All About Orange
While Dean and I were in Orange for the Australian Cider Awards we decided to discover more of what was on offer during our brief stay. We soon realised only ever having driven through Orange on our way to Dubbo some years earlier was a mistake. Orange has taken to the ‘local eating’ in a big way. There are several businesses that take to promoting the region’s produce in clever and creative ways. There are wineries, cideries, trufferies, orchards and paddocks bursting with ingredients to sample.
First port of call is Bills Beans for a fortifying coffee before heading into town. I’ve never seen a café so busy, except maybe Allpress in Alexandria. But this is East Orange. Locals squeeze in like sardines to get their morning fix of Bill Parianos’ on-site roasted coffee, and it’s not long before I can see why. The coffee is perfect. Bill moved to Orange four years ago to escape the madness of Sydney and hasn’t looked back (something Dean and I can relate to). When he first started roasting in Orange the higher altitude and drier climate resulted in a change to the flavour profiles of the beans. After some tweaking it seems his move out to the Tablelands has changed Bill and his beans for the better. I’m sure the locals will be relieved to hear that Bill is opening a second, much larger outpost in town in a few weeks time. Inspired by his visits to the US, particularly Portland in Oregon, Bill’s new venture on Kite Street will house a new roasting facility with an industrial backdrop that will serve all day breakfast and lunch.
Afterwards, we drive past some beautiful homes that surround the CBD and park our car near Lavendilli–Blue. The outside blackboard is promoting Trunkey Creek bacon and egg rolls – perfect for our wee little hangover from last night’s cider drinking.
Next, we hit A Slice of Orange, a shop that sells produce only from within 100 miles (160kms) of Orange. Sisters Jess and Lisa Lovick grew up in Orange. While they made a crust in Sydney after school, they yearned for their hometown favourites so began selling Orange foodstuffs at the Fox Studio Markets (now referred to as EQ Village Markets). Before deciding to head home to enjoy everything they loved about Orange full time. A Slice of Orange sells seasonal foods such as truffles, berries, apples and hazelnuts, alongside packaged foods such as honey, verjus, free range rabbit, artisan sausages and olive oil. On our visit I’m told I best grab a bottle of salad dressing from renowned Orange restaurant Lolli Redini before it sells out. I do what I am told. We also grab some Tall Poppy tomato relish for Dean’s homemade hamburgers. There are also picnic hampers that can be pre-ordered for when a tour of local vineyards is in order.
Truffle products at A Slice of Orange
Alternatively, you can visit the Union Bank Wine Bar, which has amassed a small fortune in local wines and beers. After nosing around for an eternity in Hawkes General Store a few doors away, we head to the Union Bank for hair of the dog and a bite to eat. We scoff the contents of the charcuterie plate so quickly I forget to take a photo.
That evening we were lucky enough to secure a reservation at newly hatted Racine Restaurant positioned within La Colline Vineyard, about fifteen minutes drive from Orange. Racine is a pea-green oasis in an otherwise (at that time of night) pitch-black setting. Head chef, Shaun Arantz, produces sublime plates of food with the majority of ingredients sourced, like A Slice of Orange (for whom he supplies freshly baked bread), within 100 miles. Some is grown in the vegetable plot adjacent to the restaurant, some by local producers such as Mandagery Creek Venison, Cowra Lamb, Gaskill Green Vegetables and La Barre Olive Oil.
I begin with braised pork cheek, spring peas, pata negra (Spanish ham made from acorn fed pigs) and celeriac remoulade. The peas are barely cooked; it’s as if they have just rolled out of the pod and onto the plate. They burst on impact with garden flavour and together with the creamy remoulade and so-thin-they’re-transparent celeriac slices, compliment the perfectly tender pork cheek. The salty strips of pata negra are so delicious.
Dean has ordered the fresh water trout poached in olive oil with apple jelly, boudin noir (blood sausage) crumbs and yoghurt. I wished I could have captured the look on his face when the plate came out and the trout was shaped into a sausage. He was only temporarily perplexed before tucking in and describing the dish as ‘beautiful’.
The high level of technique and layers of subtlety continued for the mains. I had steamed snapper fillet, buttermilk custard, muscatel sauce and shimeji mushrooms. It is weird to describe this as the meal I could eat every time I was poorly? There was something very comforting about this dish. Perhaps it was the clear soothing broth that became opaque when I stirred through the buttermilk custard.
The slow cooked pork backstrap with chickpea puree, broccolini, baby shallot and chilli garlic oil looked as one would normally expect, much to the disappointment of Dean. He was hoping for a pyramid or cube of pork. Needless to say he finished the meal asking why I can’t cook pork that tender at home. I consoled myself with a side of vegetables du jour, more of those gorgeous peas and what I think were borlotti beans.
Steamed snapper fillet, buttermilk custard, muscatel sauce and shimeji mushrooms
L Slow cooked pork backstrap with chickpea puree, broccolini, baby shallot and chilli garlic oil
R Dark chocolate mousse with white chocolate parfait, chocolate sponge and citrus oil
For dessert we settled on sharing the dark chocolate mousse with white chocolate parfait, chocolate sponge and citrus oil. Since Dean doesn’t really do desserts, I nearly had all of this gorgeous ending to myself. I couldn’t really taste the citrus oil but it mattered very little because the chocolate mousse was out of this world. I was kind of sad it was all over.
So too was our trip to Orange, but not before a little detour to Millthorpe on the way back home (details in the next post) the next morning. We will definitely have Orange in our sights again. Perhaps one Wine Week in October or during the Orange FOOD Week in April next year. There is still so much food and wine left for us to discover. It’s admirable to see a region promoting its produce in such ingenious ways. Many other parts of the country could take a leaf out of their book.Share this on: