This is truly a festival of the senses, wandering through the rolling lush green hills of two top-class #OrangeNSW vineyard estates (Philip Shaw and Orange Highland) with nine food + wine stations and live music along the way. By station four The Italian had declared it the best event he’d ever been to in Australia, but that may have had something to do with the glorious Brangayne Pinot Noir 2012 he was quaffing.
FORAGE is the penultimate event of the Orange F.O.O.D Week festival, and what a show-stopper it is. In just four years this event has grown from 250 people tramping across the paddocks and through the vines, to a capped 1,000 people gourmet affaire which sells out within hours of tickets going on sale.
We started off the day with a visit to the Orange Region Farmers Markets, which is held every 2nd Saturday of the month behind the Orange Regional Art Gallery and coincided with our bus pick-up from the Orange Visitor Information Centre. We try not to buy meat at supermarkets now we’ve made the #treechange, and just buy straight from the producers – Nanima Lamb and Trunkey Creek Bacon never disappoint and a whole new world of grass-fed Wagyu beef opened up to us with the appearance of Dargo Farm for the first time (website coming soon).
After storing our treasure find in a chill-bag in the boot of the car, we hopped on the provided FORAGE bus to start the real adventure. This is an incredibly well-organised event, with groups of 250 people at half-hour intervals being taken out to the lush green fields of Nashdale (ten minutes outside of Orange) and the starting point of Philip Shaw vineyard. This was an amazing sneak preview of an otherwise private vineyard and a total privilege to get immersed in some of #OrangeNSW’s most inspiring scenic views. It also started with a glass of Printhie Swift Sparkling Cuvee NV as soon as we got off the bus, hooray.
To match the sparkling, Food Station 1 served up canapés of Venison Prosciutto + Pear from Mandagery Creek. Although the view was hard to tear ourselves away from, we dutifully made our way through the rows of vines to nearby Station 2 which starred a Country Terrine with Cherry Compote by renowned local chef Michael Manners and accompanied by a Twisted River Chardonnay Viognier 2010. The Italian was still talking about this terrine the next day, five stars from him.
A Beef & Barley Soup from Bistro Ceello warmed us up at the next station in the middle of a cow field, and the Philip Shaw No 17 Merlot Cabernet Franc 2011 was so good we had to go back and have another glass, just to check it was as good as we thought. Yep, it was. By the time we made it to Food Station 4, ate a Chicken + Wild Mushroom Pie from The Agrestic Grocer and downed a Brangayne Pinot Noir we were in love – with FORAGE, with OrangeNSW, each other and just about everything else.
There was a little bit of uphill action while foraging for Food Station 5, but cresting the hill and seeing a valley of people on picnic rugs by a dam was worth the walk (and it built up the appetite nicely for Edwena Mitchell‘s Braised Trunkey Creek Pork Neck with Potato Salad + Aioli). We’re a little bit biased about Cargo Road Wines (The Italian is helping them bring in #Vintage14), but we haven’t tasted one of their wines we haven’t loved. At this station we went for the Cargo Road Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – and yep.
It was one last stroll through the corridors of vines after Station 6’s hand-pressed Shiraz Sorbet and a Cargo Road Wines Moscato 2013 (which both ‘zinged’ together in the mouth, awesome combination) and then a little light shining on the hill at Orange Highland Wine + Gardens with Orange local Kate Bracks, the winner of Masterchef 2011, serving Hazelnut Financier with Poached Figs. I had to hold The Italian back from lining up for another few serves of this, there were 500 people gently meandering through FORAGE behind us with their desserts lined up enticingly waiting for them. So we took comfort instead in the gorgeous grounds of Orange Highland Wines, and soaked up the live music with a glass of Word of Mouth 1K High Riesling 2013, cheese + biscuit from the Second Mouse Cheese Co and a Bill’s Beans coffee.
Then we jumped on a bus back to Orange for a final aperitif at Union Bank Wine Bar and started counting down the days till next year.