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,


Chipotle Carnitas Hash with Queso Fresco and Cilantro

Yes, I speak Nahuatl, the ancient tongue of the Aztecs. Do you? Well of course! You see, the word, chipotle, comes from Nahuatl (as does avocado) and we all deftly pronounce it these days. As for me, chipotle conjures up a vision of rustic, spicy, smoky mystery that is simply amazing in almost any dish. So when my son, Alex, suggested we make Chipotle Carnitas, I was all in! Four hours later, I was expecting a carnitas baby and plotting the perfect use of the abundant carnitas that remained – Chipotle Carnitas Hash.

Chipotle Carnitas Hash with Queso Fresco and Cilantro

Now I should mention that this particular hashcapade took place in Wyoming, in the very home in which I was raised by wolves, er, I mean my 5 siblings. Why? Because during the frigid Wyoming winters, we use the outdoors as a giant refrigerator. More precisely, we store beer, wine, leftover turkey, pies and other holiday goodies in the solarium adjoining Mom’s house. Protected from critters, except her cat, everything stays marvelously cold! That’s where we left the carnitas to remain steeped in its juicy goodness to await its destiny…

Carnitas from night before simmering slowly...

The next morning, we set the pot of carnitas on the stove and kept to a low simmer. In the meantime, I commenced the hashing and mincing of basic ingredients: Russet potatoes (unpeeled), onions, cilantro and garlic. Added to the pan in stages, I then set about crumbling the queso fresco and chopping the cilantro. Finally, I pulled the pork with a fork and added juices from the pan to add more flavor and keep it moist.

Hashing up the good bits!

Chipotle Carnitas

Another hashcapade success!

Expectations were high as Alex and Rachel watched me plate the hash – first the potato hash topped by forkfuls of carnitas, then sprinkles of queso fresco and cilantro, and then a fried egg plus more cheese & cilantro. We eagerly tucked into the hash and only one word could describe our collective approval –  ¡Olé!

Further below is the recipe for the hash itself. A note on the actual carnitas recipe – don’t boil away all the juices, leave about 1/3 and skip roasting the carnitas. Flavor and moisture are your friends!

Happy Hashcapades,


Chipotle Carnitas Hash with Queso Fresco and Cilantro
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 medium Russet, unpeeled, diced into 1/2″ cubes
1/3 cup diced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp real butter
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
> Set frying pan on medium, wait for for it to heat up then add oil and then the potatoes, cooking for 15 minutes. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes or so.
> Once the potatoes and onion are tender, add the minced garlic, butter and parsley and stir for about 2 minutes.
> Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust as needed.
Plating the Hash
2-3 cups pulled Chipotle Carnitas + 1/2 cup of the broth in which it steeped, stir it in and let it sit.
3 fried eggs
1/3 cup cotija cheese
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
> Spoon about a cupful of the potato hash on the plate and spread flat
> Top with a third of the carnitas then sprinkle with cheese and cilantro
> Top with a fried egg and sprinkle with more cheese and cilantro – voila!



Chorizo Zucchini Potato Hash with Avocado Crema and Tomatillo Sauce

An explosion of chorizo-based hashes are popping up on my Hashcapades twitter feed. Each tweet taunts me with a delicious picture of culinary perfection or the miraculous hangover/jet lag cure that Chorizo hash provides. Well, I can play that game too – Cho-rrrrri-zo hash – Olé!

Chorizo Zucchini Potato Hash with Avocado Crema and Tomatillo Sauce

Once I latched on to the obviousness of the truth (there is no spoon) I proceeded to pencil out my idea of a chorizo hash. Comfort food with a Oaxacan flair, a little Old World meets New World, a little ooh, as little ah. And so it was that I combined some ideas from Yolk (zucchini in the hash) and my Halibut Hash (Avocado Crema and Tomatillo Sauce) to create this masterpiece!

I got the goods, now let's get busy!

For those fortunate enough to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico (I have not), their signature moles have a common foundation of roasted spices and ingredients. I decided I would do the same by roasting the tomatillos, garlic and red jalapeño pepper under the broiler, then blend. The resulting smokiness has a depth of flavor that is hard to beat! (See Oaxacan Mole Chicken Hash)

Roasted tomatillos, garlic & jalapeño.

Yukon gold potatoes, zucchini and red onion.

The basic process was fairly straight forward – dice potatoes, onion and zucchini and cook, starting with potatoes for 10 minutes, add onion for 5 minutes then add zucchini for another 5 minutes. In parallel, I cooked the chorizo for about 7ish minutes and set aside on two layers of paper towels to let the grease drain. Also at the same time, I broiled the tomatillos, garlic and jalapeno on high for 10 minutes, then made the tomatillo sauce and avocado crema. Simple!

How was it? Delicious!

Dreaming up a recipe is a form of risk taking, pure and simple – no safety net, no harness. Sometimes the balance of flavor is just off and I adjust my recipe. Sometimes the ratio of veggies to meat leaves me wanting. I’m please to report that the hash delivered a balanced, powerful Oaxacan kick to the taste buds – heaven! Zucchini? It added another layer of toothy goodness, a new ally for my potatoes. The spicy chorizo hash covered with the smoky tomatillo sauce and avocado crema was simply incredible. Oh, and don’t get me started on the creamy egg erupting like a fiery yellow volcano all over the hash!

