100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes: Ham and Cheese Tartita from Maria Empanada

No. 68 Ham and Cheese Tartita at Maria Empanada 1298 South Broadway 303-934-2221

Almost every country has its version of a portable dough pocket filled with savory ingredients: Polish pierogies, Welsh pasties, Indian samosas. In Argentina, empanadas are the snack of choice in cafes or on the go, whether with a coffee or a glass of wine. The display cases at Maria Empanada may feature a dozen different varieties on any given day filled with seasoned ground beef, corn, chicken, spinach or mushrooms. Big deep-dish tartas can be purchased whole or by the wedge, but the miniature versions -- tartitas -- have just the right ratio of flaky crust to ham-studded creamy filling.

See also: 100 Favorite Dishes of 2014

Owner Lorena Cantarovici starts with the same dough that's used to form her empanadas, but it's shaped into a diminutive pie with an open top. The filling, less custardy than French quiche, is formed from diced salty ham, a little egg and a generous amount of cheese. More cheese covers the top, forming a luscious, browned crust on top once the tartita is baked.

The beauty of these savory South American treats is that the flavors and textures are familiar to the American palate, even if the names and shapes are not. As comfort food goes, the ham and cheese tartita is unrivaled at bringing you into the moment, focusing your attention on the pastry shell that manages to be firm and sturdy while still maintaining its delicacy. Even in the midst of a frenzied rush hour or a grab-and-go lunch, the tartita -- with a cortadita espresso or a yerba mate -- slows the day down so you can enjoy a warm, welcoming moment in the middle of a busy day.

In advance of the Best of Denver 2015, we're already loading our plates with contenders for the best dishes in the city. And over the next nine months, we'll be sharing many of them with you, counting down (in no particular order) one hundred of our favorite dishes before the the Best of Denver 2015 hits the streets on March 26. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at [email protected]

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2014 countdown are linked below.

No. 100: Chile Relleno at La Fiesta No. 99: Gurage Kitfo at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant No. 98: Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class No. 97: The Greggers Tongue Sandwich at Olive & Finch No 96: Baum Cakes at Glaze by Sasa No. 95: Goat hot pot from Viet's No 94: Head cheese from Beast + Bottle No. 93: Kettle Chips from Amerigo Delicatus No. 92: Pork Belly Confit at Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar No. 91: Tacos Campechanos from La Calle Taqueria No. 90: Biscuits from Denver Biscuit Co. No. 89: Clams and Chorizo at Gozo No. 88: Aburi Sushi at Sushi Den and Izakaya Den No. 87: Kimchi and Sausage Torta at City, O' City No. 86: Mar y Tierra Molcajete at Paxia No. 85: Crispy Pork Spare Ribs at Table Top No. 84: Chips and Dip at Euclid Hall No. 83: Chile Relleno Burrito at El Taco de Mexico No. 82: Scallop Crudo at Stoic & Genuine No. 81: Ceylon Curry Dosa at Khazana No. 80: The Lambada Torta at La Torteria No. 79: Pork Bulgogi at Dae Gee No. 78: the Pulled Pork Pig Pen Sandwich at Boney's No. 77: IPA Mac & Cheese at Hops & Pie No. 76: Chiles en Nogada at Chili Verde No. 75: Udon Noodle Bowl at Bones No. 74: Cinnamon Rolls at the Duffeyroll Cafe No. 73: Smoked Turkey Croque-Madame at Acorn No. 72: Pickled Lake Michigan Perch at Trillium No 71: Oysters at Jax Fish House Glendale No. 70: Venezuelan Tostadas at Empanada Express Grill No. 69: Tahini Cauliflower from Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs