays. Each class provides students with authentic recipes, and assistance is given with cooking techniques. While we are away, I also collect the appropriate cooking utensils and napery to ensure the home rendition is as perfect as possible. I share a lot of these recipes with readers on Gourmet Getaways.

On a side note, my husband can always tell where our next trip is likely to be by the food he is served at home. We are currently eating homemade corn tortillas and lots of Mexican food. In just over a month, we will be eating soft tacos from roadside stalls in Mexico. So stay tuned for more Mexican recipes and travel features!

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