Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

Some of my favorites from 2006 (clockwise from top left): My first taste of mango with sweet sticky rice; peeps-topped cupcakes on the Upper East Side of Manhattan; spurred on by the May Eat Local challenge, becoming a regular at my local farmers' market and eating lots of carrots; concocting rhubarb schnapps; going as local as my work parking lot for passion flower fruit; and settling on a cozy neighborhood sushi bar.

It's been a yummy year here at Erin's Kitchen--as Shakira would say, my hips don't lie. Though gym-going rates high on the resolution list, you can expect much more deliciousness here in 2007. With the world only getting crazier by the minute, I wish you all comfort and joy in your kitchens and at your table in the year to come. Cheers and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Grandma Sally's Cinnamon Rolls

8 year-old Erin, Christmas morning: "Please can't we open presents? Puh-leeeze?"

Erin's mom, Christmas morning: "Not until everyone has a cinnamon roll and the adults have their coffee."

Luckily, my Grandma Sally's cinnamon rolls are so good, my sister and I almost didn't mind having to eat one before we could open presents on Christmas morning. Almost.

Now, we're the last ones out of bed on December 25, and often more excited about the presents we're giving rather than getting (J says: not true). Even better, this is the second year that my sister and I have helped my Grandma make the cinnamon rolls, and I think I'm ready to attempt a batch on my own.

Like most grandma-perfected baked goods, exact measurements are difficult to ascertain. Use the recipe below as a general guide, but feel free to experiment. Serve warm with butter.

Grandma Sally's Cinnamon Rolls

¼ c sugar
2 tbsp shortening
4 t salt
4 c warm water
1 pkg yeast

12-14 c flour
1 stick butter, softened
brown sugar

2 9x12 cake pans, greased

Place sugar, shortening and salt in medium bowl. Add warm water, then stir in yeast. Mix well until yeast is dissolved, shortening will remain lumpy.

Sift 10 cups of flour into large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add yeast mixture. Stir well until all flour is incorporated.

Sift approximately 2 cups flour onto clean counter. Turn out dough onto sifted flour. With floured hands, knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If the dough's too sticky, add some more flour. Lightly grease large bowl that flour was in, and return dough to that bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down with your fist, and let rise again for about 1 hour.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface, and roll out into a large rectangle, approximately 1/4 inch thick.

Liberally brush dough with softened butter, covering entire surface. Spread buttered dough with brown sugar, completely covering surface. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Tightly roll dough into cylinder. If your rectangle is really long, an extra pair of hands is useful for this step. Turn cylinder seam-side down, and cut into rolls approximately 2 inches wide.

Place rolls into greased cake pans, about 12 to a pan; do not crowd since they have to rise again. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400. Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve warm, or reheat in low-temperature oven before serving. You can freeze them too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wine 101 at San Antonio Winery

If you're like me, you probably have one or two gifts left to figure out before Christmas next week, right? Here's what I say: skip the mall and send your friend or family member to the a "Wine 101" Wine Tasting Seminar at San Antonio Winery in downtown Los Angeles. An afternoon sipping some of California's best and snacking on branzino and duck ravioli will go over a lot better than another sweater from the Gap, dontcha think?

The same seminar will be held both January 20 and 21, from 12 pm-3pm. The cost includes a lots of food, and the chance to taste a bunch of wine, including Turnbull Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Napa Valley, Grgich Hills Fume Blanc 2005 Napa Valley, San Simeon Chardonnay 2003 Monterey County, San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 Tuscany and Sterling Vineyards Merlot 2002 Napa Valley.

San Antonio Winery was founded in 1917 and remains a family-run business. Fellow LA blogger Franklin Avenue describes his recent visit here. My favorite fact from Franklin Ave? The winery made it through prohibition by supplying the Catholic church with wine. Hee!

To make reservations for the event, call (323) 223-1401 x 71 or email The cost of the event is $60.00 per person. Click here for directions.

