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Carter Mountain Orchard is the apple of customers’ eyes

The charming barn attracts patrons with tasty treats and mountain-top views

<p>The orchard’s central barn is nestled within sprawling hills of fruit trees about a 15-minute drive south of Grounds. &nbsp;</p>

The orchard’s central barn is nestled within sprawling hills of fruit trees about a 15-minute drive south of Grounds.  

Serving up sunsets, music and more apple delicacies than one could ever wish for, Carter Mountain Orchard deserves a spot on every University student’s bucket list. The orchard offers picnic-perfect sweets crafted by the Chiles Family-owned business and meals from local food trucks. Regardless of what patrons choose to eat, the orchard’s charming red barn and scrumptious treats will leave patrons wishing the evening could last forever.

The orchard’s central barn is nestled within sprawling hills of fruit trees about a 15-minute drive south of Grounds. From May 13 to Nov. 2, the orchard is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, although my friend and I visited during the Thursday Evening Sunset Series, a weekly event which has extended hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and runs from April through September this year.

Our $10 tickets and food amounted to $37.91, a reasonable price for the memorable experience. However, our rides to and from the mountain came at a steeper cost, totaling just over $50. For any students taking an Uber or Lyft from Grounds, bear in mind the transportation cost — it is best to split ride costs among friends to save enough money for bites at the barn.

Carter Mountain is well-known for its seasonal fruits — apples, pumpkins, gourds and, for the summer, peaches, nectarines and sweet cherries. While we admired the orchard, my friend and I were there to try the baked and cooked goods. We browsed our food options — the Country Store & Bakery, which serves the orchard’s classic treats and savory snacks, and diverse selections from food trucks such as Arepas on Wheels and Popito’s Pizza.

While we were eager to sample the orchard’s iconic desserts, we sought a savory dish first. At the Country Store & Bakery, we ordered Birdie’s Pimento Cheese, which came with a bag of pita chips that could be easily shared among two or three people. Birdie’s take on the cheese dip was equal parts fresh and filling, containing savory add-ins mixed within cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and pimento peppers. Combined with the crunchy pita chips, the rich dip was hard to put down, even for obligatory sunset Instagram photos on the barn’s lawn. My only critique of the dip was its lack of seasoning — the cheddar tasted overpowering at times, so a saltier cheese or added spice may have helped cut through the strong, savory flavor.

Next up from the Country Store & Bakery, we ordered the garlic hummus, which also came with pita chips. The dip was a dearly missed dish for a college student like me who cannot always get a car ride to the grocery store. The hummus was packed with flavor from the fragrant garlic, slight kick of spice and layer of smoky paprika on top. The creamy consistency was perfect, and out of the two dips my friend and I tried, the hummus is the one I will definitely order again on my next visit to the orchard. 

Once we finished our savory snacks, my friend and I eagerly moved on to dessert. Our order from the Country Store & Bakery menu consisted of three parts — apple cider donuts, apple pie and, of course, crisp apple cider. We felt nearly obligated to sample these desserts, as hand-picked apples are at the heart of the orchard’s brand. First, I tried my friend’s apple pie, which she kindly let me try from her plate. Just one bite revealed a flaky crust and gooey center. The sweet apple carried hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, and its freshness elevated the classic pie to new heights. I also appreciated that the pie was sold by the slice, allowing us to order a variety of treats without getting full. 

As not much of a donut person myself, I admit I was hesitant to order the apple cider donuts. However, my friends’ raving reviews called for a step out of my comfort zone, and to my surprise, the apple cider donuts were by far my favorite dish of the night. The warm, sugary outside and fluffy inside brought back nostalgic flavors of an amusement park funnel cake without the less enjoyable grease. I even dipped the donuts in my apple cider and found that the refreshing drink was the perfect complement for the donuts’ sweetness. The apple and cinnamon flavors put a smile on my face, and I am sure the pastries will be a warm welcome when I return to Charlottesville in the fall.

Tying together fresh eats with a view of Charlottesville, Carter Mountain Orchard is a catch for foodies who want to dine with a picturesque view. The classic treats and nostalgic flavors make the orchard even more memorable than it already is and will likely cultivate a lovely customer experience for years to come.


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