Category Archives: Booze

Hapa Izakaya: small plates, big taste.

It was a patio evening in Kitsilano: the sun had just slipped behind Bowen Island, the breeze was slow and cool, and we’d had a busy day. Time for some “tapanese” food and sake at Hapa Izakaya!

Small Plates at Hapa Izakaya by Bill Stillwell

An izakaya is a sit-down sake shop, rather like a Japanese pub. The servers are quick and pleasant, and soon enough, someone places a tall slice of bamboo on our table, chilled and full of cold sake. Conversation is easy. There is no talk of work or responsibilities.

We refill each other’s little bamboo cups full as the plates arrive. The food is fresh and not overly complicated, delighting the eye and pleasing the palate. Halfway through the bamboo tube of sake, we’re full of easy smiles and laughter. The plates come and go, until dessert and a cocktail round out our evening. The chocolate caramel mousse is a little piece of heaven. I feel unwound, relaxed, and happy. The breezy summer weather is perfect for a seaside stroll, so we take the long way home.

About Hapa Izakaya:

Lea and Justin Ault introduced Hapa Izakaya to Vancouver diners in 2003. Now, three locations offer a variety of scrumptious Japanese tapas, plus cocktails, beer, wine, and premium sake. The decor is simple and clean, and the atmosphere is casual, with plenty of intimate tables for two. Interior seating can easily accomodate groups—perfect for sharing a little bit of everything.

Robson, Kitsilano, and Yaletown Hapa locations are open from 5:30 PM to 1 AM on Friday/Saturday and until midnight from Sunday to Thursday.

Website: http://hapaizakaya.com
Twitter: @hapaizakaya

Prices are reasonable, the sake selection is excellent, and the food has never disappointed me. There’s always something good on the Fresh Sheet menu—go when BC Spot Prawns are in season if you can! New things are fun, but I must always have the Ebi Mayo or Negitoro and a Harajuku Girl.

Harajuku Denizens by Jacob Ehnmark

I did not take snapshots of my meal, but you can see lovely pictures of several dishes and the restaurant interiors at Hapa’s online photo gallery. Lately, I find that taking pictures of food at a restaurant detracts from my enjoyment of the meal, so I quit doing it. All the fussiness of photography is distracting when really I just want to eat, drink, and have a good time.

things we love @ HAPA

  • Sake ~ served chilled in a bamboo tube pitcher
  • Harajuku Girl ~ Vodka, Sourpuss Raspberry, Butter Ripple Schnapps, Calpis, soda
  • Ebi Mayo ~ crisp, fat, juicy prawns tossed in spicy mayo
  • Renkon Gyoza ~ tempura of lotus root with savoury pork filling
  • Salmon Risotto Croquettes ~ crisp balls of creamy rice and salmon
  • Gindara ~ baked sablefish in a sake-miso marinade
  • Negitoro ~ luscious tuna belly and spring onion on garlic toast
  • Chocolate Caramel Mousse with poached pears ~ wonderful and rich
  • Caramel Pudding ~ light, creamy, and delicious
Flickr Creative Commons
enhmark ~ Jacob Ehnmark
icathing ~ Bill Stillwell

Leaving a comment? I’m curious . . . what makes a meal memorable for you?

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A cup of Canadian Comfort.

Canadian ComfortNo, this post is not about soup. It’s about booze. It’s rainy and grey today, typical weather in the Pacific Northwest. One of my cats isn’t eating. I’ve offered him everything, pretty much any time he acts the least bit hungry. He doesn’t even want his Greenies, and those are pretty much Kitty Crack Treats. It’s making me fret.

Mr. B has been with me for almost 11 years, and he’s starting to feel his age. He moves a little slower, and he’s not as bulky as he used to be, and he’s kinda cranky sometimes. His kidneys aren’t 100%, but he’s doing alright with supplements and a lower protien diet. Unfortunately, if he doesn’t eat, he won’t get his supplements. I’ve had him on fluids for several days, as he wasn’t drinking much either. He seems perky enough, and definitely interested in the idea of food, but other than a few licks of the gravy from his favourite Friskies kitty junk food, he just doesn’t care.

Mr. B on the fuzzy blankey.

Mr. B on the fuzzy blankey.

