Friday, September 28, 2012

Sweetly Divine (Pastries and Sandwiches) Review - Logan, Utah

It's official. I am no longer a Cache Valley-ite. Last week the movers hauled away our belongings and the sale of our house closed. There are so many things I'll miss about Cache Valley

One place I'll miss desperately is Sweetly Divine, a world-class pastry shop in Logan that also serves homemade soups, salads, and sandwiches. You might be thinking, "World class? In Logan?" Yes, it's true. I've had pastries at Sweetly Divine that are the equal of treats in fancy, well-known shops in New York City and San Francisco. It's the perfect place for a lunch, and has awesome treats to bring your friend on her birthday or your wife on the way home from work. Just look:

Beautifully delicious Sweetly Divine pastries. Clockwise from top left: Lemon Bar, Apple Strudel, Palmier, Pear Mousse, Cannoli 

I don't think Cache Valley realizes or appreciates what it's got in Sweetly Divine, and I'd like to see that change. A lot of new chain bakeries have come into town. Their food for the most part is pretty good. Their prices for the most part are pretty high. They do not measure up to Sweetly Divine. This is the real deal!

Sweetly Divine
1309 North Main, Suite 90, Logan, UT
(directly north of Costa Vida in the Shopko shopping center)

Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am - 10pm
Prices: Pastries: $.80 - $5.75, Lunch/Dinner Items: $3.25 - $7.75, Whole Specialty Cakes & Pies: $16.50 - $40.50 (special order)
Liquor: No
Year Opened: 2006
FYI: Breakfast items and additional items are available by special order. Sweetly Divine jellies are available by the jar, and are great for spreading and recipes

Pastries are a tricky business. Don't we each have our own dear little favorites? When I first went to Sweetly Divine I tried some pastries that were great, no doubt, but they weren't MY pastries. The next time I tried some others and, wowie! I hit the jackpot and created a Sweetly Divine craving that will probably never be satisfied no matter how many I eat. It's the Lemon Bars and the Pear Mousse that did me in.

And that's to say nothing of the Pickle Soup.

Yes, you heard me right. Pickle Soup. It's soup. It's got pickles in it. And it's amazing! It's a special that's only available every other Tuesday. The recipe is a traditional one from chef/owner Mark Godrowski's home country of Poland. I'd liken it to cream of potato soup with a slight, dill-y kick from the shredded pickles. They really mellow out when cooked. Mark's soups are homemade, something that can't be said about most of the other restaurant soups in the valley. The selection changes daily. Other choices include Bacon & Spinach, Clam Chowder, Italian Wedding Soup, Borscht, and Tomato Basil.

The sandwiches feature savory fillings between slices of soft, house-made focaccia bread. Each sandwich is spread with interesting condiments including Sweetly Divine's signature line of sweet pepper jellies. My favorite is the turkey sandwich, and my husband likes the ham.

But enough about all that savory stuff! Let's go back to the sweets.

I've always liked lemon bars, and Mark's lemon bars are the best I've ever had (with apologies to my sister, who also makes a mean lemon bar). The custard on these lemon bars is so perfect -- bright, vibrant, glistening yellow, smooth and tart in the mouth. Mmmmm. And the pear mousse! Divine! sweet and heady pear-infused cloud fluff mousse, layered on a moist cake base, encased in a delicate shell of icing. Too good!

Then there's the cannoli. I thought I didn't like cannolis, but it turns out I just don't like BAD ones. Sweetly Divine's cannolis set a new standard. I'm convinced you can't get a better one outside of Philly, Boston, or NYC.

A newer occasional specialty I haven't been able to try yet is kouign aman. A croissant-like pastry from France's Brittany region, the kouign aman (also spelled kouing aman, and pronounced roughly "queen ah-mahn") is a current darling in the culinary world. Les Madeleines bakery in Salt Lake City has a famous version that's been featured on Food Network, and that's where I first started my addiction. They're known, basically, as "crack". Chewy, creamy, buttery, sweet, and delicious, they are labor intensive to make and worth whatever price you have to pay. I'm so disappointed I moved away before getting to try Sweetly Divine's version.

Service at Sweetly Divine is friendly and competent. There are several tables for dining in the restaurant, and everything is really convenient for taking to-go, as well. A few little changes could improve experience. Labels on the wares would be helpful. Earlier morning hours to take advantage of pastries for breakfast would be wonderful. And I wouldn't mind if the sandwiches were a tad thicker (with more vegetables?). I guess that's my American appetite coming through. But please don't change a thing about the pickle soup!

