Meriwether’s Hashcapade and the Mole Baby

Mole baby? As in those blind, digging rat thangs? No! I mean moh-lay, as in Oaxacan mole, the delicious, smoky sauce from Mexico. And I mean bay-bee as in a “baby” that you create from filling your belly with food! Such was the fate of one of our intrepid hashcapade tweeps.

Matt ordered Meriwether’s eye-popping Huevos Rancheros whose foundation is a mole casserole topped with eggs and guacamole. After the meal, he rubbed his distended belly, smiled and pronounced the immaculate conception of his mole baby – priceless! Now that you understand the end of this post’s title, let’s start with the beginning…

These Huevos Rancheros created a mole baby!

I had never heard of Meriwether’s even though I ran right by it during this year’s 40th Portland Marathon. Fortunately, Lisa was a veteran of this charmingly warm, spacious and inviting restaurant that happens to serve a mean hash. It also boasts an absolutely splendid outdoor area. Can I just say that I cannot wait for warm weather to return for a chance to sit outside?

Meriwether's on NW Vaughn and NW 26th

Amazing al fresco dining awaits warmer weather.

And it gets better – Meriwether’s grows its own produce at Meriwether’s Skyline Farm for a true farm-to-fork experience that’s hard to beat! So as our hungry crew sat down, we were salivating at all of the sumptuous choices on the menu. True to form, I zeroed in on the Corned Beef Skillet Hash – potatoes, kale and sunny-side eggs. If you’ve ever wondered why it’s called “corned” beef, let me enlighten you. Before refrigeration, hard grains of salt were used to salt and preserve meat. In Old English, a hard grain is call a corn. Now you know!

Their Corned Beef Hash is served in a hot cast iron skillet.

When my hash arrived, the skillet was fresh-out-of-the-oven hot – excellent first impression. As I started to dig into the corned beef hash, my eyes bugged out at the big, chunky, succulent morsels of corned beef. Are you kidding me?! The potatoes were full of flavor, as though they had been brined before being roasted. Farm-fresh kale provided a splash of green and a perfect, toothsome bite while the sliced, roasted garlic helped amp up the dish. Don’t even get me started on the other dishes…

Chicken & Waffles, Dutch Baby Pancake, Housemade Granola, Biscuits & Gravy (clockwise from upper left)

…too late. I included the other dishes at our table – instant food porn entrees. We scrambled like forty-niners going for the mother-lode as we pulled out iPhones, Droids and Nikons to capture this epic hashcapade! Thanks to Lisa, Matt, Jenn, Dave, Lars, Matt and Lisa – rutabegas! Oh, and to the patient staff for putting up with our unruly table, thank you!

Happy Hashcapades,

Clark

Beer-Braised Pork Belly Sweet Potato & Chanterelle Hash

“Psssst! Clark!” Kathy whispered. Before I could respond, she thrust a document into my hands, performed a perfect pirouette and left my cube. Browsing the two-page black & white copy, I could only chuckle as I realized it was a recipe from Bon Appetit for Sweet Potato-Pork Belly Hash. My peeps were feeding my hashcapade obsession!

Beer-Braised Pork Belly, Sweet Potato & Chanterelle Hash

I love hearing new suggestions for restaurants serving hash. I love getting new recipes. I love it! Sometimes I create something from my imagination and other times I modify a recipe to suit my style and technique. This hashcapade was one of the latter because my favorite mushrooms, chanterelles, were in season – huzzah!

Gorgeous chanterelle mushrooms begging to hash it up!

Basic ingredients...but where's the pork belly?

Another game changer was the product of sheer luck. We went to Uwajimaya to get high-quality, Carlton Farms pork belly. While cruising the produce aisles, a reddish-purple tuber caught my eye – a Japanese sweet potato. Combined with the yam, I’d have a good contrast of orange and golden sweet potatoes to amp up the presentation! Finally, you’ll notice BridgePort Brewing’s Kingpin Double Red Ale, which I substituted for half of the braising liquid.

Sweet potatoes and shallots look festive!

Because this recipe calls for braising the pork belly for 3 hours, you can use the extra time to prep/cook the potatoes and cook the chanterelles. Hopefully, you’ll have the time to also catch part of a college game, paint your bedroom or take a post-marathon run like I did 🙂 And when it’s ready, heaven awaits – rich, flavorful, succulent beer-braised pork belly!

Pork Belly getting ready for braising.

Beer-Braised Pork Belly cooling down.