Full disclosure: The winery has invited me to attend this seminar as its guest, and I plan to go. Of course, it was not a requirement for me to post the event info, and if I don't like it--you'll be the first to know!

Last Chance to Win Big (and feel good about it!)

The Menu for Hope ends tomorrow (Friday) at 6 pm PST, so you have a little over 24 hours to buy your $10 raffle tickets and bid on prizes like dinner for four with wine at Mozza, the new Batali joint in LA, or dinner with NYT wine critic Eric Asimov.

We've already raised $40,000 (who says bloggers don't have power?)! Can you help push it to $50,000? Make your bids now!

Here at Erin's Kitchen we've sponsored prize UW15: a brand- spankin' new copy of Arabesque by Middle Eastern food expert Claudia Roden, a cookbook that covers the history and the food of Turkey, Morocco and Lebanon. And if that wasn't enough, I've thrown in a $25 gift certificate to Penzey's, an online emporium of herbs and spices at great bulk prices. They carry six different kinds of cinnamon, seven peppercorn varieties, and everything else you need to build a Middle Eastern pantry.

Best of all, every penny raised goes directly to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which began in 1963, as the United Nations' frontline agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2003, WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries, including refugees and internally displaced people and families left homeless by natural disaster.

So, go to First Giving and buy your raffle tickets today. Be sure to enter the number of the prize(s) you want. For a full list of prizes visit Chez Pim, and for those of you who like to play the odds, check out Becks and Posh for the odds of winning each of the West Coast prizes. And of course, big thanks to all of y'all who have already donated!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Like My Nuts Candied:
Cinnamon Almonds and Gingered Pepitas

uncandied almond photo by dano

Promise me, dear readers: after reading this post you will never again buy ridiculously expensive, fancy-pants candied nuts. Or at least you'll only buy them in a dire nut emergency. Life or death, okay?

Here's why you can renounce your candied-nut buying ways: it's easy-peasy to make your own, and you can make them exactly the way you want--cuz you know you're picky about your nuts.

Candied nuts make an excellent gift--I sent all my holiday party attendees away with jars of cinnamon-orange almonds. If you live within the orbit of an all-powerful Trader Joe's, you can hook yourself up with cheap nuts, too, of all shapes, sizes and flavors. I always start with the plainest nuts possible--no salt, unroasted--so I have complete control over the flavors.

I prefer the on-the-stove technique over oven-roasting, again, because of the control. I encourage you to experiment with different recipes to find what works best for you, and once you have a technique down, your flavor options are endless.

Cinnamon-Orange Almonds

1 orange, grated rind only
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
nutmeg, freshly grated
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups almonds

Combine the orange peel, sugar, cinnamon and water in a deep sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring regularly until it boils. Add the nuts and reduce the heat to medium-low so the liquid is simmering. Stir constantly while the water evaporates. At first, the glaze will be shiny. As the water boils off, the sugar will form brown, crusty crystals on the nuts. When the nuts are completely coated and all the liquid has evaporated, remove from the heat. Make sure to stir constantly to prevent the nuts from burning. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet to cool and crisp. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Gingered Pepitas and Peanuts with Dried Cranberries
adapted from Martha Stewart, December 05

4 cups pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. coarse salt
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. sugar
3 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
2 c. roasted peanuts
1 c. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300. Spread pepitas out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast about 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.

While pepitas are roasting, stir together 1/2 c sugar, salt, ginger and cinnamon in a big bowl. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine vanilla, remaining 1/3 c. sugar, and 3 tbsp. water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in fresh ginger. Add peanuts and toasted pepitas; cook, stirring, until liquid has almost evaporated and sugar is starting to crystallize on the nuts.

Remove pan from heat and immediately mix in sugar-ginger mixture until nuts are well coated. Spread out nuts on a baking sheet and let cool completely, ideally overnight. Stir in dried cranberries. Mixture can be stored in airtight containers at room temp up to two weeks.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sugar and Spice: Holiday B'steeyas

Cinnamon sticks by Mika

Throughout the holidays, you can often find a small pan of water simmering on my stove, redolent with the smell of the cinnamon sticks floating inside. Their fragrance signifies Christmas to me, and a hefty pinch (or two or three) finds its way into most of my holiday sweets.

This year, I decided to let the cinnamon run wild through my savory recipes as well, and opted for a Middle Eastern-esque menu for our annual holiday open house. Mini chicken b'steeyas -- savory and slightly sweet phyllo-dough meat pies -- were the stars of the show.

Unfortunately, my digital camera's resting comfortably in my great-aunt's house in Luray, Virginia, having forgotten to get in my bag when I left last weekend, so I have no pictures of this feast, but hopefully my schematic's more useful anyway.

Mini Chicken B'steeyas
I made my filling the day before and assembled them morning of the party. You can refrigerate the b'steeyas for a few hours before you cook them, just place on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Take the wrap off, and they can go right into the oven. Recipe an adapted melange from both Arabesque by Claudia Roden and Martha Stewart Living.


olive oil
10-12 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast
salt and pepper
splash or two of white wine
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground tumeric
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. raisins

Salt and pepper your chicken breasts. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Saute your chicken breasts in the pan until just cooked through, about 5 minutes a side. Remove breasts to plate and set aside.

Deglaze pan with a slug of white wine, scraping up the brown bits from the chicken. Add a bit more olive oil if need be, and then add your onion. Cook for 6-8 minutes until translucent, stirring ocassionally. Add ginger, tumeric, cinnamon and sugar, stir well and cook for a minute or two until very fragrant. Stir in raisins, take off heat and set aside.

Return to your chicken breasts. Cut them into teeny-tiny pieces. Mix with the spicy onions, and that's your filling.

1/2 c. whole almonds
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed (you may not need the whole package)
1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400. Whir your almonds and the powdered sugar in a food processor until powdery. Take your phyllo dough out of the fridge. Keep it covered with a damp kitchen towel when you're not using it so it doesn't dry out. Phyllo dough comes in big long rectangles. You want pieces that are about 3-4 inches wide by whatever the short side of the dough is (about 7-8 inches) tall. I've found that most packages of phyllo dough often crack right about at the 3-4 inch mark, which makes for easy measuring.

Take one 3ish x 7ish piece of phyllo dough. Brush it with the melted butter. Sprinkle some of the almond-powdered sugar mixture on it. Place another piece of dough on top. Brush it with butter. About 1/2 inch from a short end, place about 1 tablespoon of chicken filling. Fold it up like a little package, following schematic above. Place on cookie sheet and repeat. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until crispy and light brown. Sift a mixture of cinnamon and powdered sugar over the top before serving.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Taste of What's on the Menu for Hope

Sarah of The Delicious Life posted a great round-up of some of the items from the Menu for Hope raffle on ThisNext, and I wanted to share the bounty here. Click on the images above for descriptions, or scoot on over to Chez Pim for the full list.

Thanks to fellow LA bloggers LAist, Gastronomy 101, All Kinds of Yum, Franklin Avenue for highlighting this charity event. We've already raised over last year's total of $17,000 and we still have many days to go! You can place your bid at First Giving--Remember to add the code for the prize you want. The Erin's Kitchen prize is UW15.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Cookies

Right now, I'm anxiously awaiting my flight back to LA from DC, dreaming of hunkering down in my kitchen and baking, baking, baking. Here's a glimpse of what I plan to bake--all tested recipes that I know will turn out well (unlike my legislative wrangling here on Capitol Hill)!

Linzer Cookies, from Gourmet 2005

Left to Right:
Fig Swirls, Gourmet 2005
Chocolate Cookies, Mario Batali's Babbo Cookbook (without powdered sugar topping)
Gingersnaps, Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

By the way, have you bid on your Menu for Hope Prize yet? Don't forget prize UW15, sponsored by yours truly--a $25 Penzey's gift certificate and a copy of Arabesque, one of the best new cookbooks of the year, from one of the world's great Middle Eastern food experts. Buy your ONLY $10 raffle tickets here and spice up your 2007. You have until December 22.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hope for the Holiday Season

10 million people die every year from hunger.