Have you been to Sweetly Divine? What's your favorite? Your mouth should be watering after seeing the photos, so get up and head to Sweetly Divine!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lisa Loved Logan

Has anyone been wondering what happened to me? Something big. Something that upended my plans for this blog and my life.

I moved to Salt Lake City. I've been here for five days.

The move was unexpected and happened quickly. Early in July my husband (who was gainfully employed in Logan and accepting a new position with his company in Smithfield) was contacted about a job opportunity in SLC. He was semi-interested, but I didn't really think anything would come of it. Hence, I just chugged along posting daily on Lisa Loves Logan, house hunting in Cache Valley, and living my regular life. At the end of July things started moving quickly and Tyson was offered the job. Before I could catch my breath we decided to take the leap and change our lives all over again. In case you don't remember, we just moved (back) to Logan from Pennsylvania only a year ago. In fact, this is our 13th move together as a married couple. Lucky number 13?

Tyson started his new job this week. We put our home in North Logan on the market last week, thinking it might take a couple of months to sell. Instead we got two offers within the first few days, and we are now under contract. If all goes well, someone else will own my sweet little Cache Valley home as of September 20.

We are hanging at my parents' house downtown while we wait for our temporary rental to finish being remodeled. We are house hunting again. A whole new house hunt in a whole new area. So, move number 14 is likely to follow shortly. Hopefully it will be a few years before number 15!

I still have a post coming about Sweetly Divine, as well as one about Tandoori Oven. I hope I can still post here from time to time when I visit Cache Valley, but Lisa Loves Logan will never be the comprehensive resource I once hoped it would be. Life goes on! Thank you for reading, friends.

Cache Valley sky and mountains I won't be seeing out my boys' window anymore

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Getaways to SLC and Lava Hot Springs

Hey there, long time no post! I've been away on vacation since Saturday. We made two trips to Salt Lake City and two trips to Lava Hot Springs (Idaho). Don't ask. Well, actually, do ask! You know I'll tell! (Using as many words and exclamation points and parentheses as possible.)

We went to SLC on Saturday for the Neil Diamond concert, which was great! Old Neil actually sounded a lot better than I thought he would (I had prepared myself for the worst), and he put on a great show. After the concert we ate a laaaaaate dinner at Bayleaf Bar & Grub downtown on Main Street, the only place I could think of that was open all night besides the pancake places. It was hot and busy in there, but we very much enjoyed our fried pickles, Korean bulgogi, and fried Twinkie a la mode.

The next morning we left for a family reunion in Lava Hot Springs, ID. Though Lava is very close to Logan (the drive takes just over an hour and a half), I had never been until I got married and started going to this reunion. What a place! I'm not sure I can explain it. Let's see. It's a resort/tourist community, but very unlike, say, Park City. All the main attractions in the town are water-related and within walking distance of each other, so the sidewalks and restaurants are filled at all hours of the day with people of all ages and all body types in all sorts of swimwear. A tiny little grocery market serves the town. Accommodations have...character. Nightlife consists of bars and bingo (or in our family, card games on the motel patio). If you've never been...GO! :)

We went swimming at the city pool complex, which features four large water slides and huge diving platforms, as well as an indoor pool. We also floated the Portneuf River, which is very popular tubing. We had to skip the biggest rapids at the top because we took our two- and four-year-old sons on the big tube with us, but we still had a fun little ride and got all wet. We only got to make one pass because we missed most of the tubing day due to our other trip to SLC, which was for a final job interview for my husband. Usually we spend several hours being ferried through Lava Hot Springs to ride the river again and again.

The only water-related activity in Lava Hot Springs we skipped out on was the hot springs themselves. Too hot for our little kids! Instead we enjoyed the warm spring-fed private pool next to the reunion site.

Dining options in Lava Hot Springs have improved over the last few years. We had some decent Thai food in a converted gas station and some very good burgers and fries at 78 Main, which is a new place at the site of the old (bad) Johnny's. Tyson had the Bacon & Blue burger, and I had a chicken burger with brie and fried green apple slices. Service was great and the restaurant has been freshened up inside.

