For many years Anne Castle had a dream. What began as a vision took more than two years to complete when Anne left her corporate job and opened The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls. After 27 years of marriage, Anne divorced her husband and middle-aged, with gray hair, no experience, no money and no credit, her journey was not without struggle. But with sheer determination and the help of daughter Ellen and a local contractor named Terry (who later became Ellen’s husband), Cedar Falls opened its doors in 1987. Each room of the inn pays homage to Anne’s legacy with this message:
‘This is not a Pollyanna-glad-girl story, however, the struggle to withstand backbreaking work, mind-bending discouragement, seemingly countless physical, emotional and financial blocks, is a long tale . . . a story not unlike many great entrepreneurs.’
Anne passed away a short four years later but Ellen and Terry, continue to honor Anne’s vision – and they’ve been doing it quite well for the last 25 years.
The Professor and I were part of a press trip aptly named ‘3 Great Inns’ and The Inn at Cedar Falls is one of the three stops in our journey. The winding road is flanked on both sides by Hocking Hills State Park; along the way, clothes drying on wire strung from pole-to-pole whip in the wind. Amish buggies and farms whiz by my window frame and at times, it appears as if time has either stood still or I’m in some sort of time warp. ‘You won’t have cell service once we hit an area at the top of the ridge until we arrive at the Inn,’ says our driver. And as we climb the mountain towards our destination, the sun blinks between the evergreens; the sky is painted the perfect shade of Robin’s Egg blue with an occasional whispy white cloud strewn across the skyline adding to the idyllic country setting.
Ellen is a petite woman with short salt and pepper hair and mischievous, twinkling eyes; she is standing on the porch when we arrive and I am immediately impressed by her deep passion for both the staff as well as guests who are visiting. Lunch is served in a light-filled room set with antique solid wood tables & chairs. In the adjoining room, leather club chairs have been intentionally placed next to a window; a small table sits between the chairs and is topped with a checkers game inviting guests to sit for a game or two. Potted plants are perched on ledges outside the window and when you’re not shouting ‘Crown me!’ to your opponent, you can see birds swooping in and about looking for food. An antique billows is re-purposed as a coffee table and resides in front of a large stone fireplace flanked by antique sofas. The space is warm and welcoming, genuine and peaceful, just like its Innkeepers.
Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls offers a full-service spa which includes everything from traditional massages to body mud wraps. The Professor and I enjoyed the Inn’s ‘Couple’s Massage’ in the Spa’s cabin nestled among the gorgeous flora and fauna of the area; a quiet and reflective space, we were feeling relaxed and quite zen – we highly recommend you take advantage of the Spa services if you have the chance.
A memorable ‘Spirits Dinner’ was created by the Inn’s Executive Chef Anthony Schultz using and pairing Middle West Spirits‘ OYO Whiskey and flavored Vodkas – a small batch, all-organic distillery owned by Brady Konya and Ryan Lang. Honestly, I’m not sure who has more passion for their craft – Chef Anthony or Brady and Ryan because these guys really knocked it out of the park. Everything on the menu was prepared perfectly and Ryan & Brady were spot-on with the pairings. Chef Anthony has been with Inn at Cedar Falls for more than 5 years creating menus using local and seasonal ingredients; cooking classes and special events are planned throughout the year – many sell out quickly so be sure to check their website often so you don’t miss out.
As deer graze in the early mornings and spectacular waterfalls spill into basins, guests unplug and re-learn how to connect with one another. You’ll find family-friendly activities and stunning sunsets to be admired from the top of a hiking trail ridge or from a rocking chair on the front porch of a cottage or cabin. What began as the dream of a divorced, middle-aged woman has been thoughtfully nurtured and cared for by a daughter and son-in-law for the last 25 years. Ellen and Terry’s commitment and passion is palpable – and one cannot help but get excited about the Inn at Cedar Falls and the Hocking Hills region – it is remarkable!
Click here for a quick look at more from our experience in the Hocking Hills region.
DISCLAIMER: While this stop was part of a press trip, we were not asked to write, nor are we being paid for, any posts pertaining to this trip. All photographs, video work, music, sound design and opinions are strictly our own.
LEMON THYME CAKES WITH LEMON VODKA SYRUP
Courtesy Chef Anthony, Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls
Makes about 24 individual cakes
FOR THE CAKES:
- 2 cups AP Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoons Lemon Zest
- 1-½ teaspoons Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 large eggs
FOR THE SYRUP:
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup OYO Honey-Vanilla Bean Vodka
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tsp fresh thyme – finely chopped
TO MAKE THE CAKE:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Place the butter, lemon juice and the sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat in with a mixer on medium high speed to cream the butter until light and fluffy.
- While that’s mixing, place the first five ingredients in a separate mixing bowl and mix by hand to blend.
- When butter mixture reached desired consistency, add the eggs one at a time, blending well before each additional egg. After all eggs have been added, turn the mixer off to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Turn back on low speed.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture while the mixer is on low speed. Mix just until combined and turn off.
- Spray the pans with pan spray and fill the molds half way with the batter.
- Bake for a total of 20-25 minutes, but set a time for 10 minutes, rotate the pan. Set for another 10 minutes and check doneness by sticking a thermometer in the center of a cake and when pulled out, it will be clean. If you need more time, five more minutes should suffice.
- Within the first ten minutes, remove the cakes from the molds as they will stick a little the longer they stay in the pans.
TO MAKE SYRUP:
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and keep warm
- Place the cake in the center of the cake.
- Using a pastry brush, dab a little of the syrup on the top of the cakes
- Place a small scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream and spoon a couple of teaspoons of the syrup over the ice cream and serve