New Foods-I Am All In


I think the last new food I tried was mozzarella cheese and prosciutto ham wrapped together in a log shaped configuration.  It was heaven,  The creamy richness of the cheese mixed with the saltiness of the prosciutto was a wonderful taste.  Another new food I had the pleasure of eating was the Monte Cristo Sandwich-WOW!!

This sandwich was one of the most salacious, decadent, and sinful pleasures I have ever experience.

It all started when I lived in Portland.  On Belmont St.-on the East side of the Willamette River-stood an old icon of Portland dining, The Monte Cristo.  People would often tell me I had to eat the sandwich there, as” it was out of bounds”.  “It was a home run on a bun”. “And I could die in peace knowing I had the best sandwich ever created”.  I always thought Dagwood Bumstead‘s sandwiches were some of the best ever created, but of one can’t eat a cartoon drawing.

However before I had a chance to try this Portland “must have” icon, the place burned down.  Luckily no one was in the place.  I did kick myself for not getting down there.  Happily the owners eventually moved to a location in Gresham-just outside Portland-near to where my house was.  Thank goodness America is the land of second chances.

Sadly I missed my second chance.  The new place closed down within 6 months.  I kicked myself again.  All this kicking was becoming tiresome and potentially could lead to cramps and disjointed joints.  So I vowed to eat the Monte if this place ever opened again.  It didn’t happen.

As is often the case, life got in the way.  Work, school, travel, and family obligations all conspired to make me forget about the sandwich.  Perhaps forget is too strong a word.  De-emphasize would be a better word.  Soon the sandwich was on the lowest rung of things to get to list.  Years went by with nary a thought of the Monte.  Then I got the chance to open my own restaurant and the sandwich regained prominence on the list.

One of the great things about opening a restaurant, whether as owner or worker, is eating all the dishes.  Cooks practice making them and it is a shame to just throw them away.  Besides the waiters need to be able to explain the awesomeness of the menu items.  The weeks leading up to “going live”  are fat and happy ones.

There was one little draw back to putting the Monte Cristo on the menu-I didn’t know what it was.  In all the years since I first heard of it I never bothered to discover what it consisted of, or how to make one.  So I hit “the tubes” to discover what a Monte was.

I dam near ended up in traction from kicking myself for not discovering earlier what this sandwich was all about.  On the Google I found myself staring at pictures and reading descriptions of what has to be the world’s most perfect sandwich.  It is as if some demented genius mashed breakfast and lunch together.  According to Mahalo.com that genius was some French cook who invented the  Croque Monsieur, with an assist from Walk Disney who made the American version popular in the 60’s selling it at The Blue Bayou in Disneyland.

I couldn’t wait to begin making this sandwich at the cafe.  I believe it was the first item I made in the run-up to opening.  It was so naughty and sinful I had to go to confession the next day.  Unfortunately, for my mortal soul, I have sinned so many times eating this sandwich that I just gave up the confessional.

In the version the cafe served, we took two pieces of Texas Toast drenched them in egg wash ala french toast.  As the toast was cooking up we grilled ham and turkey, hand cut fresh.  After turning the toast over to cook we loaded the finished sides with grated cheddar cheese, before piling on the mounds of ham and turkey.  Once it was finished cooking the sandwich was cut in half, dusted with powered sugar and served with the cafe’s home made maple syrup.  I am sure the local Catholic churches saw an up tick in confessional traffic the first month we were open.

The sandwich made my mouth water as I was cooking it.  And to taste it well a bib was required, at least for me.  The salty ham, the light turkey, mixed with the fried egg and sugar of the syrup was off the charts.  I was not alone in my assessment.  The Monte became one the Cafe’s biggest sellers.

Check out the various versions of this sandwich here.

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