Hellooo? Anyone still out there? Yes, I’m still here, still enjoying the school holidays with the MCs. But I did promise to tell you about holidays of a different sort didn’t I? When I snuck away for a girlie, child-free weekend.
“The girls” are a group of mums I’ve known since MC Senior was a few months old. Although we’ve been friends for close to nine years, and have organised many family trips together, last weekend was the first time we could coordinate our schedules to go away just by ourselves. (No clashes of work, study, family or newborn babies)
Our destination? A town called Orange, about four hours drive west of Sydney. Apart from being a well known food and wine destination, it is also the hometown of one of the mums in our group. This came in very handy as we only had a full day and part of a morning to explore, so her insider knowledge was much appreciated.
Although the conditions were very cold and quite a shock to our systems, the weekend was filled with much relaxing, a lot of eating and even more talking! Here are some highlights of our trip:
The Orange Region Farmers Market.
Jams, jellies and chutneys at the Greentrees gourmet preserves stall.
As luck would have it, our trip coincided with the monthly Farmers Market. Although it was brutally cold, the lure of interesting produce was too hard to ignore. At first glance, I was a little surprised at the size of the market, it seemed quite small. Then I realised, unlike other markets I’d been too, all the stalls here focus solely on food of some kind, no crafts, clothes or plants to bulk up the numbers.
I love how colour-coordinated this stall holder is. Most of the fudge was sold by the time I got there but I managed to bag a slice of chocolate-ginger fudge. Very chocolaty and not too sweet. Big hit with the MCs.
Can I has cupcakes?
Mini rhubarb cupcake with vanilla buttercream ($1.50). SO good. The tart rhubarb pieces were offset by the not too sweet but very vanilla-ey icing.
Bless this lady and her servings of hot tomato soup. ($4) Delicious and warms you up from the inside out.
So this is what fresh hazelnuts are supposed to taste like! Raw hazelnuts, roasted hazelnuts and hazelnut products from Fourjay Farms.
How can you resist a bargain like this?
Errr..I didn't spend much time at these stalls. Brave and hardy souls out here.
Entry to the markets is through a gold coin donation, and thankfully, the majority of the stalls were indoors and undercover. Although I’d promised myself I was there to “just have a look” I ended up leaving laden with bottles, jars and packets. Ooops. Never mind, at least this was the type of shopping I could share with the family.
Market loot - hazelnuts, apples, jam, fig and olive tapenade, caramelised white balsamic vinegar, fudge
After the markets, we went for a spin and traipsed merrily through a few cellar doors around the Mt. Canobolas/ Cargo Road area.
First stop, La Colline wines, and what better way to start than with bubbles?
Next, we headed to Borrodell on the Mount, a very pretty vineyard. Even though it was a grey day, the view was still quite stunning. This winery offered liquers and cider as well as wines.
I ended up taking a bottle of the cherry liquer home. It smells amazing and surprised me when I first tasted it. I’d expected sweetness, but instead it was quite tart (but mellow), with a slightly bitter finish. Quite sure that the liquer is meant to be drunk neat but I’ve had fun experimenting with it. So far, it’s been added to champagne (not bad), soda water (very refreshing) and coke (oh don’t look at me like that). I know it sounds a bit silly, but I was thinking of cherry-coke, and the combination actually works. I did seek an independent opinion from Mr. Kitchen Hand, who supported my hypothesis. The resulting drink tasted almost like a bourbon and coke, without the sweetness.
While I am still enjoying the cherry liquer, I’ve since experienced immense regret at not purchasing the beautiful Gewürztraminer produced by the same folks. Apparently, the only place you can taste this in Sydney is at Tetsuya’s. Next time, I’m buying first and asking questions later!
Our final vineyard was Word of Mouth Wines, where we were treated to some wonderful hospitality. Our host was incredibly patient - he answered all our questions graciously, made a coffee for our designated driver, and dealt with a large, noisy group who’d interrupted our tasting session with aplomb. I left with a 2007 Pinot Noir, and a fun, little dessert wine called Sweet Milli.
We could have swanned around wineries all day but next we needed to prepare for a night out.
Dinner at Union Bank
Our friend L, the Orange local, had booked us into this restaurant and we were given a table across the courtyard away from the buzzing main bar/ restaurant area. At first, it felt a little too quiet, after all, it’s not everyday we glam up and head out together. But once the other patrons in our part of the restaurant left, it was almost as if we had our own private dining room. Very conducive to lots of secret girly chatter ;).
The food was impressive, and I loved how each dish came with a suggested wine by the glass. I’d never have known to order an Angullong “Bull’s Roar” Tempranillo (2010) otherwise. In fact, I loved the wine so much, I went and bought a bottle the next day at the adjoining Union Bank wine store.
My duck dish at the Union Bank - crispy skin, melting on the inside. The broth was flavoured with star anise. Wish there was more bok choy but apart form that, I loved it.
A couple of the other dishes - sorry, bad night time photos
All too soon, our weekend of feasting ended and we headed back to Sydney, but not before we experienced a bit of drama on the road. The route home took us over the Blue Mountains area which had been experiencing strong winds all that week. The winds had been causing havoc, uprooting trees which fell onto train lines and power lines.
As we made our way over the mountains, we were suddenly told that the road had been closed because another tree was about to fall. No one quite knew how long the road would be closed for, so we pulled into a side street to discuss our options. Should we wait, perhaps for hours, or turn around, head back the way we came and try the alternative route back to Sydney.
Then we realised we were standing outside a cafe. A warm, cosy inviting cafe. We knew exactly what we had to do - stop for lunch!
We could not have picked a better spot to wait out the wind than at the Brown’s Siding Store and Cafe (the original home of the Whisk and Pin gourmet label) in Medlow Bath. Even though the kitchen had officially closed, the lovely staff welcomed us with open arms, turned on the oven so we could have pies and lasagne, and kept us updated with news of what was happening outside on the road.
The cafe ended up becoming a refuge for many locals who were stuck on this side of the road trying to get to their homes on the other side. No one was being allowed across until the tree fell. Eventually, over an hour and a half later, nature took its course, and we were allowed back on our way after the fallen tree was cleared.
All’s well that end’s well :)
Have a great weekend. (Thank you lovely L for organising our trip!)