Our second stopover in Ohio was at The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls.Located in southeastern Ohio, it is surrounded by the spectacular Hocking Hills State Park. If you dream of immersing yourself in the beauty of nature, crave peace and rejuvenation, and are looking to escape from the pressures of life for a while, Cedar Falls is the place for you.
The Inn at Cedar Falls is the most rustic of the three inns we visited on this trip. This is the place to go when you want to completely get away from the world. There are no televisions or phones in the rooms, which gives you a chance to become completely immersed in the healing quiet and serenity. Tell the kids to leave their cell phones at home because there is no service in this part of the state. And to be honest, I welcomed the lack of ringing phones and loud overheard conversations. It took me awhile to adjust to being in such silence but it was incredibly revitalizing.
The Inn at Cedar Falls was the dream of Anne Castle, mother of the current owner, Ellen Gruinsfelder. It was founded in 1987 as a place for people to get away from the stresses of city life. Terry Lingo renovated a series of 1840’s log cabins, leaving as much of the original buildings as possible while updating them with today’s conveniences. Terry and Ellen fell in love, married and continue to run the inn together.
You can stay in rooms in the main Inn or in one of their charming cottages. All the rooms are filled with antique furniture giving you the feeling of stepping back in time. With no television or Internet in the rooms, you can really “unplug” and relax. It isn’t until you turn all the electronics off that you realize how completely quiet it is. I could have stayed there forever.
Make sure you take your hiking boots because you are going to want to explore the beauty of Hocking Hills. I was filled with awe as I walked into Ash Cave with its soaring sandstone walls. It reminded me of parts of New Mexico. When we hiked down to see Cedar Falls we could her the tumbling water long before we reached it. It is truly a stunning part of the state and somewhere you must put on your vacation bucket list.
Witnessing the grandeur created by nature is always humbling for me. We scrambled down into the gorge, following the path of the Hocking River as it cascaded over rocks worn smooth by thousands of years of rushing water. The roar of the water, the warm gold of sandstone walls, and rays of sunlight making the icicles on the trees sparkle as they danced in the lite breeze made my heart leap. We ducked through a tunnel carved by the water to arrive at a bridge spanning the river. Legend has it that after the end of the Civil War, a hermit chose to live out his life in this spot. One day he simply disappeared … I like to think he became part of the river and was peacefully swept away to the sea.
When we returned to the Inn we were treated to an unexpected and very welcomed spa treatment. I chose a massage because all the laughter, exploring, drinking and eating is really stressful you know. 😉 It was a short walk down the hill to a little renovated cabin that they have turned into a spa. How delightful to find this luxury in the middle of the woods. I was so relaxed afterwards that I could have easily taken a nap, but we needed to get cleaned up before heading to dinner.
Chef Anthony Schulz got together with Brady Konya and Ryan Lang of Middle West Spirits (one of my favorites in Columbus) to do a sophisticated paired dinner featuring their vodkas and whiskey. I already knew the liquors and couldn’t wait to see how they had been utilized for this special dinner. Each course had it’s own special cocktail and they perfectly complemented the chef’s food.
We started with a new take on the traditional shrimp cocktail. Marinated in a combination of fresh fruit juices and OYO vodka, it has a touch of heat from Sriracha and the bite of fresh cilantro. After the shrimp has been removed, the marinade is brought to a boil and then served with the shrimp submerged in a shot glass. It was like a bright, spiked gazpacho. This was paired with a Smoke and Mirrors cocktail, which echoed the flavors of the marinade with the same vodka, lime juice, and jalapeno agave nectar. These would be perfect to sip on the patio during warm summer evenings.
The salad was a simple yet alluring combination of Bibb lettuce greens and fresh herbs dressed with a whiskey sour vinaigrette. This was a brilliant counterpoint to the traditional Fog Cutter that came with it. Made from OYO Whiskey, maple syrup, lemon juice and a splash of bitters, it was surprisingly refreshing and went down entirely too easily for this early in the meal, LOL.
For the main course we had a choice of a grilled steak with whiskey demi sauce or pan-roasted sea bass dressed with a lavender vodka cream sauce. Thank goodness we were all good friends by now because we all wanted to try everything and shared our plates. To say that we were served generous portions is an understatement. The Refresher thankfully cut through the richness with a blending of OYO Stone Fruit vodka, Cointreau, fresh orange juice and bitters, once again complementing the food as though they were made to go together. Oh wait, they were!
Our meal ended with an incredibly flavorful lemon thyme sponge cake drizzled with lemon vodka syrup and served with a scoop of velvety vanilla ice cream. And of course there is nothing that goes better with dessert than champagne. It was blended with OYO Honey Vanilla Bean vodka, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and muddled fresh strawberries. I’m not certain, but this might have been my favorite part of the meal. Ah shucks, I’ll have to repeat the meal to make sure. One of the bloggers on the trip, Irvin Lin, was so inspired by this dessert that he created his own version. It is spectacular and you should check it out!
Laughter rang in the Gathering Place as we all enjoyed every course and gave the chef and the guys from Middle West a boisterous round of applause at the end of the evening. We lingered after dinner, enjoying a glass of wine in front of the fire and sharing stories before wandering off to our rooms and a blissful night’s sleep.
In the morning we woke to the cheerful sound of birds calling to each other across the hills. The sun rose on a cold, clear day with mist rising from the grass. A couple of our more industrious gents took an early morning hike to a nearby lake, but I took the opportunity to enjoy a somewhat casual morning in my room before our day began. On the walk over to breakfast I saw my very first Cardinal – glorious bright red, it was even more beautiful than the paintings I have seen. Now I understand what everyone has been raving about all these years.
