Democracy Dies in Darkness


It’s not pizza. It’s not flatbread. It’s flammkuchen, a pie like no other.

September 6, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Flammkuchen from DBGB. (Greg Powers/For The Washington Post; food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

With a thin, crispy crust, flammkuchen (as it’s known in German) or tarte flambée (in French) is sort of a hybrid between flatbread and pizza. Literally translated as “flame cake” or “pie cooked in flames,” the dish is a specialty of France’s northeastern Alsace region and the southwestern Palatinate region in Germany. (It dates to the 4th century, long before modern borders, writes Helga Rosemann in her 2009 book “Flammkuchen.”) Ideally, it will arrive at your table fresh from a wood-burning oven, as at Mintwood Place in the District, whose high temperature (around 700 degrees!) cooks it in about three minutes. The crust’s edges will be slightly burned, their charred bitterness cutting through the rich toppings of creme fraiche, onions and bacon. “It’s perfect with beer,” says chef Cedric Maupillier.

Of course, there’s more than one way to make a flammkuchen. In addition to the classic, chef Nicholas Tang of Washington’s DBGB Kitchen and Bar makes a vegetarian tarte flambée with mushrooms and sliced red onions; it’s finished with olive oil and arugula, to give it a spicy kick. In any of its iterations, the dish is ideal lunch, dinner or happy hour fare. And let us not forget brunch, when you’ll also find it at Mintwood Place topped with — what else? — smoked salmon or bacon and egg.

1. Crust

The unleavened dough is made with flour, water and a bit of salt. It’s rolled out very thin and, once baked, has an almost crackery texture. It’s similar to a thick flour tortilla or, says Tang, a bready wonton skin.

2. Sauce

The dish gets a tangy richness from a thin layer of creme fraiche or fromage blanc, often seasoned with a little ground nutmeg.

3. Pork

More richness is added with thin strips of fatty bacon (a.k.a. lardons). They’re tastefully strewn on top, raw, and become crispy-chewy once the flatbread is baked.

4. Onion

Diced or thinly sliced onion, also added raw, brings a welcome sharpness.

Find the dish in the District at Mintwood Place (1813 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-234-6732, and DBGB Kitchen and Bar (931 H St. NW, 202-695-7660, ) or in Virginia at L’Auberge Chez François (332 Springvale Rd., Great Falls, 703-759-3800,

More Anatomy of a Dish from Food:

Adjika: A Georgian condiment that brings fire to the table

Buss up shut: The Caribbean roti with a catchy name

The layered Russian salad with a poetic name — and strong flavors

Dan dan noodles: Fiery, numbing comfort by way of Sichuan

A cheery Southern cake with Jamaican roots buzzes right along

Kara Elder is the editorial aide and a contributor for the Food section. She tests, edits and writes about recipes, plus answers readers' cooking questions. Kara worked for a cookbook author before joining The Washington Post in 2015.

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