If the many advantages to living in Salt Lake City were encapsulated in a restaurant, it would be Log Haven. Tucked amid lush stands of Ponderosa pine, Aspen and Gambel oak in Millcreek Canyon, this stately, rough hewn log retreat seems miles from anywhere but in fact is located just 20 minutes from downtown. The cozy interior—replete with leather club chairs, river rock fireplaces and crisp white linen-covered tables—make Log Haven an impressive choice for milestone celebrations, date nights and entertaining out-of-town friends and clients in the winter months. During the summer however, when seating opens on the Waterfall patio, the vibe here is definitively more laid back while the food and service remain five-star. I was lucky enough to get an invite to the inimitable restaurant’s annual spring menu tasting last week and, as in the past, Chef Dave Jones, General Manager Ian Campbell and Events Director Faith Sweeten did not disappoint.
We were greeted with this champagne cocktail when we arrived at Log Haven last week, which even my bubbly-adverse husband found tasty. I found it irresistible.
It’s almost impossible to narrow down my favorite item from the amazing dishes on Log Haven's off-the-charts summer menu. The grilled calamari was wonderfully smoky and, when pared with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, is summertime's essence on a plate. I won’t soon forget the seared sea scallops served over a lemon poppy seed risotto filled with lovey al dente English peas. And the smoked duck and Serrano chile pasta offered an unexpected Southwest-inspired kick balanced perfectly with a fresh mango salsa. By just a nose, however, the star of the evening for me was the grilled whiskey-miso halibut served with a brilliant compressed super greens and sesame salad, an item part of Log Haven’s high-impact, low calorie summer menu.
In addition to the fantastic, award-winning menu and thoughtful wine list, Log Haven summertime happenings include live piano music every Thursday through Sunday evening. The Dog Days of Summer, an invitation to come with your dog for post-canyon hike dinner or cocktails on the restaurant’s outdoor amphitheater. And the Early Bird Special, where diners arriving before 6:30 p.m. can enjoy a decadent surf and turf (steak and lobster) dinner for just $27.50.
Log Haven takes reservations from 5:30 to 9 p.m. nightly and is located four miles up Millcreek Canyon (3800 South) on the south side of the canyon road.
Red Butte Garden kicked off its summer concert season earlier this week with an amazing show by the alternative rock juggernaut Vampire Weekend. The crowd was on its feet before the band started playing and remained there until the end of the boy band’s (They all look like boy bands to me now.) signature show-ending song "Walcott.” I think an apt gauge of how a performer is connecting with an audience is how many people are in the bathroom during the show. I unfortunately didn’t plan ahead and had to make a quick trip to the head after about song three. The place was deserted. Enough said.
VW’s show was a resounding homerun, but even if they’d been just meh, I’d still have had a blast because of A, the company (Thanks, Sheller!) and B, the venue. Summer concerts at Red Butte Garden are—far and away—one of the biggest perks of living in Utah. Owned and maintained by the University of Utah, Red Butte is the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West. Most of its 100 acres are dedicated to display and natural gardens, walking paths and natural areas with hiking trails save for a gently sloping, grassy hillside on the garden’s north end used to host concerts.
Without fail, every performer I’ve seen at Red Butte comments about how stunning the venue is during their performance. How could they not? The venue itself is surrounding by lush perennial gardens and mature Gambel oak trees, and views from the stage span east up Red Butte Canyon and north along the Wasatch Front. Because of the venue’s foothill location, canyon breezes keep temps comfortable even on summer's hottest days. A sell out show—as was the case for Vampire Weekend—is only about 3,000 people, translating into the place never feeling crowded and post-show traffic jams non-existent.
Red Butte concerts in the early days definitely featured B-level artists. But what I am guessing is due to how stunningly beautiful the venue is, major acts representing a variety of genres now pack the annual schedule. Steely Dan, Dwight Yokum, Tony Bennett, Jackson Brown, She & Him, David Byrne, Michael Franti & Spearhead and The Black Crows are just a few of the acts scheduled to play there later this summer.
