The provincial city of Orange in the central tablelands of New South Wales is one of Australia's most populous rural cities with almost 40,000 residents. Mt Canobolas, rising 1395 metres, is the highest point west of Sydney and has commanding views.
Nearby in Ophir in 1851, gold was first discovered in Australia, which led to the Australian goldrush. Subsequent discoveries led to the establishment of Orange as a central trading centre.
These days it is a well-known fruit growing district producing 170 types of apples, pears, figs, berries and many stone fruits. In recent years, a large number of vineyards have been planted to cope with the rapidly expanding wine industry. Fine lamb, venison and beef are grown in the local area but ironically, oranges are not.
The wonderfully rich soil of Orange has gained it the title of Food Basket of Australia. It is a growers' paradise and its distinct seasons attract droves of people for that weekend away with great rewards in the food line.
Gourmet Safaris has tours for foodies throughout Australia, Asia and Europe. They believed in the quality of food and wine from Orange so strongly that it earned a place on their destination list.
One of the places you are likely to visit is Borrodell on the Mount, 1000 metres up on the slopes of Mt Canobolas. The boutique vineyard, truffiere, heritage apple and cherry orchard are carefully cultivated by local grower Borry Gartrell. He comes from a fruit-growing family and has a nostalgia for the different flavours and tastes of various apples. He has replanted many heritage varieties, which had been lost over the years.
Many of his pickings are used in dishes prepared by acclaimed chef Michael Manners at Selkirks, which has built its reputation on simple food with well-balanced flavours. The menu is small and changes regularly and they cleverly ensure that every ingredient enhances rather than takes over from other ingredients.
The small restaurant opened in 1997 in a restored country house. Its interior is warm and inviting with a rear garden suitable for groups. The courtyard is perfect for pre-dinner drinks in summer.
The cool climate grape-growing and wine-producing region is rapidly growing in reputation and Selkirks enjoys introducing guests to the local vintages. There are 14 wines served by the glass a great way to put them to the test. Bloodwood is a pioneering vineyard, planted in 1983 by the Doyles. Their merlot noir vines thrived in the warm, free-draining gravels of Bloodwood and yielded 650 litres of varietal essence in 1986. The vineyard now has 21,274 Vinifera vines covering eight hectares and their fermentation capacity is 75,000 litres.
Tim Hansen of Mandagery Creek Australian Farmed Venison has been producing for over three years in the Orange region. He runs about 1000 head on the property and to keep up with domestic and overseas demand, buys in from contracted deer growers in the area.
He exports to Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia and his venison also appears on the menus of some of Australia's best restaurants. Venison has been a popular meat for thousands of years and is re-emerging with recognition of its flavour, tenderness, high iron and protein and low fat and cholesterol.
Chef Lesley Russell has lived in Orange for over 10 years and has been in the cooking profession for 20. In 2005 she began the central west's only cooking school, Orange Regional Cooking School. She uses local produce and wine sourced from producers and the monthly Orange Region Farmers Markets.
Classes promote produce, the general region, its people, seasons and lifestyle. They are held in a former general store, which is now a modern and functional space, with the gleam of a professional kitchen but the ambience of a gathering around a kitchen table.
Dee and Rob Napier run Bed of Roses, offering fine country accommodation, surrounded by hectares of beautiful gardens, gum trees, a lake and wonderful views.
The new Black Sheep Inn has five guest suites; there are two self-contained cottages and two guest suites in Kyalla Park Homestead. The Black Sheep is the property's original shearing shed. It is modern and stylish and has two large living areas, great for couples or groups. Shearing machinery, wool baskets, sheep chutes and an enormous Koertz wool press remain as memories of the past. Farmer's breakfast is served at the old wooden sorting table.
Whispering Moon is perfect for one or two couples. Once the shearers' quarters, it is now tranquil. A covered patio has a barbecue and there are views along Molong Creek Valley. It has ensuite queen bedrooms, combined sitting, dining and kitchen area and a centrally-placed open fire. A gourmet kitchen hamper is provided.
Wild Rose Cottage is a restored farm cottage hidden in a private garden. It has two bedrooms and a sitting room with log fire. It has a full kitchen, sunroom/dining room with picture windows, barbecue and gourmet hamper breakfast is provided.