I was lucky enough to work and learn alongside former Dayton Daily News food critic Ann Heller over the course of many years together at the paper.
She helped inform my writing, my editing, my eye, my thought process, my palate and so much more and I am fortunate to still be able to call her my friend.
So when her name came up in conversation during a recent trip to dine at the Inn at Cedar Falls near Logan — a small town in Ohio’s Hocking Hills region — it captured my attention completely.
I was speaking to the Inn’s owners Terry Lingo and Ellen Grinsfelder after a truly excellent meal and Grinsfelder mentioned that Ann had reviewed it some time ago.
In fact, it was an article from 1992.
Although it had published more than two decades ago, Grinsfelder was raving about the job that Ann had done capturing the spirit of the restaurant and the food and the positive impact her words had carried to her business.
When I arrived home I decided to find the review and read the insights and opinions that meant so much so many years later to the owners of the Inn and to compare her experience with my own.
Ann wrote: “Halfway between Old Man’s Cave and Ash Cave, the Inn is surrounded on three sides by the Hocking Hills state park and is privately operated by Ellen Grinsfelder, daughter of the late Anne Castle. Castle was a woman who dreamed of a place where stressed urban dwellers could buy a slice of tranquility.
The kitchen at the Inn is the middle room in two 1840s log cabins that have been restored and turned into a rustic dining room and a seasonal sitting room that becomes another dining room when the temperature drops.”
The restaurant, now called Kindred Spirits, has continued to expand and update and, although the menu is not exactly the same, the warm charming setting and the delicious menu preparations that Ann raved about that greet guests at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls restaurant still rings true today.
Kindred Spirits focuses on seasonal farm to table recipes that bring out the flavor of the ingredients in an honest, straightforward way that has a simple elegance to it.
The restaurant’s two intimate log cabins seat about 45 people and a large outdoor dining area is the place to be when the weather is cooperating.
Abby Cole was recently named executive chef of the restaurant after serving several years as sous chef, impressing guests and her bosses with her techniques and creativity. She will be responsible for designing the Inn’s dining and special event menus and helping provide direction of its culinary experiences.
The menu changes seasonally and the dishes that will be featured on the fall menu include a rack of lamb ($35) served with couscous, spiced carrots and pistachio cream; an Asian marinated portabella ($23) served with rice noodles, sumac broth, plum vinegar, spinach and salt cured yolks; pistachio crusted scallops ($29) with chorizo and apple risotto, spinach and lemon thyme sauce; cornmeal crusted trout ($25) served with artichokes, collard greens, roasted potatoes and topped with a brown butter caper sauce. The chicken paprikash ($27) features a seared chicken thigh, Ohio City Pasta’s red pepper fagiolini rigati and a sour cream-paprika sauce. And then there’s the pumpkin ravioli ($19). It’s all as delicious as it sounds.
The Inn’s best-selling pan roasted filet mignon ($41) will never be knocked down from its No. 1 spot. The preparations, sauce and side servings may change, but it is a crowd-pleaser and continues to be a favorite of visitors to the restaurant.
The Wisconsin cheese ball and tapenade basket ($7) served with flatbread, crackers and crostini and the rosemary and parmesan crème brûlée ($9) — a rich, savory version of the sweet dish you see on dessert menus — are classic appetizers that stay untouched through menu iterations.
For dessert, the restaurant is known for its triple berry cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream. And for guests lucky enough to stay at the one of the cabins or new yurts, breakfast features many delicious options including homemade granola which is sold at the Inn’s gift shop.
In addition to a stellar meal in a remarkable setting, eating at the Inn also presents the opportunity to sample some of the region’s handiwork.
Ann’s review written 25 years ago ended, “The Inn at Cedar Falls is a place to feed both body and soul. Go for both.”
I would make the same recommendation today with the addendum to look into booking a room while you are at it. The relaxing setting and charming cabins can only enhance the meal.
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