I highly recommend staying at the Alpaca Inn, and I can't recommend any other motel in town. I love the off-Main Street location, grassy courtyard, and personal touches at this place. The owners are great and the rooms are clean and fresh (somewhat of a novelty in Lava) -- and alpaca-themed! Can't beat that! The other place in town I like isn't actually in town - it's up in the mountains. It's a fun little cabin (with running water, etc.) the owner rents out by the night. It's called the Abracadabra Lava Guest Home and it's a great little hideaway.

After three trips on I-15 that weekend, we drove back through Downey and Preston and saw the most gorgeous sunset ever. Right after I reminded my husband to watch his speed now that we weren't on the highway, he got pulled over for speeding. He was given a warning and we went on our way. Seriously, watch your speed if you ever travel through there!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Montez Brothers Menu and Review - Logan, Utah

I mentioned before that there were changes afoot at Hamilton's, a fine dining steak and seafood restaurant that has been a fixture in Cache Valley since 2004. Hamilton's has now become Montez Brothers. This Herald Journal article clarifies the ownership changes. I will report on the changes to the decor, menu, and service. I also photographed the menu, which isn't currently available online.

I'm torn here. I always encourage everyone I know to support our unique locally-owned eateries over national chains, and to visit the great restaurants we already have instead of wishing for one chain or another that we don't have. I don't like to be negative on this blog because I want to be a fan and a champion of local.

That being said, I am going to report the truth: my experience at Montez Brothers was uneven, both in terms of food and service. I hope this can be chalked up to early-days kinks that will be ironed out as the new restaurant finds its legs.

There's always a danger in reviewing a restaurant based on a single visit. I hope to return to Montez Brothers soon with Logan Foodies to sample a wider variety of dishes. In the meantime I'm going to abbreviate this review. If any of the owners/managers read this and would like to discuss in more detail the positives and negatives I saw in the restaurant, I welcome them to contact me. I want local places to succeed! 

Montez Brothers
2427 N. Main Street, Logan, Utah
435-787-8450 (under construction as of 7/27/12)

Hours: Open for dinner only, Monday-Thursday 5-9pm, Friday-Saturday 5-10pm, closed Sunday
Prices: Appetizers/Salads: $6-12, Entrees: $13-24
Liquor: Yes, full liquor license, wine menu, and bar
Year Opened: 2012

Quick Review of Montez Brothers - Logan, Utah

Montez Brothers -- described by the owners as a "Latin-influenced" restaurant -- makes a worthy attempt to rise from the ashes of Hamilton's, but this phoenix seems to have a clipped wing. Sometimes it soars, as with the inventive ahi tuna tostada appetizer ($8) and improved interior touches. Sometimes it bombs -- bland sea bass entree ($24), service issues. Montez Brothers lacks focus as it tries to walk the line between being Latin-influenced and being just another Latin restaurant in a town overflowing with them. Not a hint of Latin influence in the chicken and pasta dishes, more so on the beef and appetizer list. Our meal started on a high note with the tuna tostadas, but went downhill when our entree order wasn't "put in", leading to an extremely long wait time and the offer of a comped dessert. It didn't help that the sea bass entree in question ended up being not at all worth the wait (or the price). The helpful manager and huge portion of tasty creme brulee helped the meal end on a sweeter note. I'd like to see Montez Brothers work through these food and service issues, but will it ever fly higher than Hamilton's once did? I'll reserve my final opinion and give the restaurant another chance in a few months.

Detailed Review of Montez Brothers - Logan, Utah

As we approached Montez Brothers, we noted a sign on the door that said "original" Hamilton's gift cards would be honored until July 31st, with the proper gift card posted. We later heard a server explaining that there were many other types of Hamilton's gift certificates and cards that were not being honored. I understand that the financials of the two restaurants are entirely separate, and that the new owners have every right not to honor old certificates and cards. On the other hand, their decision is causing a lot of bad feelings about the restaurant right out of the gate, and seems like a bad p.r. move. Companies can gain a lot of favor with the public when they "pick up the pieces" of a failed enterprise. Montez Brothers is leaving themselves open for a competitor to step up and honor the Hamilton's cards, even at 50% value. I've seen this done before, to great effect.

Moving on...

Upon entering Montez Brothers we were promptly greeted by a friendly hostess who told us the wait would be about five minutes. Another party was waiting as well. She offered both parties seats at the bar, which we both declined. We knew that Montez Brothers was a "Latin themed" restaurant, but wondered what that meant in the context of semi-fine-dining, so we quickly grabbed a couple of menus to see what was in store. The menu, which featured a few Latin ingredients and preparations among other influences (chicken cordon blue?), seemed to lack direction but looked promising.