This holiday season, you can help.

Erin's Kitchen is participating in Chez Pim's 3rd Annual Menu for Hope, a foodblogger event to raise money for the UN World Food Programme, which helps the hungry around the globe.

The event is an online raffle, with foodbloggers providing all sorts of great prizes. Tickets are only $10, and you can bid on specific prizes. For a full list of prizes, visit Chez Pim, and for a list of all West Coast participants, visit Becks and Posh. See below for bidding directions and information on the prize I'm offering:

Arabesque by Claudia Roden and $25 Penzey's Gift Certificate
CODE for raffle tickets: UW15
Where to buy the tickets: First Giving Menu for Hope

Can't afford a trip to Morocco, but crave the spicy-sweet flavors of a well-made tagine? This prize is for you. Arabesque, the latest cookbook by Middle East food expert Claudia Roden, bursts with lively, flavorful recipes from Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. She provides a wealth of historical and cultural tidbits as well as details on unfamiliar ingredients. In addition to a brand new copy of the cookbook, shipped direct from Powell Books, you'll get a $25 gift certificate to Penzey's Spices, so you can build your Middle East spice cupboard.
Details on how to bid:

1. Go to the donation page at First Giving Menu for Hope. Remember, the code for my prize is UW15.

2. Make a donation, each $10 will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify the prize code(s) of the prize(s) you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. Do tell us how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code -for example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UW01 and 3 for UW02.

3. If your company matches your charity donation, please remember to check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

5. Check back on Chez Pim on January 15 when we announce the result of the raffle. (The drawing will be done electronically. Our friend the code wizard Derrick at Obsession with Food is responsible for the wicked application that will do the job.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Night in Umbria with my First Truffle

Shaved onto a delicately scrambled egg, my first truffle tasted like dirt. That’s not quite right—let’s try this: it tasted of earth—the earthiest, woodsiest, richest fungus I’ve had. Luckily for her, the woman waiting in line behind me looked a bit like my grandma, or I wouldn’t have had any qualms about blocking her access and stealing her plate of truffled eggs.

The shaved fennel salad and the fresh figs were my favorites.

This truffle came to me by way of my friend Kelly, who generously invited J and I to an Umbria tasting tour sponsored by various Italian trade promoters at the Sunset Tower Hotel. Umbria, the only landlocked region of Italy, has plenty of gustatory treasures to share with the world; in addition to the truffles we sampled regional cheese, pasta and artisanal olive oils. However, the centerpiece of the event was the region’s wine.

Our favorite discussion was with a representative of Vino Bravo wines, who passionately outlined his company’s vision when we stopped at his table: they only import wines made from grapes indigenous to Italy. They focuses on small producers and grapes the likes of which a wine neophyte like myself has never heard of, and bring them to many restaurants and stores in the Los Angeles area and elsewhere. At this table we sampled Antonelli's Sagrantino di Montefalco and Montefalco Rosso, a Sagrantino blend; read more about the robust Sagrantino grape here.

This event was part of a wider promotion by trade officials from Umbria that continues across the city through the 15th. You can find special Umbrian-focused menus at Ago, Caffe Roma, Drago, Enoteca Drago, Grace, Il Grano, La Botte, La Terza, Piccolo Ristorante, Patina, Sor Tino, Valentino and Wilson.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Roasted Chestnuts

I have no open fire, nor is Jack Frost anywhere near my Angeleno nose, but roasted chestnuts are a swell treat for the holiday season. This time of year, bunches of nuts in their shell turn up at your local grocery store, and my local Albertson's carries piles of chestnuts.

Unlike walnuts and pecans, you shouldn't eat chestnuts without roasting them first, which couldn't be easier. Preheat your oven to about 375. Cut a small X in the skin of each chestnut with a sharp knife, otherwise you'll have exploding nuts, which puts a damper on the holidays. Place in an oven proof dish, and roast for about 15-2o minutes, until the skin starts to curl back (see picture above). Wait until they cool, then peel.

