Have you ever driven through the countryside of Ohio? You glide over gently rolling hills, passing green pastures dotted with grazing animals as you drive down winding country roads with a new surprise around every turn. I was recently invited to participate in a press tour and visit three inns in rural Ohio. My mind is filled with images of picturesque farms silhouetted against stormy skies, clotheslines with rugged working clothes moving in the breeze, and glimpses of people’s lives as we drove by.
The three inns are each totally unique, thoroughly delightful, and truly something for everyone. From an elegant retreat perfect for a corporate meeting or intimate wedding, to the coolest summer camp you’ve ever seen, to an inn with refined comfort rarely found these days, I urge you to put these inns on your vacation bucket list – you won’t be disappointed. Today I am introducing you to the first one on our journey.
If you have been following my blog posts, you know that I have fallen in love with Columbus and its amazing people. This trip was an opportunity to further explore the area, discover new and exciting places to visit, and spend time with a group of really fun people!
After a night spent in the German Village Guesthouse, a surprisingly modern bed and breakfast in the quaint district of Columbus (another place I highly recommend), we all piled into our cars and off we went to begin our Ohio adventure. Our first stop was at Velvet Ice Cream, a family-run company that was founded in 1914. Started as a confectionery, it soon became apparent that the real star was the hand-cranked ice cream. In 1960, having outgrown their existing manufacturing plant, they bought an old gristmill built in 1817 and painstakingly restored it. Today it remains the company headquarters and the symbol of the old-fashioned goodness found in every package of Velvet ice cream that comes off the line.
We were led on a tour by Luconda, a fourth generation Dager and the President of the corporation. It was fun to taste ice cream that had just been made and see the plant in action. The family continues the commitment to quality set forth by their great-grandfather and produces some of the most popular ice cream sold in the country.
Our next stop was at Lehman’s, a store that specializes in “historical technology.” They sell an amazing array of goods from wood stoves, gas-powered washing machines, and butter churns to axes, cast iron skillets, farm bells, copper kettles, and lanterns. If you want items that your grandparents grew up using, chances are Lehman’s has them.
Lehman’s is another family owned and operated business, founded in 1955. It was originally designed to support the needs of the local Amish people, but it has found an expanding market among environmentalists and those who long for the simpler life. One of the more interesting sideline business opportunities is providing historically accurate merchandise to movie production companies for their period films. From rustic sets for Cold Mountain and The Assassination of Jessie James to the The Gangs of New York and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Lehman’s products can be seen in some of Hollywood’s finest films.
I was delighted with everything we saw as we wandered through room after room, each one more fascinating than the last. Shelves were filled with straw hats, wooden toys, and ingredients for homemade sodas. Huge copper pots and cast iron utensils hung from the rafters. A train ran around a track, its chugging sound and occasional whistle filling the air with the sounds of my father’s childhood. Heirloom seed packages and oil lamps lined the walls while kitchen items for every conceivable need filled the aisles. It is a good thing that I don’t live nearby or I would be there every single week, searching for more goodies that I just can’t live without.
If you love old-fashioned, finely made goods as much as I do, you should check out Lehman’s online store. You will be amazed at the variety of products and will no doubt find the perfect gift for the people in your life that are impossible to buy for.
We gathered our purchases, climbed back into the cars and headed off to The Inn at Honey Run. Located in Holmes County, within two hours of both Cleveland and Columbus, it was the property where we would spend our first night. Holmes County is in the middle of the world’s largest Amish population, a fact that surprised me. Like most people I had assumed that most of the Amish communities were in Pennsylvania.
Nestled in the picturesque Amish country of Ohio, The Inn at Honey Run strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and luxury. A rustic opulence strikes you from the moment you first spy the inn. We arrived on a rainy evening and the inn appeared suddenly, the warm lights in the windows welcoming us. With its stunning wooden walls and impeccably chosen decor, you know you are in for a treat. Greeted by the friendly staff, we received our room assignments. Each room looks out on the thickly wooded hills, giving you the sense that you are alone and enveloping you in serenity. I would have loved to curl up and enjoy the quiet, but there was a lively evening of surprises waiting for us.
Embracing their Amish neighbors, the Inn offers a unique experience to their guests, an Amish buggy ride. What a thrill to get to participate in something that our great-grandparents took for granted. Unlike today’s cars, we had to watch to make sure the horse stopped moving before climbing in. The buggy swayed as Greg (of Sippity Sup) and I settled in the back seat, which was surprisingly small. It was raining so our driver kindly tucked a warm blanket over our laps and off we went.
