Blissfully Delicious | The Orchard Restaurant
The Orchard, located at 905 Highway 107 South in Cashiers, maintains its allure, even in the midst of a year of tumult and change. Reservations are a must – (828) 743-7614.
I was ecstatic and, since we’re being honest here, dogged by a nagging, almost imperceptible, worry when Marjorie told me that we’d be returning to The Orchard for a dining experience in the midst of this confounding Covid-haunted season.
You see, The Orchard has always delivered on its promise of elegant Southern comfort food. Its menu is elevated, yet there’s a distinctive passion at the heart of every one of its choices.
Would the kitchen’s attention to detail prevail in this year of diminished expectations and cramped circumstances?
Would its safely masked staff maintain that gentle graciousness that’s earned The Orchard landmark status on the Plateau?
Would the undeniable element of excitement, the feeling that your meal was an Event, heightened by the place’s eager and electrified crowd of patrons, survive these blinkered pandemic evenings?
Yes, yes, and a blissful yes! – My worries were quickly drowned in a glorious sea of overmatched indulgence.
The Orchard lives, and its commitment to spoiling its guests is unshaken.
Now how many of our institutions in this appalling year of 2020 can we say that about?
Owners Chad and Travis Boswell have somehow maintained all of the things that’ve brought generations of diners back season after season.
If you’ve never been to The Orchard, picture a rambling farmhouse that’s been welcoming hungry guests for over 100 years. That’s precisely what it is, and Travis and Chad have embraced that storied heritage, adorning its walls with all sorts of ephemera wandering from the 1880s all the way through the 1940s. The resulting effect is cozy country casual, and you can’t help having your ruffled feathers soothed by its subtle charms.
The dining areas (there’s no central dining room, another nod to its downhome heritage) are perfectly suited for easy chats. Every time we’ve dined at The Orchard, every time, there’s been a raucous party of diners who aren’t shy about sharing their laughter and boisterous conversations. Even now, when the tables are distanced and the number of guests has been whittled down to a safe number, there’s still a freewheeling bewitchery that will not be contained. On this night, there was an adjoining table of young women who’d obviously come to Cashiers to reinvigorate a network of friendship that would not be denied by the wearying claims of time and distance. Their conversations were hushed and quick and insistent, punctuated by gentle laughter. What a marvelous balm for the incipient cares of this sad season.
And our server Joe brought that energy to our table, where he offered wise counsel on our cocktail/wine choices, painted a remarkably sensuous portrait of the daily specials, and all-around cajoled us into leaving 2020’s host of worries in the parking lot.
But of course, the warm, inviting atmosphere and Joe’s relentless good cheer wouldn’t have mattered if the kitchen couldn’t deliver on all those promises.
And again, in defiance of all the disappointments that have been freighted upon us this year, the kitchen came through with ongoing waves of practically perfect dishes.
I won’t go into everything, since I’m skirting the word count limits even as I’m writing this, but let me highlight a few.
East Fork Steamed Mussels, flown in from Prince Edward Island, were sauteed with shallots, garlic and fresh herbs, drizzled with a white wine caper butter sauce.
They were brought to the table to the astonished delight of a woman at our table who’d spent her childhood on PEI and who’d lamented that she’d never again find those authentic fresh mollusks here in the states, prepared with just as they had been so long ago. Well, there they were! It was a happy reunion.
And Tricia, who’s been absolutely whipsawed by the changing fortunes of 2020, sought out a measure of comfort in Orchard Chicken. That’s an all-natural (The Orchard is famous for its commitment to natural meats and poultry and locally-sourced vegetables) chicken breast, rolled around a golden delicious apple-walnut-sage-and-provolone cheese stuffing, breaded and lightly fried.
It’s clearly nothing like the comfort food she grew up with, but we’re each charged with finding our solace wherever we can. This is hers.
And though my tablemates swore by their Apple Crisp and their Blueberry Bread Pudding, I’m going to reserve the spotlight for my wise choice of Flourless Chocolate Torte. There was nothing subtle about this sweet seduction and I emerged from my encounter blissful and vaguely stupid. Take some of your entree home in a doggy bag if you must, but don’t resist the warm embrace of this cocoa temptation.
I’m sorry I’ve run out of room here. There’s so much more to tell you about The Orchard. Let me just say, there’s a reason it’s been a Cashiers favorite for all these years. And those reasons haven’t been diminished in the least by the twists and turns of this bewildering year.
The Orchard is located at 905 Highway 107 South in Cashiers. Reservations are a must – (828) 743-7614.