The sweet, slightly soft nutmeats work well in a risotto, or sprinkled on a salad--you can toast them first if you like. I first encountered them in Jamie Oliver's recipe for Pumpkin, Sage, Chestnut and Bacon Risotto, a ridiculously rich and complicated dish that's easily simplified and modified (see the kabocha squash, chanterelle and chestnut risotto pictured below).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Buenos Aires Dining Tips and Resources

Bar Federal, San Telmo neighborhood, Buenos Aires

Though I could opine for ages on the delectable treats we ate in Argentina, I'm gonna wrap things up with a few tips and resources for anyone planning a trip to this fabulous country. And if you are going, I'm sure you have extra room for me in your suitcase, right? Feel free to email if you have any questions: erinskitchen [at] gmail [dot] com.

Previous Buenos Aires posts: Best steak places; good coffee and breakfast; empanadas.

Don't Miss The...

House-made hard cider. After a hot morning of tromping around the city, this light, low-alcohol refresher will restore you for an afternoon of exploring. We enjoyed it at Bar Federal in San Telmo and Proscuitto in Monserrat.

Helados (ice cream). On practically every block you can find artisanal ice cream--made on the premises. My late afternoon staple was banana, a flavor I rarely find in the U.S.

Havanna alfajores. Havanna, a popular chain of cafes across the city, produces these traditional dulche de leche filled, chocolate covered cookies by the boxful. We snagged a bunch to share with our families at Christmas, and I'm struggling not to devour them right now.

What You Need to Know to Eat
  • The tap water in Buenos Aires is safe to drink, but bottled water is cheap and ubiquitous. Decide whether you like "sin gas" (still) or "con gas" (fizzy), the first question you'll be asked at many a restaurant.
  • Be ready to stay out late. Enter a restaurant before 8:30 pm, and you'll have the place to yourself.
  • Make dinner reservations at the popular spots. Day-of reservations worked for us, and the front desk staff at our hotels were happy to help. Double check the hours, too--many spots close on Sunday and/or Monday.
Can you tell I'm an Americano while I enjoy my cafe con leche?
  • Check please! Even if you chill out and shed your American impatience, you'll likely want the bill at some point--waitstaff don't automatically bring it. Learn: La cuenta, por favor.
  • Entrada means starter, not entree. Had I known this, I wouldn't have ordered a spartan potato dish our one night in Lima, Peru. Most higher-end restaurants will have a menu in English if you ask.
  • If you see the unfamiliar "cubierto" on your bill, that's a small service charge for dishes, silverware and bread. It doesn't replace a tip, which is typically 10%.
pedestrian bridge, Puerto Madero neighborhood, Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Trip Planning

We used the Moon Handbooks Buenos Aires guide, Lonely Planet Buenos Aires, and Lonely Planet Argentina for our side trip to Puerto Iguazu. The Moon book had great info on day trips outside of BA and a useful set of neighborhood maps at the front. We also had the Wallpaper Buenos Aires guide, which directed us to a few good shopping spots and architectural marvels, but the dining section is for trendoids.

We split our hotel time between the Youkali Hotel in San Telmo/Monserrat and Malabia House in Palermo. Youkali had the most uncomfortable bed I've ever slept on in my life and horrible pillows, but it was a charming building and had a great breakfast. Malabia was lovely in absolutely every way and I would highly recommend it. In Puerto Iguazu, we stayed at the very respectable Park Hostel Iguazu, clean, comfy, spartan rooms.

All three hotels advertised the availability of airport transfers, but we were 2 for 4 on our trip. We scheduled with every place we stayed (including the fab Hotel Antigua Miraflores, our one-night-in-Lima spot), but only the Miraflores and the Hostel actually showed up. Wasn't a big problem, however, as getting a taxi (or the more expensive, supposedly safer "remise"--car service) was easy as pie.

The most fabulous bookstore in the world, El Ateneo Gran Splendid, a former theater. Lots of great Argentine cookbooks.

