"You may already know that a dedicated bunch of food lovers want to create a special gustatory event which will appeal to interested locals and tourist in Orange in colourful autumn … What better theme than to use the riches right under our noses?” – Rhonda Doyle, Journalist, 1991
The humble beginnings of Orange F.O.O.D week was held over a weekend in 1991 after a journalist wrote a column in the local paper raising the idea that a bunch of foodies should get together and hold a festival showcasing the local produce of the Orange region attracting tourists, particularly Sydneysiders who would appreciate an escape from the city.
I love visiting regional NSW and seeing, tasting and learning how produce is grown. Perhaps it has been my many visits to Sydney Markets recently and a greater appreciation for the growers and farmers, wanting to know where my food comes from and what ‘fresh’ really means. Perhaps it’s nostalgia where there was a window of my life as a kid where I made regular visits to a country town to visit my father who worked in a restaurant. Perhaps it’s because I get the best sleep in a country town, where the sound of cars is replaced by the sound of bleating sheep. Whatever it is, I enjoy visiting regional NSW and seeing what the local producers have to offer.
Orange in Central West NSW, which depending on your budget can be as short as 40 minutes (by air) or as long as 3-4 hours travel time (by road).
When you get there, you will quickly discover it is heaven for foodies where everything you eat is literally paddock to plate, all produce from the paddock is within close proximity to your plate. I attended Orange F.O.O.D Week recently. For those who are not familiar with Orange F.O.O.D Week, it usually runs annually for a week in April, when the leaves on trees change to vibrant colours of yellow, orange and green in Autumn. Orange F.O.O.D Week is a thoroughly curated line up of foodies events for a whole week celebrating life of the land, the producers, farmers, butchers, local stores of Orange showcasing to the world what the Orange region has on offer. This was the first time I’ve been in Orange and it surely is a place I would return to. A reporter from WIN news grabbed me as I was hopping onto the bus for our final tour for Orange F.O.O.D Week and he asked me, “Could you live in Orange?”. I said “Most definitely, yes!”. It is worth mentioning that Orange F.O.O.D Week was a finalist for the 2017 NSW Tourism Awards in the Festivals & Events category which says something about the event.
There is a real sense of community in Orange, where everyone is laid back, and supportive of one another. There is also a boutique, upmarket feel to Orange in it’s food and wine offerings. Every dish I tried was sourced from a producer or farmer nearby. Everything I tasted was high quality, fresh, fruits were sweeter and juicer than that I tasted back at home and the wines, very crisp and elegant. “There is a lot of love put into what these guys do.” Caddy Marshall of Orange Region Tourism says to me. Yes, I appreciate that now. Elegant would be how I describe Orange. Did I already mention I had the best sleep in Orange than I had in years? And that was in a glamping tent at Nashdale Lane.
Although Orange F.O.O.D Week has wrapped up for another year, there are places I went to where you could easily pencil in to visit any weekend anytime of the year and turn it into long weekend in Orange or combine it with another festival which are on throughout the year.
I stayed in Orange for 2 nights, 3 days and I had a full itinerary of foodies events and meeting the producers that I thoroughly enjoyed. Here were some highlights.
Racine Restaurant: A Champagne Lunch in the Garden
It’s about the bakery!" Willa of Racine Restaurant told us at the long lunch last week as part of Orange F.O.O.D week. My stomach growls looking back at these photos from Orange of our long Champagne lunch in the Garden at Racine Restaurant. Everything they baked for lunch that I tried was so delicious and it was paired with elegant Orange wines including a wonderful crisp drop from Nashdale Lane where I glamped overnight. Their quiches were so soft on the inside and crumble on the outside. A gentleman I was sitting next to at the long lunch said you have to try the pastries with custard inside and that was my favourite. I tried a croissant on my last day for breakfast from Racine Bakery and it just melts in your mouth. The baker was started by Shaun at the restaurant, who slept overnight to make bread fresh that morning for a handful of local business' and the restaurant. Everything is hand made on site using the best possible ingredients, from organic sourdoughs and regular breads to beautiful real butter pastries, cakes and biscuits as well as our famous butter pastry pies and sausage rolls made with real meat to fresh delicious sandwiches and salads. Nothing is half baked here. Food week maybe over but that shouldn’t stop you from going to Orange and dropping by this restaurant and their bakery. Racine is situated in a picturesque setting so typical of Orange: overlooking a vineyard on the foothills of the famous Mt Canobolas. It’s worth the trip.
Meet the Producer Lunch
The highlight of Day 2 of my trip was a lovely, well organised luncheon event held in the Country Women’s Association (CWA) Hall in Orange with Editor, Victoria Carey of Country Style Magazine, Cathy Thompson, of ‘Me n Us’ catering company, and the farmers and producers of Orange giving you a taste of the produce grown and made in the Orange region and also each producer presented to give an insight on what they do. The Farmer’s Market stalls were set up before the lunch so we could shop for some goodies to take home and a tip if you travel to Orange is that you really need to bring a spare strong hessian bag when you visit farmers markets in Orange. On the tasting plate, we tried the following produce and if you go to Orange look out for these producers and their goodies as it was all so fresh, delicious and with a story to tell:
Fresh Fodder blue cheese and pistachio tartlet topped with Murrungundy Pistachio nuts
Thornbrook Orchard white fig with The Beekeepers Inn balsamic glaze
Verity Prune wrapped with Trunkey Bacon and Pork streaky bacon
The Second Mouse Cheese Company’s camembert served with Greentrees Gourmet Preserves feijoa jelly on oatmeal biscuit
Ploughman’s Hill Olives jumbo Kalamata
Fresh Pastures pork belly with caramelised Mastronardi pink lady apple
Mandagery Creek venison medallion with peppered orange beetroot
Mixed salad leaves with a dressing of Paling Yards Grove olive oil, Orange Mountain Wines verjus and Hillside Harvest apple juice.
Ebony sun plum crostata with crushed Fourjay Farm hazelnuts and cream
Wine selection included See Saw 2017 Prosecco, 1859 Pale Ale, 2017 Sauvignon Blanc by Orange Mountain Wines, 2016 Pinot Noir by Brangayne Wines
And the beautiful flowers are by Botanica Flora.
Having a passion for fresh fruit, I was drawn to Thornbrook Orchard’s produce and the people there having walked through and picked figs and plums from their orchard the day before when Tanya from Nashdale Lane, their neighbours introduced me to them. You will see from the photo’s the quality of Thornbrook Orchard’s white figs – the natural juices glistening as you cut them open with the sweetness to match.
Sunset Tour and Taste at Cargo Road
Later in the evening we visited Cargo Road, the property of Orange FOOD Week president, James Sweetapple where we went on a walk and talk tour through his vineyards tasting grapes, drinking wines and learning about holistic farming. You can get some incredible sunset shots amongst the vineyards at Cargo Road Wines. The thing that got me curious and thinking on and after this tour was the concept of ‘holistic farming’ which I had not heard of before and there is a TED Talk by the person who developed it, Allan Savory. Essentially, holistic farming in agriculture is a system of thinking to managing resources to reverse desertification. It involves planned grazing to more closely simulate behaviour of natural herds of wildlife and been shown to improve habitats and water quality over systems that led to land degradation.
Farm Gate Tour of Millthorpe and Forest Reefs
On the final day of my trip to Orange we hopped on a bus for the Farm Gate Tour, hopped on bus and set with the first stop at Meringue Lamb, a farm that raises lamb at the foothills of Lucknow in NSW. The view on the hilltop of their property was stunning although a little windy when we visited.
We then headed to 1859 Brewery and The Beekeepers Inn in Vittoria, NSW to learn of what they do. A few things happen here which include making honey, beer (and I don’t drink much beer and their beer is light and malty leaving a nice after taste), restaurant and café, farm shop and country wedding reception business run by Claire who I met at the Meet the Producers lunch, taste and purchase some honey to take home and for Devonshire Tea and scones (apparently, the secret is lemonade in their scones).
|What I did with The Beekeepers Inn honey|
Our final stop before we headed to the airport to depart for Sydney was a tour through the hazelnut orchard at Fourjay Farms, run by Basil and Jean Baldwin, a two generation family business Fourjay Farms, a farm that grows, harvests, processes and produces a range of hazelnut products. You can purchase many hazelnut goodies and my favourite purchase was hazelnut pancake mix that I bought and took home with me. We drove through a little town called Millthorpe in transit and looking out the window a beautiful heritage-listed village in Central West NSW I made a note that I need to go back there.
