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Lamb and beef raised here have long been sought after by chefs and specialist butchers across the state and further afield. Grazing on the region’s lush pastures, it seems, produces exceptionally tender and succulent cuts of meat.
Orchards flourish in our high altitude climate. In season, you can buy freshly-picked berries, apples, pears and stone fruits from farm stands and local markets, or head out of town to pick your own – a popular activity for families with children.
Guyra is famous for tasty glasshouse tomatoes and hosts an annual Lamb and Potato Festival, celebrating the specialties of nearby farmers. Elsewhere in the region, trout farmers, bakers, cheese makers, and even a chocolatier, are among a growing number of small businesses producing delectable artisanal foods, perfect for popping into picnic baskets. At the monthly farmer’s markets held in most of the towns, you’ll also find local honey, home-made jams and chutneys, olive oil, teas and, of course, assorted garden vegetables and free-range eggs, among the array of local food products for sale.
Fortunately, much of the food grown here finds its way from ‘pasture to plate’ and onto the tables of local eateries. From casual family restaurants, cafés, clubs and pubs to fine dining rooms and cellar door establishments, there’s a diverse choice of dining options, as well as cuisines in the New England.
Ask for advice and locals are likely to recommend starting the day with a robust espresso at their favourite café. At one hip establishment the baristas are up before the birds, coaxing their wood-fired oven into action and baking pastries and bread so popular the daily supply sells out by mid-morning. Blackboard menus across the region feature local seasonal produce the likes of ricotta hotcakes piled with berries and honeycomb butter, curried lamb pies and honey and lavender brulée, to name a few inspired dishes.
In warmer months, tables and chairs spill outside under shady umbrellas and trees. On summer weekends, it’s fun to share plates on the terrace at the regional art museum and listen to live jazz.
On weekends year round, you can head out of town to one of the cellar door operations that serve food with a view of the vineyards. One enterprising winery with a great restaurant recently established a brewery and opened a bar that serves up exceptional house and imported beers.
There are more than 20 cellar doors open to visitors and convivial winemakers are on hand to introduce their wines and chat for hours. In 2008, the New England was declared an official Australian wine region for its unique climatic and topographic conditions. It is, in fact, a re-emerging wine region with grape growing dating back to the first settlers. These days, vineyards in the region are generating quite a lot of excitement for producing cool climate wines of a distinctive style. On the New England wine trail you can taste a number of award-winning wines. For instance, at Petersons Winery, located on a landmark pastoral property just outside Armidale, you can taste award-winning Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot, and, if you like, stay the night in the historic homestead.