Try this recipe and let me know what you think or share a similar experience, perhaps a guest post 🙂

Happy Hashcapades,
Chorizo Zucchini Potato Hash with Avocado Crema and Tomatillo Sauce
Many of these sections can be done in parallel, for example, start the broiler as the pans heat up, doing the Chorizo, Potato & Tomatillo sections in parallel.
12 oz chorizo
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, diced into 1/2″ cubes
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 medium zucchini, diced into 1/2″ cubes
3 poached eggs
1/4 cup cotija cheese
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
> Chorizo: In a separate, smaller pan cook the chorizo for about 7 minutes or so
> Remove from pan with slotted spoon onto two paper towels on a plate to drain grease
> Potatoes: In a separate, bigger pan, cook potatoes in a pan on Medium to Medium-High with some olive oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
> Mix in red onions and saute another 5 minutes, then add the zucchini and cook about 5 minutes more
> Turn the pan to medium low and add the cooked chorizo with the potatoes, onion and zucchini, mixing well and adjusting seasoning. I added about a tsp of kosher salt and black pepper
> Poach the eggs while the hash is kept warm
Tomatillo Sauce
4 tomatillos, quartered
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 red jalapeño (don’t mix into sauce, used for garnish)
> Place ingredients on a rimmed baking sheet into oven set to high broil for 10 min, or until edges of tomatillos are black and the jalapeño are blistered
> Remove, peel roasted garlic and place tomatillos and garlic only in a blender and mix.
> I added some salt and sugar to the sauce to balance the garlic, adjust as you desire
Avocado Crema
1/2 avocado, finely diced
3 Tbs creme fraiche
2 tsp fresh lime juice
> Mix above together, salt and pepper to taste
> Dish out a healthy serving of hash on 3 plates
> Spoon some of the tomatillo sauce and avocado crema over the hash, then top each plate with a poached egg
> Spoon more crema and sauce in little spots, garnish with the diced red jalapeño, cilantro and cotija cheese.

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,


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,


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,


Tempeh and Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Hash

Tempeh. Who knew it was so delicious? Well, not this guy until last night, which seems like a minor criminal offense for a foodie! My inspiration came from Katie Lee’s tweet proclaiming, “It’s a tempeh Tuesday at my house tonight….making a Tempeh Teriyaki Stir-Fry….yummmmm.” Indeed. What about a Tempeh Tuesday Hashcapade at Chez Clark?

Tempeh & Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Hash

As a newbie, I had to do a little research on tempeh to figure out: 1) What is it? and 2) How is it prepared? I used to think it was some sort of cross between hemp and tabouleh – um, no thanks, I’ll eat cardboard! But a quick search revealed a rich heritage from its Indonesian origins as a cake of fermented, minimally processed soy beans. Ok, I now have a slight clue. Next?

Tempeh is generally prepared by cutting it up, soaking it in a brine or other salty liquid and then frying it.  Chili, stew, stir-fry, soup, and salad all play nicely with tempeh. Some people even grate it and use it like ground beef for tacos – holy frijoles! One comment in the VegWeb.com forum mentioned poaching the tempeh for 10 minutes or so in vegetable broth. Say, that sounds like a fabulous idea!

Off to the store for provisions…

Simple ingredients for Tempeh Tuesday.

The obligatory what-the-hell-is-in-this-hash photo actually reminded me of a recent comparison of the cost of McDonald’s versus home-cooked meal. In it, they have photos of each and I proudly thought, “Slow Food rocks! Michael Pollan is genius! This is going to be epic!”

And so it was, but first I poached the tempeh for 10 minutes in Vegetarian Pho base. Why? It simply caught my eye on the shelf and Pacific Natural Foods is in my back yard, well in Tualatin. Locavore? Locapho? Whatever!

Next, I diced the sweet potatoes and fried them in the pan for about 10 minutes before adding shallots, ginger and garlic and cooking for another 5 minutes. Finally, I added the diced tempeh, curry, coconut milk and cilantro and let it heat through for another 5 minutes and voila – Tempeh Tuesday!

Poaching the tempeh for 10 minutes.

This hash came together quickly and easily - yusss!

Tempeh and Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Hash Redux

So how did my first experiment with tempeh taste? Fabulous, if I do say so myself! The nutty, firm and dense texture was a pleasant surprise, reminding me of a crispy chicken dish I once had. Since tempeh soaks up the flavors, the pho and curry popped in my mouth next with a hint of ginger, shallot, coconut and cilantro – yum!

When I make this again, I’ll use yams with orange to offset the tempeh’s beige hue or perhaps add another vegetable like kale or green beans for even more color. Let me know what you think – other variations? Favorite ways to prepare tempeh?

Happy Hashcapades,


Tempeh and Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Hash

8 oz package of tempeh
2 cups Vegetarian Pho
> Pour pho into small skillet and bring to slight simmer
> Add tempeh and poach for 10 minutes, remove and pat dry, dice into 1/2 cubes
2 cups sweet potatoes (about 2 small potatoes or 1 big one)
2 Tbsp EVOO
> While tempeh poaches, heat large pan on medium to medium high, adding with oil
> Dice sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and add once pan is hot, cooking and stirring occasionally for 10 minutes
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 tsp fresh ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
> Add above to pan and continue to cook, for about another 5 minutes or until potatoes are done
5.5 oz coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
> Turn pan down to medium low and add above + tempeh, stirring until any coconut clumps are gone and the mixture is well integrated and the tempeh is warmed through, about 5 minutes
> Season to taste and serve on plate with garnish of cilantro
Serves 2