My visit to this town was an absolutely delight and enriching experience in meeting and visiting the farmers and producers. My bags were filled with their produce I purchased along the way, with the only stress being whether I would have excess baggage when checking into the airport.
Trip note summary of what to See.Taste.Do in Orange, Central West NSW
Sampson Street, Orange in Autumn. On the way from the airport, ask the cab driver to stop so you can photograph the beautiful tree lined street with leaves with every shade of yellow, orange and green.
Sunrise and Sunset at Nashdale Lane Wines
Sunset at Cargo Road Winery
Orange Regional Museum to learn of the history of food and wine in Orange
Take a trip out to Millthorpe, a tiny heritage village 20 minutes outside of Orange
Visit the farms out there like Forejay Farms, a hazelnut farm and purchase some locally made hazelnut goodies. Their pancake mix and hazelnut dukkah mix is so delicious.
Merungie Lamb farm (the view at Merungie Lamb farm hilltop is stunning)
Racine Restaurant for a sit down garden lunch or head over to their bakery in the morning and crab a freshly made, melt in your mouth croissant
The Beekeepers Inn if you fancy drop of homemade beer drop into between Bathurst and Orange and taste their different varieties of honey. Drop in for scones at their café too (I’m told their secret ingredient is lemonade).
Sweet Sour Salt for dinner of fresh modern fusion Asian dishes. The Singaporean noodles is delicious.
Groundsone Café for a housemade granola breakfast. Adjacent to Orange Regional Museum. This place is also linked to The Agrestic Grocer.
Go glamping at Nashdale Lane Wines, a luxurious stay amongst the vineyards
Orange Farmers Markets are on the 2nd Saturday of every month
The Agrestic Grocer, a delightful deli where each gourmet product has a story and café (their beetroot hot chocolate is delicious I heard but I didn’t get to try it as the coffee machines were packed by the time we got there)
Fresh Fodder’s dips and salads if you come across them in farmers markets try their salads – so fresh and light if you feel like eating something that isn’t too heavy in the evening, particularly if you had a big lunch. I tried this on the first night organised by Nashdale Lane as I had a big lunch and only could eat something light in the comfort of my glamping tent.
Chocolate On Purpose if you come across them in the farmers market. Try their chocolates with Nashdale Lane’s shiraz grapes.
Honey and beer from The Beekeepers Inn
The Sonic to shop for eclectic homewares and fashion. I had not planned a visit or extra bags when I went there but thankfully they ship to Sydney so made my purchases and left them there waiting to be shipped.
Seasonal fruit picking at Thornbrook Orchard
Touring by Vine Venture Tours run by Brad Ashton who is a great story teller and information about Orange. I’ve made a note to contact Brad when I visit Millthorpe.
Additional useful tips
Bring a spare hessian shopping bag for farmers market produce. You’ll be stocking up on some fine produce!
Nashdale Lane - for a boutique and luxurious outdoor camping experience but with all the creature comforts of a hotel
Mercure Orange - for a central and comfortable motel stay
How to get there
Air: I flew Rex Airlines from Sydney to Orange. It is a direct flight just under 40 minutes.
Car: It will take you just under 4 hours if you drive to Orange from Sydney via the Great Western Highway
Train: Trains run direct to Orange Station from Central Station. You should check NSW Regional Transport for more information.
Upcoming Events In Orange, NSW:
1. Orange Winter Fire Festival (3 – 5 August 2018)
2. Orange Wine Festival (12-21 October 2018)
3. Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival (16-25 February 2019)
For more information on these events and more visit www.visitorange.com.au
See.Taste.Do visited Orange NSW during Orange F.O.O.D week courtesy of Orange Regional Tourism, Destination NSW and The Cru Media
|Sampson Street, Orange, NSW|
|Chocolate On Purpose|