Some groups of Amish allow rubber padding on the buggy wheels, but this one didn’t. It was wonderful to hear the clip clopping of the horse’s hooves and rattle of the wheels as we rode down the country road. It was surprisingly noisy – not at all what I imagined. We were taken up to a neighbor’s farm where a young boy peered out the door of the barn. He waved back at me with a shy grin. I know he was as curious about us as we were about him. With the open windows, Greg and I snuggled to keep warm. It was fun and charmingly old-fashioned. I could easily envision young couples looking for any excuse to take a trip to the store together.
Once we got back from the buggy ride, in a very creative and fun departure from an ordinary sit down dinner, we were led around the grounds of the Inn on a treasure hunt with surprising delights at each stop. The samplings of food and cocktails were served in the various areas of the property and each locale highlighted an aspect of the way of life in rural Ohio. We started our evening by walking down to the beautiful, intimate building housing The Spa at Honey Run. Executive chef Scott Fetty, flanked by beautiful ice carvings, greeted us while his sous chef prepared delectable vegetable sushi.
Our cocktails were an addictive elixir of pomegranate liqueur, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses and Watershed vodka, created by their Director of Fine Dining, Wyatt Ridenbaugh. Each glass was suspended in a carved ice “rack” and appeared to be floating. The ice was dramatically lit from beneath and perfectly created an impressive yet serene mood. The spa is designed to help rejuvenate our bodies and minds. The cocktail and healthy appetizer complimented each other and was an enchanting way to begin our evening.
The next stop was at the raised open-air patio the TreeTop Pavilion. Tucked into the trees, it was the most elegant tree house you’ve ever seen. There were groupings of cozy chairs and sofas, each inviting us to relax and linger. I can imagine how beautiful it would be to spend hours there on warm summer evenings. But this was March and there was a cold wind blowing, so we gladly wrapped our hands around mugs of hot cider spiked with dark rum and cinnamon. Perfect!
This course in our progressive meal was dedicated to the Amish community. It included a smoked cheddar fondue with small potatoes, mushrooms, cubes of bread and other items for dipping. As we nibbled on these wonderful bites, listening to stories of the foods common in the Amish home, the chef prepared what I thought was the highlight of the night – a slowly braised pork belly sliced and quickly seared to crisp the exterior. This was served with an apricot and pistachio chutney which was an incredible combination of flavors. I cannot wait for you to try this recipe!
The third stop of our evening was at their exclusive Cardinal Cottage and was a nod to the opulent life. Outfitted with cathedral ceilings, wood burning fireplaces, and panoramic views, the cottages would be a perfect destination for a romantic getaway. We were met there by the owners of Troutman Vineyards, with an array of their wines for us to sample, a lovely accompaniment to the elegant spread before us. Chef Fetty’s team worked magic for us that night. Succulent pork rillettes with toasted crostini, delectable local cheeses, potato cups filled with finely minced chorizo, and the pièce de résistance, butter-poached lobster served over truffled risotto. If I ate nothing but that lobster for the rest of my life, I would die a happy woman!
Just when we thought we were done, we are escorted into the beautiful lounge area of Tarragon restaurant, located inside the main building. Wyatt had designed an ice carving that chilled the Watershed vodka in a delightful way … sort of a luge or ski jump for vodka! He poured it in the top and it followed the “course” until it poured out the other end perfectly chilled. It was then blended with a tarragon-infused simple syrup and fresh lime juice. Garnished with a paper-thin slice of lime and a candied tarragon leaf, it was refreshing and had all of us asking for more.
As we sat back and relaxed in the plush sofas and chairs, the chef surprised us again with a trio of bites, his spin on classic pub grub favorites. There was a lightly breaded and fried piece of white fish with a crispy potato wafer, a tiny grilled ham and cheese sandwich with a snappy bite of dill pickle, and a hanger steak and mushroom slider. We were already full, but still somehow managed to inhale every bite. You’d have thought we hadn’t eaten all day!
Some of the guys wanted to try the cocktail with gin instead of vodka, and our new favorite mixologist kindly obliged. Each version was enlightening. The vodka let the tarragon really shine and the gin created a more balanced cocktail. I am honestly not sure which I preferred, but would be delighted to have either anytime.
And finally, we were escorted to the Lower Lobby, an area that reminded me of a gentleman’s club with overstuffed chairs arranged around a warming fireplace. There was a dazzling array of desserts just waiting to be devoured. A beautiful apple pie that was reminiscent of a tarte tatin, a spin on Ohio’s favorite treat, the buckeye (a combination of chocolate and peanut butter), and one of the best crime brûlées I have ever had. It was a simple vanilla custard that had been elevated to perfection by their baker, Mattie Raber. This quiet and somewhat shy former Amish woman has some serious talent!
