Point-Counterpoint: The Monte Cristo Sandwich Is an Absurd Joke

Categories: Food Fight

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Photo by Rick Auden
The horrific Monte Cristo sandwich on this plate just barely distracts from the pale, green chunk of fruit that should be ashamed to be masquerading as honeydew.
There are very few foods I don't like. It comes with the territory. And I am incredibly stubborn about the foods I dislike.

By stubborn, though, I don't mean that I've pledged to hate them eternally. I mean that I will keep stubbornly trying foods I hate, year after year, just to see if perhaps my tastebuds have matured or enough of the ones that hate licorice have finally died off so that now -- after 31 years -- I will finally like black licorice.

It's happened with beets. It's happened with fennel. It's happened with menudo. (Our tastebuds do change over time, as do our perceptions of and attitudes toward various foods. Both are important in retraining your palate.) But this shift has yet to happen with Monte Cristo sandwiches, despite being fed large quantities of them pre-birth, while still in the womb. That's right: My experience with hating Monte Cristo sandwiches extends beyond my own life span.

Figure that magic out, NASA scientists.

As it is with nearly everything I hate, however (i.e., Katy Perry, Red Bull, the Insane Clown Posse, Burger King), my cubicle mate at work -- assistant music editor Craig Hlavaty -- loves goddamned Monte Cristo sandwiches. He challenged me to yet another food debate, and I'll concede that he actually won in spite of my best efforts.

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I am become silicon(e), destroyer of worlds.
Katharine: I just... Why? Why would anyone like a Monte Cristo sandwich? I honestly can't think of a single occasion in which salty, wet lunch meat and greasy cheese sandwiched between two soggy slices of sugared bread, topped with jam -- jam! to add insult to injury! -- would ever sound appealing to someone. I mean, let's put aside for a second how disgusting that "sandwich" is. When and why would you want one to begin with?!

Craig: I think "salty, wet lunch meat and greasy cheese sandwiched between two soggy slices of sugared bread, topped with jam" is the answer to the "Why?" in your statement.

Look, Americans are insane as fuck. We went to the Moon, invented cars, rock and roll, and breast implants, and we gave the world Jenna Jameson. You think that a sugared sandwich that you dip in Welch's grape goo is somehow off the reservation? [Note: The Monte Cristo sandwich is an American take on the croque monsieur, a French creation which manages to retain some class by not being topped with powdered sugar or jelly.] Which reminds me, we also took over a country without regard to whoever was here first, which is off topic.

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"My palm flower crystal turned black this morning. That means my LDL levels are critical. My only chance is to run it off in Cathedral while trying to avoid the sugar-crazed Cubs, and they just got an extra dose of Red Bull today."
Katharine: I see your point and raise it: We are also the country that invented Turduckens and 24-hour Sprinkles cupcake vending machines. There is no point in arguing that Americans invent truly bizarre and/or nasty food meant to ultimately reduce each future generation's lifespan until we're living in Logan's Run not because of Carousel but because rampant arteriosclerosis and hypertension will kill us all before we reach the age of 30.

But that does not explain to me how or why anyone could like a Monte Cristo. They are -- objectively speaking -- disgusting abominations. What tastes good about a soggy, hot, aborted deli sandwich dipped in gelled corn syrup?

Craig: I like to see a Monte Cristo as the ultimate American statement, like the atom bomb: "We have powdered sugar and aren't afraid to use it."

Think about the Double Down in 2010. It was so uniquely American that it horrified people to their core it seemed, but all it was was some of our most treasured foods slapped together in a really scrumptiously horrific way. I don't see a Monte Cristo as anymore offensive than veal, foie gras, or McNuggets. Or even the Sweet & Spicy Crispy Pig Ears at Hay Merchant. Whatever suits your fancy, floats your boat, and all that.

Think of the Monte Cristo as that Katrina & The Waves song, "Walking On Sunshine."


Location Info

The Hay Merchant

1100 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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61 comments
Valeria
Valeria

You are so welcome! My boyfriend and I planned a trip to Austin just to get back to your truck!! He tries your other fabulous sandwiches but I can't resist the Monte!

