Orange is one of most vibrant and thriving regional cities in Australia. There is so much to do there, especially for the avid foodie. From helicopter wine trails to feasting in apple orchards, luxurious accommodation, Italian pop up dinners and sublime food here are 10 amazing things to do in Orange (and some suggestions for the upcoming F.O.O.D. Week!).
1. Eat At Charred
The food at Charred is something else. But don't just take my word for it. Charred's head chef Liam O'Brien is formerly of Bentley Bar in Sydney and was born in Orange and grew up in Bathurst and Chiang Mai in Thailand. He made the change to live in Orange and dishes up what Bloodwood Wines' Rhonda Doyle calls "The next generation" of food in the country. That is to say that he transforms food beyond country style cooking using the local produce to create destination worthy dishes.
Take the tamale for example. Usually a South American street food it gets a different treatment at Charred. Instead of serving it plain steamed in the corn husks he pairs it with a raw corn salsa, chipotle sauce and sour cream with corn from local farm Lot 11.
They also make their own lardo in house too. They serve it with Aunty Rin's jellied, soft centered eggs, crunchy hazelnuts, pork bubble, sherry caramel with the thinnest sheet of translucent lardo on top.
Millthorpe lavender, Beekeeper's Inn Honey, Lot 11 Figs
Dessert may be something like honey ice cream and cinnamon sugar donuts that resemble knots of tamarind served piping hot to melt the ice cream. There's luscious Lot 11 figs and shards of honeycomb.
The wine list is also excellent with some great drops from award winning local wineries like Bloodwood and Colmar Estate. As for the room, well it makes the food seem much more casual than it is because it's serious food but in a setting that is a bit more casual. That's perhaps the only thing we might change.
2. Enjoy Vintage
If you're lucky enough to be in Orange during vintage the region springs into action from March to May and this gives visitors the opportunity to watch working vineyards in action.
At small 1 hectare winery Orange Mountain Wines people can do a tasting of their wines from a loft level while watching the wine making process in action. Orange Mountain Wines are known for their Viognier, the first winery in Orange to graft Viognier and they also sell the world's only ice wine made using Viognier grapes. It doesn't have the syrupy stickiness of a botrytis, this is crisply sweet with a dry finish.
The trend now for wines according to winemaker Terry Dolle is for aromatics like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Viognier moving away from the aged reds. The younger clientele want drink now wines - smaller apartments mean less room for cellars and drink now wines are as a result popular.
If you miss the March to May vintage the other time to visit is June to July where you can watch them do barrel work and try barrel samples (avoid July August when they are closed). Other wineries that also allow for some interactivity during harvest usually by appointment are Philip Shaw Wines, Cargo Road Wines, Ross Hill and De Salis Wines.
3. Go For An Apple Ramble and Pick Your Own Fruit
Tickets to Forage, Orange FOOD Week's flagship event sold out within 10 minutes so if you missed out, try the Apple Ramble, a mini forage tour. There are four stops where you can watch apple harvest in action and pick apples. Accompanying the tour is an orchardist who will explain the harvest process to guests. This is the Apple Ramble's second year and it comes with an apple tasting lunch in the picturesque orchards of Bite Riot's apples with pulled pork with apple sauce from the Smoking Brothers.
Orange is also home to many Pick Your Own (PYO) fruit farms so depending on the season that you visit you can pick from apples, berries, figs, plums, cherries and peaches. Here is a list of some PYO orchards: Thornbrook Orchard (range of seasonal fruit), Hillside Harvest (range of seasonal fruit), Cargo Road (cherries), Stockmans Ridge (cherries), Huntley Berry Farm (range of berries), Norland Fig Farm (figs) and Borrodell on the Mount (apples). Ring ahead to find out if your fruit is in season.
4. Learn How To Make Cider
Small Acres Cyder (cyder with a y is an old English way of spelling cider) makes cider the old fashioned way. Orange has been an apple growing area since 1830's (BTW Orange is named after the Prince of Orange that visited rather than the citrus fruit). The deep rich red basalt volcanic soil, rainfall and sunlight and cool nights means that it is perfect ground for growing apples. None of their cider has sugar added and it is not a dilute from concentrate. Over F.O.O.D. week they are holding two cider making classes.
