The Inn at Honey Run is where I started my introduction into the Amish way of life. The inn is located in Holmes county in central Ohio, home of the world’s largest Amish community. Having spent 2 nights in Columbus, I was ready to see what this part of the country held.
The point of travel for me is to get a glimpse into what my life might be like today if I had gone (metaphorically) right instead of left. You know, chose Pepsi over Coke. I enjoyed my time in Columbus, Ohio. I could easily imagine a life for me there. But I have to be honest– that’s because Columbus has a much more urban vibe than I might have ever guessed. Or maybe I should say urbane. It has all the familiar comforts of the city life that I am used to. Great restaurants, interesting architecture, diversity and enough of a hurried pace to make me feel right at home.
What I am saying is Columbus may not be exactly the same as that left turn towards a life in Los Angeles, but it’s a flavor of cola with which I’m familiar. But I came to Ohio to taste Amish country. An area of Ohio that is neither Pepsi nor Coke– and all the (metaphorical) turns, be they left or right, are the turns your parents made before you. Where life is as close to what it was a hundred and fifty years ago as is possible in a modern world.
Which is a lot to think about.
The Inn at Honey Run
The first night of my time in the peaceful woods of rural Ohio was spent at The Inn At Honey Run set in the rolling hills of Holmes county. Where picture perfect pastoral scenes feature horse-drawn buggies appearing over the crest of a hill, and antique signs along the roadside advertise fruit pies and fresh eggs.
The inn sits in the woods surrounded by the Amish farms that supply both the pies and the eggs– farms that run as they have always run, by families who use the power of their bodies and minds rather than the electrical current of the modern world. Which is another fantasy that has crossed my own mind many times.
Dreams are exactly how The Inn at Honey Run came to be. It opened in 1982, the realization of original owner Marge Stock’s imagination. She, without prior experience, decided an inn in Amish country was exactly what she wanted. Which made her a bit of a visionary. In fact her dreams included a fanciful compound of earthen bound honeycomb rooms dug into a hillside above the inn with views of the rolling countryside.
The current owners have kept that spirit alive with an eye on the comforts that today’s visitor is looking for. They have brought updated amenities to the guest rooms. The honeycomb rooms are being remodeled, combining luxury and privacy for a whole new generation of guests. Meaning a stay at the inn can bring broad experiences, appealing to a wide range of tastes.
- Relax in one of the 40 uniquely decorated guest rooms, suites or cottages.
- Rejuvenate with The Inn at Honey Run spa treatments featuring 100% organic products.
- Explore the Ohio Amish Country towns of Millersburg and Berlin
- Savor creative cuisine and fine wines in a comfortable treetop setting.
- Host a corporate meeting or family retreat in the conference center.
- Celebrate a honeymoon, anniversary, or other special occasion with a romantic getaway.
- Walk nature trails along streams, hilltops and woodlands.
- Watch birds from your private window or deck, seeing some of the 102 identified species.
But I came for the food. Which is the realm of chef Scott Fetty, formerly a chef/instructor at The Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, Le Cordon Bleu. Beginning in January 2010 Chef Fetty has transformed the inn’s Tarragon Restaurant with an eye towards creating an dining experience quite unique to the area. In Holmes county you can find good Amish home cooking on just about every corner, but delicious romance and enticing views are a bit harder to come by. The chef is committed to using local and seasonal ingredients and brings international flavors based on his travels to the table. Creating a meal that is simple yet elegant.
I was part of a group of writers brought in to experience all aspects of The Inn at Honey Run, so we were treated to a very special meal. The chef put together a roving dinner party, designed to give us a peek at all parts of the inn and its amenities. We started with vegetarian “sushi” in the spa, served with pomegranate sparklers. Next we strolled over to an open air, cantilevered pavilion to enjoy grilled pork-belly. The chill in the air was conquered with an appropriately steamy, hot-toddy-like whiskey drink served in hefty glass mugs. We then moved deeper into the woods to mingle in one of the spacious cottages for the main course of lobster risotto with a wine tasting of locally produced Ohio wines (yep) by Deanna and Andy Troutman. They opened Troutman Vineyards in June, 2001 with the idea was that certain grapes could thrive in Ohio, allowing them to create small batch, high-quality wines. Dessert was served in the main lodge and was paired by Andy Troutman with his own ice-wines pressed from vidal blanc, cabernet franc and blackberries frozen on the vine. Afterwards, cocktails were served fireside with spirits from Watershed Distillery.
The next morning I awoke before dawn (believe it or not). My mind full of images and perceptions from my first full day in Amish country. I went walking in the woods. It was gray and misty– threatening rain. I was in a contemplative mood. It was cold (damn cold). The ground was crackling as I walked, the grass breaking underfoot in a way that I am not used to. I came to an icy footbridge set over a babbling brook– I feel silly even typing that phrase but the alliteration is exactly right for the experience. As I looked up towards the heavy gray sky I became fascinated watching tiny warblers skitter along the branches like mice in trees. I heard the honk of a lone Canadian goose and I watched a thousand starlings adorn the trees like Christmas ornaments. I felt such a sense of place. I was standing in the woods in an area that had followed these same rhythms for more than a hundred years. It was then that my experience in Ohio began to crystallize and I could see that I couldn’t be further from my own path along the sunny shores of California.
It was beautiful that morning and I was touched by a moment of clarity. I don’t mean to say I felt regret for the path I had chosen. But I did feel the respect that comes from sensing you are in a special place.
I would take that feeling in the coming days into the Amish businesses and homes I would soon visit. It brought definition to the taste of handmade cheese and warm bread from the oven. Both meant for an Amish family of 10, but offered generously to a visitor from Los Angeles. As I stood there in that family kitchen thinking about my life and my place in the world. I thought to myself– did they wonder, as I had, what it was to walk in another pair of shoes? What did they see as they looked upon a group of strangers who lived so differently than they? But there will be more on that in the coming days. Much more. GREG
The Inn at Honey Run