His regular vet is excruciatingly expensive, and I’m not convinced they are giving him the kind of care that best suits him (and me). I’m picky about vets because I spent 8 years working as a tech. The place he goes now, they have five doctors, a big staff, night nurses, on-site blood analysis, an excellent surgical facility, and all the bells and whistles a modern vet needs. They are friendly and intelligent folks who genuinely care about animals. I even did some volunteer work with them for a while. It’s the little things, like not bothering to look in his mouth or palpate his abdomen, that bother me . . . and the bland attitude of their receptionist . . . and the tendency to jump on procedures and tests before they get the whole story. Okay, maybe it’s added up to a bit of annoyance for me.

Point is, I decided to try a holistic vet who makes housecalls. I doubt there will be a difference in cost, really, but I’m looking for a difference in service. I think Mr. B needs to be evaluated from a new perspective. For that matter, so do I. My neck is killing me (note to self: stop slouching!).

At any rate, it’s been one of those kinda days. So, I offer unto those that need it, a healthy dose of Canadian Comfort: 1 shot of Canadian whiskey, 1 shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream, and three shots of chocky moo (otherwise known as chocolate milk). I think I’ll wash mine down with a Guinness cupcake.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes and Whiskey Truffles

These edible "car bombs" will blow up your taste buds.

Edible "car bombs" will blow up your taste buds.

When I bring my cupcakes to the yard, all the ginger boys scream “Erin go bragh!”

A hint of beer, boozey and sweet, like an Irish lover’s kiss. These cupcakes are truly scrumptious. This recipe makes 24 cupcakes with enough leftover ganache, frosting, and cupcake middles to make a little plate of truffles.

This is not an ordinary cupcake recipe, and it’s definitely not for kids. The recipe is decadent and very rich (using real butter, heavy cream, and three kinds of alcoholic beverage). It also takes time to prepare and involves quite a few steps, but the reward is worth the effort.

The flavours are inspired by a pub concoction called an “Irish Car Bomb” (careful where you order these, or you could get a poke in the puss). It’s a type of boilermaker: a shot glass full of Jameson’s and Bailey’s gets dropped in a pint of Guinness, then you have to chug it down before the Bailey’s curdles and you end up drinking cheese. Ew. Trust me, the cupcake version is much better.

Hand out a few of  these decadent and delicious goodies and people will say the most wonderful things, like “You’re a genius! I love you! Marry me.”

Caution: Because of the complexity of this recipe, try to resist the temptation to finish off the extra beer or nip the wiskey while you cook. You could end up half in the bag and pass out in a pool of ganache . . . not that that has ever happened to me. *hic*

How To Streamline The Process:

  1. Read the recipe through several times.
  2. Make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment you need.
  3. Make room in the kitchen and set up cupcake pans and piping bags.
  4. Chop the chocolate and let the butter come to room temperature.
  5. Make the cocoa beer butter, then preheat the oven.
  6. While the beer butter cools and the oven heats, start making the cupcake batter.
  7. While the cupcakes are baking, start making the ganache.
  8. While the ganache and cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.
  9. Set up an assembly line for excavating, frosting, and filling the cupcakes.
  10. Clean up as you go, be patient, and take your time.

Special Techniques

Making Ganache

Making Ganache

  • Ganache is the heavenly union of chocolate and cream (and usually flavouring—in this case, whiskey). Heated cream meets chopped chocolate, then gets stirred until smooth and thick. In this recipe, thickened ganache is piped into hollowed out cupcakes. Once it cools, it will set to a fudgy consistency.
  • Ganache changes if you alter the temperature or the proportion of chocolate to cream.
    • Increase cream / decrease chocolate = lighter and thinner ganache (good for pouring)
    • Increase chocolate / decrease cream = thicker and stiffer ganache (good for truffles)
    • Heat ganache to thin it. Cool ganache to thicken it.
  • Beating the ganache too much can make it grainy. To learn more about ganache, including how to smooth out a grainy mistake read on at The Global Gourmet.

