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Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls | Logan, OH

The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls (Facebook / @InnCedarFallsWB)
21190 S.R. 374
Logan, OH 43138
(800) 653-2557
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: In the interests of full disclosure, I need to say that this breakfast was part of our invited trip to the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. We spent the night and were treated to tours, dinner, and tastings at the Inn. In the morning, of course, we got to experience breakfast at their restaurant. I debated whether to make this an actual “review” post and not just a photo journal, but it might be a while before I get to visit again, and I figured why not get this spot on the list? It deserves it.

ATMOSPHERE: The restaurant at The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls is located in a series of cabins from the 1840′s, all joined together. This creates a charmingly disjointed group of rooms, one after another, with low ceilings, thick wooden beams, broad wood floors, and a definite feel that you’re eating a rustic country breakfast.

As you make your way back to the dining rooms, you’ll pass through the kitchen and see Executive Chef Anthony Schulz hard at work. Say hi.

There’s a very comfortable feel to the two dining rooms. We were in the larger and slightly newer one.

FOOD: The menu is fairly simple, but it covers all of the bases, so you won’t go hungry. We started with a visit to their small granola bar. You help yourself to a bowl of their excellent homemade granola (available in the gift shop, too). Additions include milk, yogurt…

…and fruit!

Very good coffee, served in customized mugs. And you gotta love the pottery mugs for cream. Fits the vibe.

The feature of that morning was a breakfast cassoulet topped with morels. The previous day we had gone morel hunting in the woods with innkeepers Terry and Ellen, and then had dinner prepared with the mushrooms. The cassoulet in particular was very flavorful: good eggs, sharp Swiss, and morels added their distinct earthy touch. The sides included good ole bacon and some moist homemade orange muffins. Just the right portions; very fitting for a country inn breakfast.

SERVICE: We had an incredibly sweet server named Joan. Terry told us Joan is one of their long-time employees, so she knows and loves the restaurant well. We overheard another customer ask Joan about the portions of their breakfast, and Joan said they keep dishes on the smaller side while allowing customers to request more. “We never mind if someone asks for more,” she said.

OVERALL: The Inn and their restaurant exemplify what’s so nice about Hocking Hills: cozy, secluded, and close to nature. If you’re staying anywhere in the Hills, or even passing through one morning, it’s worth stopping in at The Inn’s restaurant. You don’t have to be a guest at the Inn itself to eat there!

OTHER LINKS:

The Inn at Cedar Falls on Urbanspoon

A Visit to The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls: Part 2

(This is a continuation from Part 1 of my brief travelogue covering a visit to The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls.)

Before dinner that evening, we were treated to a side-by-side tasting of olive oils from The Olive Orchard and Belgian beers from Rockmill Brewery. Both of their wares are used and available at the Inn.

Olive Orchard features both flavored and imported olive oils. The flavored oils are co-pressed with the flavoring ingredients, so the garlic, lemons, basil, etc. are pressed with the olives themselves. This is one of the best methods for imparting flavor while maintaining the original character of the oil itself. For this tasting we sampled these four:

1. Chilean
2. garlic
3. Sicilian
4. basil

The Chilean and Sicilian are on the stronger end of the taste spectrum; they’re rich and hearty oils, great for cooking or just sampling outright. The garlic and basil, likewise, are full of flavor. They’d be a great supplement for cooking.

The olive oils were paired with the four amazing brews created by Matthew Barbee of Rockmill. His story is simply incredible: he and his parents purchased an old farm north of Logan, in Lancaster. Matthew wanted to push his interest in brewing, particularly using organic ingredients and Belgian yeast strains. Upon testing the water on their farm (his father is conveniently a hydro-geologist), they discovered it had a nearly-identical mineral make-up to the water of Wallonia, Belgium. Water is everything in brewing, and having fresh spring water similar to that in Belgium in key for recreating the styles.