As the evening drew to a close, we gathered around the fire, relaxing with the beautiful ice wines of Troutman. My favorite was their late harvest Cabernet franc. Bright and sweet with a lingering complexity of flavor notes, it was the perfect end to our fabulous day. We tottered off to bed and slipped beneath the covers, drifting into a deep and peaceful sleep.
This was a beautiful, elegant and upscale space. I would recommend it for family vacations, business team-building retreats, or a romantic get away. I cannot wait to come back and try out their distinctive Honeycomb Rooms, carved into the hillside. For more detailed information and photographs of the exteriors and other rooms, see The Inn at Honey Run website.
All of the inns on our trip are members of the Select Registry, a network of over 400 distinguished inns in North America, a distinction reserved for only those properties that pass their rigorous inspection process. If you regularly choose Bed & Breakfast Inns over big impersonal hotels, you can accumulate points towards a gift certificate good for futures stays.
Stay tuned next week for part two of my latest Ohio adventure!
Talented Writers on the Tour
Disclosure: I was invited to take part in an all-expenses paid press tour. I was not monetarily compensated nor asked to write anything. The views expressed here are entirely my own.
Pom Pom Cocktail
Director of Fine Dining, Wyatt Ridenbaugh, Inn at Honey Run
1 oz Pama pomegranate liqueur
1/2 oz Monin pomegranate syrup
2 oz Pom brand pomegranate juice
1/2 oz Fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 oz Watershed Vodka
Combine all ingredients together and stir to blend. Pour into wine glasses. Edible flowers are the perfect natural garnish for the Pom Pom.
Director of Fine Dining, Wyatt Ridenbaugh, Inn at Honey Run
1/2 oz Simple Syrup (infused with fresh tarragon)
2 oz Watershed Vodka or Gin
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
Pour ingredients into cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake to blend. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a thin lime slice. For an added touch, garnish with candied tarragon leaves.
Crisp Potato Cups with Chorizo Ragout and Aioli
Executive Chef Scott Fetty, Inn at Honey Run
2 large Idaho potatoes
1/2 lb chorizo removed from casings
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 oz onion, minced
2 oz diced tomato
1 oz olive oil
1 cup prepared mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Make the Potato Cups: Peel the potatoes and slice into 1-inch-thick slices. Cut circle out using a 1”diameter round cutter. Scoop out the center using a melon baller. Blanch in salted water for 5 minutes. The potatoes will not be fully cooked at this point. Remove from the water and air dry for 1/2 hour.
Make the Chorizo Ragout: While the potato cups are drying, lightly brown the chorizo in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Strain off all of the fat and pat chorizo with paper towels if desired.
Make the Aioli: Combine all the aioli ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Finish and assembly: Deep-fry the potato cups in 350°F oil until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack and set aside until cool enough to hold. Fill the cups with the chorizo ragout. Top each cup with a small dollop of aioli and serve immediately.
Braised Pork Belly with Apricot Conserve
Executive Chef Scott Fetty, Inn at Honey Run
3 lb raw pork belly
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 tbsp curing salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup black pepper
1 tsp dried mustard
2 cups finely diced dried apricots
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 oz finely diced red onion
1 glove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unflavored rice vinegar
2 tsp chopped pistachios
Salt and cayenne to taste
Cured pork belly (from above)
1 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced shallots
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp Five spice powder
Water as needed
Dry Brine the Pork Belly: Combine all spices in a small bowl. Using your hands, rub the spice blend all over pork belly. Place in a large plastic bag and refrigerate for 4 hours to cure. Remove the pork from the cure, rinse, pat dry with paper towels and air dry for 1 hour.
Make the Apricot Conserve: While the pork is air-drying, make the conserve. In a large saucepan, caramelize the sugar over medium heat. Add the vinegar, apricots, onion, garlic and ginger. Reduce heat to low and cook until it reaches the consistency of jam. The time will vary depending on your stove. Add the pistachios and season to taste with the salt and cayenne.
Conserve can be made several hours ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.
Prepare the Pork Belly: Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine all ingredients together in a roasting pan and set on stove. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook slowly for 3 hours. Remove pork from the braising jus and air dry for 1 hour.
Smoke in a cool smoker (90°F maximum) for 3 hours.
To Serve: Cut into thick slices and caramelize in a cast iron skillet until the surface is crispy. Serve with a dollop of the conserve.
Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material without prior approval is prohibited. If you have any questions or would like permission, I can be contacted via email: theheritagecook (at) comcast (dot) net. Feel free to quote me, just give credit where credit is due, link to the recipe, and please send people to my website, www.theheritagecook.com.
I love to hear from you … please leave a comment below (and don’t forget to do your math before hitting enter, LOL)!