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Pairing: Tarte Flambée & Alsace Riesling

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Went to a nifty small-scale Alsace wine and food tasting the other evening, hosted by DB Bistro's chef de cuisine Olivier Muller and wine director Arnaud Devulder. There was a compelling reason to go, as DB Bistro produces (for my money) the best tarte flambée in NYC—challenged, yes, but not bested by the one at The Modern, I think. Tarte flambée is basically extremely thin dough with fromage blanc spread on it, and then thinly sliced onions and smoked bacon on top of that, the whole thing slipped into a fiercely hot oven just until it's crisp and crackly. Some recipes call for crème fraiche mixed with the fromage blanc; Muller's doesn't. The dish was born, he says, when bakers in Alsace would use a thin bit of dough to test the heat of their ovens—if the oven was hot enough, it would crisp and lightly char almost instantly. 

Whether those bakers were drinking Riesling with their ur-tartes-flambée I don't know, but they should have been. Devulder poured tastes of the 2000 Trimbach Cuvée Frederic Emile (about $40 fo the current, '03 vintage) and the 2001 Pierre Sparr Grand Cru Schoenenburg (about $35) with Muller's rendition, and they both went terrifically well. The Trimbach smelled of spice, bitter orange and a hint of diesel fuel, and tasted of apples and apple skin, orange rind and minerals—lovely wine. The Sparr was bigger and richer, with an almost oily texture and notes of peaches and lemon zest. The key to the pairing is acidity—tarte flambée isn't very weighty but it is rich, and the edgy acidity of both wines cut right through that richness.

And one could extend this idea, of course. Alsace Riesling, for instance, with pasta carbonara wouldn't be off base. Or just Alsace Riesling with a big plate of smoked bacon. Go wild. It's important to feed the soul sometimes, even at the expense of the body. 

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