boutique exploring

I took a spin around #OrangeNSW last week, and was surprised at the amount of boutiques and gourmet providores I uncovered along my happy trail. Seems like here are some real hidden gems here, just waiting to be discovered.

I started at the original and the best – Hawkes General Store in Sale Street. This is fabulously located right next door to Lolli Redini (a 1 Chef Hat restaurant) and the Union Bank Wine Bar, and Red Chilli Deli is just across the carpark.

A short walk away up Byng Street takes you to Iglou – very generation next fashion stakes – and The White Place, which has rooms and rooms of delectable homewares.

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Spinning around the block back onto Summer Street brought me to the serious cook’s companion, The Essential Ingredient. And then turning right into Anson Street there’s a treasure trove awaiting almost every step – including homewares and interiors store Jumbled and regional providore A Slice of Orange.

essential ingredient jumbledonline a slice of Orange

By this time, I was due a coffee and pastry break and luckily for me right across the road in the Woolworths carpark, tucked away in a  corner, is the best bakery in town – Racine Bakery. These guys also run the 1 Chef Hat Racine Restaurant, so you can imagine how good their sourdough is. and pizzas, and pastries and and and…

One of my favourite places to browse is The Complete Garden in Lords Place, so that’s where I headed to next. Then crossed the road to Kite Street to head to Cinnabar – which handily doubles as the Word of Mouth Wines cellar door. Shopping and wine tasting. This, my friends, is what I love about #OrangeNSW.

 

racine bakery completegarden wordofmouth

 

From here, for me it’s a hop skip and a jump over the railway pedestrian bridge to Endsleigh Avenue on my way home. My last and favourite stop is my local cafe, The Endsleigh – which is right next door to a vintage designer clothing shop A Frockwork Orange. Ladies, it is possible to book private Friday evening shopping sprees at the store for you and a group of friends, accompanied by champagne and cheese. I rest my case.

 

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A Frockwork Orange + The Endsleigh

 

deserting the desert

For the first time in a very long time, I’ve actually got some time to be creative. Maybe it’s the fresh country air that’s inspiring me. Here’s a short story written in a workshop for the ABC Open Endings Project that was first published here.


 

And half way through, he asked me if I ever wondered if this was real. What, I asked, what are you asking is real? He said, sometimes I wonder if any of this is real, sometimes I have to pinch myself, sometimes I think I’m going to wake up any minute and realise it was all just a dreaming.

I looked at him for a while, thinking about where we were, where we’d come from, where we were hopefully going. Then we both looked out the window, out through the double-glazed glass of the serviced hotel apartment, down onto the fluorescent green manicured lawns in the middle of the creamy and undulating desert.

We watched a gaggle of women in head-to-toe black watching their half-naked children splash hedonistically in the chlorinated pool, with a row of multinational mercenary contract workers sitting limply nearby at the outdoor bar on their only day off.

As we watched, the hot dust in the air started to gently swirl into eddies, heralding the birth of a sandstorm that would soon choke the green lawn and blue sky for days – a sign that a long, hot summer was about to break over the dunes and blow into the city. For two days the city would be shrouded in skyscraper-high sand, and it would fall eerily silent as the last small brown birds that braved this place hurriedly departed.

Let’s get out of here, he said and I agreed. And just like a mouse must feel if it’s lucky enough to squirm itself out of the steel jaw of a trap, ignoring the cheese that initially enticed it there, we haphazardly packed our few suitcases and fled.

On the other side of the world it was raining – a constant grey deluge of humidity, rain and mould. This isn’t what I expected, he said. Me neither, I replied. Should we really have come here, we wondered.

The sound of this place was rain on rooftops and doors being slammed in our faces. Looking out over the smug little city – its rat-infested corners, spiders hanging from ceilings, cockroach infested cupboards, its glistening white sails and murky waters, the inane chatter of its streets – we kind of breathed and sighed, sighed and breathed.

We developed simultaneous addictions to gelato and walking in the rain. Attended festivals and protests, standing under a shared umbrella, waiting for the next episode to start the next chapter. I can’t take this place seriously, I said, it just doesn’t seem real. He just nodded.

Then suddenly it was as if the cage doors opened and we were finally swept out with the rain. We’d never unpacked, so we were ready to evacuate from the city that was perched precariously on the edge of the world, on the edge of reality. We ran over the eucalyptus-drenched mountains, carrying nothing with us but a little flicker of hope, some dreams, a couple of suitcases and each other.

We have nothing and everything, he said. If nothing else is real, at least we are. Surrounded by big sky and soaked in oxygen, we breathed in the freedom. And after the rain, came the green.

magical mystery tour

This wasn’t a mystery tour at all, but it was totally magical. An inner-city friend recently returned from Dubai made the trek over the Blue Mountains to spend the weekend with us, and he was completely blown away by what’s on offer here in #OrangeNSW.

We created a special boutique-style tour for him, to introduce him to the marvels of the region. Starting off with a home-cooked meal using local produce when he arrived after a surprisingly quick 3.5 hour drive from Sydney. On the menu was pork belly from Trunkey Creek Bacon with polenta, followed by rhubarb + apple hazelnut crumble inspired by the Local is Lovely cookbook.

Stopping first for a coffee at The Lakehouse kiosk at Lake Canobolas, admiring the view over the lake and soaking in the crisp fresh air, our dedicated day for the vineyards started at Brangayne, where our friend went crazy for the buttery unwooded 2011 Chardonnay, the 2012 Pinot Noir and the 2011 Late Harvest Riesling.

This was his first experience of an Australian cellar door experience outside of the Hunter Valley, and he was stunned by the views of the Orange countryside. He thought it looked like he’d very much just arrived in Italy, and The Italian confirmed he’d saved himself a long haul trip by venturing out here to savour the spectacular local wine and gourmet experience.

Our next stop was Ross Hill Wines across the road, where we were served by local winemaker Phil Kerney who has been nominated as one of Gourmet Traveller‘s 2014 winemakers of the year along with his wife Rochelle.

 

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Then it was time for lunch at Racine Restaurant in La Colline Vineyard. Our inner-city friend peaked at this gourmet experience, declaring it the best meal he’d had since arriving back in Australia. We dined on a winter menu of venison, quail and smoked trout but it was the desserts that completely blew us away. Can’t even begin to describe them.

We went for a quick scenic drive after lunch through the Towac Valley along the bottom of Mount Canobolas and headed straight for Cargo Road Wines. Sitting outside on the terrace watching the sun set over the vineyard, we indulged in a wine tasting of everything on the menu as this is one of our favourite cellar doors in the region. Our friend departed with bottles of the incredible 2013 Zinfandel, 2014 Riesling and the Dessert Zin.

We finished off our very fine day at the Union Bank Wine Bar, which stars a plethora of local vintages and an awesome sunset-view wine garden. After an action-packed day we had a relatively early night, and recovered at Bill’s Beans East Orange the next morning, with freshly-ground coffee and quite possibly “the best BLT we’ve ever eaten in our lives”.

Our inner-city friend packed himself off for the return trip to Darlinghurst, stunned by the news that we’d only managed to visit three of the over 40 local vineyards. He’ll be back.