Tarte flambée - a traditional Alsatian flatbread, made with bread dough and baked in a wood-fire oven with crème fraîche, sliced onions and lardons. Contrary to what the name suggests, tarte flambée is not actually flambéed, but baked in flames - the borders of the crust should be at least golden brown, or even slightly burned. The best (and so far the only one) place to enjoy tarte flambée in Warsaw is called Flambéeria. Let’s see what its co-creators, Agnieszka Wiewiórska and Krzysztof Wołyniec, have to say about good wine and the secrets of a perfect dough.
Even though tarte flambée is a regional Alsatian dish, Flambéeria is not an Alsatian restaurant.
It was never our goal to move Alsace to Warsaw. Tarte flambée is just a starting point; we would describe our cuisine as European, with influences from many different countries. The whole concept was based on our memories from various culinary travels. Our team is a mix of friends and acquaintances - everyone brought their ideas, experiences and inspirations. What’s really funny is the fact that it wasn’t France where we first came across tarte flambée, but Kiev and South Africa.
How did you get the idea to base your menu on Alsatian tart?
In fact it didn’t start with tarte flambée, but with wine. We had this idée fixe for quite a while - to create a place where people can come and drink really good sparkling wine at really affordable prices. We wanted to add an interesting snack and at one point we realised that thin tart and sparkling wine are a match made in heaven.
I totally agree, this combination is amazing!
Well, it was only the beginning, as it soon turned out that it won’t be easy to recreate the crust. We were lucky to have met Krzysztof, an expert on bread dough and our master of tarte flambée.
Krzysztof, how did your passion start?
It all begun with another passion, my crazy love for Italy. I have always known that l’Italia is my place on earth. My friends make fun of me, because I recognise only one travel destination - Italy. I go there whenever I have some spare time. A few years back I’ve decided to stay for a little longer. I wanted to taste the Italian lifestyle and earn experience, I didn’t know if I would stay for a month or a year. I lived in sunny Abruzzo for almost four years. I’d tried different jobs, but what intrigued me from the beginning was the pizza dough and all the secrets of its preparation. I worked in several restaurants and finally I was given a chance to run a pizzeria. All these places were traditional, honest, with locals coming for dinners.
I was able to live my love for Italy every day. My work didn’t start until afternoon, so I would spend the first part of the day on Adriatic beach. Each evening started with lighting the oven and ended with baking bread from leftover dough. It turned out that physical work with wood-fire oven - woodchopping, kneeling the dough, sweeping out the ash - was both fascinating and purifying.
Having come back to Poland, I made a point of bringing a part of Italy with me. I start each day with coffee and a cornetto, I don’t eat scrambled eggs for breakfast. The only things missing were a warm sea and a wood-fire oven. Luckily, I have found the oven and tarte flambée became my next challenge.
Is tarte flambée very different from pizza?
They seem similar at first glance. Tarte flambée has a different shape, is thinner and cut in a different way. As usual, the devil is in the detail - it took numerous trials and errors and laboratory precision to develop a perfect recipe. The ingredients of both doughs are alike - flour, water, yeast, salt and olive oil - but finding the right proportions and method required a lot of effort. Italian dough is formed manually, Alsatian tarte calls for a rolling pin, as it has to be extremely thin. I had to discipline myself along the way, so that I wouldn’t go in the pizza direction.
But finally we got it, the recipe has been written down. We have also recently perfected our recipe for a gluten-free crust.
The menu is short, but well composed.
So far we have two salads and a few kinds of tarte flambée. The first one is a tribute to the Alsatian tradition (classic combination of bacon and onions), all the others are our variations. The base, crème fraîche, stays the same, the toppings change. We have a spicy tart with chorizo and prawns, a Polish version with white sausage, potatoes and fresh rosemary, a lighter one with pear, gorgonzola and lavender buds. There’s only one dessert position, tarte flambée with apples, cinnamon and brown sugar, but we will soon add other sweet choices. The menu indeed isn’t long, but we’ve carefully composed all the combinations and we are sure that we can recommend them to our guests.
And then there’s the sparkling wine!
We used a similar system when choosing wines - we’re selling the ones that we have tested ourselves and that we really liked (we were just as serious about wine tasting as we were with the dough). We have sparkling wines, just as promised. Our favourite is the lively and refreshing Glera, both frizzante and spumante. We have a short cocktail menu based on Glera as well. There’s traditional Kir (but with a twist: we top French crème de cassis with Italian wine), Mimosa and our version of Bellini, with nectarine or pear (depending on the season) and rosemary chutney that we make ourselves. There are no-fizzy wines too - delicate Flying Solo from Languedoc and fuller, more powerful Italian wines. So far we don’t serve Alsatian wines, but we have stronger cocktails, beer and cider. Just as with the food, the drinks menu is a combination of different experiences, ideas and inspirations.
If you haven’t had a chance to try tarte flambée, make sure to do it. Personally, I was quite surprised to discover that I found the simplest one the most addictive. On the other hand, the combination of cream, bacon and onions sounds very right and can make you feel so much better on a cold, dark evening. What is more, it won’t hurt your wallet - the classic tart is 16 PLN, a glass of Glera is, as promised, just 8 PLN.
I think that sparkling wine works for every occasion. I have to say that after discovering the scandalous marriage of hot dogs and champagne, I didn’t think there could ever be a more enticing couple. But a thin Alsatian tart and a glass of sparkling Glera is at least just as good. Flambéeria is a great place for long evenings with friends, when you can share different kinds of tarte flambée and toast with sparkling FlamBellini. But don’t forget that bubbles can be deceiving!
Does it happen to you too? Whole day of trying on, taking off, crying, losing and regaining hope, all to surrender in the end? Sometimes it’s simply impossible to find the right dress. If you (like ourselves) keep dreaming about the perfect dress - simple, elegant and made-to measure, we might have found a solution.
Zofia Chylak revives the tradition of custom tailoring in Poland. Her own look is impeccable - and has been the same for years. She’s looked more or less the same since she was thirteen: hair gathered up, simple black dress, dark shoes. This is what we call style.
Your fashion career has started in Ania Kuczyńska’s atelier, later there was an apprenticeship at Proenza Schouler in New York.
I have to admit that I was lucky - I knew Weronika Olbrychska, who’s worked at Proenza Schouler almost from the beginning. It’s one of the most popular apprenticeships in New York, they receive about 50 portfolios each day. I’m pretty sure that there are many talented people who don’t get in, because nobody has time to take a look at their work. My portfolio was opened thanks to Weronika’s suggestion and, luckily, they liked it.
I have great memories from the apprenticeship. I got to do actual things - nothing like making coffee or organising Vogues in chronological order. To be honest, I was almost terrified at how responsible my tasks were. I worked on dresses that were later presented on the catwalk, which I didn’t know of until the very last moment - they probably didn’t want me to stress me out.
Jack and Lazaro are both lovely and not at all pompous. They sit with everybody else and chat with everyone; they work extremely hard and are often the last ones to leave. Thanks to them, the atmosphere is incredible.
Have you ever considered staying in New York?
I have, many times. The work was going great, but I missed Poland. I get an offer to move to New York for good, but I didn’t take it. I love Poland and I feel really good here in Warsaw. What I’d like to do is stay in Poland, but go to New York for a few months every now and then to work on some project. What project could that be? I’m not sure myself yet.
How does work at Zofia Chylak’s look like?
I meet with clients, come up with ideas and design myself, but I have tailors and constructors who do the rest.
I did learn to cut and sew, which only made me aware that to make it right, one needs at least ten years of experience. If I wanted to do these things myself, I would have to devote a ridiculous and completely uneconomical amount of time to get it right. I did a few pieces just for myself and I even wear them, but I don’t feel confident enough to make clothes for others.
I really admire the work of tailors, it’s a wonderful profession that requires astounding skills. It’s hard to believe that it’s held is such low esteem in Poland. At the time of Poland’s People Republic the stores were empty and making clothes was a necessity rather than a whim. Some people still don’t associate custom tailoring with luxury.
What kind of clothes do your clients look for?
They’re almost always special occasion dresses. I guess people assume that if they are to pay more for a garment, it must be a special occasion. And usually it’s a wedding - I make a lot of wedding dresses or dresses for weddings.
It’s actually a little peculiar - maybe it would be better to pay more for something that you can wear everyday, not just once or twice. Personally, I would love to make more casual clothes.
Any plans to launch a ready-to-wear line?
I’ll start with a line of bags. You’ll be able to buy them on my website very soon, by the end of November. I am rather sceptical when it comes to buying clothes online, but then again bags are a different story.
I’ve been thinking about ready-to-wear clothes and I’d like to make them. The whole process of creating a made-to-measure garments is magical, but also long and all the same laborious.
How does it look like?
