Pork Confit Hash at Cocotte

When I first saw the name of this restaurant, my mind scrambled it and the word, coquette, came to mind – suggestive, eyelash-batting flirting. But no, it’s cocotte, which is French for (among other things) an individual casserole baking dish. Personally, the flirting is more apt because their libations and hash were flirting with me the entire time! French press coffee, Bloody Mary with candied bacon and an exquisite Pork Confit Hash – ooh la la, monsieur!

Cocotte on NE 30th and NE Killingsworth

Also flirting with culinary nirvana were veterans from prior hashcapades, Mary and Cory, plus two newbies, Nick and Andy. As it turns out, Andy is an über accomplished globetrotter, inspiring our table to recount trips, dishes and misadventures while abroad – gypsy pickpockets in Cologne, walking around Edinburgh, and Stroopwafel from The Netherlands. And here we were in little old Portland, eagerly awaiting oeufs en cocotte (eggs in cocotte) and pork confit hash!

Extraordinary Bloody Mary - Bacon Accessorized!

But first, we have to talk about the Bloody Mary. I was the only one at the table to order a breakfast cocktail. When it arrived, we collectively zeroed in on the candied bacon that shamelessly caused us to ogle the amazing presentation. Honestly, the drink could have been colored blue with prickly pear cactus and it wouldn’t have mattered – seriously!! Coincidentally, the rest of the crew ordered a side of the brown sugar bacon with their entrées 🙂

Cocotte's stellar Pork Confit Hash

When the hash arrived, Cocotte’s presentation was simply stunning – pork confit, rainbow chard stems, mustard, roasted brussels sprouts, crème fraîche, and a sunny-side egg. Are you kidding me? Hovering over the food, I stole a glance at my compatriots who were equally enthralled with their selections and proceeded to dig in. Impressive. Sublime. I could go on, but this was truly one of the best hashes I’ve ever had! Who knew brussels sprouts could complement a hash so well – great texture and slightly sweet counterpoint to the softer chard and roasted potatoes. Très bon!

Sated tweeps outside Cocotte

We could have easily spent another hour talking about food, travel and social media, but the cozy restaurant was bursting at the seams. We had to let Cocotte flirt with new patrons and lure them with candied bacon and libations – santé!

Happy Hashcapades,

Clark

Hi Spot Cafe is *the* Spot

I am a Hopist. That is to say, I am a complete convert to the positive spirit and cozy charm of Hi Spot Cafe. This realization struck me twice. The first time was during this post’s epic hashcapade with one of my super tweeps, Jackie. The second time was when I conceived of Hopist as an anagram from Hi Spot! By the way, my new word is pronounced with a long “o” lest you think I’m talking about hip hop or hops…

Hi Spot Cafe on 34th Ave and E Union St in Seattle

Anyway, this hashcapade had “fabulous” written all over it because Hi Spot came highly recommended and the weather was perfect – a brisk, sunny fall morning. And if that weren’t enough for a bona fide Hopist, I snagged a parking spot in front! Because I was in town attending the SuperComputing 2011 conference, I can say the odds of both occurrences in Seattle were exactly one in a bazillion, give or take!

Cozy upstairs nook at the Hi Spot.

While I waited for Jackie to arrive, the irresistible atmosphere begged for a few photos to capture the ambiance of this hashcapade properly. The upstairs nook had a bright and comfortable feel to it, a sense of community. Creative artwork was displayed along one of the walls downstairs, creating a sense of vibrant energy. Both are undoubtedly apt descriptions of Hi Spot’s proprietor for the last 17 years, Mike Walker, whom Jackie and I met briefly.

Scott Smith's funky artwork adorns one wall...

The lovely and hip (with cool glasses) Treisa attended to our every need as Jackie and I chatted up a storm like old friends as tweeps often do! You see, we met through twitter and have mutual interests in good food, travel, blogging, edgy art, photography and high-tech. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: social media is real and we had a really good time!

Hi Spot's Corned Beef Hash - yum!

And so to the hash – house-cured corned beef, shredded potatoes mixed with cayenne pepper and paprika, onion and celery. Jackie was the first to remark that celery is a rare component in hash, but it worked remarkably well! I rather liked the piquant, smoky shredded potatoes combined with the bright notes of celery anchored by the perfect corned beef. Altogether, a very delicious hash creation for this Hopist 🙂

Thanks again, to Mike and Treisa, and especially to my new BFF, Jackie, for an epic hashcapade at Hi Spot!

Happy Hashcapades,

Clark

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

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

Manifest Hashcapade at Yolk

For the hash obsessed, it doesn’t get much better than this: Don Kotler, owner of Toast, launched a food cart, Yolk. Wait. It gets better…they serve hash every day – HUZZAH! My faithful tweep, Lyndsey McBride, invited me to the pre-opening festivities and, like MacArthur, I vowed “I shall return.”