Reg Burns
Reg Burns

JoJo's had an excellent Monte Cristo and yes, they should be crispy, not soggy.

Corkwriter
Corkwriter

Now that the Monte Christo is chewed over, it might be time to move on to another controversial sangwich. Never mind the odd inventor, this is the BEST sangwich I've ever tasted, bar none http://tinyurl.com/Sangwich-1

Andre
Andre

American's didn't invent the automobile, Greg.

FarleyFlavors
FarleyFlavors

I got as far as Jenny Agutter and got stuck. How did it pan out ?

Nothanks
Nothanks

Americans did not invent the car.

Pilotlars
Pilotlars

You think America invented the car? Wow.

Burrtann
Burrtann

The monte cristo sandwich served in the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland is what just about everybody orders and shares!  Soggy?  If the sandwich is soggy there is something wrong!  Do I want to eat this every day?  No, but it sure is worth the price every now and then!

cuppanoodles
cuppanoodles

The Monte Cristo at House of Pies. Anybody? Anybody?

Sledgehammeross
Sledgehammeross

Soggy? Fry it correctly, and the outside should be crispy while the inside is piping hot. Comparing to a pot pie or fried chicken -- soggy crust = bad pot pie/chicken. Doubt she ever had a good one. There are tons of restaurants who serve them, and most botch it.

The Count
The Count

I cook and devour Monte Christo sandwiches all the time, and in my region (Lawrence KS) they are savory rather than sweet. That's how I make them and how all the restaurants I know of around here serve them. I get how one may be tempted to introduce syrup and powdered sugar given that it's basically a French Toast sandwich, and that does sound like a real belly buster. I like to make them with turkey, Swiss, sliced red peppers and basil pesto, on sourdough (a nice firm bread that doesn't get over-sogged with the egg). Once I made them with slices of leftover meatloaf and double Goucester.. which was phenomenal. In my mid-western experience this is a savory sandwich fried with just a little butter and they are not soggy or slimy at all...they are crunchy and hearty!  .. Also it is super yummy to make the French toast separately and then assemble a sandwich with hot meat and cold produce (like a BLT). DIVINE!

Susan Zahn
Susan Zahn

I used to enjoy this sandwich once a year (it takes a good year to recover from the calorie hit), but they DO need to be made correctly. How it is fried matters (it should remain crispy, not soggy), as does the sauce that goes with it (a fresh raspberry compote, not Smuckers!). The difference is night and day!  To dismiss this treat based on a bad experience is like saying you hate Mexican food because you didn't enjoy Taco Bell. And by the way, if you don't get the concept of salty and sweet going together, I recommend you stay away from Reeses Peanutbutter Cups and kettle corn.

Rob
Rob

I had no idea that NASA had a dedicated crew of tastebud scientists. Ok, I'm off to write a 2,000 word whiny, angry, but meaningful review on why I will never eat BBQed squirrel.

Neil Nakanishi
Neil Nakanishi

Only place with a good Monte Cristo is the Blue Bayou at Disneyland (where it was popularized)

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

First time I tried a Monte Cristo, I was AMAZED. It was like I had never tasted anything so delicious. I wanted another one right away.

Second time I had a Monte Cristo, my reaction was more "This tastes good, but I can feel the years slipping off the end of my life." It was superficially pleasing but psychologically vulgar, like a glow-in-the-dark Grateful Dead poster or a Ke$ha album.

Third time I had a Monte Cristo, I spent almost an hour in a TGIFriday's bathroom, and when I emerged, I instructed my friends under pain of death that no matter how hungry I was, I was never to be allowed to order a Monte Cristo sandwich again.

Nate
Nate

Your deep fried fried ham and cheese covered with powdered sugar and served with jelly must be the Texas regional version.  I ate lots of Monte Cristos growing up in the upper MidWest, and there a Monte Cristo is an egg battered, flat top fried, ham and cheese with no sugar and no jam.  Or, a french toast encased grilled ham and cheese.

The Count
The Count

So in the end, it wasn't so much a point-counterpoint as bored writers swapping bon mots and pointless anecdotes and trying to pass it off as an actual discussion. Great. I want my 5 minutes back. Plus the one I spent typing this.

csoakley
csoakley

Monte Cristo is the "Snakes on a Plane" of sandwiches. Sure, the concept is hilarious; but you're not supposed to actually make it.