We sampled our way through their four brews:
1. witbier
2. saison
3. dubbel
4. tripel

My favorite was their dubbel, but Rockmill’s are some of the first witbiers and saisons that I’ve really, truly enjoyed.

Seriously, the dubbel really rocked my world. Better than most actual Belgian brews I’ve had in the style.

Here’s Matthew at the tasting.

And Michele from Olive Orchard.

All in all, the tasting was a combination of some really amazing flavors. It’s great to have all of their products – Olive Orchard and Rockmill – available in the Columbus area.

The tastings took place in the newest addition to the Inn – a completely green room meant for meetings. It would be great to host a retreat here.

None of lodgings are connected to the internet, but this common area has wifi. We were able to enjoy the blessing/curse in today’s modern world of being disconnected for a while.

That night we had dinner at the Inn’s restaurant, prepared by Executive Chef Anthony Schulz. Sadly, I did not take pictures of the meal because I was too busy scarfing it down and enjoying the conversation. It began with their Scallop & Shrooms, using diver scallops and morels. But the centerpiece of the dinner was a grilled steak done with morels, asparagus, and whipped potatoes. So we got to taste the morels in use after searching some out in the woods.

The following morning was breakfast – expect one final post on that – and then massages at the spa before we headed back to Columbus. The Inn & Spa has a secluded, full service spa located in one of the cabins. It was incredibly relaxing and a perfect end to the trip.

Thanks to Ellen, Terry, Anthony, and their entire staff for their hospitality!

A Visit to The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls: Part 1

Recently, I was invited along on a food/travel writers retreat to The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. The overnight stay included a full tour of their facilities, as well as samplings of their restaurant, some of their favorite vendors, and trips into the local countryside.

You’ll find the Inn & Spa down State Route 374 in Hocking Hills, a few minutes south of Logan, Ohio.

We were warmly welcomed by innkeepers Ellen and Terry, who generously shared their story and their passion for the business.

The Inn itself is made up of a series of buildings. The main building that houses the restaurant, meeting space, and common areas (as well as a nice open porch), consists of a series of cabins and rooms connected together. The main cabins were built in the 1840′s and transplanted here. (Quick note: all throughout our stay, I marveled at Terry’s handiwork. He shrugs it off like it’s nothing, but the amount of work he’s put into the buildings and grounds is simply amazing, especially moving the series of old cabins.)

The lodgings include a single building of smaller guest rooms (didn’t get a good picture of those), plus a series of cabins (pictured above). This is where we stayed. These are single rooms with sleeping and relaxation arrangements, a lovely little deck, a full bathroom, plus a hot tub in the room.

They also have a few cottages, which can hold more than one family…

…and include full kitchens.

The cottages have multi-level decks, with beautiful views of the dogwood trees.

After the facilities tour, Terry and Ellen took us to one of their favorite morel-hunting spots. I must confess, I knew very little about morels and their preparation before the trip. Shortly into our hunt, I realized that I didn’t even know – for sure – what a morel looked like.

Fortunately, we did find some. One healthy, and a couple past their prime.

Can you spot the morel in this picture?

After our morel hunting, we made the short trek over to Cedar Falls itself, quite literally just down the road. Every time I visit the falls and caves of Hocking Hills, I’m delighted by how beautiful they are, and amazed that these features exist in Ohio. The Inn is fortunate to be so close!

Those are the pictures for now; stay tuned for Part 2!

Photos: breakfast bike ride to Warehouse Cafe

As part of Wild Goose Creative‘s Bike Month activities, I led a small group on a bike ride down to Warehouse Cafe yesterday. It was a simple ride in and out of downtown, but the weather proved perfect. This should become a Saturday tradition…

Warehouse Cafe is one of those few early weekend breakfast options downtown. There are a lot of great brunches that start at 10 or 11, but if you’re up at 8 a.m., you can head to Warehouse for French toast, eggs, and bacon.

We weren’t the only ones having breakfast there, which is always good to see.

Fortunately, most of the breakfast fare isn’t too heavy either, so it’s ideal if you’re only halfway through a bike ride.

