I love a good food festival, it throws a little adventure and spice into the mix of life. The highlight of my life in the UAE was the annual Gourmet Abu Dhabi, and the only saving graces of Sydney for us were Porteno, Gelato Messina, the Sydney Food Trucks and the Night Noodle Markets at Sydney Good Food Month. So imagine my delight at discovering the Food of Orange District (F.O.O.D) festival in my new home town – somebody hold me back, I’m going to wax lyrical.
My job in Abu Dhabi was to go through the Gourmet Abu Dhabi program and make it appealing to different people from different places. I also got to take groups of industry stakeholders and visiting international journalists along to the events. A shocking, really terrible job I can tell you (just kidding, see ‘highlight of my life’). So when I find myself flicking through the Orange F.O.O.D Week program, I find it difficult to contain my enthusiasm. There’s just so much good stuff going on here. With over 120 events being held over a 10 day festival from 4-13 April, the only challenge is cramming it all in.
The absolute first thing I did as soon as the festival officially launched in March, was score me and The Italian tickets to FORAGE. I’d heard through the grapevine that these sell like hotcakes, and sure enough all the tickets were snapped up within hours of them going on sale. This event is the true pinnacle of the festival, and probably sums up its ethos and spirit quite nicely. Around 800 people (in small groups of 250 at a time) tramp through three local world-class vineyards (and a cattle farm), stopping at food and wine stations along the way during a gentle 3.6km scenic walk. Allegedly, there is quite a bit of singing and dancing on the way.
If you love markets as much as I love markets, the first two weekends of April are going to be a field day. I’m starting off the affair with my first-ever visit to the much-loved Millthorpe Markets on Sunday 6 April. Held only twice a year, this market sees local artists, artisans and handicrafters flocking to flaunt their wares, apparently it’s a virtual treasure trove. The following weekend is the monthly Orange Region Farmers Market, and I’ll be stocking the larder with my personal favourites Trunkey Creek Bacon, Fourjay Hazelnut Farms and Nanima Farm Lamb. Finishing the festival on a high note, the Friday Night Food Market in Robertson Park stars all the main players on Orange’s vineyard and restaurant scene (note that this event has moved to Friday 11 April, it usually opens the festival but this Friday we are in for a downpour).
Right, back to the food. I’m planning to spend the entire day of Saturday 5 April at nearby village Borenore, as they are really pulling out all the stops for this festival. The Borenore Store is hosting a big bubbly breakfast to kick off the proceedings, then it’s onto a big brunch at the Borenore School Country Fair, a French pique-nique at Hedberg Hill vineyard and cellar door, over at Faisan Estate Wines cellar door they’ll be serving up pheasant and pork terrine to go with their latest release wines, and Small Acres Cyder are dishing up Normandy chicken pies with cider sauce to wash down with your locally-made cider. Umm…yep that’s all on one day…
The other event that’s got me interested is The Moveable Feast (also on Saturday 5 April, see what I mean about challenges…), which provides an adventure through the local countryside, starting at The Agrestic Grocer for canapés and then out to Mandagery Creek Venison Farm for entree and mains. The progressive dinner finishes with a wander through The Farm Gate’s Nashdale Orchard so you can help pick dessert.
I seriously could go on and on and on – there’s over 40 vineyards in the Orange region, and they’re all coming to the party. Take a look at the Orange F.O.O.D Week website for a full program. Orange also has a blossoming cosmopolitan café culture, and they’re all getting into the swing of the festival festivities with Sunday brunches on both weekends – my top picks are Anything Grows, Byng St Local Store, The Old Mill Café, The Lakehouse and Union Bank Wine Bar.
It’s going to be an action-packed ten days, I’ve had to knock off two Master degree assignments well in advance to clear the diary. You will henceforth now find me ensconced at festival bars and tramping through paddocks feasting and thoroughly enjoying.