THE following was published on the Sydney Morning Herald's 'Good Food' website:
ORANGE locals are justifiably proud of the foodie credentials of their home. This is a place where you can get good coffee seven days a week, and have dozens of dining options - even a hatted restaurant. There are quality providores, wineries gaining international acclaim and a proudly sustainable philosophy.
Like the food-focused residents, many of the chefs are big-city refugees and are at the top of the game - although service can be temperamental. Still, produce is as fresh as you'll get, and prices are well below what you'll pay in the big smoke.
With the recent closure of Bistro Ceello (rumours are talented chef Scott Want is moving on to become an accountant; there'll be midyear news on a new fine diner), Orange's big "special night" restaurant is the hatted Lolli Redini, where the deft hand of Simonn Hawke has dominated for 14 years.
Think soft soufflés, cosy pappardelle and squid ink pastas, melt-in-your mouth lamb and brisket, all served with charm in a cosy old home.
For more everyday fare, try Thai at Sweet Sour Salt. Or just-out-of-town Fiorinis for sumptuous home-style Italian (only open Friday to Sunday).
Also leave town for Racine, for local produce done well and fine dining in a divine outdoor setting. The best bread in town can be found at their bakery namesake, in the Woolies car park.
More great pastries are at The Sugar Mill Cafe – just opened, and sister to nearby Millthorpe fave Old Mill Cafe.
But for the best lazy breakfast, go to the Lakehouse: let the kids loose on the sand or walk it all off with your lover around the lake.
In the past you couldn't find a place doing drinkable coffee open on the weekend in Orange. All of a sudden, it's hard to miss. Could be all those former city dwellers escaping to Orange for the schools - and the food.
Check out Nimrods, The Good Eddy, Factory Espresso and Bills Beans and – the local's fave – Byng Street Local Store (expect queues on Sunday). Owner Jeremy Norris also runs popular events space – and occasional pop-up restaurant - Botanic, at the local Botanic Gardens.
Orange bars and pubs have come along way since the sticky floors and swaggering ag students of a decade ago. In their place are stylish wine rooms and refurbished pubs where you can eat late – a luxury in most country towns.
Next door to Lolli Redini, the heritage-listed Union Bank offers simple food (ordered at the bar) and live music Saturdays and Sundays, and is the place to go if the weather is good.
If it's not (such as winter in Orange, when it can snow), sample the 60 whiskys at the new Chesterfields Whiskey and Wine Bar on the first floor of the Canobolas Hotel. Well, some of them, at least.
And another new kid on the block, the busy Percy's Bar and Kitchen is fun for cocktails and curly fries, or dumplings on Tuesdays.
The two well-established events in Orange – FOOD Week (in April) and Orange Wine Festival (in October) - see the many providores and wineries overwhelmed with hungry eaters.
The Orange Region Farmers Markets are famous for their abundance of phenomenal produce, including local apples, venison, breads, eggs, bacon, preserves and so much more. Catch them on the second Saturday of the month (location varies depending on the season).
If you miss the markets, never fear. Orange is spoiled for choice of local, "beyond organic" providores. The Agrestic Grocer is our pick (they even have live music, and excellent coffee) but A Slice of Orange and recently opened The Grocer & Co Organics are also worth a browse.
Orange wineries are worth a looksee, too. There are not as many as Mudgee or the Hunter, but they punch above their weight. Philip Shaw Wines is probably the best known and slickest in Orange, especially since opening their new cellar door in December.
Ross Hill Wines is also a heavyweight of the region, with some tasty drops. If you're after more intimate (and super-friendly) experience, De Salis Wines is full of life and has great views.
Even further away, Printhie is a picturesque 40-minute drive from town - to Molong - but well worth it for the tasty wines. Swinging Bridge has a funky cellar door in town (their onsite Canowindra cellar door is still open Thursday to Monday) as part of the Union Bank building, and – still in town – Ferment, The Orange Wine Centre has a wide range of local wines (and bike hire).
Keep up with the food and drink theme and stay at one of the four cottages on the picturesque Borrodell Vineyards, from $180 a night; or at one of the three gorgeous cottages a short stroll from the Mayfield Cellar Door, from $250/night. In town, de Russie Suites are stylish Tuscan-inspired, from $155 a night.