5. Drink Amazing Coffee
Coffee addicts can sleep easy knowing that coffee and cafes are somewhat of an obsession in Orange. There are loads of great coffee roasters and cafes. Bill's Beans roasts their beans on site while Byng Street Cafe is also the favourite coffee stop for many locals (also with great food!). Some even cross all the way across town to get their favourite drop.
And then there is Groundstone Cafe, the newish venture from a couple of the partners at The Agrestic Grocer. Get any of their dishes served with local Trunkey Creek bacon or a soft yolked Carbeen Pastured Produce eggs (tip: the waffles in particular are delicious!) and relax in the open space located just near the Orange Visitors Information Centre.
6. Taste Cool Climate Wines and Local Preserves
At Word of Mouth Wines you can try wine and locally grown and bottled preserves. If you time your visit when Richard Dowling is there, he'll show you into his small vegetable garden where he started off growing vegetables for the family but ended up growing so much he decided to reignite a family tradition of preserving.
His brinjal kasundi (Indian for eggplant chutney) is amazingly good and comes in mild, medium and hot (goes well with cheese) as are his pickled cherries and tomato relish and tomato sauce with olives. And a tip: if you buy some preserves from the winery they're a few dollars cheaper than if you buy them elsewhere ;)
Orange specialises in Cool Climate wines and the climate is similar to Bordeaux without the maritime influences and as a result they are able to make wine with a different structure with good complexity.
One wine that Highland Heritage specialises in is the Kabinett German style of Riesling called Nikki D. Kabinett which literally means cabinet is the name of the style of wine where the wine maker intervenes in the fermentation process. They look at the level of acidity vs sugars and will kill fermentation at the right time by chilling the wine to zero degrees. What results is a wine with around 40grams of residual sugar and 8% alcohol that finishes dry. It is well suited to Asian dishes like Thai food.
7. Helicopter To Dinner or Wineries
You can drive of course but then you have to find that one friend that doesn't drink to chauffeur you around. But one of the most scenic ways to see Orange is via helicopter. At Helicruz no job is too big or small (they can fly you to and from Sydney if you wish) and if you want to chopper in to pick some fruit and then visit a winery like some people do, your wish is their command.
Landing at Bell Hill for dinner via helicopter
Better still is that Helicruz leaves from the premises next to Highland Heritage winery.
8. Attend an Italian Pop Up Dinner
There's also a saying in Italy. "Pochi Ma Buoni" is the sort of thing that is whispered between good friends to describe an intimate dinner promising fun and good times with jovial like-minded people. Here in Orange Paolo Picarazzi and Kelly-Anne Smith have translated the saying to mean "Small but Great" pop up dinners.
Kelly-Anne and Paolo
These are held at various locations, usually wineries. Tonight's is at Bell Hill estate perched high on top of a hill giving us stunning panoramic views of Orange. We start with a glass of prosecco and a slice of the Pane di Antica Roma, a divine loaf of Racine bakery sourdough, figs and local feta served with a garlic sauce. Paolo loves cooking with ancient Italian recipes and this is one of those wonderful dishes that happens to coincide with the current fig season.
The entree may be hand rolled gnocchi, soft and given a slight hint of sweetness from honey and gorgonzola. And if he gets the chance, Paolo jumps at cooking venison. In Italy it is a protected species. They use a local venison from Mandagery Creek with pork to make meatballs with a nutmeg strong bechamel sauce. It is accompanied by a summer salad with rocket, cucumber, black figs and cherry tomatoes, all sweet from the summer's sun.
Dessert is an Italian Zuppa Inglese, the Italian version of a trifle. Kelly-Anne who is a fantastic story teller intersperses the meal with tales of their lives and she also leaves a small hint at the end that there is a surprise ingredient. It's called Alchermes and it is an pink liquor made with Arabic spices and...pink ants!