Soon we were seated in the cavernous main dining room, which was about 1/3 full. That caused me to wonder why we hadn't been seated upon arrival, but I suppose there were only so many waitpersons available. The room has been freshly painted deep red and gold, and has had a few minor changes to the decor. Casual drapes line the booths along the walls, new artwork is featured above the double-sided stone fireplace, and green pendant lights hang above the booths. Notably, the dark wood floor that was looking extremely rough and scratched on my most recent visit to Hamilton's has now been refinished in a lighter and more rustic stain that will better hide wear. Nothing about the ambiance screams "Latin" (other than the music), which I appreciated but at the same time found confusing -- how much has the restaurant really changed?

My answer would be...not enough (YET) to not meet the fate of Hamilton's. Rather than continue with a long and detailed review I will quickly note some of the positives and negatives we experienced.


  • Friendly and prompt hostess
  • Clean, refurbished restaurant that feels "nice". This is still a gracious place to eat a meal. The big round tables are great for larger parties, too.
  • Interesting menu with several appetizing descriptions
  • Tuna tostada appetizer ($9), which featured slices of seared soy-glazed ahi tuna accompanied by fresh guacamole and pickled cucumber salsa on 3.5" diameter tostada crisps - a fun Latin-Asian fusion appetizer, four per order.
  • Attentive and friendly front-of-house manager who visited our table several times after a service snafu
  • Creme brulee, which was comped and arrived in a trough-sized ramekin (troughekin?)

  • Our server, who was monotone, unenergetic, and unsmiling, and who poured water in my husband's soda glass from the halfway point of the meal on, instead of asking if he would like a refill, and who may or may not have forgotten to put in our entree order.
  • Timing issues. After we waited a significant amount of time for our entrees to arrive we were informed there was a "mix-up" and our order hadn't been "put in" at the right time. We were offered a comped dessert.
  • Sea bass entree ($24). Bland, overcooked (shrimp especially), and overpriced. Waiting so long for it made it doubly disappointing.
  • Typographical errors all over the menu. That kind of stuff in a printed piece drives me crazy and really downgrades a "fine dining" restaurant in my eyes. (Don't judge me for typos here, haha!)

Could go either way:
  • White queso appetizer ($7), which featured roasted poblano peppers and was much better than the version at Chili's, though not as good as one I used to get at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Bountiful ages ago. I was hoping for natural unprocessed cheese, so for me it tasted too much like elevated gas station nachos, but I think this appetizer is probably a crowd pleaser.
  • Grilled peach salad ($11). Great in theory, it featured arugula, fresh mozzarella, lemon dressing, and balsamic reduction. If only the peaches had in fact been grilled, but there was no evidence that they had been, and they were far under-ripe to boot. It still tasted good and fresh.
  • Lack of focus. The restaurant is supposed to be "Latin influenced", but features a lot of French-, Italian-, and New American-style dishes instead, with a few Latin ingredients and dishes thrown in here and there. Maybe this was an attempt to keep some of the popular dishes from Hamilton's? I note that a coujple of the chicken dishes, one of the pastas, one salad, and one seafood dish remain from the Hamilton's menu.
  • Prices. The only significant price reductions are in the Steaks and Appetizers areas of the menu. Prices are unchanged on the Hamilton's dishes that remain. The prices overall are very comparable to The Elements restaurant and not all that much higher than, say, Olive Garden

As you can see, that's a bigger list of positives than negatives, and the negatives are easily fixed with training and refinement of the menu. I hope to see improvements the next time I visit.

What about you, anyone else been to Montez Brothers? How was it?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Labyrinth at St. John's Episcopal Church - Logan, Utah

What: Labyrinth at St. John's Episcopal Church
Where: 85 East 100 North, Logan, Utah
When:  The building is open Monday from 9am-noon, Tuesday-Friday from 8am-noon, and Monday-Friday from 1pm to 3pm. Worship services at St. John's (Service of Holy Eucharist) are Sunday at 9am and 11am and Wednesday at 5:30pm.
Cost: FREE
FYI: The open hours outside of worship times provide more solitude for the sacred walk.


Did you know that inside this lovely old church (St. John's Episcopal church in Logan) I mentioned as a venue of the CVCA Gallery Walk, there's a labyrinth? It's true.

