Did you know that this year Orange F.O.O.D Week (8-17 April) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year? What? You have never heard of Orange F.O.O.D Week? That doesn’t surprise me.
I personally believe Orange slips under everyone’s radar. We know they make wine out there, somewhere. Apparently they have some rocking produce too. Good food and good wine, if you listen to anybody that knows a little something about the region.
Those visiting Sydney from overseas probably have never heard of Orange, and if they are seeking a couple of days of vineyard fun on their visit, then my bet is they will head North to the Hunter Valley. Sydneysiders or those from interstate aren’t that much better.
Wine has been produced in the Orange Region since the early 80s, and they now boast over 38 vineyards. For over a century the Orange Region has been a productive source of orchard fruit, beef, lamb, grapes, venison, honey, nuts and much more. On top of all this excellent produce and wine, the sought after truffle is now plucked from the region’s soils.
It’s all about location, location, location. Orange is situated on the side of an extinct volcano, which makes the earth rich in basalt, and with four distinct seasons, it is the ideal location for an abundance of produce. Relatively on Sydney’s doorstep, just a 3 ½ hour drive away.
With this in mind it all makes perfect sense that they would hold a festival to showcase all this glorious produce. Orange F.O.O.D week is Australia’s longest running regional food festival. It runs for 10 days and last year attracted 15,000 to the festival.
As I said Orange is flying well and truly under the radar.
I recently experienced my own little taste of Orange F.O.O.D week. Delicious food devoured, great wine tasted (not much ended up in the spittoon) and amazing locals were met.
Millthorpe is a time capsule of gorgeousness. Such a sleepy, lazy little town on a weekday, but the friendly locals assure me that come the weekend there is the buzz of visitors around. A picturesque town, with a streetscape that hasn’t changed much since the 1900’s, it is like teleporting back in time. The main street is wide, lined with historic buildings, which now house art galleries, cafes, bakeries, cellar doors and shops.
They lay claim to Tonic, chef Tony Worland’s one hat restaurant. There is a bounty of accommodation to choose from, and is the perfect place to base yourself for a weekend in the Orange Region.
Angullong Cellar Door
Angullong Vineyard is located in Panuara, and at 200 hectares is one of the largest vineyards in the area. Location wise it is a bit of a hike out of the main hub of Orange. Therefore they decided to open a cellar door in the heart of Millthorpe.
We try a variety of Angullong’s wines. They produce a very easy to drink sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir, which they refer to as their crowd pleaser. Their selection of wines is quite large to include the regions specialties of Riesling and Chardonnay, but there is a selection of alternative wines as well, ones a little harder to get your hands on like Vermentino, Savagnin, Barbera, Tempranillo and Sangiovese. It’s great to hear that business is doing well and they are now exporting, with a large quantity going to China.
The Old Bluestone Stables, Cnr Park & Victoria Sts, Millthrope
Check website for opening hours
Slow Wine Co
Slow Wine Co is another cellar door located in Millthorpe. The short stroll down Victoria Street from Angullong sure beats a bicycle ride between vineyards! It's located in the old butcher shop, and when renovating they kept the old rails from which the sausages and meat was hung, along with the cool room.
Their mantra, “we all need slow moments”, oh yes, yes we do. Their philosophy is “small lot selection and management, from handpicking to bottle, native yeasts and slow maturation.” This they believe helps extract every last bit of goodness that the ancient soils of the Orange Region provide.
As mentioned before Rieslings and Chardonnay are thriving crops of the region. At Slow Wine Co, Terry Johnson (the wine grower), offers us a flight of Chardonnays to try. It is fascinating to taste the difference of one year’s harvest to the other. Same grapes grown in the same spot, but tasting how nature affects the final outcome.
Slow Wine Co’s wines are from Bantry Grove vineyard, which was purchased by Terrey’s father back in the 1930’s. Again located a little bit out of the main hub of Orange on the rim of the Bathurst Valley, in the very South of the Region.
25 Victoria Street, Millthorpe
Check website for opening hours
After partaking in a lot of cellar door action, I decide a walk around Millthorpe would be a good idea before more drinks and dinner. Tomolly is a lifestyle, design and home wares shop freshly located a short stroll down Pym Street (they were in Blake St, but have just moved).