A few weeks later, @Toast_PDX let me know that Bacon Hash was on the menu. Since I had already experienced a lovely hashcapade at Toast, I knew this was fate calling me to honor my vow. “Clark. Manifest Destiny. It’s time to return to Yolk,” thundered fate. (It wasn’t loud nor in stereo because my left ear was plugged, but that’s another story.)

Yolk - located at SE Woodstock and SE 48th

And so, I drove from Bethany on the northwest side to Woodstock on the southeast side. Technically, this is reverse manifest destiny, but I didn’t care. I was totally stoked to sample as many hashes as Yolk offered! When I arrived, the cool Yolk Breakfast logo greeted me like an old friend: “Morning, Clark! I’m glad to see you! You’re buying, right?”

Toby Hash and Mary Had a Little Lamb Hash for today.

Anyway, I checked out the menu and was delighted to see Toby and Mary Had A Little Lamb. In case the writing is too small, let me break it down for you. Toby Hash has summer corn, roasted potatoes, spinach, heirloom tomatoes topped with a sunny side up egg with 3 pepper cream. Don mentioned that one of his old roommates, Toby Jones, would whip up all kinds of hash, thus the name. Mary does indeed have ground lamb, roasted potatoes, braised greens (chard that day), zucchini, tossed with mint & herbs and a sunny side up duck egg. Yes, duck egg!

Most people would choose one hash or the other, but not I. Nope. Hashcapades are serious adventures requiring stamina and conviction; the kind that Lewis and Clark embodied as they surveyed the Louisiana Purchase! So when I walked up to the counter, I ordered both – Manifest Hashcapade!

Ariel and Patrick made me feel like a king!

Ariel took my order like a pro, as if people would order double hash every day. Her cook, Patrick, fired up the grill in the background while I explained my terrible hash affliction and that I’d blog about Yolk. After taking some more pictures, I returned as the hash was being plated. “Make it pretty,” urged Ariel to Patrick. I had to smile. They made me feel like a king!

Toby Hash - this picture doesn't do it justice!

Patrick’s presentation of the Toby Hash was stunning. He used a food ring for the yummy bits, then topped the hash with two eggs (I pulled them back for the photo), and swirled saba and chipotle cream around it. The sweet corn, tomatoes and potatoes, when combined with the egg and spinach, were a pure mouthful of summer goodness – unbelievable!

Mary Had A Little Lamb Hash - No, I did!

I knew I would simply hoover the Toby Hash off the plate if I didn’t pace myself, so I stopped halfway through and moved on to the Mary Had A Little Lamb Hash. Can I just say what a brilliant combination of veggies, fresh mint and ground lamb Mary is? There were hints of yogurt sauce and perhaps a bit of curry that really hit the spot! Thank you Ariel and Patrick for a lovely hashcapade 🙂

Happily sated, it was time to make the trek back to the western reaches of Portlandia, to fulfill a different kind of destiny – a nap!

Happy Hashcapades,

Clark

A Hashcapade to Remember

“Sept 11th, 10AM at Accanto for a #hashcapade. In?” That’s how I sent out the invite to my tweeps, purposely avoiding “9/11”. Would that somehow make it less serious? Would we ignore the proverbial elephant in the room? I wasn’t sure, but I was thrilled to welcome new hashcapaders to the fold and check out Accanto.


Accanto on  the corner of SE Belmont and SE 29th
I arrived early, taking photos of Accanto from multiple perspectives. A brilliant sun was already hard at work, intending to flirt with the mid 90s later in the day – glorious! I waited for the hashcapade crew at the sidewalk table, soaking in the sun and appreciating the stillness of a sleepy Belmont avenue. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania were hours into solemn remembrance of 9/11.

Executive Chef & General Manager, David Anderson works his magic!
Meeting new tweeps is always exciting and this day was no exception – Lars, David, and Jenn joined hashcapade veterans, Matt, Ori, Vivian, Lisa and Paul. Our waiter, David Jaworski (no relation to Ron – of course we asked!) treated us like royalty as he ushered us to our table. “We have the Polenta Hash on the menu and a special, Polenta Hash with Smoked Salmon,” he informed us. Are you kidding?!?! How awesome is that – Accanto added a special hash for my posse!!!

Da Posse: Paul, Vivian, David, Jenn, Ori, Clark, Lars, Lisa and Matt
I made it clear that a hashcapade is about 1) having fun, 2) ordering what you want, and 3) see rule 1! But, in a hashcapade first, everybody at the table, except the “Rebel in the Mist” ordered hash – huzzah! While we waited for our hash, we ordered Mimosas, Bloody Marys and The Cure – all excellent. Our conversation was energetic and buzz-worthy – football, work, wine, travel, twitter, blogs (OMG – we talked about PHP and HTML!) – but nothing about 9/11.

Polenta Hash w/ Pancetta, Caramelized Onion, Roasted Carrot, Fennel & Poached Eggs
Our hashes (two different types of hash are properly called hashes!) arrived and the chatter stopped as we tucked into the hash. The pancetta was chunky and tasty and the polenta “tots” were exquisite with a crunchy exterior yielding to creamy goodness! The caramelized onions were divine, helping impart a sweetness and texture that blended perfectly with the polenta and pancetta. And the poached eggs – can I just say they were perfect?