Corkwriter
Corkwriter

First of all, Menudo is a pre-teen singing group, whose very existence is a warning sign of the Apocalypse. 

Second, the Best Monte Crisco sangwich I ever had was in Vermont, of all places.

Third, I once had a Monte Hall Sangwich, which tasted a little bit like chicken.

Fourth, of all the places in the world, the one I least expected to read a cuss-word infested, profane, funny and ribald Blog about that most sanctimonious of topics, food, was Bayonne, New Jersey. But Houston is top ten.

Fifth, Is never enough. Better get a half gallon just to be on the safe side.

Sixth, I see dead people.

Seventh, By golly I've linked to your Blog. Please adjust your center of balance statistics accordingly.

Scott
Scott

Double Down got an unfair rap. 

Double Down:  540 calories, 32g fat. Big Mac: 540, 29g fat. 

We down millions of Big Mac's a day.  They are not topping anyone's list of healthy foods.  But no one is running around screaming in the street about them.  Double Down comes along and it has the same amount of calories and only a few more grams of fat and we lose our collective minds over it. 

Essentially, Double Down was more or less a serving of Chicken Cordon Bleu placed in a stack.  

Tortelvis
Tortelvis

"I'd like a peanut butter and banana sandwich, Monte Christo style..." --- Tortelvis, lead singer of Dread Zeppelin.

Donkey Shorts
Donkey Shorts

My only experience with the Monte Cristo was always at Bennigan's and I always did enjoy it.  I liked the fact that I got 2 meals out of it because there was no way I could put a whole one down.  That was pretty much the only thing I would regularly order there. 

Valeria
Valeria

I had a similar feeling to monte cristo sandwiches, until I had one in Austin. From a food truckhttp://www.heyyougonnaeatorwha... Shiner Bock beer-battered Monte Cristo with cherry and fig preserves. SO FREAKING GOOD.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

For years I though they were called "Monte Crisco" sandwiches. Which, y'know, enough said.

larry longmore
larry longmore

I have had great Monte Cristos & horrid ones.Its all in the quality of ingredients & care taken in making the thing. Oh heck no!  Would I order one if it was in a place that had a better than average chance of serving glop? Not on your life! Would I eat them regularly if I knew I was getting a good one and not a bad one? Well, maybe once or twice a year if you call that regular.

tigeroftheduece
tigeroftheduece

Believe it or not Wings n More makes em. And those muther effers are deep fried. None of that "grilled" nonsense

Guest
Guest

All the Monte Cristo sandwiches I've ever ordered (or seen ordered for that matter) have never come with jam and powdered sugar. I've always seen it served with maple syrup (or nothing). Which makes me side with the Katharine here. Seriously, why would you put jam and powdered sugar on it?

guest
guest

I've eaten many Monte Cristo's in my day, and never, ever heard of one with powdered sugar and jam on it. Really? That's just sick, but no surprise. I just came back from an all inclusive resort in Jamaica, full of fat American kids scarfing endless french fries. The need for sugary, fattening crap to feed Yankees pushed most of the local fare off the buffet table. Your obscene dietary practices are ruining travel for most of the rest of the world. That said, you're almost alone in this kind of excess, so in a hundred years or so your life expectancy will be much lower than the rest of us, ridding us once and for all of your sickening, excessive consumerism. If all Americans want when they travel is American food, American TV, and American booze, stay the fuck in America.

Mathesar
Mathesar

We have enjoyed preparing many of your esoteric dishes. Your Monte Cristo sandwich is a current favorite among the adventurous.

Kathy
Kathy

Civilized parts of the country put maple syrup on their Monte  Cristo's.

Ginny Braud
Ginny Braud

I had one...once...when I was in college and working at Bennigan's. That's right, Bennigan's. I  finished half and it sat in my gut like a brick for hoursssss. Hurt so bad.

Megan
Megan

Okay, I'll bite.  Where in Lawrence is the best place to get a Monte Cristo?  (I live in KC and I've been looking for an excuse to drive there for a day.)

SaturatedFat
SaturatedFat

I have a friend who used to have a Monte Cristo sandwich every year on his birthday to help remind himself what he shouldn't be eating the rest of the year.

For the record, I've had them and it was okay. They are definitely gutbusters and sit there like a rock until expelled. I'm confused by the characterization of them as soggy and composed of wet meat. The ones I've had were basically deep-fried ham and cheese with jelly and powdered sugar. Were they greasy? Sure, but they weren't soggy.

Megan
Megan

This is by far the weirdest and best comment I've read all day.

OAW
OAW

 On the matter of Tuduckens:  fro Wikipedia --"Roasts of nested birds or other animals have been documented for centuries. The Yorkshire Christmas pie, an English dish served in the 18th century, consists of five different birds either layered or nested, and baked in a standing crust.[2][3][4] The pie was normally produced only by the wealthy.[3]

In his 1807 Almanach des Gourmands, gastronomist Grimod de La Reynière presents his rôti sans pareil ("roast without equal")—a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan bunting and a garden warbler—although he states that, since similar roasts were produced by ancient Romans, the rôti sans pareil was not entirely novel.[5][6][7] The final bird is very small but large enough to hold just an olive; it also suggests that, unlike modern multi-bird roasts, there was no stuffing or other packing placed in between the birds. Some of the birds used are endangered today.[8]"

Chef Eric
Chef Eric

Thank you, Valerie! You are clearly a wise young lady with a sophisticated palate. And, yes I do have the BEST Monte Cristo on planet Earth!

Bodl
Bodl

I've never been insane enough ( or drunk enough ) to actually order a Monte Crisco. If I ever do, this appears to be the place to do it. Ms. Shilcutt, I challenge you to order one and report back next time you are in Austin.

Dan
Dan

 Lighten up guest.  The "obscene dietary practices" keep the Yankees coming back.  By the way, if it wasn't for the Yankees, there would be no buffet table at all.  There would be no restaurant.  Is food, TV, and booze the only reasons why Americans travel?  I'm 70 years old.  I've learned to enjoy life.  You eat your prune juice and oatmeal and I hope the spoon makes it to your mouth when you are 120 years old. Heavy on the powdered sugar and jam, please. 

One
One

you've eaten a monte cristo, i'm an american and i won't touch that sh!t.  shame on you for talking down to anyone you porker

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

 Boy you picked the perfect spot for that rant. And all the thought that went into it. I bet that all inclusive sees this and changes their menu tomorrow. Agent of Change FTW.TA

guest
guest

 I'd hate to think you didn't get an authentic "local" experience at an all inclusive resort!

itsdanilove
itsdanilove

I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE AND I HONOR IT

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Interestingly, when Bennigan's closed, the Monte Cristo was what everyone was distrought about.  It was the only thing at Bennigan's worth eating.  In fact, it is the first food item google goes to when you type "Bennigan's.  I hope one of the reader's has a suggestion for a place that makes the closest iteration to Bennigan's former masterpiece.

John Stephens
John Stephens

Really?  The same thing happened to me, only it was a few days before the chain went bankrupt.  I thought it was just the cooks knowing they weren't getting their final paycheck, and taking it out on the customers.

Mjessick
Mjessick

Don't worry. Old (and getting older) Europe is becoming irrelevant to evolution - suspicion of this makes them even snarkier.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I'll see you your Monte Crisco (typo intended) and raise you a Loaded Baked Potato Soup.

Joe Zbiciak
Joe Zbiciak

Ah yes. Bennigan's Monte Cristo was a proper, fried Monte Cristo as I recall.  The pan-grilled ones you get elsewhere kinda miss the point.  They're "ok", but they fall short of satiating the desire for gluttony that would cause you to order a Monte Cristo to begin with.

Let's face it, it's an over-the-top indulgence for the fried food crowd.  Sure, some people might make them a daily staple, but for the rest of us that are still fans of the sandwich, it's just a treat.  As far as I'm concerned, it's the "bender in Vegas" of sandwiches.  (Ok, maybe the "blow the rent at the riverboat casino" of sandwiches.)  Still, it's there to fill a gluttonous urge with a plateful of excess.

And then not eat anything for a week while you burn off its 12,000 calories.

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