Everything is bathed in a brilliant golden green at the Inn at Cedar Falls. I’m sure it’s because the sun himself is smiling approval at the thoughtful, unobtrusive way the Inn is tucked and nestled in Hocking Hills.
A modest sign quietly informs you that you have arrived. Cars are parked out of sight behind trees to remind you that here is a place best traveled on foot so that you may take everything in the way it should be; with your senses and not trapped inside a rumbling box of metal and glass in an unnaturally cooled climate. There is soft grass under your feet as you walk around exploring and spotting unexpected things. A soft breeze rippling across your skin brings the scent of flowers and green grass so heavily intoxicating you can nearly taste both of them. Birdcalls of all sorts from all directions tug for your attention but it is the clumsy buzzing of bumblebees so plump and heavy from their foraging that they nearly hover in midair as they try to decide where to go next. They only seem to be spurned out of their lethargy when a yellow and black butterfly goes flitting impudently to a flower within their domain. Then the bumblebees dart quickly and burrow deep into the nodding heads of flowers buzzing angrily at the audacity of others.
I took all of this in as I walked up the hill to my room thinking that I may just want to take a feather pillow and lay down in the grass to sleep under the stars. But I was charmed to find that my room had no number; indeed it was called ‘Meadowlark.’ How much better to stay in a room called Meadowlark than a room blandly numbered 14! An old-fashioned screen door creaked just as it should and then I unlocked the second door and let myself in.
Meadowlark was simply accoutered in a Shaker style as are all the rooms, cottages and cabins at the Inn at Cedar Falls. Crisp clean lines softened by gentle touches of color and plump pillows beckoned me inside. The usual focal point in a rented room is a television; here the very lack of one dares you to put such nuisances aside and reconnect with yourself, with one another and with nature. I was up for the challenge and vowed to simply live in the moment and not regret my decision to ignore my phone and disregard the wifi that the Inn at Cedar Falls generously provides.
Lucky for me, I was a little early and had time to explore before meeting the other writers for lunch on the patio. I peered down the second floor verandah and poked my head under the steps marveling at the large tidy stacks of firewood. Rocking chairs beckoned from the first floor porch and I sat in one, rocked and looked out on the hilltop garden. Behind the chairs was a common room for all inn guests to chair and I poked around inside. The floor was wide wooden boards with colorful rag rugs and there was an old log cabin quilt framed and on the wall. Notebooks with guests’ writings in them, books and old-fashioned games filled a bookcase along one wall. Plenty of chairs all around the room begged to be cozily drawn up to the woodstove with an almost-wish that it was a snowy winter day.
Outside again, I found myself drawn to the hilltop garden but then torn between resting in one of the hammocks that swung lazily between two trees and investigating the newly built roof top garden. I chose the rooftop garden and among the newly greening garden were a few daffodils proudly flaunting their late stay. Even I, disliker of daffodils, had to smile at their tenaciousness.
Behind one of the several 1840’s log cabins and beneath the shadows of bright pink flowers were tables chummily standing all in a row. Ellen Grinsfelder and Terry Lingo, the innkeepers, greeted our group and we all made introductions with one another, getting to know a little about each other and what we wrote. I was a little self-conscious of my humble blog but I was proud and honored to be invited among the group in attendance at the Inn at Cedar Falls.
We were teased with an appetizer of fried morels but given a promise of more to come later. I chose a simple lunch of pressed turkey club: turkey, swiss, applewood smoked bacon, field greens and a pineapple chutney pressed to a perfect crisp between slices of sourdough bread. A slight, smoky sweetness ruined all future turkey club sandwiches for me. Potato salad or kettle chips were offered on the side and who can resist kettle chips? Not I.
A tour of the Inn followed lunch and Ellen told us about the history of the inn and her mother’s dream to create a perfect escape for urbanites. Surely, the dream is recognized because for a moment there I thought ‘Urbanites? What is such a thing? There is only this .’
The cottages were just the right size to have everything in one space while the cabins were slightly larger with a couple of rooms to accommodate those who wished for more space. I am sure that I could spend a most perfect week in one of the cabins doing nothing more than relaxing and writing and emerging only to fill myself with the most delectable meals prepared by Chef Anthony Schulz.
