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Flambeeria

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!

Flambéeria, ul. Hoża 61, Warsaw

Prosecco and blackberries cocktail

What's your least favourite weather? Personally, I really honestly hate the heat. Even my inborn aversion to snow and cold doesn't make it easier to bear anything over 30 degrees Celscius. I hope that one day I will move to a weather paradise where thermometers never show anything below 20 or above 25 degrees. Until then, all I have is complaining and more and less effective methods of surviving the heat.

How to survive the sweltering heat:

1. If you can't imagine starting a day without a cup of coffee, go for a refreshing iced americano, instead of foamy cappuccino.

2. Drink water! Lots of water! Add fresh mint, lemon juice or cucumber slices to make it even more reviving. Drinking water is almost always a good idea.

3. Eat cold food. It's light and you don't need to stay over a steaming pot or heat your kitchen with the oven to prepare it. Make salads, cold snacks, sushi (or - even better - sushi burrito) and cold soups (how about chilled avocado soup chłodnik z awokado?).

4. Homemade ice cream! Making sorbet or granita doesn't take a lot of effort and gives you a solid dose of refreshment. Use this recipe for traditional Sicilian granita. You can adjust the quantity of sugar (or not use sugar at all) and go with seasonal fruit - blueberries, raspberries, currants.

5. Focus on the positive sides of the heat. In the evening, when the temperature is nice and bearable, sit at your terrace (or your friends' terrace), take a sip of a chilled prosecco and blackberries cocktail and try to remember how much you actually hate winter.

Recipe: Prosecco and blackberries cocktail

Serves: 2 (adults)
Ingredients
  • 150 ml of chiled prosecco (or other sparkling white wine - it just has to be chilled!)
  • 50 ml of chilled limoncello
  • fresh blackberries (around 6)
Method
  • Start with placing blackberries in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
  • Transfer frozen blackberries into chilled glasses.
  • Top with limoncello.
  • Fill up with chilled prosecco.
  • Cheers!

rhubarb syrup

It’s one of the best ways to capture the taste of summer in a glass bottle. Rhubarb syrup is extremely easy to make and can be used in multiple refreshing ways. You can add it to homemade iced tea or simply serve with sparkling water and plenty of ice cubes. I highly recommend a cocktail made of rhubarb syrup and wheat beer, with a hint of lemon and fresh mint. If you plan a summer evening on a terrace, make a spritzer with crisp white wine and sparkling water or pleasantly chilled prosecco.

Recipe: Rhubarb syrup

Makes about 400 ml of syrup
Ingredients
  • 1 kg of rhubarb, chopped
  • one cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of water
  • juice of one lemon
Method
  • Combine rhubarb, sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan.
  • Bring to boil and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.
  • Let cool and sieve to separate the liquid from the rhubarb (you can use it to make a cake).
  • Transfer the syrup to a bottle.