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Options for the big feast

For many families, turkey is the go-to main dish for Christmas dinner. It can be a beautiful centerpiece, glistening and golden brown. And the leftovers make great sandwiches on the weekend. On the other hand, it can be fun to change it up from time to time.

Christmas isn’t just for the birds.

Vegans and vegetarians already have discovered delicious alternatives such as stuffed mini-pumpkins, veggie casseroles and the often-maligned tofurky.

If you’re a carnivore, however, tofu isn’t going to cut it. Besides all the fresh, frozen, self-basting, brined, kosher, free-range, organic, hen or tom turkeys in the meat cases, local markets are ready with a big selection of tasty alternatives.

Talk to local butchers. They’ll help you choose something special for your Christmas meal, and most are happy to assist with special cuts or trims.

Duane Holston, a butcher at Albertsons in Ashland, says he is bringing in a case of geese for the holidays and will have ducks available too. Cartwright’s Market in Medford has a 70-foot meat case that will include a large section of special holiday meats. This time of year, you’ll also find lots of USDA Choice and Prime rib roasts, and crown roasts of pork and lamb in the meat cases.

For a special treat, visit one of the local butcher shops, which offer personalized customer service and products that aren’t widely available.

The Rogue Valley has several of these independent markets, each with an expanded meat-centric selection:

  • The Butcher Shop, 1532 S. Shasta Ave., Eagle Point, 541-830-3369. In addition to dry-cured hams, spectacular cuts of beef roasts and smoked turkeys, they offer leg and rack of lamb, smoked pork chops and a wide variety of fresh seafood, including smoked salmon, live steamer clams, swordfish, shark and lobster tails. Are you game for an exotic? Try their turducken, a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey.
  • Cherry Street Meats, 986 Cherry St., Medford, 541-773-1585. You’ll find a large selection of meat and poultry items, including beef steaks and roasts, pork roasts and ribs, racks of lamb, veal, and duck breasts or legs. Scallops, ahi tuna, and wild Alaskan skin-on salmon can be found in its seafood department.
  • Gary West Artisan Smoked Meats, 690 N. Fifth St., Jacksonville, 800-833-1820, is a local source for gourmet beef, buffalo and elk jerky. They also offer some specialty items for the holiday feast. Besides their popular brined and slowly smoked turkeys, they sell hams, available in halves and wholes depending on the type. Choose from a lean yuletide tavern ham, Gary’s Pride boneless Pitt ham, Granny West’s bone-in old-fashioned ham, and a classic glazed and sliced, bone-in spiral-cut ham.
  • Montgomery Meats, 175 N. First St., Central Point, 541-664-0727. One of their specialties is smoked turkeys. Also available will be prime rib, hams, pork crown roasts, and the usual selection you’d find in a full-service meat market. Their beef is all-natural Cedar River.
  • The Wharf Fresh Seafood Market & Eatery, 827 W. Jackson St., Medford, 541-858-0200. It’s a seafood bistro with a casual atmosphere. But the gem of the shop is a small retail counter at the front of the store, offering fresh seafood. Whether you’re looking for a standout fish dish for the holiday table, need fresh seafood ingredients for your famous Christmas cioppino, or want to order crab for New Year’s Eve, they can oblige.

Dining in or out?

Gathering the family around the home fires for a Christmas meal is a long-established American tradition.

Even when you don’t feel like cooking, you can still enjoy dinner at home, thanks to well equipped kitchens and bakeries in many local supermarkets. They offer fully-cooked prepared dishes such as turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravies, dinner rolls, sides and pies. Some offer complete Christmas dinners for a package price. You can order those ahead at Safeway, Albertsons, Market of Choice, Ashland Food Co-Op, Fred Meyer and WinCo Foods.

But when you don’t feel like cooking or ordering in, a festive meal out may fit the bill. Following are several dine-out options for Christmas day.

  • Black Bear Diner, 1150 Barnett Road, Medford, 541-773-4060. They’ll offer Christmas ham and turkey along with their regular menu, until 9 p.m.
  • Callahan’s Mountain Lodge and Restaurant, Exit 6 off I-5 south of Ashland, 541-482-1299. There will be an expansive buffet with traditional Christmas dishes as well as a limited a la carte menu, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations recommended.
  • Elmer’s Restaurant, 2000 Biddle Road, Medford, 541-772-2000. A special holiday menu is on tap Christmas day with soup or salad and pumpkin pie, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St. Christmas dinner will be served free to all, from noon to 4 p.m. There will be a freshly prepared buffet-style turkey dinner with all the trimmings plus dessert and live music. To-go deliveries are also available for the Ashland/Talent area. Call 541-482-8539 before Dec. 19 to order, or to volunteer. It’s sponsored by Ashland Christian Fellowship and local merchants.
  • Iron Skillet, 3730 Fern Valley Road, Phoenix, 541-535-3372. Their holiday buffet will be served from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., with ham, turkey, dressing, the usual holiday side dishes and desserts. Adult and children’s prices.
  • Lark’s Home Kitchen Cuisine, Ashland Springs Hotel, 212 E. Main St., Ashland, 541-488-5558. Five seatings are planned, three in the restaurant and two in the Crystal Room, featuring a multi-course dinner with a choice of three starters, four entrees (pan-seared sea bass, duck breast, prime rib or butternut squash with spinach gratin) and dessert, served 1 to 7 p.m. Adult and children’s prices. Reservations required.
  • Lark’s Kitchen & Cocktails at Inn at the Commons, 200 N. Riverside Ave., Medford, 541-774-4760. Christmas buffet, multiple seatings between noon and 5 p.m. The spread will include seven starters, seafood (oyster shooters, smoked prawn harissa cocktails, crab), several sides, three entrees (pork loin, New York strip loin “prime rib,” salmon Florentine), and several desserts. Adult and children’s prices. Reservations required.
  • Shari’s Restaurant, 71 E. Stewart Ave., Medford, 541-857-8969. Their regular extensive menu will be available, including a large selection of house-made pies.

Jim Flint is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

courtesy photo The meat case at Montgomery Meats in Central Point will feature smoked turkeys, hams, pork crown roasts and all-natural Cedar Hills beef and prime rib for the holidays.
Jim Flint photo Chris Naranjo at The Butcher Shop in Eagle Point displays two tomahawk steaks from the meat case. Designed to impress at the dinner table, the tomahawk is a large ribeye steak with the entire rib still attached.