A taste of Orange

We need our own name for the act of going somewhere to be dazzled by glowing autumn leaves. In Japan it’s called momijikari, which roughly translates as ‘maple hunting’, and in the US it goes by the faintly fetishistic ‘leaf-peeping’. Whatever it’s called, I did it recently in Orange and it was beautiful.  You’d have to be wearing blinkers to call it a peep show really. Surely this is a big-screen movie, a wide-eyed vista, a really big window – anything but a peep show.

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Photo: Robin Powell

All this glory was in the way of work.  I was researching a food, wine, gardens and, yes okay, leaf-peeping, trip to Orange next autumn. Tough gig.

(Update! Dates for this tour have now been set. See the full itinerary.)

Some parts of regional NSW can feel to the hungry traveller like a wasteland of factory pies and scalded, watery coffees. But not Orange; Orange is a food-lover’s oasis.  There are great restaurants, friendly bistros, chic cafes, and food stores specialising in local produce. That local produce is as varied as it is delicious.  A lot of it you can see from the road – those hillsides of grapevines, each changing to a different autumn tint, make perhaps the district’s best known product, wine. Regions cold enough to demand a beanie for comfort – not just to advertise your hipster credentials – make the best wine. Orange does a fine job of riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot, shiraz, cabernet and a whole bunch of others worth exploring.

Orchards add their tones to the autumn embroidery, especially cherries and apples. Most orchards grow the usual commercial varieties – pink ladies, grannys, fjui – but there are a different range of flavours hanging on the trees at Borodell. Borry Gartrell is interested in the full range of apple expressionism and grows 170 different varieties. These are unnamed windfalls.

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Photo: Robin Powell

We picked a mixed bag from the trees, peeped at leaves (that’s the vineyards and cherry trees of Borrodell in the picture at the top of this post) and then drove on into the neighboring village of Millthorpe, where chef Tony Worland turns the local seasonal produce into delicious contemporary classics at his restaurant Tonic.

Millthorpe boomed in the late 19th century, having snaffled both the mill and the railway station. Luckily for modern Millthorpe the boom was followed by a 20th century bust, which means that 21st century visitors can enjoy the intact 19th century streetscape. The place is authentic, right down to its bluestone gutters.  There’s good wine to be tasted here, both at Angullong, and at the Mayfield Wine Centre in the former railway station.  But the number one drawcard may well be the food at Tonic. From a great meal, let me share just this one treat – rocky road pinata.  Cracking the crisp dark chocolate shell reveals tangy raspberry puree, meltingly soft marshmallow and sweet nutty coconuty crumbs. Will I be lining up for seconds next autumn?  I hope so!

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Photo: Robin Powell

There’s more to tell – about one of the country’s biggest hazelnut growers and their home-made processing factory in a shed not much bigger than a walk-in wardrobe; about wine tastings with views; the country’s best cider; and gorgeous private gardens.  But I’ll stop there until the itinerary is finalised. Just one more picture though – and one more question. What should we call those of us who love to be dazzled by autumn leaves?

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Photo: Robin Powell

 Update: The itinerary has been released for the tour. Have a look and see if you’d like to join me.

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