And unlike other concert venues where entry entails metal detectors, pat downs and outside food and beverage confiscation, the scene at a Red Butte concert is like having a picnic in the park on a Sunday afternoon. Low slung chairs and coolers are both allowed and encouraged. We usually eat potluck style when we’re there with a group, passing around good eats and bottles of wine.
Communal probably best describes the Red Butte Garden concert experience. The place illustrates perfectly Salt Lake City’s literal and figurative mountain-meets-metro personality. Click here for Red Butte Garden’s amazing 2013 summer concert lineup. My ticket cache includes Brandi Carlile, Michael Franti and Neko Case. Hope to see you there.
Earlier this year I was asked to participate in a new magazine spearheaded by the Downtown Alliance promoting downtown Salt Lake City entitled, you guessed it, Downtown Magazine. My assignment was to write profiles about five people who’ve made their lives, either professionally or by virtue of where they live, in Salt Lake City’s urban core. The predetermined “hit” list included Amy Lukas with Infinite Scale Design Group, DJ and urban hipster Jesse Walker, Squatters owners Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis, CUAC board member and gay rights advocate Diane Stewart and Liddy Huntsman, social media darling and daughter of former presidential candidate and Utah native son Jon Huntsman, Jr.
I'll admit I approached the job thinking I already had a pretty clear idea what I was going to write about each person. Well, this one took my by surprise. Smart, thoughtful, funny, creative and completely authentic are all adjectives that easily describe each person I profiled. Before meeting with Diane Stewart, for example, I assumed she was just another woman of privilege looking for something to do with those hours between getting her hair done and dinner parties. I found out however that she’s as real as they come: she says what she thinks and, yes, is loaded to the gills but uses her money and influence to help those who’d never get a return phone call much less a meeting. And if you’re looking for signs of intelligent life within the Republican Party, look no further than Liddy Huntsman, who uses social media to call a spade a spade on both sides of the aisle. Finally, I’m still aglow from my conversation with Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis. Those two have a chemistry even the closest married couples would envy, and most endearingly, aren’t afraid to show it.
In addition to the piece I wrote, titled “My Downtown,” the magazine covers pretty much everything that makes Salt Lake City so cool—food, fashion, events, attractions and the arts—as well as debunking a few myths. Versus a stale guidebook format, Downtown Magazine is presented as a slick, appealing tome that, at the risk of sounding too self-promotional, you’ll actually want to read.Downtown Magazine is available at the Downtown Alliance offices (175 E. 400 South), at various downtown businesses, and at the Salt Palace Visitors Center (90 S. West Temple). Watch for it also in a coming issue of the Salt Lake Tribune or Deseret News.
One of my favorite medium-length Salt Lake City area bicycle road rides is Emigration Canyon. Not only is the climb a nice, gradual ascent and the top almost exactly 20 miles from my front door, but Emigration represents one of the main reasons why I love living here: within just minutes of pointing my bike up the canyon the landscape changes from urban neighborhoods to a mountain wilderness filled with Gambel oaks, wildflowers and aspens.
Emigration is just one of five paved canyons feeding into Salt Lake City proper from the Wasatch Mountains, each of which is neatly aligned with downtown’s tidy grid layout. In other words, if you follow the street I mention with each canyon due east from the city, you’ll eventually find yourself in that canyon. Starting from the north is City Creek (North Temple Street), then Emigration (800 South), next is Millcreek (3800 South) and then Big Cottonwood (7000 South/Fort Union Blvd) and finally Little Cottonwood (9400 South). (Parleys Canyon is located in between Emigration and Millcreek and is indeed paved, but the road is Interstate 80 and obviously not an ideal venue for road biking.) A handful of dedicated road bikers I know – or maybe actually just one, Brad Toland – have pedaled all five of these canyons in a single day. I will likely never be that
fit and am content to ride each one at a time. insane
I shared the road with hundreds of cyclists when I biked Emigration on Saturday. In addition to its consistent five percent grade, this canyon is very popular with cyclists for a couple of reasons. Two restaurants Ruth’s Diner (Located about a mile from the mouth and featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.) and the Sun and Moon Café (About four miles from the mouth.) serve good food on sunny patios providing fun destination points for a more leisurely ride. (I’m a big fan of Ruth’s biscuits and huevos rancheros.) Or, for a more strenuous training ride, once you reach the canyon summit (Little Mountain) continue east to Big Mountain, a killer seven-mile, 2,000-feet elevation gain ride.
