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When life gives you lemons, head to Orange

by Catherine Marshall
Country Food Trails

When life gave Nicole Farrell lemons, she embraced Orange – and is now reaping the culinary fruits of this hard-pressed decision.


Orange local Nicole Farrell is not altogether unfamiliar with the art of the pivot. After running an online craft business for twelve years, she decided to use her creative nous to establish a boutique tour company, Red Door Tours, and live her dream leading customised textile safaris through India and Morocco. Suitcase always packed, passport up-to-date and with demand for her services growing, Nicole was planning an expansion of her tours to other exotic foreign destinations – Japan, Uzbekistan, Myanmar and France. It was a profession that matched her bright, gregarious personality and indulged her love of travel, colour, textures, culture, people and food.

And then COVID hit. Overnight, seven of the ten overseas tours Nicole had scheduled for 2020 had to be cancelled.

“I got three [tours] to India before the world shut down!” she says.

A solution on the doorstep

Just like that (and along with so many people, especially in the tourism industry), she found herself out of a job. What was she to do? The answer lay outside her front door: squeeze every ounce of potential from Orange, of course. For though Australians couldn’t go out into the world, she reasoned, they could surely be lured to this attractive and compelling Central NSW city. Its growth over the years from a sleepy hinterland pastoral town to a food and wine hotspot had been perfectly timed, it seemed, to capture the pent-up wanderlust of people hemmed in by closed borders.

Nicole lovingly placed Red Door Tours into hibernation, and launched a new company, Country Food Trails. It has proven most popular – but success wasn’t achieved overnight: central to her feat are the relationships she has cultivated with individual purveyors, producers and operators. When not exploring on foot, guests are ferried about in her shuttle van (emblazoned with the delightful Country Food Trails logo and number plates reading “EAT”) and offered behind-the-scenes encounters with some of the people who contribute to Orange’s impressive culinary reputation. In this new endeavour, Nicole is able to apply the principles perfected on her overseas tours as she showcases the stories behind the vineyards, orchards, farms, breweries, distilleries and eateries that characterise her Australian hometown.

The art of the Bacchanalian pivot – and did we mention wine?

A glance at the themes and selections in Country Food Trails’ series highlights the productivity and output of local producers: besides the cool-climate winemakers for whom Orange has become well known, some locals harvest figs and nuts and seasonal fruit here, while others produce craft ales and small-batch olive oil, gelato and charcuterie and cheeses, specialty gins and bush tucker which is sampled on the Tasting Trail under the direction of an Indigenous guide (the company also offers luxury picnics and bespoke tours). Much of this produce is served in Orange’s sleek, funky profusion of cafes, bistros, wine bars and restaurants – some of them (in the case of Lolli Redini and Charred), hatted. Collectively, these elements consolidate the region’s reputation as a destination that will reward, in particular, the visitor’s palate.

With this creative, pandemic-era venture Nicole has, in turn, curated her region’s superfluous fare and packaged it for the visitor’s easy enjoyment. Where not long ago she was preparing to expand into other parts of the world, the self-professed “poster girl for the COVID pivot” is proving that good taste often resides on one’s own doorstep. And that lemons can be rather fruitful, after all. TTW

Photos © Zora Regulic and Country food Trails. Catherine Marshall was a guest of Country Food Trails. More at Country Food Trails and Visit Central NSW. See Nicole Farrell’s guidebook to Orange here.

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