Web Resources

Buenos Aires Travel Blogs:
This real-person travel blog site is an excellent place for general inspiration and excitement-building about your trip.

30 Things to Do in Buenos Aires:
From expat blog Buenos Aires, City of Faded Elegance.

Argentina on two Steaks A Day: Vibrant portrait of dining in Buenos Aires.

Guille Buenos Aires:
Overall good guide to the city for visitors.

The Empanada Trail: Expat blogger Saltshaker has a wealth of dining info on his site.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thirty Cent Lunch

A quarter and a nickel, or about one peso--all ya need for a toasty empanada in Buenos Aires.

It was our first day out and about in Buenos Aires, and we were starving. A few blocks from our hotel, we wandered into a tiny neighborhood lunch spot, full of middle-aged guys. A glass case on the counter housed flaky empanadas, and various pie shaped items. The only Americans in sight, our non-existent Spanish got a few smiles, but we got our lunch--our first empanadas--and devoured them in a matter of minutes.

These tasty, portable pockets became our go-to lunch throughout our vacation--varying among the carne (beef), pollo (chicken) or jamon y queso (ham and cheese). Often the carne and pollo ones had some chopped hard-boiled egg as well. Crust quality varied, but for the price, you can't complain. The most expensive ones we ate were at Iguazu Falls National Park, a whopping two pesos each (about 60 cents).

Even the famed La Cupertina, a homey cafe in Palermo that's received accolades for the best empanadas in the city, doesn't charge more than 1.5 pesos. Their empanadotas, double-sized empanadas, went for a titch more. These wood oven-baked treats, representative of the Tucuman province of Argentina, deserve the praise; here the beef is hand chopped (not ground as in most we ate) and the sweet corn and cheese can't be beat. As the New York Times noted, you almost feel like apologizing when you pay.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Meat Lover's Paradise: Buenos Aires Steaks

Working the grill at Cabana Las Lilas in the Puerto Madero neighborhood, Buenos Aires. To successfully order rare steak in BA, start practicing: vuelta y vuelta

Hold out your hand. Make a fist. Now imagine a filet mignon bigger than your fist, dripping pink-red on the inside, charred crisp and crunchy on the outside, screaming COW in every tender bite. That was my first Argentine steak, and my-oh-my did it deliver on my expectations. (And yes, I ate it all).

Anyone who thinks grass-fed beef can't be tender hasn't had this mignon at Cabana Las Lilas, one of the preeminent steak houses in Buenos Aires. On the recommendation of R.W. Apple, J and I descended on this institution our first night in town. Cabana's steaks come from the restaurant's very own estancia (ranch); though we turned on the charm, J and I were not offered a private flight to the ranch like Mr. Apple.

Serious eating takes place at an Argentine parilla (steakhouse), you must prepare yourself. Cabana Las Lilas starts you out with a complimentary tray of small bits--roasted tomatoes, beef carpacchio, dome of roquefort, some salmon--as well as bazillions of breads. Breads in a basket, bread on its own stand, bread from the dedicated bread man popping over your shoulder with his tongs.

Our last meal in town was as fabulously steak-y as our first, this time in the Palermo neighborhood at La Cabrera. We shared a long strip loin steak that came with a dizzying array of small porcelain dishes filled with all sorts of wonders--roasted eggplant and peppers, applesauce, brined garlic cloves, pickled onions. We made it through this one too, though J did the heavy lifting.

In case that wasn't enough to stop your heart in its tracks, you'd want to take a day trip over to Colonia, Uruguay and order the steak milanese at a waterside cafe. On top of your thinly pounded, breaded and fried steak, you'll get....a slice of ham....a melted slice of shit...a fried egg.

The best part? You can eat like the biggest movie mogul in town for mere pennies. At La Cabrera, we shared a chorizo (the traditional start to an asada), a big bowl of potatos, the steak, bottled water, two espressos, a dulche de leche flan, and a bottle of Malbec. Total? 52 bucks, 25 of which was the Malbec.