Expert Interview Series: Anita Breland of Anita's Feast About Delicious Food and Memorable Travels
Anita Breland is a traveler, writer, and long-time expat living and working in Europe. Founder of the blog Anita's Feast, this internationally published writer is always in search of her next great meal and food travel experiences to inspire...
Anita Breland is a traveler, writer, and long-time expat living and working in Europe. Founder of the blog Anita's Feast, this internationally published writer is always in search of her next great meal and food travel experiences to inspire readers. We managed to catch up with Anita to hear about some of her favorite destinations and culinary experiences.
Tell us a little about your background. Why did you decide to write about food and travel?
I've been traveling the world with my taste buds for as long as I can remember. Food adds such a cultural dimension to travel that it makes its way into just about every story I write. Meeting the people behind the food we eat is also a marvelous way for my husband and me to experience destinations - and daily life as expats - more deeply.
When we lived in Switzerland, we participated in age-old traditions such as the ascent of cows to summer pastures and making of Alpkäse (high-altitude cheeses). Traveling in Provence in harvest season, we had a chance to spend time with a Michelin-starred chef who does marvelous things with Cavaillon melons. Writing about these things is a joy.
When you wish to sample the local cuisine in a particular locale, you don't necessarily dine at a traditional restaurant, right?
Goodness no! My husband and I enjoy a great restaurant meal, but our most memorable food experiences are those that engage us with people and culture. We take food walks to dip into unfamiliar cuisines. Street food shows us what the locals really eat and is often really, really good. It's also a treat to visit markets with local chefs and home cooks and see what excites them. Best of all, though, are opportunities to eat around home tables with local hosts, - and for me to help stir the pot.
It would take too long to list all of the great food and wine pairings you've enjoyed while visiting exotic places, but do you mind sharing some of your favorites?
Europe has been our base for a number of years, and we've found many great pairings close to home. We live in Portugal, one of the world's great wine destinations. It's been exciting for us to learn about port wine, for example, and how versatile it can be. I'm not much for cocktails, but a porto tonic on a hot summer evening, served with Portuguese cheeses and petiscos, is pretty fine. Another find from northern Portugal is vinho verde, a light wine that pairs beautifully with the abundant local seafood.
What's the most unusual dining experience that you've had during your travels?
There have been quite a few, most involving eating locally (really locally!) and providing a fast trip out of my comfort zone and into an unfamiliar culture. Eating couscous from a communal plate while sitting on the floor of a farmhouse in the Atlas mountains of Morocco was novel enough, but then our grandmotherly host decided to teach me how to roll and toss couscous balls into my mouth. Camaraderie around the table was multiplied tenfold as her grandchildren cheered me on. I finally managed to hit the target after quite a few clumsy attempts.
Are there any items on your "bucket list," either foods or travel destinations, that you are hoping to visit soon?
My husband and I are looking forward to visiting Cuba later this year. Cuban food has not been at the forefront of travel there for a very long time, but that is changing. In recent decades, agriculture in Cuba became organic by necessity, and we look forward to visiting farms and meeting innovative cooks to learn how they have used available resources to keep culinary traditions alive.
I would also love to return to Mexico, where my love affair with food travel first took hold. Just a whiff of a fresh tortilla on the griddle - something we do not experience in Europe - is enough to get the taste memories going!
What types of attractions do you like to see while traveling that don't involve food?
Between meals, I enjoy art museums and bookstores, walking city streets and tramps in the countryside. We recently spent a delightful three hours on a culinary tour of New York's Metropolitan Museum, a unique combination of art and food. Our home in Portugal happens to be smack on the pilgrim's path to Santiago de Campostela in Galicia, Spain, and this is a walk we would like to make.
If someone is wanting to bring a bottle of wine to a party or gathering, but they don't know what is being served, is there a specific versatile wine that they could choose?
This happens all the time! I try to find wine with a story about the winemaker, the blend, or even the bottle. If it doesn't work for the party, it will be something the host can keep for another occasion, and the story will live on. Last year, for sharing at a wine conference, we chose a small-production Amerone-style red produced in Basel, Switzerland. Made from grapes hand-harvested and air-dried in the Swiss wine-making region of Bundner Herrschaft, the complex wine proved a great ice-breaker. Dessert wines - in Portugal, that would be port, Madeira or moscatel - are also versatile choices.
If you wanted to give a gift to someone of some of the wonderful foods that you've enjoyed during your travels, what would it be?
Well-packaged nibbles are always good - sweet or savory. Anything that can be enjoyed in small doses, travels well, and does not ask the recipient to overturn his or her food preferences. Lately, I've enjoyed gifting friends and family with little jars of tasty jams from Portugal that are ideal for topping soft cheeses. Spicy tomato, pumpkin and Rocha pears with port wine are just three that I enjoy myself and enjoy sharing with others.
Looking for the perfect food gift? Check out Cilantro's wide selection today!