We love our friends here at VictorsFood so that’s why we would like to introduce you to Karen Ridge, the creative mind behind www.foodandwinetravel.com.au, a travel company that specialises in authentic holidays for food and wine lovers. Think wine tours, cooking schools and unique gourmet experiences for independent travellers … our only question is when are we going?

We figure Karen has done her research so we asked her a few questions about her life as a flying gourmand. Here are her answers:
1. Where is your favourite place in the world and why?
Impossible to answer! But I do love the Loire Valley for its luxurious approach to food, wine and life, and I also love Provence, especially Avignon for its rustic, relaxed but no less delicious lifestyle. Then I love the Priorat region near Barcelona, and I love Tuscany, and I love Paris … you get the picture. I can’t choose just one!
2. Who is your favourite travelling companion?
Mostly I have travelled alone because it’s been for research and ‘work’ (you know all that wine tasting and those degustation menus are all very hard ‘work’) But I think if I don’t say my other half, Shane he might get upset with me.
3. Where are your favourite food hang outs in your hometown? 
Gee … I love my own cooking, so can I say my kitchen? When I am home I tend to stick to a very boring and well-balanced diet so that when I do go away, I can go crazy. If I have to choose, though, it would be the local Japanese place down the road. I also love my local wine bar that is walking distance from home. So handy!
 4. What is the most memorable meal you have had overseas? 
Oooooh, it’s too hard! A degustation in a medieval castle in Champagne, a five course lunch cooked by a chef in my own apartment in Amboise, a night spent in a 700 year old Parisian cellar drinking ancient wines paired perfectly with canapés, a home cooked Catalan lunch in a remote Spanish winery … I can’t pick one.
5. Where was your last trip?
Paris, Loire Valley, Barcelona, Priorat and Penedes wine regions in ten days. Yes it is actually hard work. No one believes me!
6. Where is your next trip?
Portugal and northern Spain at the end of January for a Wine Tourism conference, but there might be a visit to NZ (Hawke’s Bay) before that, plus trips to six key wine regions in Australia as we are currently developing wine packages for each of them.
7. What are you favourite ingredients/dishes/cuisines?
Butter, butter, butter in French cuisine and on their yummy breads for breakfast, Parisian macarons, char grilled Mediterranean meats with lots of lemon and salt, and the fresh simplicity of Japanese sashimi. And for dessert? Lava cake with thick rich cream … and a great fortified.
8. What can’t you live without?
After all the eating and drinking that I do for work, I can’t live without two litres of water a day and a 5km run. Often!
9. Best piece of foodie advice? Good food follows good wine.
10. Best piece of travel advice?
Always, always, always book with a licensed Australian travel agent. You have ‘round the clock assistance if you need help and your money is safe. Booking direct is not always the best option and I hear of way too many nightmare travel stories for you to ignore this advice.
To help soothe those pangs of envy at Karen’s job description, you could win a bottle of Glaetzer Anaperenna Shiraz Cabernet 2007 valued at $53.99 simply by signing up to her newsletter. To enter the draw, click here (insert this link – http://fastmail.jtg.com.au/em/forms/subscribe.php?db=210550&s=56090&a=21288&k=19c14f4)