Just 90 minutes from Sydney, the Southern Highlands is a virtual food bowl, right on our doorstep. What's even better is there is a rotating series of markets which means pretty much every weekend is covered in one town or another.
Bundanoon Village Market held every first and third Sunday of the month from 8:30am until 1:30pm inside the Soldiers Memorial Hall, gives you the perfect excuse to check out a very picturesque trackside village. Alongside locally grown greens, you'll find Whitmarsh olives, Filipino cakes, local honey, award winning pickles and preserves, and Jo Harrington's wonderful pumpkin damper rolls and sourdough bread (you definitely need some).
You'll find Mittagong Markets on the third and fifth Saturday of each month from 9:00am to 3:00pm in the grounds of the Uniting Church. While not quite as picturesque a town as Bundanoon, there's a gala feel to this outdoor setting, as you watch the locals greeting each other as they stroll across the green, or take Devonshire tea inside the church buildings.
Amongst the fresh produce Australian garlic, baby cucumbers and sweet grape tomatoes stood out, all available by box or bucket at a fraction of their Sydney prices.
I was particularly delighted to see Lady Bucket's Kitchen. I first met these stallholders at the Moss Vale Show Society Farmer and Flea Markets. Lady Bucket makes some of the tastiest and smoothest duck or chicken liver pate I've tried, and her pork rillettes are excellent too. At $6/small and $12/large per tub, these products are a bargain, and perfect if you're planning a picnic lunch later in the day.
With flavours like smoked vanilla bean, smoked Scotch and dark chocolate, and fig and orange jam, Macarons by Gourmet also caught my eye.
Exeter Village Markets on the first Saturday of the month are also quite pretty, held in the park and the Exeter Village Hall. My last visit was a little disappointing on the food front - well it would have been if I hadn't discovered Bohemian Delights. Not only was their fresh produce delightful, from purple kohlrabi to kale, they have home made products like sauerkraut dotted with caraway seeds, in addition to their considerable range of jams.
Take some time looking and you'll find oddities like tamarillo jam, persimmon jam, pineapple and rockmelon jam, and some experiments like apple strudel jam.
With your car boot already groaning, it's probably time for a drink. I have popped into two Southern Highlands wineries. Centennial Vineyard was the most picturesque, offering up a good range of delicate, fruit-driven wines.
Earmarking their rather grand restaurant for another visit, I was most taken by the 2013 Centennial Off Dry Riesling ($19.99), the cordon cut late harvest 2011 Finale Late Autumn Chardonnay ($22.99/375ml) and two of their local raspberry products, Raspberry Nectar ($36.99/375ml) and a clever raspberry cheese condiment.
With the road in to Marist Brothers Wines populate with geese and their goslings it's hard not to be delighted (especially as a city slicker who sees sights like this all too rarely).
Obligatory photos taken, it's up to the "chapel cellar door" you go...
Turns out the cellar door isn't actually in the chapel, though we did check.
We picked up a rose and a pinot gris for good measure, and on the way out marveled at the tulip we dubbed the 'Little Shop of Horrors' tulip. The surrounding area Bowral is renowned for their annual tulip festival, Tulip Time, held in September.
To round out your car boot full of meals and wine, you might be keen on some proteins? If so, Hot Canary Gourmet Meats should be your final stop (remember to take an esky).
If you time your visit right, you may stumble upon one of their barbeque days, where they give you a chance to try their excellent sausages before you buy. They're award-winning, with the German bratwurst being my firm favourite. You'll also find Cowra lamb, black pudding and faster meal fixes, like ready-made meat pies.
There's much to discover and enjoy about visiting the Southern Highlands, especially cooking up a storm with the bounty you inevitably haul back (see the first picture for mine).