9. Feast For Farmers
In downtown Orange at Union Bank restaurant and bar you may notice the large wooden crates displaying vegetables. The restaurant has a collaboration with Heifer Hill winery that grows all of these vegetables in large quantities. Every day they pick produce for the popular restaurant with sun dappled outdoor area - this morning they picked 46 kilos of produce.
Food includes slow cooked roasts from lamb and goat ragu gnocchi, a fabulous crunchy Asian cabbage salad as well as a great range of cocktails named after tv shows. If you love something spicy then try the Game of Thrones with tequila, fig, ginger, rosemary, lemon and a lingering hit of chilli. For something light and refreshing try The OC with vodka, Cointreau and fresh peaches and lemons.
10. Stay In A Luxurious Country Home
There is one thing Orange needs more of: high end accommodation but when you set eyes on White Birch Cottage then you may fall in love as I did. Owner Trish used to own a homewares store and that becomes clearly apparent as soon as you walk in.
Everything is put together with an expert eye. There are four rooms, one king, two queen and two single rooms all with their distinct colour schemes and three with fireplaces. There's the divinely pretty pink room, the moody blues room and the resplendent king room all with thoughtful touches as well as an eye for detail and colour.
There's a well appointed kitchen with so many gorgeous tools and great props I wish I had set up a cooking shoot here. The two bathrooms are both spectacular. The main one has a free standing tub and a oversized vanity which is perfect for storing all the cosmetics and a separate shower while the second bathroom has heated floors, an enormous 1x3 metre shower, heated floor racks, soft towels and two shower heads. Clearly no expense has been spared on this house. You may just not want to leave...
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your pick from this list of things to do? Have you ever visited a wine region during vintage? What fruit would you like to pick yourself?
NQN visited Orange as a guest of Destination NSW and Orange F.O.O.D. Week but all opinions remain her own.
5 New St, Orange NSW 2800
Phone: (02) 6363 1580
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Event: Convert to Craft Beer Thursday April 6, Charred Feast Saturday April 8
Orange Mountain wines
10 Radnedge Ln, Borenore NSW 2800
Phone: (02) 6365 2626
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Event: Orange Mountain Wines 1397 SV Vertical Tasting Sunday April 2
448 Canobolas Rd, Canobolas NSW 2800
Phone: 0417 060 554
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Event: Orange Apple Ramble, April 1
Small Acres Cyder
12 Akhurst Rd, Nashdale NSW 2800
Phone: (02) 6365 2286
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Events: Small Acres Cider Festival - Saturday, 1 April, Hands on Cider Making Class - Sunday, 2 April, Pulled Pork, Apple Pies and Pints of Cider - Saturday, 8 April, Hands on Cider Making Class - Sunday, 9 April
Byng Street Cafe
47 Byng St, Orange NSW 2800
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Event: Asado by Byng Street Saturday April 8
148 McLachlan St, Orange NSW 2800
Phone: (02) 6361 1611
149 Byng Street, Orange, NSW 2800
(02) 6394 6386
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Event: Big Men Small Goods Friday April 7
Word of Mouth Wines/Franklin Rd Preserves
42 Wallace Ln, Canobolas NSW 2800
Phone: 0429 653 316
Orange F.O.O.D. Week: Franklin Road Harvest Feast Sunday April 2.
Highland Heritage Estate
4968 Mitchell Hwy, Orange NSW 2800
Phone: (02) 6363 5600
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Events: Chocolate & Wine Simply Devine Wednesday April 5, Pork Pinot and Pink Ladies Friday April 7
Pochi Ma Buoni
www.silvercompasstours.com.au/pochi-popup/ (locations vary)
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Event: Pochi Pop up At Rowlee, Italian Polenta Party, Friday April 7
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Event: Pilu and Angullong @ Bell Hill Sunday April 9
Byng St & Sale Street, Orange NSW 2800
Phone: (02) 6361 4441
Orange F.O.O.D. Week Event: Feast for Farmers – Union Bank & Heifer Station Saturday April 1