Honey Lavender Cheesecake and the SF Chef 2011 Sugar & Spice Party

by Irvin on August 18, 2011 · 15 comments

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My version of the Honey Lavender Cheesecake Bars. jpg

I arrived back in San Francisco from Maui, recharged and a bit shell shocked. After being in warm island weather, it was tough to come back to the cool chill of the bay area. The very next day after we arrived home, my friend Glenn texted to ask if AJ and I wanted to attend the SF Chefs 2011 – Sugar and Spice Party. I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I immediately texted back “of course” and AJ and I ended up attending one of the most happening food events of the city, all courtesy of Glenn’s boyfriend Curtis (thanks Curtis!). Held at the Westin St. Francis in Union Square, the party had chefs (both savory and pastry) making appetizers for the attending guests, highlighting a specific spice that the chef or restaurant had selected. The spices ranged from your basic black pepper, to the more exotic like sumac to the foreign (at least to me) such as Ras el Hanout, a Morrocan blend of spices that varies per who makes it. Often times the spices were a wonderful inspiration to the final product being served, but on occasion the food came across a bit forced and novel. My biggest complaint however was the imbalance of savory versus sweet, as it definitely skewed toward the sweet. That said, there was a dessert there that had me perk up and take notice, the Honey Lavender Cheesecake from Mission Beach Café. I knew after a bite that I need to make it for myself. (Jump directly to the recipe.)

DJs for the Sugar and Spice Party, part of the SF Chefs 2011 event jpg

DJs for the Sugar and Spice Party, part of the SF Chefs 2011 event

I had been contacted about the SF Chefs 2011 event a few weeks before I left for Hawaii, but the idea of going to a huge social event, a few days after I arrived back from a mellow beach vacation didn’t sound super appealing initially. Don’t get me wrong, I love major food events, but there used to be a time when I could just go to them and enjoy them for what they are. Now, as a food blogger, I feel almost a pathological obligation to document them obsessively. So I shrugged my shoulder and ignored that fact that there was a giant food festival happening in my adopted hometown and I was missing it.

The Sugar and Spice Party, part of SF Chefs 2011 jpg

Party goers for the Sugar and Spice Party, part of SF Chefs 2011

Curtis and Glenn (along with Jon over on the right) who invited AJ and I to the party jpg

Curtis and Glenn, who invited AJ and I to the party, hanging with friend Jon on the left.

Luckily I changed my mind, because some of my favorite restaurants were there, showing off their best. I could describe all the fantastic food I had, but instead I’d rather show you some of it and you can feast with your eyes.

Maple Glazed Short Ribs over Grits from 1300 Fillmore jpg

Maple Glazed Short Ribs over Grits from 1300 Fillmore

Pork Tacos from Nopalitos jpg

Pulled pork tacos from Nopalitos

Jams from Mayberry Cafe

Canned preserves from Mayberry Cafe

Pink Peppercorn was the featured spice that Wente Vineyard used.

Pink Peppercorn was the featured spice that Wente Vineyard used.

Melon and Calamari salad with Sumac from Joseph Humphrey of Dixie

Melon and Calamari salad with Sumac from Joseph Humphrey of Dixie

And though I had some fantastic desserts available (hosting hotel Westin St. Francis went all out with their Chocolate Mousse with Anisette Breton & Schezuan Pepper Ganache) it was the honey lavender cheesecake from Mission Beach Café that made me pondering how to make it at home.

Anise Shortbread w/chocolate ganache & Anise Pound Cake w/roasted pineapple & almond cream

Anise Shortbread w/ganache & Anise Pound Cake w/pineapple & almond cream from Murray Circle

Hibisicus & Black Pepper Parfait from LaVictoria Bakery

Hibisicus & Black Pepper Parfait from LaVictoria Bakery

Poached peach hazelnut & piment d'espellette from La Boulange jpg

Poached peach hazelnut & piment d'espellette from La Boulange.

Macarons with Chocolate filling and piment d'espellette from La Boulange

Macarons with Chocolate filling and piment d'espellette from La Boulange

Peach Crostata from Wente Vineyards

Peach Crostata from Wente Vineyards

Black Mint Bavarian from Aziza

Black Mint Bavarian from Aziza

Michael MIna's Ice Cream Sandwiches with Ras el Hanout

Michael Mina's Ice Cream Sandwiches with Ras el Hanout

Chocolate Mousse w/anisette Breton & Schezuan Pepper Ganache from Westin St. Francis

Chocolate Mousse w/anisette Breton & Schezuan Pepper Ganache from Westin St. Francis

In truth, I happen to love the combination of honey and lavender. I had picked up a huge 1lb package of culinary lavender at the SF Herb Company a few months ago, and it’s been languishing under my kitchen table (where I keep all my overflow herbs, spices and flours since I’ve now run out of room in my pantry). The problem being AJ hates lavender in his food. He claims it makes everything taste like soap (isn’t that suppose to be cilantro that tastes like soap? Apparently it’s lavender to AJ). In fact, around the corner, at my favorite San Francisco ice cream shop BiRite Creamery, my favorite flavor happens to be Honey Lavender, so much so that I dressed up like it for Halloween a few years ago.

AJ and I dressed up as Ice Cream Cartons from BiRite Creamery. Note my flavor is Honey Lavender

AJ and I dressed up as Ice Cream Cartons from BiRite Creamery. Note my flavor is Honey Lavender.

So when I tasted the Mission Beach Café cheesecake, I immediately knew I wanted to make it at home, and since I had a dessert party coming up, I could serve it up to friends and not have to worry about forcing AJ to eat it. The perfect solution. Except working with lavender isn’t as simple as just crumbling it into the cheesecake. I wanted to figure a way to make it swirly and pretty. Thankfully the Washington Post had a genius idea of using blueberries to create a colored lavender syrup to flavor the cheesecake and adapting it worked out well.

Mission Beach Café's Honey Lavender Cheesecake, the inspiration for my dessert.

Mission Beach Café's Honey Lavender Cheesecake, the inspiration for my dessert.

In the end, I was thrilled to go to the SF Chefs 2011 event, and perhaps next year, if I’m not on a tropical island days before, I’ll see about getting to more of the event that went on all week long. Nevertheless, I have this Honey Lavender Cheesecake to remind me of my quick sample taste of the SF Chefs 2011 event. Well what’s left of it. I think I have one more piece in the fridge, the rest gobbled up by friends who loved the combination of lavender and honey like I do.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin Overton August 18, 2011 at 10:42 am

Did you two go up to the lavender farm on maui when you were there? We were there in April- it’s beautiful! The cheesecake bars look fabulous… yum!

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Irvin August 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thanks Kristin! Sadly, we didn’t get to the lavender farm on Maui, though I wanted to go! I guess it’s a good excuse for us to go back to Maui… heh. Not that I need an excuse.

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Kelly Senyei August 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I absolutely love your stunning photo recaps of all these amazing food-related events! And I’m a big fan of cooking with lavender and can’t wait to try pairing them with this cheesecake!

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Irvin August 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thanks Kelly! Let me know if you make them and what you think.

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S. B. Hadley Wilson August 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Oh, I had this one too and it rocked!

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Felisa August 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I’m with AJ on the lavender. (And I LOVE cilantro!) I don’t even like the scent that much. But a field of lavender IS quite a beautiful sight! The cheesecake bars were very pretty, though.

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Aly August 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Irvin – any suggestions for where to get culinary grade lavender? I have been on a hopeless search since I wanted to make lemon lavender whoopie pies. However, this cheesecake has my roommate and I wanting to skip dinner and cut straight to dessert.

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Irvin August 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Aly, you’re in Philadelphia right? Have you tried the Herbiary over Reading Terminal Market? According to their website they carry lavender. Otherwise you might want to try online. Amazon has a number of secondary vendors that sell culinary grade lavender.

I got a huge bag of lavender at the San Francisco Herb Company, which does do mail order. The only problem is they have a minimum of $30, and they only sell in bulk. I get a lot of my herbs and spices from them, because they are cheap and they have spices that are harder to find, but it takes me awhile to go through it all. I have a lb of marshmallow root and have yet to figure out what I’m going to do with it!

Good luck and let me know how the lemon lavender whoopie pies work out. They sound fantastic!

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Aly August 19, 2011 at 6:30 am

You’re the best! I love Reading Terminal and know the Herbiary but I live and work in the suburbs so I don’t chance to explore their selection. My great Aunt is a spice feign so maybe the two of us can come together to order $30 worth from San Fran :) Thanks for the advice – and I will let you know about the whoopies. They were inspired by some at the Flying Monkey Patisserie in Reading Terminal market actually.

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Chrissy August 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm

This is great! We are going to a lavender farm in Cape Cod tomorrow. I plan on picking up lavendar honey, lemon lavender curd- I’ll have to see if they have culinary grade as well! So funny that you posted this today- what a coincidence!

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Broderick August 21, 2011 at 12:45 pm

In love with that photo of you and AJ in costume!

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Mallory December 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm

This recipe sounds amazing! I have tried several other recipes of yours and they always come out fantastic :) I have a question though, what if I wanted to make this into a cheesecake instead of bars? Can I use the same quantities of ingredients or would I use slightly less?

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Irvin December 29, 2012 at 10:59 am

Hi Mallory. Thanks for trying out my recipes! I think you should be able to make the recipe as is, in a 9″ round springform pan, with a removable bottom. I would just pay attention to the bake time, as I don’t know what the change in pan size will do to the length of baking. That said I can’t guarantee it’ll work, since I’ve never made it that way, but in theory it should! Let me know if you make it that way and how it turns out!

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Kath November 2, 2013 at 3:55 am

I know this post is a bit old now but I wanted to let you know that I tried your recipe and it was lovely! You didn’t mention when to add the salt and vanilla but seeing as you’d grouped the ingredients into syrup, crust and filling it wasn’t a problem.

I’ve included a link in the website field so you can see how mine turned out. Thanks for sharing, Irvin :)

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Irvin November 2, 2013 at 11:36 am

Yay! Thanks Kath. I’m sorry I left out those ingredients in the instructions, but I’ve gone back and added them in. Glad you were able to figure it out! Your bars look fabulous!

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