By Gina Malone
Ten years ago Marc and Marianne Blazar were ready to leave behind careers that came with frequent hotel stays. They set out to find a place where they could settle down as innkeepers, having learned through experience what makes a welcoming establishment. After three years of searching, they found the Orchard Inn in Saluda.
“To exceed expectations is our mantra,” says Marianne. And that goes for the restaurant, Newman’s, as well.
“We’re all foodies in this place,” Marc says. He and Marianne, who is from Austria, both have backgrounds as chefs. She served as chef for the first five years and even today likes to prepare breakfasts for guests.
Executive chef Stuart Partin manages the kitchen, while his wife, Jenny—who also has chef’s training—serves as assistant innkeeper.
“Stuart is a very talented young chef,” Marianne says, “with big aspirations to farming as well.” The menu, which changes weekly, is designed around what is being harvested either by local and regional farmers or from the inn’s own 4,000-square-foot organic garden.
The cuisine is New American (perhaps with a European flair, Marianne adds) with an emphasis on local and fresh-from-the-garden produce as well as locally sourced meats. “We try to stay very much in season and very local,” she says, because it both reduces their carbon footprint and is healthier. Health-conscious themselves, the Blazars choose olive and other healthy oils over butter and serve lean meats and local fish.
“We try to keep it exciting and creative,” Partin says, adding that they entertain a lot of repeat customers who “can expect to have something new and different” each time they visit.
The dining room is an enclosure of part of the wraparound porch that served the railroad employees for whom the inn’s building was erected in 1926. “Every seat in the dining room has a beautiful view of the mountains,” Marc says. The room seats 45 to 50 people who are not rushed out, he says, but invited to linger over their dinner and the view. “It’s not just fine dining; it’s a dining experience.”
Over the years the inn has been the setting for many weddings, including that of the Partins in November. “It’s a really intimate feeling,” Stuart says, “affordable, very cozy.”
Their concept for weddings, Marianne says, is that couples not have to worry about anything. “You walk in and say ‘yes.’” They can accommodate 75 to 80 guests and wedding packages are available. There are nine rooms in the inn and five cottages.
Weddings are held on the deck with wooded and mountain views. “The natural setting is so beautiful you don’t need that much decoration really,” Marianne says.
They work closely with couples on the menu, giving them more food choices than often are available elsewhere, and Marianne sometimes bakes the cake herself.
They have many ministers with whom they collaborate on ceremonies that include all, from non-denominational to same-sex couples. They recently hosted a Cherokee wedding.
Marc proudly points out a plaque in the dining room indicating their membership in Chaine Des Rotisseurs, whose roots go back to 1248. It was the only guild that survived the French Revolution. In April, for the fourth time, they will host their fellow members of the Greenville chapter of this International Association of Gastronomy. “It’s a great honor to be asked to host a dinner,” he says.
For more information about Newman’s Restaurant at The Orchard Inn or to make reservations for dinner, visit orchardinn.com or call 828.749.5471.