It’s kind of marvellous living in a festival city, especially when all the festivals revolve around food + wine. This year we’ve been treated to an extended and rebranded #OrangeWineFestival, which now traverses across three entire weeks from 17 October to 2 November. Three weeks! Yes siree.

I was particularly delighted to start off my own wine festival experience with a visit to the newly-opened Philip Shaw Wines cellar door. Established in a previously deserted bluestone granary built in the 1800s, the Philip Shaw team have brought this barn to life with a stunning contemporary makeover. We marvelled at the terraced countryside view, admired the interior craftsmanship, ogled the woodfired pizza ovens and ordered several bottles of wine. This is not considered one of the finest drops in New South Wales and Australia for nothing y’know (five red star rating from James Halliday’s Wine Companion).

Inside the new Philip Shaw Wines cellar door

Inside the new Philip Shaw Wines cellar door

While I’m in the final stages of writing a Masters thesis, I’ve actually been trying to avoid this first week of the wine festival – there are far too many distractions to be had (here’s the full program). I’m coming back to life by Friday 24 October though, for the festival night market in Robertson Park – followed swiftly by the first Fabulous Ladies Wine Soiree in Orange at Kate Jones 119 featuring Monument Vineyard on Saturday 25.

Second week of the festival my top picks are ‘Sunset Tour and Taste @ Cargo Road Wines‘, ‘Woodfired Pizzas and Wine’ at Philip Shaw Wines  and ‘The Cook, The Cidermaker and The Agrestic Grocer‘ five-course food + cider matching dinner on Thursday 30 October. Yes, that’s Thursday done and dusted then.

Friday 31 October I may need to stay in – however I’ll be up for the Millthorpe Garden Ramble over the weekend, and I’d love to say I’d be staying teetotal however there’s three fantastic cellar doors in Millthorpe (here, here and here) which will probably need a visit.

Saturday 1 November sees new signature ‘Wander, Wine and Dine’ events in the #OrangeWineFestival repertoire. The ‘Sips in the City Trail’ will take you through some of the city’s best food + wine venues, while the ‘Wine in the Vines Trail’ takes you on a progressive lunch style tour of the cellar doors nestled around Mount Canobolas.

I’m probably going to go back to Philip Shaw for pulled pork rolls, and then celebrate the end of the festival on Sunday 2 Nov with the region’s best sparkling wines at Ferment – the Orange Wine Centre (and the sparklings here are truly something else, so that’s sure to be a great way to go out in style).

And then it’s just a few months to the Banjo Paterson ‘Slow Summer’ Festival in February and the Orange FOOD Week in April. Let the festivals begin!

Enjoy, Kelly


get your glow on: Canowindra


It’s all fairly relative when considering the definition of a fun night out. For us, driving through the countryside while the sun spectacularly set in big swathes of red and orange and pink over the hills and vineyards, heading for Canowindra to catch the evening ‘Balloon Glow’ which marks the launch of the town’s week long hot air balloon challenge festivities, was a pretty magical Saturday night.

Of course, considering that The Italian has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, where the height of good Saturday night times consisted of getting a takeaway sandwich and choosing between Sprite or Fanta (no wine, no women, no song. definitely no pork), standing on a country village football field with a glass of local cellar door wine in hand felt pretty good to him. Watching more than ten giant hot air balloons inflate and then synchronise lighting up to musical gems such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ was merely the pièce de résistance.

Canowindra is the ‘Ballooning Capital of Australia’ – and it’s also currently a movie set. It is most definitely charming. A frontier village settled soon after the foundation of Bathurst in 1815, the place started bustling in the 1840s. A wander down the old main Gaskill street (which is a National Trust Conservation Area and listed on the NSW Heritage Register) takes you straight back in time. Check out the River Bank Gallery and the Swinging Bridge cellar door while you’re there (Gourmet Traveller voted this one of the best cellar doors in NSW).

We went for a drive to check it out the weekend previously, on our way to visit Cowra’s Japanese Gardens (yeah baby, we really know how to live fast. As an aside, we’re experiencing great relief at the slower pace of life after chronically over-travelling the world the last decade). Canowindra’s best-kept secret is the Canowindra Trading Post – a two-story treasure trove of antique furniture and contemporary homeware stuff, with a huge garden and outdoor cafe. Right next door is Taste Canowindra, which in true Canowindra-style triples up as a restaurant, cellar door / bottle shop and art gallery.

There are vineyards, lots of them for such a small town (population approx. 2,000). We didn’t get a chance to visit, we’re going to have to go back, but here’s an overview: Gardners Ground, Rosnay Organic, Swinging Bridge, Toms Waterhole Wines, and Wallington Wines. Interestingly, Canowindra seems to be predominantly on-trend organic. To top it all off, you can catch a hot air balloon from the paddock next to Toms Waterhole cellar door and cafe. Hooray.

Enjoy! Kelly


FORAGE: festival of food + wine + wandering

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.

Cheers, Kelly


to market, to market

On a university budget with champagne tastes, to get into the swing of things for the kick-off of Orange F.O.O.D Week (running this year from 4-13 April) I spent the first weekend going to back-to-back artisan markets. And it was total joy.