Now, I grew up in the '80s so it's impossible for me to say labyrinth without thinking of this.

Great show. My three-year-old little sister endearingly called it "The Goblet King" [the Goblin King], and we had "Dance, Magic Dance" sing-offs bi-weekly. I think I have the entire movie memorized to this day.

...Oops, I seem to have gotten off track. Anyway, when I say "labyrinth", I'm still referring to something pretty cool. It's this...

In the entry to St. John's is a walkable labyrinth modeled after the one in France's Chartres Cathedral. Labyrinths of this type are considered a non-denominational symbol to be used as a "sacred walk". A labyrinth, unlike a maze, is unicursal - which means there is only one path, with no decision points. Walking a labyrinth is said to quiet the mind and allow for meditation, reflection, and prayer. The St. John's website even suggests helping young children walk the labyrinth when they do not wish to sit during church service.

There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth, but most enter and proceed slowly to the center, pause for as long as wished to reflect, then turn around and proceed by the same path to exit. The many turns in a labyrinth often cause those who walk the path to lose sense of the directions of the outside world, allowing for an inward focus and the opportunity to find one's own direction.

The labyrinth was installed during a 2004 renovation and expansion of St. John's, which was originally built in 1909. When it opened, St. John's featured the valley's first lending library and first indoor shower (in the church basement). At that time, Sundays found the priest preaching to as many as 30 Mormons to 1 "gentile", since the church was an important community center for all. The congregation has grown and Sunday service now has close to 200 attendees who worship in this beautiful Sanctuary.

The exterior of the church is described as "Western-Romanesque-Gothic".

A stone at the southeast corner of the building memorializes some important dates in the history of St. John's. The first St. John's Episcopal Church in the valley was a small adobe building at 91 West 200 North in Logan, a former bakery the Episcopalian congregation first occupied in 1873. A simple wooden church was later constructed at 263 West Center in 1877, which was used until the "new" St. John's was constructed in 1908-1909.

The church originally had clear glass windows, which were replaced over time by stained glass.

St. John's also acts as a concert venue from time to time, such as last March when singers and musicians under the direction of Dr. Craig Jessop performed portions of J.S. Bach's "St Matthew Passion" in concert on Good Friday. I'll be watching for further concert announcements.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

First Splash Pad In Cache Valley - Alma Leonhardt Park, Providence, Utah

When I compiled my list of fun places to swim or get wet with kids in Cache Valley, I didn't know that the first splash pad in the Logan area had opened while I lived in Philadelphia. Three different people happened to mention it to me the next week, in different contexts. Talk about a message! I knew my little boys would love it, so I took them for a visit last week.

What: Splash Pad at Alma Leonhardt Park
Where: 310 West 250 North, Providence, Utah
Hours: Park open daily, dawn to dusk. Splash pad water feature available from 10am to 8pm.
Cost: FREE
FYI: Trees are small so you may want to bring your own shade (umbrella, beach tent, etc.), and of course towels!

Cache Valley's first splash pad opened at Alma Leonhardt Park in Providence, Utah in the summer of 2010. The pad is 1,200 square feet and has 63 jets, including a tall and powerful column spray in the center. The jets are activated by the push of a button at the side of the pad, and run on a cycle for a few minutes before the button needs to be pushed again.

The different jets and water features at a splash pad provide a lot of soaking wet fun for kids - much like running through the sprinklers, but with more variety and an element of surprise. For parents, it's a great spectator water activity that doesn't require them to get wet. Yay! (Some days you just don't want to put on your swimming suit, right? Or is that just me?)

Alma Leonhardt Park also has a fun playground that is partially wheelchair accessible, a large grassy area, restrooms, and a good-sized picnic pavilion. My boys enjoyed running back and forth from the splash pad to the playground, while I huddled in the rapidly decreasing shade of the restroom building. There are a few small trees that provide a minimal spots of shade around the perimeter of the splash pad, but in-the-know moms had come armed with pop-up beach umbrellas and tents.

In February 2012 the North Logan City Council heard a proposal from Public Works Director Alan Luce regarding addition of a splash pad to Mountain View Park. I haven't heard anything further about this possibility, but I hope it comes to fruition.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Happy Pioneer Day!

I'm off for the holiday, but I'll be back tomorrow. Sit tight, because I have posts about Sweetly Divine and Montez brothers in the hopper, plus more. I hope you have a happy and safe holiday!
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