After a hearty breakfast to give us energy for the day ahead, we packed up our SUVs, waved goodbye to Ellen and the gang, and trundled off in search of our next adventure!
I loved my visit to The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls and know you will too.
Talented Writers on the Tour
Brian Samuels / A Thought for Food
Debra and Rod Smith / Smith Bites
Greg Henry / Sippity Sup
Irvin Lin / Eat the Love
Linda Feagler / Ohio Magazine
Rich Warren / Ohio Country Living Magazine
Inn at Cedar Falls
Inn at Honey Run
Murphin Ridge Inn
Velvet Ice Cream
Links to my other articles on Ohio:
Three Great Inns, Part One – The Inn at Honey Run
Three Great Inn, Part Three – Murphin Ridge Inn
The Artisans of Columbus, Part One
The Artisans of Columbus, Part Two
The Artisans of Columbus, Part Three
The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World
Honey Vanilla Vodka Chocolate Bites for Chocolate Monday
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.
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup OYO Vodka
- 1 tbsp Sriracha chili sauce
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 lb (13/15 count) peeled & deveined shrimp
- 1-1/2 cups fresh cilantro, finely chopped and divided
- 1 lg red onion, slivered and divided
- Combine the orange and lemon juice, ketchup, vodka and Sriracha in a bowl and blend well. Whisk in the oil. Add the shrimp and the half of the onion and cilantro. Let marinate for about 2 hours.
- Remove the shrimp from the marinade and place in a pot. Reserve the marinade. Fill the pot with cold water and place over high heat. While shrimp is starting to poach, strain the onion and cilantro out of the marinade and place it in another pot and bring just to a boil.
- Remove the marinade from the heat and chill in the refrigerator.
- When the steam starts to roll across the top of the pot of water with shrimp, remove from the heat and drain. Place shrimp in some ice water to stop them from cooking any longer. When cool, drain thoroughly.
- Combine the shrimp with the chilled marinade and add the remaining onion and cilantro. Let sit in the marinade another 30 minutes before serving.
- Serve the shrimp in shoot glasses with some of the marinade.
- 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
- 3 oz OYO Whiskey
- 2 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1-1/2 cups Extra Virgin olive oil
- Pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head of Bibb lettuce, roughly chopped and cleaned
- 1 tbsp parsley leaves
- 1 tbsp marjoram leaves
- 1 tbsp chervil leaves
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves
- 1 tbsp savory leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For Vinaigrette: Place the first five ingredients in a blender and turn on to the lowest setting and leave running. While the blender is running, pour the oil in through the top of the lid in a slow steady stream so to fully emulsify the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.
- Assemble the Salad: Place the cleaned greens and herbs in a mixing bowl. Add about 6 to 7 tbsp of the vinaigrette, a small pinch of salt and pepper, and toss lightly to coat evenly. Divide among 4 plates and serve.
- 4 (6 oz) sea bass filets
- 2 shallots, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp dried lavender, lightly toasted in a skillet over medium heat
- 1 cup OYO Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Start the Sauce: Place 1 tbsp of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and reduce the heat to low to sweat them (we want no color), about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the vodka. Return the pan to the stove and turn the heat down to medium. Be careful, if the vodka gets too hot it will ignite. When the vodka has reduced by 1/3, add the lavender and the heavy cream. Reduce by 1/2 and remove from the heat.
- Season lightly with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the cream is naturally a little salty. Strain into a new pot and discard the solids. Keep warm.
- Prepare the Sea Bass: While the sauce is reducing, heat a sauté pan large enough to fit all the sea bass at one time over high heat. When hot, add about 1-1/2 tbsp of oil to coat the pan. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place seasoned-side down in the pan. Season the other side of the fish with more salt and pepper.
- Reduce the heat to medium and leave on the first side for about 4 minutes. Adjust the heat if needed. Don’t over crowd, sauté the fish in batches if needed and keep warm on a baking sheet while the remaining pieces are cooking.
- Turn the fish fillets and place the whole pan in the oven to finish cooking the fish, about 5 minutes more.
- Serve with Jasmine Rice & Grilled Asparagus. Spoon the sauce around the fish.
- Whiskey Demi Glace
- Extra Virgin olive oil
- 3 shallots, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup OYO Whiskey
- 1 cup veal demi glace
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 (16-oz) Cowboy or bone-in Rib-eye steaks
- Cajun Blackening Seasoning Rub (recipe from Epicurious.com)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- 3/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- For the Whiskey Demi: Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat and place 1 tbsp of oil in it. Coat the bottom and add the shallots and garlic. Sauté until golden, adjusting the heat lower as needed.
- When golden, add the thyme and stir. Add the vinegar and reduce by half. Pull the pan off the heat and add the whiskey, being careful because the whiskey may ignite. Return to the heat and reduce by 1/2. Add the demi and reduce by 1/3. Remove from heat and keep warm.
- For the Steak: Preheat a grill to high heat. Combine the Cajun Rub ingredients in a small bowl.
- Generously season the steaks on both sides with the rub. Place the steaks on the grill. Sear on the first side for about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and leave for another 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the heat and let stand for a few minutes.
- Serve with the sauce over the top of the steak.
If you would like the recipes for the cocktails, please leave a comment below and I will send them to you.
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Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen)
Thanks for sharing your pictures of our gorgeous state. I laughed at your delight at seeing the red cardinal – those are everyday birds for me!
Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook
You are so lucky to have those beautiful birds everywhere! We have blue jays, but they can’t compete with the bright red of the cardinals. I love Ohio and everyone I’ve met there!!!
It was such a perfect getaway – even in the middle of March. Thanks for the beautiful reminder. If time permits, Debra and I would love to see what a summer version of the trip looks like.
Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook
I know! I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be with the trees full of leaves. I want to go back in the fall when they are blazing with color!