Starting with the Borenore Public School Big Brunch Country Fair was kind of like peaking before the party. This was an almost unbelievable gourmet school fete – there was an Alpaca sausage sizzle for crying out loud, and they were spinning a chocolate wheel to win bottles of world-class local wine (not chocolate), and it was bunting ahoy.

It was love at first sight. Then I found homemade quince paste, and on the way home through Borenore I found a fig orchard. The winding lanes of Borenore are a feast for the senses, and the trip home also involved stopping off for some fine apple and pear cider tasting at Small Acres Cyder. Just around the corner was Dindima Wines, and it would have been rude not to have joined the FOOD week crowds for a tasting at their very friendly cellar door. I came home with a bottle of the 2009 Stella dessert chardonnay, threw it into a bowl of cream, caster sugar and figs and a few hours later had ice-cream (thanks to the beautiful Local is Lovely cookbook by  Sophie Hansen).

One sleep later and I was off to market again, this time to the second annual Cook Park breakfast and produce market as part of the Orange FOOD festival. I paced myself at this one, fuelling up on coffee and hazelnut meal (for more baking purposes) from Fourjay Farms. Lots of lovely local producers were there, including The Agrestic Grocer and The Second Mouse Cheese Company. Printhie Wines were also there serving up tasters of their delightfully unparalleled Swift Vintage and Cuvee – it is never too early for sparkling.

The final, and penultimate, leg of the weekend market trail involved catching a lift with friends to the nearby village of Millthorpe (just a 15 minute scenic drive outside of Orange) to the much-loved biannual edition of the Millthorpe Markets. It would have been easy to go crazy for bunting and cushions and lace doily dresses, but I managed to contain my enthusiasm and come home with a wooden handmade birdhouse.

We wandered into the village after the markets, and it was an extended affair – most of the local stores had trestle tables outside on the pavement selling wares and it was definitely a country fair atmosphere. Sailing home past verdant green paddocks and soaring blue sky, it occurred to me that this #treechange thing was one of the finest ideas I’ve ever had.

Happy happy joy joy – Kelly


foraging for food at festivals: Orange F.O.O.D Week

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.

Cheers! Kelly










slow summer festival, are you kidding? this year is totally fresh


Just a little more than two weeks to go and festival season in Orange kicks-off for the new year, starting with the salubrious Slow Summer Festival – which this year is dedicated to the Australian poet Banjo Patterson (1864-1941), one of Orange’s most famous sons. Running from  7 to 17 February, the swinging Slow Summer Fest will be packed full of gourmet experiences, poetry + plonk. There are sporting and family activities too if you are so inclined, but I am wilfully ignoring an entire section of the program.

Here’s the top picks that have me salivating already:

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Week 1

It all kicks off on Friday 7 February with festival night markets in Robertson Park, followed the next day by the official Banjo Patterson art festival launch and the Orange Region Farmers Market. Saturday 8 February is actually jampacked with awesome events, these are just some of my top picks (and please note that I am allergic to sporting activities unless champagne is involved):

1. choose to ‘Munch and Meander in Millthorpe’, strolling through the historic village and soaking up the wine cellars (Angullong Wines, Bantry Grove, Belgravia Wines and Edgecombe Wines + Coffee Hill). There’s also poetry & music at Gerry’s @ The Commercial.Saturday 8 Feb @ 12-5pm.

2. Mandagery Farm Venison Lunch, including a Farm Tour and 3 course lunch on Saturday 8 Feb @ 12.30m. Call 0400 032  326 to book – and if you can’t squeeze this into the schedule they hold regular farm kitchen lunches on the second Saturday of each month.

3. an Amateur Poetry Regatta at Mortimer’s Wines‘ unique Cellar Door at the Old March Public School (est. 1866), Saturday 8 Feb @ 2-6pm.

4. and a twilight garden party @ Stockman’s Ridge Wines featuring food by Australian renowned and local chef Michael Manners on Saturday 8 Feb starting @ 6pm.

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Week 2

And while there’s a whole week of activities in between, I’ll be saving myself for the following festival weekend for (watching) the Dragon Boat racing on Lake Canobolas and (listening) to one of Australia’s most loved actors, Jack Thompson, reading some of Australia’s most loved poems. My other top picks for the weekend are:

1. ‘Pasta, Plonk & Poetry’ at Mayfield Vineyard, Saturday 15 Feb @ 7pm. Call 02 6362 8898 to book.

2. Family Day @ the opening of Emmaville Cottage at the Orange Botanic Gardens, Sunday 16 Feb @ 9am-2pm.

3. Charles Sturt University Wines (CSU) Sparkling Brunch, which should be good because it stars their award-winning 2009 Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling, Sunday 16 Feb @ 10am-11.30am

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All this, and then Flix in the Stix comes around 22 February. Woohoo!


[DISCLAIMER: I’ve really got to point out here that I haven’t included a detailed list of all the amazing activities around the Slow Summer Banjo Patterson Festival, I’ve only focused on the stuff I personally think is stellar – and I’m not kidding when I say I’m allergic to anything sporty. Download the entire program from the lovely Taste Orange website].

Elvis is in the building, in fact he’s all over Parkes

The Parkes Elvis Festival – you haven’t really lived unless you’ve been to it at least once.