Completely sated, I marveled at the camaraderie of the table. Once strangers, twitter brought us together over hash. Thinking about 9/11, it had brought strangers around the USA together in solidarity. And today, the world was coming together to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Why shouldn’t we?

“Where were you when you heard about 9/11?” I asked the table. Since all of us were living on the west coast at the time, the most common answer was that family or friends had woken them up to relay the horribly devastating news. Others had been watching the morning news, mesmerized by the unthinkably evil and cowardly act. Each account diverged from there with personal details, spinning individual threads of vivid memories. 

I imagined similar threads being woven by millions, perhaps billions of people around the world today in answer to my simple question. These unforgettable memories, these threads, have produced a rich tapestry, a testament to human courage and resilience. And our table, in its right and proper way, was a part of it!

This was a hashcapade to remember.

Happy Hashcapades,
Clark

HSI – Flash Hashcapade at Circa 33

The tip came in from the Hashcapade Scene Investigator (HSI) computer lab. The crew had uncovered a disturbing facebook post: a “flash hashcapade” was in the works – but where?. I cursed under my breath as I hung up the phone and wondered aloud, “How do I stop this madness?!” Just then, a text alerted me to breaking news: “Circa 33, hurry!!!”

When I arrived, I knew it was too late. The waitress led me to the back patio where I found the table in disarray, toast halves in the coffee cup, butter pats scattered around like a deck of cards, knocked over glasses and a receipt with SOS scrawled on it. For having witnessed the entire episode, she was oddly calm as she smiled and offered, “They paid their bill and tipped me.”

The hashcapade scene…disturbing…SOS receipt…what the hell?!?!

A million questions popped into my head. “Did you notice anything odd about them?’ I asked. Rosie, the waitress and chief witness, replied, “No, typical bunch. But, now that I think about it, yes! They all ordered different types of hash! I thought they were crazy, but then again, they had quite a few mimosas, if you catch my drift!” “Show me,” I barked. Startled, Rosie shoved a menu under my nose and pointed out Circa 33’s cornucopia of different hashes.

Circa 33 Brunch Menu – Holy frijoles – the permutations of hash are endless!

“Do you really expect me to believe that you have this many hashes?” I asked incredulously. Rosie looked at me sideways and sarcastically said, “Maybe you could use a cup of joe and a donut. I’m finished talking to you. Leave me out of this!” She cut me down a few sizes, but I knew she was right. I deserved it. “Sorry. It just busts me up knowing they did this to you,” I managed to stammer. “Please, just a few more questions,” I begged like a moron.

Reluctantly, Rosie sat down, arms folded and looking annoyed. She was wearing a white apron with a sun dress and cowboy boots. I noticed her necklace and tried to gain her confidence by asking, “What kind of stone is that?” “Tourmaline,” she answered, smiling slightly at my awkward question. “Nice! (long pause) So, did it seem like one of them was the ring leader?” I inquired. “Yep, there was this guy with a camera and he  asked me to take pictures,” replied Rosie. “And what did he order?” I asked. Just then, another waitress walked by with a plate of hash and Rosie immediately pointed to it and excitedly blurted out, “That! Our Mushroom & Potato Hash with Smoked Trout. OMG, it is soooo yummy!”

Circa 33’s Mushroom & Potato Hash with Smoked Trout

Of course, I had to sample the next best thing to evidence and was impressed with the richness of the brined  and roasted potatoes, crimini mushrooms, trout and poached egg – simply delicious! “Hey, mister! Are you going to pay for that?” an annoyed Rosie asked. I snapped out of a my brief food coma and quickly apologized and then asked, “Can you show me how you make this?” She stood up, rolled her eyes in disgust and quickly went inside. “Please?” I begged as she disappeared through the alleyway.

Circa 33’s Alleyway from the back deck

Dumbfounded for a second, I ran after her, but she had vanished. The main dining room was empty as all the patrons had opted to dine al fresco on the back deck. Looking for clues, I happened upon a framed kit of kitchen instruments and mused that these were pioneer tools for making hash!

Ancient hash instruments of vegetable and meat destruction!

Suddenly, a light in a back door switched on and I ran over, pushed the door open and found Rosie sitting on a desk holding a camera in her hand with a smug look on her face. “Um, maybe you should check this out. They left it at the table, super investigator,” she teased. Unbelievable! “Rosie, I owe you!!!” I gleefully shouted. I wanted to hug her, but opted to grab the camera instead. A flip of the power button, push play and…voila!!!

The Flash Hashcapade Team?

I showed it to Rosie and asked, “Is this the flash mob? Are these the people?” I looked at Rosie. My heart sank as Rosie stared at the photo, confused. “These aren’t the people, I must have thought they left it. I’m soooo sorry,” she said dejectedly. “It’s okay,” I lied, trying to hide my disappointment. I turned and I left without saying a word. Damn – so close!

Happy Hashcapades,
Clark