After the tour, Terry brought us to one of his secret locations for hunting morels where clumsily crunched through the undergrowth finding only one or two between the ten of us while Terry easily spotted several. Not too far away was Cedar Falls for which the Inn takes its name and we hiked around the falls. This Pittsburgh girl who believed Ohio was completely flat did not believe there could be a waterfall in Ohio until she rounded the bend and saw the fifty foot spill of water crashing down into the crystal clear pool below.
Hiking under the warm sun after a rainy Spring spent mostly inside was tiring and I happily climbed down the steps to the Spa at the Inn at Cedar Falls. The spa is located inside of another log cabin and its cool interior felt good against my clammy skin. Two other women were with me and we were introduced to the spa director, Randall Wellman, and those who would be giving us our spa treatments. I chose the 50 minute massage as I had never received a professional massage before. I must admit at first it was difficult to relax, but the capable hands of my masseuse and the soft music soon relaxed me. In fact, I was so at ease as I left that when Randall asked me if I had any questions concerning the spa all I could do was shake my head dumbly and hold out my hand for the card he proffered in case I thought of anything later. I walked slowly up the hill, along a grass path than ran along slender waving branches of young trees and returned to my room. I enjoyed a cup of coffee and a fresh baked cookie that had been left for me before I freshened up and made my way back to the restaurant.
Our group assembled again on the patio until we were all there and then we were led into the new meeting room that is below the aforementioned rooftop garden. This room is of a fair size and is constructed to be ‘green.’ The room is built from a combination of recyclable materials and locally grown and milled wood and is energy efficient. It can accommodate up to fifty people for business meetings or weddings but for this evening it served as comfortable space to host two tastings.
A local artisan brewer, Matthew Barbee of Rockmill Brewery and two lovely women from The Olive Orchard alternated with one another to discuss beer and olive oils with us and to give us samples of each. We were encouraged to enjoy the beers and olive oils but simultaneously cautioned to save room for ‘Chef Anthony’s dinner.’ It was hard to pace one’s self but somehow we all persevered.
We were split into two tables for dinner; Terry with half of the group and Ellen with my group. Wine was discussed with our table conferring that Ellen should decide for us and bottles of Malbec were brought out and appetizers ordered. There was an olive tapenade and a cheese spread to be passed around and then each of us were brought a long rectangular dish with a Pan Roasted Diver Scallop served with a Pancetta, Morel and Sweet Pea Ragout.
For the next course, some chose the fennel salad but I chose the Fennel & Sweet Pea chilled soup with a swirl of crème fraiche. The soup had the perfect combination of green and sweet that you imagine the perfect Spring to deliver. Chef Anthony prepares his meals seasonally with an emphasis on local ingredients when they can be found or purchased. I could only imagine what he could do in later months with fresh summer tomatoes sun warmed from the garden! Grilled New York Strip Steaks with Red Wine & Morels were brought out for dinner. Everyone one in the group, except for Ellen, chose Chef Anthony’s special and not a one of us were disappointed. I braved up and ordered my steak medium. Steak has never been a favorite of mine but I can no longer say that. This was tender and juicy and though the whipped potatoes were light and the roasted asparagus at the exact firmness, they only served to make me slow down and really savor my newfound love for steak.
Dessert and coffee followed and I broke my ironclad rule of cheesecake only on special occasions because what was this if not a special occasion? White chocolate raspberry almond cheesecake was served with fresh raspberry sauce drizzled on top and around the cake. Neat stars of fresh whipped cream decorated the plate but I had eyes only for the cheesecake. It was thick, creamy and dense—just the way a cheesecake should be. None of this light and airy cheesecake for me, and please! Tiny bits of almond crunched between my teeth as the cake melted in my mouth. Try as I might, I could not finish the last few bites and I know on nights forevermore when I am craving dessert I will think of that cheesecake I foolishly could not finish.
Filled with wine, delicious food and good conversation about the best of topics—food!—we said goodnight and ambled off into the night to find soft beds to tumble into. Sleep came easily and I woke refreshed though not quite sure if I was ready for breakfast. I told my stomach firmly that it had plenty of room and walked down the hill to breakfast.
A cassoulet of eggs and cheese with morels was announced for breakfast along with applewood smoked bacon and orange muffins. We placed orders for coffee and were encouraged to help our selves to homemade granola, yogurt and fresh fruit while breakfast was prepared. I resisted the yogurt and granola for a moment and then I saw where it was laid out.
Yes, I was definitely going hiking after breakfast.
Inn at Cedar Falls
Ellen Grinsfelder & Terry Lingo, Innkeepers
21190 State Route 374
Logan, Ohio 43138