Big City Flavor, Small Town Roots
By Tom Baker
Next time you’re trying to get the kids to sleep or checking your work email from home and can’t remember when you last had a date night, consider taking a leisurely 25 minute drive up to Tipp City and visiting the Coldwater Café. Run by a mother/son team with a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) background, Coldwater Café opened in 1994 when Betty Peachy decided to make the jump from accountant to restaurateur. Joined by her CIA trained son Nick Hoover in 1998, Coldwater has been serving Tipp City high end fare with local charm. On a recent date night with my wife we experienced this first hand, enjoying a quiet dinner accentuated by exceptional service and great food.
After making reservations online, we dropped the kid off with the grandparents and headed north. Coldwater is located downtown along the main drag – one moment you’re walking down the main street of small town USA, and another you’re walking into a classy, upscale bar and dining room, tastefully decorated in what I would call “country chic.” The bright foyer leads to a dim dining area with private rooms just past the old bank vault from the building’s prior incarnation. The bathrooms are adorned with copies of turn of the century newspaper clippings advertising town pig roasts, and the hallway leading back with pictures of visiting politicians and staff outings. It’s an interesting mix of fancy and down home, but so is everything else here.
Our server arrived with water, informed us of the evening’s specials, and answered questions on the menu. What really set this apart, however, was the poise and confidence with which she negotiated our service. Clearly well versed in both the food and the wine (you can always tell when the servers actually get some training and talk with the chefs and bartenders), she represented what every restaurant owner hopes for in their staff. After choosing a bottle of wine from their well-rounded list (a captain’s list of higher end wines is also available), we started with the Lobster Crab Cake appetizer. The plate of four small and tasty cakes was served with a nice remoulade, and could also be ordered as an entrée. Our server also delivered a small basket of bread and whipped butter. I tend to ignore the bread basket, but in this case, however, it was clear that I should at least test the waters. A mix of wheat and a salted rosemary focaccia, the bread was excellent. Our server informed us a few moments later that they work with Rahn’s Artisan Breads (a second appearance from Rahn’s in as many weeks), and it solidified the notion that we should get to the local supplier’s 2nd Street Market stall ASAP.
After waxing ecstatic over our bread and service for a moment and enjoying our house salads with their cucumber dill dressing, our entrees arrived. Ever vigilant but not overbearing, our server had prepared us by gracefully dropping extra butter for the bread we had attacked, as well as gingerly pouring us wine as our glasses neared empty in order to avoid bothering our conversation. She then dropped our dinners: The Ostrich Filet with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli, and the evening’s feature, the Sauteed Softshell Crabs with Rice Pilaf and Broccoli. The Ostrich came highly recommended by our server and rightfully so – served with a Cherry and Red Wine Reduction, the filet was cooked perfectly and reminiscent of more thinly sliced beef tenderloin. The cherry and wine sauce was fantastic, and paired well with the red blend we had chosen – the server mentioned this pairing early on and was right on the money. The soft shell crabs were also excellent – in many cases rice pilaf can be uninspiring at best, however this rice was light and flavorful, and I enjoyed it very much with the crab and accompanying cilantro corn tartar sauce. The crabs were lightly breaded and tender, and are a seasonal treat that will be gone later this summer. We briefly shared bites, but the banter soon grew quiet and the only thing to be heard from our table was the server pouring the last bit of wine into our glasses.
As we finished our entrees and sat fat and happy, the server arrived with their dessert board, a small chalkboard outlining the day’s selections. With ten desserts to choose from, including cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake, and crème brûlée among others, you’ll have no problem finding something suitable for everyone at the table. We opted for the English Tea Cake with Warm Butter Sauce, Coldwater’s signature dessert, and rightfully so. Arriving awash with the rich, creamy butter sauce, the moist cake looks a bit like a mini Bundt cake or donut prepared with bits of dried cherries – not to be missed.
Coldwater Café also serves lunch and is closed Sunday and Monday, but considering the fact that I live south of downtown Dayton, I will be keeping this on my special occasion/date night list, and pretty near the top. When you make your reservation ask for Joslin, and be sure to make room to try dessert – you’ll be glad you did.
Reach DCP food critic Tom Baker at TomBaker@DaytonCityPaper.com.