After all was said and done, this was a very tasty hashcapade. Imagine the tender, lip-smacking, beer-braised pork belly quickly seared in the pan to develop a lovely crispy crust. Then consider the sweet lusciousness of shallot-infused sweet potatoes combined with the earthy, woody and dense chanterelles. Finished off with syrup, red wine vinegar and a poached egg, this was truly a flavor-gasmic hashcapade!

Tucking into a heavenly hash!

So, a few other modifications. I added a sprig of fresh rosemary in the braising liquid. For the chanterelles, I sweated them in 2 tablespoons of butter, then added 1/4 cup of cooking sherry and a teaspoon of fresh thyme. Finally, rather than wait for the pork belly to be done, I used 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and cooked them for about 15 minutes, before adding the shallots for the final 5 or so minutes. I also used the pork belly immediately rather than press and refrigerate over night – I was hungry!!!

Tell me about your experience with this recipe or your favorite way to cook pork belly 🙂

Happy Hashcapades,

Clark

Cozy Hashcapade at Lair Hill Bistro

Running the streets and paths of Portland has its benefits. I stay fit. I get to see different neighborhoods. But most of all, I get to plot my next hashcapade as the miles roll past and the minutes become hours. And so it was during my 21-mile benchmark run that took me past Lair Hill Bistro on SW 1st. “Say, this is the spot that Charles talked about where the hash is so amazing. Well shut my mouth and damn my eyes!” I mused to myself as I ran past.

Lair Hill Bistro and a hungry boy...

As we walked through the doors of the bistro, my son pointed and said with excitement, “Dad, there’s another cat!” The fluffy Siamese cat, aptly named Siam, blinked at us as if to say, “Welcome, have a seat and I’ll be right there.” Surveying the charming, cozy bistro (and market) separated in the middle by racks of wine and a self-serve coffee nook, I felt instantly at home. Too bad I didn’t bring my slippers!

Cozy interior = instant at-home feeling.

We sat down at a table by the window and sure enough, Siam ambled up to our table to check us out. Then, our waitress, Augusta, came over to provide menus and see what we wanted to drink.  I introduced myself and explained that I blog about hash as I offered her my card. She was only too happy to oblige and even offered to have the owner, Richard Varner, stop by. I could tell this was going to be a fabulous hashcapade!

Siam kept us company while we waited for our breakfast.

Siam then jumped up on an empty chair to further inspect us and make sure we were worthy of Lair Hill’s brunch. The conversation went something like this: “I hope you tip decently and vote. Say…..I like your camera! Does the kid come with it?” purred Siam curiously. “No, you cannot have my camera or my son, but I’ll spot you some half and half,” I countered. Siam’s gorgeous blue eyes beamed, “Deal!”

While we waited for out breakfast, I gazed out the window and soaked in more of the Lair Hill neighborhood’s eclectic vibe – multi-hued Victorian-style houses with impressively ornate woodwork dot the area. Turns out that Lair Hill was named after William Lair Hill, a lawyer, historian and one-time editor of The Oregonian from 1872-1877. I then started to daydream about early settlers when my hash arrived.

Pork Loin Hash with Rosemary Sherry Balsamic & Chipotle Sauce - Yum!

What a sumptuous looking hash! Pork loin, crispy, seasoned Yukon gold potatoes, with a killer rosemary, sherry, chipotle and balsamic reduction sauce, red pepper and two poached eggs – are you kidding me?!?! My first bites was measured as I sampled the individual components. My second bite was like an excavator dumping a shovel full of dirt into a dump truck – I basically started to pig-out! Fortunately for me, a giant of a man walked up, sat down and introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Richard.” With my face stuffed full, I managed to say my name and shake his massive hand.

While I continued to eat my hash at a more civilized pace, Richard recounted his journey from Portland, to Los Angeles, to San Francisco and back home to Portland. Restaurant bus boy, assistant manager, chef, general contractor and now proud owner of Lair Hill Bistro. He bought the house in 1995 (lives upstairs with his wife, Cheryl) and opened the bistro in 1997.

A seasoned restaurant veteran, the hash was his invention – what alchemy! As it turns out we had both done riffs on Emeril Lagasse’s considerable repertoire of spice mixes. We also discovered a mutual acquaintance (we’ll call him Chip) and a mutual interest in travel. Barcelona is on Richard’s itinerary – so I offered a few tips on Barri Gotic and recommended Restaurant Moo.

Chatting with Richard was like spending time with an old friend – very comfortable, good conversation and a true pleasure. As I mentioned before, Lair Hill Bistro feels like home – cozy, friendly, casual and care-free – the type of place that hearkens back to simpler, less hectic times. Tucked into a fabulous Portland neighborhood, a hidden gem, I’ve found a second home that will refuel your soul and your belly!

Happy Hashcapades,

Clark