Using a Pastry Bagpastrybag

  • Fit a pastry tip and coupler inside the bag, screw on the outer collar, then fill the bag about 1/2 full. Twist the end of the bag to seal it shut and push the filling forward to the tip. Hold the twisted end in your right hand and squeeze to control the flow. Direct the tip of the pastry bag with your left hand.
  • If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can improvise with a Ziplock baggie. Fill the baggie about 1/2 full with icing or ganache, seal it by twisting, then snip off the corner tip and start piping. You can also make a simple piping bag with a piece of parchment paper. Watch Liv Hansen’s video to learn how!
  • Pretty piping takes practice. If you’re new to the idea, experiment on a clean plate or a piece of parchment paper and start with simple designs like swirls, dots, lines, or stars.

The Recipes

You can find the original recipe @ Smitten Kitchen. Thanks to Sassy Radish and Bruce who turned me on to the idea. My version below uses the maximum amount of booze, and I added a bit of vanilla to the ganache to balance the flavour a bit. I used two kinds of dark chocolate (Cote d’Or Belgian 70% cocoa and Alprose Swiss 74% cocoa). In metric Canada, two 100 gram bars = about 7 oz of chocolate, slightly less than other recipe versions, but the end result was fine. I also took the trouble to sift the flour, cocoa powder, and icing sugar before using it, to prevent lumps. I used Canadian Club whiskey, as my bottle of Jameson’s was dry. *hic*

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Whiskey Truffle Filling and Bailey’s Frosting

Make the chocolate beer butter.

Can I get a Hail Mary?

Can I get a Hail Mary?

  • Over low heat, melt 1 cup unsalted butter in 1 cup Guinness (room temp).
  • Remove from heat and blend in 3/4 cup cocoa powder.
  • Allow to cool slightly.

Mix the cupcakes.

  • Combine 2 cups all purpose flour, 2 cups granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 3/4 tsp salt.
  • In separate bowl, mix 2 eggs with 2/3 cup sour cream.
  • Slowly add cocolate beer butter to egg mixture, blending well.
  • Gently stir in flour mixture until combined.

Bake and cool.

  • Spoon batter into cupcake pan (fill each liner about 2/3 full).
  • Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 17 minutes.
  • Cool cupcakes completely before excavating.

Make the whiskey ganache.

  • Put 7 oz (200gm) chopped bittersweet chocolate into a heatproof bowl.
  • Heat 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream to a simmer.
  • Pour hot cream over chocolate and DO NOT STIR.
  • Let it sit and melt for a couple of minutes, then stir the ganache until smooth.
  • Add 2 Tbs unsalted butter (room temp), 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 2 tsp whiskey.
  • Let it cool until it thickens enough for piping.
  • Spoon ganache into piping bag (I didn’t bother using a tip for filling the cupcakes).
  • Reserve about 1/2 cup of ganache for the truffles.

Excavate the cupcakes.

  • Using a grapefruit spoon or apple corer, dig a small hole in the top of each cupcake. Do not dig through the bottom.
  • Reserve excavated cupcake “dirt” for making truffles.

Make the frosting.

Very Irish Creamy.

Very Irish Creamy.

  • Using an electric mixer, whip 1/2 cup unsalted butter (= one stick) at room temp.
  • Gradually add 3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar (about 1/2 cup at a time) and 4 Tbs Bailey’s Irish Cream (about 1 Tbs at a time). Beat well after each addition.
  • Spoon frosting into a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip (I used a star tip).
  • Save a small amount of frosting to decorate the truffles.

Assemble the cupcakes.

Ready to fill and frost.

Ready to fill and frost.

  • Fill each excavated cupcake with a generous blob of ganache. Smooth the top flat if needed.
  • Decorate with Bailey’s frosting (a little goes a long way; it’s very sweet). Top with sprinkles if you want.

    Storing the cupcakes:

    • Refrigerate filled (or filled and frosted) cupcakes uncovered ~ 1 hour.
    • Wrap individual cupcakes in cling wrap or pack sets in airtight containers. Store in fridge or freezer. Thaw to room temp before serving, if you can wait that long.

      Irish Screams

      They go oooh aaaah wooo!

      They go oooh aaaah wooo!

      • Mix leftover whiskey ganache with the excavated cupcake dirt.
      • Chill.
      • Roll into little balls.
      • Decorate with leftover Bailey’s frosting and green sprinkles.
      • Praise the Lord.