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Dave Bartlett, executive chef at the rebuilt Callahan's Siskiyou Lodge, combines old favorites and new entrees, with a local and regional emphasis. - Jim Craven

Back with a flourish

Visitors to the rebuilt Callahan's Siskiyou Lodge in Ashland will find much as it was before 2006's devastating fire.

The rough-hewn timbers, double-sided stone fireplace and other iconic touches all have been replaced, even down to a copy of the Old West-style portrait that graced the bar.

But just as Callahan's improved, adding an elevator, wine cellar and additional guest rooms, so has new chef Dave Bartlett updated the mountain inn's menu, long known for Italian cuisine served in five courses for a set fee.

"There will be a lot of new things, and there's a lot of old," Bartlett says.

Customers can still expect hearty portions at a fair price, particularly considering Callahan's remote location, Bartlett says. While the new menu pays tribute to the inn's Italian roots, Bartlett plans to capitalize on the availability of seasonal, local produce and the trend toward incorporating unique regional ingredients.

Pear wood, for example, will replace cedar planks for roasting Pacific Salmon. Pear cider is the marinade for a new twist on Callahan's old stuffed pork chop. And Ashland Amber Ale forms the batter for deep-fried prawns.

"Everything's kind of evolved," Bartlett says. "And we have to move forward with the times."

The menu had already weathered plenty of change since Nilde Cervellin, an Italian immigrant and wife of founder Don Callahan, conceived it in the 1950s. New owners Ron and Donna Bergquist expanded offerings in the late 1990s and installed a red-oak broiler. Sticking with the five-course format prior to the fire, the Bergquists say they were criticized for serving such large portions that too often went into the trash.

When the landmark lodge reopens next week, dinner won't commence with antipasti, unless it's ordered separately as an appetizer. Patrons will have to choose between the merits of soup or salad. Although dessert no longer comes with the meal, home-baked bread does.

Callahan's beloved veal scallopini is poised for a return, but like many "traditional favorites," will benefit from updated accompaniments and more polished plating techniques, Bartlett says.

"There's nothing that says we can't make them look good on the plate," he says.

Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Bartlett, 53, ran kitchens at Jake's Famous Crawfish, University Club of Portland and, most recently, Prineville's Meadow Lakes Golf Course. A Rogue Valley native who spent 40 years away, Bartlett recalls dining at Callahan's when it was still located on Highway 99 and when all the dishes came with spaghetti. Writing the next piece of Callahan's history, Bartlett says he has been studying Nilde Callahan's original recipes and interviewing her for clarification.

"The veal scallopine, she has a totally different take on it," Bartlett says. "One cook was having trouble because he doesn't understand a 'dash' of this and a 'handful' of that."

But cooks' jobs will be easier in Callahan's new kitchen, more than double the size of the old one and outfitted with a second line to better accommodate banquets simultaneous with the nightly dinner crowd. Breakfast and lunch service — added under the Bergquists' tenure — continues, and Callahan's already has started booking events, Donna Bergquist says.

"We're better set up now."

While the main dining room has about 20 fewer seats, the patio's seating capacity more than doubled, Bergquist says. An additional dining area adjoins the new wine cellar, where the Bergquists plan to host winemaker dinners for 18 to 24 people. The wine list, Donna Bergquist says, will be "better," but likely will evolve once Callahan's reopens.

"There will be slight changes forever," Bartlett says.

Callahan's new menus can be downloaded from the Web site www.callahanslodge.com. Call 482-1299.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.

See a video tour of the new lodge.

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