It had been well over a year – before the pandemic landed – since I had dined at Log Haven restaurant in Millcreek Canyon. So, this week I journeyed up that beautiful canyon to sample some of the new dishes on Chef Dave Jones’ recently launched spring/summer menu.
It’s easy to forget how gorgeous Log Haven and its surroundings are: streams, waterfalls, mountain views, a meadow and large pond which is currently occupied by a gaggle of visiting trumpeter swans. And, it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy a meal on the Log Haven patio or deck, surrounded by nature.
Head bartender Brenda Gomez and General Manager Ian Campbell have created a number of tempting cocktails and mocktails to enjoy at Log Haven. I suggest sipping a popular drink like the Bitter Sweet before dinner. It’s made with Irish whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and Shiraz wine.
I have always found Chef Dave Jones’ cuisine to be innovative: complex and delicious, and always with a creative use of ingredients that you might not expect to see on the same plate. One example is a new gluten-free appetizer/shared plate of grilled octopus with guajillo chile pepper sauce, hominy puree, pumpkin seed-cilantro pesto, jalapeño aioli and corn dust. It’s a fascinating Southwestern take on grilled octopus.
There is an Asian slant to Chef Jones’ crab cakes – an appetizer of two sesame-crusted crab cakes made with scrumptious Dungeness crab, served with grilled pineapple, nori, and yuzu-wasabi aioli. The sweetness of the pineapple provides an appealing contrast to the spicy aioli in this excellent dish. It’s a good example of Chef Jones’ style of cooking; sometimes contrasting flavors and sometimes using complementary ones. Either way, they always work.
One of the most tempting new entrees on the Log Haven menu is a chicken dish. It can be a challenge sometimes to make a boneless chicken breast very interesting, but Jones succeeds with his porcini-crusted breast of chicken, served with a ragout of green lentils, watercress, king trumpet mushrooms, and green peppercorn aioli.
Although it’s not new to the Log Haven menu, one of my favorite starters is tuna tartare. This is a beautiful looking and exquisite tasting mound of sushi-grade ahi tuna with crushed avocado, pickled shiitake, wakame salad, and miso-sesame tuile.
Vegetarian and gluten-free diners are not ignored at Log Haven. They can enjoy delicious salads like the arugula salad with avocado, pine nuts, castelvetrano olives, lemon, parmesan and extra virgin olive oil, or a tasty mixed green salad, as well as dishes like the Korean fried cauliflower with crushed cashews, scallions, and sweet & spicy gochujang glaze. Also on the new spring/summer menu is a stir-fry of seasonal vegetables, pulled oats, spicy peanuts, Haigi rice and yakitori sauce that is both gluten-free and vegetarian.
Wine lovers will appreciate General Manager Ian Campbell’s vast knowledge of wine and his carefully selected, award-winning wine list showcasing wines from around the world, as well as domestic ones. Sipping options range from Hungary’s Holdvolgy “Hold and Hollo” Tokay or Cantina del Redi “Orbaio” from Tuscany, to Soter Mineral Springs Ranch Oregon Pinot Noir and France’s Girardin Grand Cru Chambertin-Clos de Beze.
Meat lovers will want to sink their teeth into the thick, grilled bone-in double Duroc pork chop which comes with sweet and sour Brussels sprouts, cipollini onions, smoked bacon, brandied raisins, pecans and smashed potatoes.
Personally, my favorite dish on the new Log Haven menu is risotto. According to a savvy server named Kacey, Chef Jones’ risotto is made Northern Italian-style, which is more creamy and almost porridge-like as opposed to “drier” risotto that you might be familiar with. Anyway, it’s absolutely delicious: arborio rice cooked in broth with lemon and tomato butter, plump and tender grilled shrimp, Parmigiano-Reggiano, asparagus, and finished with extra virgin olive oil. It’s one of the more decadent and delightful risottos I’ve ever enjoyed. And, speaking of savvy servers, table service at Log Haven is top-notch – second to none in Utah.
Other new menu items include tuna tataki with wood ear mushrooms, shrimp dumplings, fermented black bean-shiso broth, rice crisp and blistered shishito peppers. And then there’s a new salmon dish that my wife really loved. Don’t think fish and cheese go together? Think again. This creative entree features a grilled salmon filet with fresh mozzarella ciliegine, artichoke salad, polenta, tomato coulis, and Tuscan bread crumbs.
Dave Jones has been Executive Chef at Log Haven for many years, and you might expect someone who has worked in the same kitchen for so long to get stale or reach for the autopilot button. But no. There’s no cruising here. Jones continues to create and innovate and I think the cuisine at Log Haven is as good or better now than it has ever been. The Log Haven kitchen is coming out of the pandemic firing on all cylinders. Owner Margo Provost uses three words to depict the Log Haven experience: Nature. Nourish. Nurture. If you’re looking to be nourished and nurtured in one of the most beautiful natural settings in Utah, Log Haven is still the place.
Photos by Ted Scheffler & Courtesy of Log Haven
Culinary quote of the week:
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” — François de la Rochefoucauld
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.