If you go: be sure to take two water bottles and a packable jacket. This ride is always hot at the start but after sweating it out during the climb, it’s easy to get chilled on the descent. Also, in the spring and late summer microburst thunderstorms are a common occurrence here. Public restrooms are located in a park just south of the canyon mouth and at the Little Mountain summit. While I don’t advise it, I have on a couple desperate occasions snuck into Ruth’s or and fire station located about halfway up and politely used the facilities.
One final note: Please don’t litter. It may seem a very obvious, condescending request but while riding on Saturday I noticed a new sign along road asking riders to respect the canyon. It was made out of what appeared to be discarded gel packages. A creative reminder that if you pack it in, you need to pack it out.
A Utah winery seems about as plausible as eating a ham sandwich in a synagogue. (Well may be not that unlikely—or offensive for that matter—but you get the picture.) But not only is wine being fermented right here in Utah as I type, those made at Kiler Grove actually taste good. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Last month the Utah-based winery swept Arizona’s Southwest Wine Challenge. The winery’s 2009 Petite Sirah won a gold medal, the 2011 Saignée snagged a silver, and the 2009 Trebbiano (my personal favorite) took bronze.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Kiler Grove’s wines are vinted, fermented and bottled here in Utah, but the grapes come from a slightly more hospitable growing locale – you guessed it – California. Since 2000 Micheal and Elva Knight and David Olson, have grown grapes for Kiler Grove wines on ten fertile acres near Paso Robles. The fruit is then shipped to their South Salt Lake winery where they make “Rhône-style wines spanning Old World and New World Styles.” Kiler Grove makes only six wines (The 2010 Interpretation, 2007 and 2009 Zynergy and 2009 and 2010 Zinfandel in addition to the aforementioned award winners.) a choice head winemaker Micheal Knight attributes to quality. “We don’t make many wines because we don’t know of any other grape varietals that would succeed in our vineyard at the same level of quality than those we’ve planted. Our strategy is to grow the best fruit, handle it in the least intrusive manner, and then blend the wines with the goal of making the whole greater than the sum of the parts,” Knight says.
Kiler Grove's little piece of heaven in Paso Robles, California.
That said, earlier this year Kiler Grove announced they’ll be mixing things up a bit with some just-for-fun offerings, along with some wines they’ll just make once, under the label Whimsey. Firm plans include a 2011 Riesling (A good choice for a summer picnic or outdoor concert, perhaps?) and the 2010 Red Thriller. Whimsey wines are scheduled to be released sometime in the next couple of months.
I tasted Kiler Grove’s Trebbiano for the first time a few years ago at Log Haven. It was springtime and, as is typical with me, I ordered fish. When our server recommended the Trebbiano I consented, albeit against my better judgment. What I got was this very clean and drinkable glass of wine walkiing the line between a fruity pinot grigio and buttery chardonnay. A perfect accompaniment for the fish dish I’d ordered and as someone who prefers to drink white wine year-round, ideal with just about anything but the heaviest red meat dishes. Now, whenever I’m heading downtown I make a point of stopping at Kiler Grove’s tasting room and winery to stock up. The location is a little strange, a side street off of State very close to the Interstate 80 off ramp, but I guarantee finding the place is worth the trip.
The Kiler Grove Winery & Tasting room is located at 53 W. Truman Avenue. Hours are Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. Kiler Grove Wines are not sold in Utah State Liquor Stores.