Owner Belinda Satterwaite will welcome you with open arms to her shop filled with everything your little heart could desire. It’s quite easy to spend time browsing the quirky, fun and stylish items on offer. I couldn’t help leaving with a Bison Penguin Vase.
Pym Street, Millthorpe (has moved from 7 Blake St)
Check website for opening hours
Phillip Shaw Wines
We drag ourselves away from Millthorpe and head out to Koomooloo Vineyard, the home of Phillip Shaw Wines. Phillip Shaw Wines are made solely from grapes grown on Koomooloo’s 47 hectares.
The rolling hills and Bluestone Cellar Door make this a very pretty vineyard. The perfect spot to try the wines at the cellar door and grab a bite to eat from the kitchen.
They produce a very quaffable NV Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir, which they call Edinburgh. The original of the distinctive artwork on the label (a green tree skull) can be found in the main dining area of the cellar door.
In regard to their wines, there is the number series and the character series. Personally I love the quirkiness of their character series with names like, The Dreamer Viognier, The Wire Walker Pinot Noir and The Idiot Shiraz.
We are here for pre dinner drinks, which turn into a delightful tasting overlooking the vineyard while enjoying some antipasto platters from the kitchen.
100 Shiralee Road, Orange
Check website for opening hours
Tonic was established in 2003 by chef Tony Worland and his wife Nicole, and with its one hat, is the flagship restaurant of the area. Sitting on the corner of Pym and Victoria Streets Tonic’s presence can’t be missed in Millthorpe.
Tony has worked with some very notable chefs during his career, including Gordon Ramsey, Matt Moran and Michael Manners. But it’s Millthorpe that eventually won his heart when establishing his own restaurant. The menu Tony creates for Tonic focuses on local and seasonal produce. He’s a very relaxed and happy character and his team in the kitchen seem to follow in his footsteps.
His dishes are beautifully presented and quite generous in size. You can tell you are in the country via the serving sizes. I start off with the seared tuna with braised fennel fenugreek and coconut, back in Sydney this would be considered a main meal. The tuna is cooked to a beautiful medium. For my main I try the local venison from Mandagery Creek. As you can see from below again another generous serving. It is cooked medium rare and served with spiced lentils, rhubarb and pink peppercorns.
It's hard to choose what to have for dessert, the strawberry field tempts me (pictured below), but in the end I decide on the poached peach & vanilla mille-feuille. I'm glad I do, the local peaches are delicious, and are layered with a vanilla semifreddo and crisp light multilayered pastry.
Cnr Pym & Victoria Streets, Millthorpe
Check website for opening hours and bookings
The Old Mill Café
After feeling a little tired after a big day and evening at Tonic the previous night we duck in to The Old Mill Café for a quick coffee before heading to breakfast. The Old Mill Café is owned by Darren Tracey and Stacey Ewin, both chefs, and situated in the town’s delightfully restored bakery. Stacey has a reputation in pastry and chocolate making, having worked with Adriano Zumbo, and Darren (originally from Ireland) has worked as sous chef to Executive chef Daniel Hughes at Mantra Restaurant in Sydney.
There is a tasty breakfast and lunch menu on offer, and you can bring your own wine. But it is the beautiful pastries on display that will initially catch your eye.
12 Pym Street, Millthorpe
Check website for opening hours and bookings
The Agrestic Grocer
The food entrepreneurs behind the Agrestic Grocer are Lucas & Danielle Martin and Beau & Katie Baddock. It is an amazing space they have created in an old warehouse. It’s rustic, with bits and pieces everywhere, I adore it.
Agrestic Grocer is a café/retail store that focuses on local and “real” food. In the retail store you will find seasonal produce plucked straight from the source. They are also the official retail front for Badlands Brewery and Second Mouse Cheese Company. You will find yourself filling your shopping basket with local produce, deli items, pantry staples and gourmet food lines. I dare you to come out empty handed.
As much as I would like to spend more time in the foodies’ delight of their retail space, we are here for breakfast. It’s an incredible spread they have put on for us, showcasing seasonal and regional produce. About the only item that isn’t locally sourced are the chia seeds, and they apologise for the lack of honey due to the bees not cooperating. The croissants are from Rise Artesian Bakery, which is housed in a retrofitted train carriage in Orange and Orange Roasting Company supply the coffee.
426 Molong Road, Orange
Check Facebook for opening hours
Mandagery Creek Venison
I had tried Mandagery Creek’s venison the night before at Tonic, now it was time to meet the venison farmer himself, Tim Hansen.
Mandagery Creek was established in 2002 and Tim is very passionate about the Australian Red deer they farm. The deer are free range and pasture fed giving them the best quality and stress free life available. Obviously for the welfare of the animal, but also to produce a superior quality end product.
Most of the venison farmed here hits the export market, but there are a couple of local butchers that stock it around orange, including The Agrestic Grocer. Plus it finds itself on to the menus of local restaurants.
If you would like to try the venison at the source, Mandagery Creek’s Farm Kitchen is where they showcase their product as well as well as the best of Orange’s seasonal produce. There are regularly held monthly lunches, workshops and farm tours.
Mandagery Creek is a very nose to tail business. They export the antlers, majority of it heading to China, the hides are sent to Germany and end up as Lederhosen (I wouldn’t have guessed that one in a million years), and Tim’s sister, Penny Hanan runs 1803 Artisan Deer Design. Here you will find products from home wares, handbags to knives all made from the natural bi-products of deer farming, antlers and hides.
Contact Mandagery Creek Venison via their website
Cargo Road Wines
When we arrive at our last stop, Cargo Road Wines, it is pouring with rain. Fantastic for the farmers, but it’s not so great for the planned holistic walk and talk around the vineyard. Instead we join holistic vigneron and owner of Cargo Wines, James Sweetapple, in the cellar door.
James is a fountain of information and another passionate local. Not only with what he is achieving at Cargo Road Wines, but about the Orange Region and the Orange F.O.O.D Week festival.
I have a fascination with and belief in alternative methods of farming like biodynamic and organic. This is my first visit to a holistic vineyard. With a glass of Cargo Road’s Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc in hand (it's as awesome as it sounds) and resident cellar door dog Tivo by my feet, I settle in to listen to James explain about making wine the holistic way.
Holistic farming is where you take the farm as a whole into consideration. Letting weeds grow between the vines, letting the sheep eat the weeds once the grapes are picked. The sheep poop as they eat, fertilising the ground. There is a bit more to it, but that gives you a quick general picture.
James is not only the President of F.O.O.D Week Inc, but is also the man behind the sold out event FORAGED that runs during the festival. James bought the idea to Orange after experiencing a similar event in Italy. The event is an easy leisurely walk where you embrace the concept of slow food and drinking lots of local wine as you do. The event sold out this year within an hour, so get yourself on the mailing list for next year.
1064 Cargo Road, Lidster
Check website for opening hours.
About Orange F.O.O.D Week Festival
The Orange F.O.O.D Week (Food of Orange District) festival runs from 8th - 17th April, is Australia’s longest running regional food festival and has been acclaimed as one of Australia’s top ten food festivals. It’s one of the Orange region’s most loved events, appealing to both residents and visitors alike, and celebrates a significant milestone in 2016 marking the event’s 25th anniversary year.
As part of Orange F.O.O.D Week, there are a number of major events, which promote the use of local produce.
The Orange region now boasts 38 vineyards, over 40 cafes and several fine-dining establishments, including the hatted Lolli Redini (Chef Simonn Hawke), Tonic (Chef Tony Worland) and Racine (Chef Shaun Arantz) restaurants. In the 21st century, Orange F.O.O.D Week is a ten day event with six signature festival events; Night Market, F.O.O.D HQ, 100 Mile Dinner, F.O.O.D Train, FORAGE and Sunday Producers’ Market. These signature events are complemented by over 80 satellite events hosted at local restaurants, cafes, cellar doors and more.
For more information, event details and tickets head to the festival’s website
If you can't make it to Orange F.O.O.D Week I know the lovely folks in Millthorpe and the rest of the Orange Region would love to see you any time of the year.
Belly Rumbles visited the Orange Region with much thanks to Brand Orange and Destination NSW
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