Thanks to everyone who came on the ride! Look for more breakfast bike rides in the future!

If you want to head down to Warehouse Cafe yourself, take a look at my post on them (with address, hours, etc).

Photos: Taste of Dine Originals 2011

Taste of Dine Originals was last night! It’s your best chance to catch many of Columbus’ best restaurants all in one place. The new location at the Grange Audubon Center offered a little more room, so the crowds didn’t feel as crowded. I’ve never been to the Center before, but I was impressed. Seems like a great area, and I’m excited to see how the Whittier Peninsula continues to grow. Plus, the views of downtown are unbeatable.

I sampled so many things that I forget the exact names and ingredients, but I don’t remember having anything bad the entire night (not like that’s a surprise). As usual, Basi Italia used one of my favorite displays, with mini polenta cakes topped with a sweet salsa.

Chef John Dornback at work.

This year also included two of our local distilleries. Here’s Watershed serving up Gin & Juice. In another corner, I tried a sidecar with Middle West Spirits Honey Vanilla Bean vodka. Both refreshing and delicious.

Pork belly from Due Amici.

Mini Cuban pork sandwiches from Barcelona.

Owner Thom Coffman of The Clarmont

…serving up macaroni and cheese balls!

Right next to the gang from Deepwood.

Quick break for a sip of Summer Teeth from Columbus Brewing Company.

Even more restaurants lined up in the main hallway of the building.

It’s always fun to see Chefs Kevin and Patrick from Skillet at work.

Towers of delicious smoked duck crostinis (above) and a lavender pound cake with chocolate ganache (below) from Chef Anthony with The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls.


Amazing display, as usual, from Pistacia Vera.

And of course, you have to finish with Lara’s maple bacon cupcakes from Surly Girl Saloon.

A wonderful and delicious evening all around. It’s always amazing to see such a diverse mix of fare at this event. Thanks to Dine Originals for inviting me out. Looking forward to 2012 already!

Northstar Cafe (Easton) | Columbus, OH

Northstar Cafe
4015 Townsfair Way (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43219
(614) 532-5444
Open 9am-10pm daily
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Friday, April 8, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: The three Northstar Cafes have become institutions in Columbus. Any online search of “breakfast in Columbus” brings up at least one Northstar location, and the steady crowds can attest to their continued popularity. I’ve been to the other two locations multiple times (and reviewed first Beechwold, then Short North). While my reviews have gotten less gushy as time goes on (I can’t believe myself when I re-read the Beechwold one), I still think Northstar serves up a solid breakfast that I’ll always like.

The Easton location is their newest one, and can be found in the southeast section of the shopping center. There’s a good-sized parking lot right next to it, as well as lots of metered parking around the Easton streets. Each Northstar Cafe is designed and laid out differently, and each one fits very well with its locale. This one is a great fit for Easton overall.

ATMOSPHERE: This was my first time in the Easton location, and I have to say… it’s one of the most photogenic breakfast spots I’ve seen. Very well focused lighting, lots of natural wood accents, big counter space, bright light from abundant windows.

This location is also the biggest. The whole main floor probably has more seating than the Short North location, and then there’s a balcony circling half the restaurant.

We visited right when they opened at 9 am (which is comparatively late for a breakfast spot), and while the balcony remained empty, the main floor filled up quickly.

FOOD: The menu at Easton is pretty much the same as the other two locations (plus one tasty addition). First off, we had drinks. There are a few choices of coffee, including decaf and light-medium-or-dark roasts. I opt for their Johnny Mellow. We also nabbed a fresh-squeezed orange juice. Always a hit.

I don’t eat at Northstar Cafe as often as I used to, but whenever I have breakfast there, I have to get the Big Burrito, plus bacon (goes without saying). I’m just a big fan of the combination of bacon, sweet potatoes, black beans, veggies, and cheese.

I call this Still Life With Coffee And Burrito.

This item I haven’t seen at any of the other locations: Prosciutto and Poached Eggs. The base is a rosemary focaccia bread, topped with prosciutto (a very popular meat these days) and nicely poached eggs. Comes with a side of greens. Overall, a very nice dish: seasoned just right, between a dash of parmesan, the salty prosciutto, and herbed bread. Well worth a try.

SERVICE: Like all of their cafes, the Easton location employs the order-at-the-counter system. Order there, you’re given a number, and your food’s brought out to you. Gratuity is included in the food price. Generally, the employees there are very nice. Some are more smiley than others, but no surliness.

OVERALL: Again, I don’t get to the Northstar Cafes as often as I used to. Part of it is the cost: you’ll be paying a few bucks more than your average diner breakfast. But it’s also because I have so many more places to explore. Still, the Easton cafe is beautiful, and they serve all the breakfast favorites. Like the other cafes, they have a nice patio as well, plus this one has a wood fireplace! So there’s some consistency between the cafes, but enough interesting variations between them, too. But however you feel about the other Northstar locations, you’ll probably feel the same about this one.

Northstar Café (Easton) on Urbanspoon

Smothered Gravy | Columbus, OH


[UPDATE: Smothered Gravy seems to be closed.]

Smothered Gravy
1444 E. Main St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43205
(614) 252-3203
Open Mon-Fri, 8am – 6pm; Sat, 1-9pm (bfast served Mon-Fri until 10:30)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Carry out only
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Smothered Gravy’s opening has been much-anticipated since the first announcement about it last September. I mean, look at the name! Smothered Gravy? Uh, yeah, who wouldn’t want soul food smothered in sauce? After much discussion and a false start, they finally opened on Saturday, March 19. The story of owner Eugena Dade is a pretty amazing one, given her heritage and all that she’s overcome to get here. In lieu of writing more about it here, I’ll just direct you to my article on her for (614) Magazine.

ATMOSPHERE: The couple times I’ve visited Smothered Gravy, the atmosphere has always been very laid-back. There’s no formal seating, save for a single table and a couple miscellaneous chairs. You can certainly dine-in, should you choose, but the seating is more intended for waiting carry-out customers.

The decor is soft and simple. A few window decorations, some basic signage. The most interesting part is the black and white photos of old restaurants from Columbus’ East Side (including one of Eugena’s aunt’s old restaurant, which was located just down the street).

Simple self-serve coffee.

Their full menu is posted on the wall behind the counter…

.

..and on a side wall.

FOOD: Breakfast covers a lot of the soul food basics: salmon cakes, brown sugar ham, catfish nuggets, shrimp and grits. (Pssst… they even have Resch’s donuts.) Being a sucker for good chicken and waffles, I had to order them up. Your options on this dish are fried or smothered. I’ve had plenty of fried chicken with my waffles, so I opted for the smothered version. This means they’re simmered in a pan of gravy. The waffles were good – nothing too out of the ordinary. I liked the flavor of the chicken – the gravy is a tasty (if under-salted) onion gravy. But I think I missed the crispiness of the fried chicken. That seems like a better complement to the waffles. Overall, though, a decent version.

I liked the fried tilapia better. Cooked just right so it was flaky. Very light breading, simple seasoning (again, could be saltier and stronger). Served with a basic side of toast, plus a cup of the grits. This version was rich and buttery, and surprisingly sweet. Eugena said she adds some sugar to it. I’m more used to savory grits, but this was nice. I ate it all!

SERVICE: If you visit Smothered Gravy, take the chance to talk with Eugena and her crew. They welcome you with huge smiles. Cooking is clearly in Eugena’s blood, and she welcomes you almost as a family member into her restaurant.

OVERALL: I think Smothered Gravy still has some room to grow, but it’s off to a good beginning. It’s hard not to root for Eugena, knowing her story, and her efforts to enliven the community around her deserve to be supported.

OTHER LINKS:
-> my write-up on Smothered Gravy for (614) Magazine

Smothered Gravy on Urbanspoon

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