I sometimes joke that I have to be like a psychologist - apart from cutting and designing, there’s a lot of talking. I need to get to know my client, her needs and expectations. You have to spend quite a lot of time with a newly met person. There are different types of clients. Some give me carte blanche, some come with ideas and inspirations.
I have nothing against the latter, because they make my job a lot easier. The more I know, the easier it is to come up with ideas. If a client doesn’t tell me that she loathes V-neck, I won’t be able to find that out. I always prepare a couple of drawings, for the clients to have options.
Have you ever worked with a client that had a completely different taste than you have?
The clients look through my website and understand that I make simple clothes.
I think that once a link to my website must have gotten into a wrong place and people thought that it’s an ordinary workshop. I started getting dozens of emails each day, asking for all sorts of dresses: with red sequins, extremely low cut, very short; they very often included a photo and a request to make the exact dress.
Is it rewarding to see people wearing your clothes?
A couple of times I was able to see my dress on a wedding. I’m almost always moved during weddings, but when the bride is wearing my dress, that's almost just too much. It’s nice to see people in my clothes.
During the first visit, A nuż widely charmed us with a lovely patio, a perfectly prepared cod and an extraordinary service. It soon turned out that our waiter is also the owner of the place and that he simply likes people. He says there’s no other way if one wants to be in the restaurant business.
Adem Drężek opened A nuż widelec together with his brother, Sylwester. They come from a family with strong culinary traditions - their mother runs an inn and a restaurant in Masuria. They have over 10 years of experience in gastronomy themselves, but none of them is a chef. They used to work in restaurant management, but cooking has always been a great passion. Today Sylwester is responsible for the kitchen and the menu. Adam still is a manager, but whenever a spare moment occurs, he puts on an apron and cooks as well.
A nuż widelec serves unique, but rather simple dishes, all based on ingredients of great quality that don’t need a lot more to shine. They get fish straight from Masurian lakes - another brother (there are seven) buys them from local fishmongers. Exotic fish and seafood arrive from the largest European market in Berlin. When it comes to meat, some is local, but lamb always comes from Ireland, beef - from the US.
Brothers are full of ideas. They have a small smoking hut and each Thursday you can eat (or take home) freshly smoked fish. It’s another element of the family tradition - their grandfather used to prepare smoked fish from Masurian lakes. On Saturdays there’s a live cooking station with fresh seafood: mussels, shrimp, squid, scallops. Another upcoming project includes a cooperation with Ogród Szambala - a local supplier of organic and ecologically grown vegetables with maximum nutrients. There will be a special menu based on their crops every Friday. The restaurant is tiny, but there will be enough room for a little regional deli shelf with Masurian goat cheeses, fish pickles and preserves and homemade savoury pastries.
Plans for the future? They will start with a winter patio - when it gets too cold to sit in the lovely outdoor garden, there won’t be enough room for all the guests. And if everything goes according to the plan, Drężek brothers will open another venue next year. A larger one, based on regional cuisine, with a huge deli section selling regional products from all over Poland, Latvia and a few other places. They promise not to surprise us with an Italian pizzeria anytime soon. They will stick to what they do best - promoting great regional products.
Perhaps you already have your favourite place for a cup of coffee and some freshly baked pastry in Warsaw. Perhaps you are still looking for one.
Perhaps it will be a new French bistro-cafe called Być Może (meaning 'perhaps' in Polish), which popped up a few months ago in a historical townhouse on plac Unii Lubelskiej. The building is famous for having held the first MPIK, Klub Międzynarodowej Prasy i Książki (International Book and Press Club) - opened a few years after the World War II, providing Warsaw citizens with rare books and music, foreign language press and freshly brewed coffee.
If you are, like ourselves, huge enthusiasts of bread, you have found the right place. You can enjoy freshly bake baguettes, all shapes and flavours of wheat bread, rye bread, nut bread, gluten-free bread, as well as hand-made croissants, tarts and all sorts of sweet treats. If you're trying to stay away from bread, you can go for the lunch offer - freshly prepared from local ingredients on a daily basis. If you still don't feel convinced, we have one last argument. Wine! Lots of wine. From Italy, France, Spain. Perhaps you're more convinced now?
Czuła Buła, a friendly little coffeehouse, is situated in the heart of Old Mokotów in Warsaw. They serve breakfast, sandwiches, salads, refreshing lemonades and, obviously, freshly brewed coffee. It's a lovely place to start the day with a bowl of creamy millet porridge and a cup of cappuccino.