“Best of” Recipe & Wine Pairings—February 2021

What started out as an idea to create a monthly culinary column highlighting the best of OCWS Mini-Tastings’ award-winning recipes and wine pairings has now become, thanks to great interest in recipes from the Seminar Series’ wine and food presentations, a Best of OCWS Recipes and Wine Pairings. I will continue to review Mini-Tastings from the past but will now venture into Seminar pairings, and anything else from a culinary standpoint, that may appeal to our members. This is an ever-evolving column and suggestions are always welcome, so please don’t hesitate to email me at I would love to hear from those of you who love food and wine as much as I do, and I know there are a lot of kindred spirits out there.

There is one recipe in particular that has recently been requested time and again. It was featured in the holiday Sparkling and Sweets seminar held in December, and since I happen to love Champagne and this treat in particular, I’m publishing the recipe for this yummy dessert before the taste leaves my memory. I am usually the recipient of this dessert when asked by my daughter, Sara Yeoman, what I would like from her, as it is her recipe and is totally amazing in my book. I hope you find it as scrumptious as I do.

I find that too much chocolate paired with a dry sparkling, which is my drink of preference, leaves me with a heavy head, but a cream-based dessert fits the bill and satisfies my urge for sweets perfectly. Extra Dry, Extra Brut and Brut sparklings have a natural acidity that cuts through cheese, butter and cream and pair well with desserts such as Panna Cotta, crepes, shortbread and, my favorite, Lavender Cheesecake. I hope you will be drooling by the time you finish perusing the recipe and consider putting it on your “must try” list.



1 3/4 cups shortbread cookie crumbs

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

4 (8-ounce) bricks Neufchatel (low-fat) cream cheese, softened

1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. fresh lavender buds, finely chopped (measure first, then chop the buds)

4 eggs


2 cups heavy cream

Powdered sugar

1 Earl Grey tea bag


Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch springform pan. Crumble the shortbread cookies into crumbs and whisk with butter, salt and 1/4 cup of the sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Press firmly onto bottom of the pan (or up the sides, if desired). Bake for 10 minutes, remove, and let cool. Reduce oven heat to 325°F .

Once the pan reaches room temperature, carefully wrap the outside of the pan in 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, being sure that there are NO gaps where water could seep through. Place the pan in a large roasting dish (or any pan larger than the springform) and bring a tea kettle or pot of water to boil in preparation for the water bath. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed for 3 minutes until smooth. Add the remaining 1-1/4 cup sugar and beat for an additional minute until well blended. Add Greek yogurt, vanilla and lavender, and beat for an additional minute, stopping partway to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended. Do not overbeat! Pour into crust.

Place the double pans in the oven on a shelf on the bottom third of the oven. Very carefully use a tea kettle (or large measuring cup) to pour the boiling water in the larger pan to form a water bath around the springform, so that it comes up about 1-inch around the springform.

Close the oven door, and bake about 1 hour 40 min, or until center is almost set. (The center of the cake should still jiggle ever so slightly.) Turn oven off, and open oven door slightly. Let cheesecake set in oven 1 hour. Then remove cheesecake from oven, carefully run a knife around the edges of the cake, and then let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove springform rim, and top cheesecake with whipped cream just before serving. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.


To make earl grey homemade whipped cream, first bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add a tea bag and steep for 4 minutes, then remove the tea bag. Refrigerate cream until cool.

You can make homemade whipped cream with a:

Stand Mixer: Make sure that your bowl and whisk attachment are nice and chilled, as well as your heavy whipping cream. That’s the main thing to remember — you want everything nice and COLD for making whipped cream. Add in your heavy whipping cream and some powdered sugar to the bowl of the mixer and whisk it together on high speed until soft to stiff peaks form, your choice.

Food Processor: Same steps, just pulse the cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form.

Blender: Same steps, just blend the cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form

Mason Jar: This one takes quite a bit more muscle. Place a mason jar (along with its lid) in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Then remove it, add the whipped cream and powdered sugar (you only want the jar about half full, since the whipped cream volume will expand), and then shake the heck out of it for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks have formed.  

Bowl + Whisk: Or of course, you can make whipped cream the truly old-fashioned way. Just grab a mixing bowl (metal, preferably, or glass) and place it in the freezer until it’s nice and chilled. Then remove it, add the whipped cream and powdered sugar, and use a large whisk to whisk the cream by hand until stiff peaks form.

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer