Tender sliced Ham and Turkey with melted Swiss or Gruyere cheese on thick-sliced white bread, then dipped in it's entirety in egg batter and cooked like French toast. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with a side of strawberry jelly for dipping. It's a lovely concept, birthed in France under the name Croque Monsieur. The name "Monte Cristo" is thought to be a tribute to the French novel The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Dumas. Oui, oui! C'est delicieuse!
The Monte Cristo is believed to have first appeared on American menus in southern California in the 1950s. In 1966, it appeared on the menus of the Blue Bayou and Tahitian Terrace restaurants in New Orleans’s Square in Disneyland. This was the big break the sandwich needed; suddenly it became "in vogue" in an era when the fact that contains at least 1500 calories and endless grams of fat meant nothing to anyone. Gradually, it's popularity dwindled and now-a-days it's quite an unusual thing to see listed there among the BLT's and Grilled Chicken Clubs.
I recall Monte Cristos being everywhere when I was young in the '70's and early 80's. In fact, I remember specifically my grandparents frequently taking me to eat at TJ's Pantry, located in the North Shore Hotel, now the Coeur d'Alene Resort. That place was dark and cavernous, done in browns and oranges and closer in spirit to a greasy spoon than the comparatively fancy offerings of Dockside. Anyway, I remember always ordering the Monte Cristo with a big pile of fries, then sneaking off to play Space Invaders in the arcade area next to the indoor pool while my grandparents drank pot after pot of coffee and chainsmoked.
There's something refined about the contrasts involved. It's the sweetness of the powdered sugar and jam versus the tang and salt of the ham and cheese. It's the warm gushiness of the inside versus the golden crispiness of the fried outer layer. I want!
I searched the web looking for local places that still serve this now-rare delicacy and found what I found listed below. I'm thinking there must be more, so if you've encountered the lusty Monte Cristo somewhere I didn't mention, please do share in the comments section. I'm thinking I'll try at least these place's offerings for a future Get Out column dedicated to mon sandwich de l'amour.
Granny's Pantry in Rathdrum lists a Monte Cristo for $8.95
Beverly's Monte Cristo is described as "smoked Hillshire ham, Boursin cheese, smoked cheddar, ovenroasted turkey breast served with huckleberry-pear butter and spicy raspberry jam" and goes for 10 bucks.
Wolf Lodge Inn has a Grilled Monte Cristo for 11 dollars that is "tender ham, turkey, swiss and cheddar on egg bread, accompanied by our own special raspberry sauce."
About Mallards Restaurant in Red Lion Templin's Hotel, Ron Nilson was quoted as saying "the omelettes are topnotch and their Monte Cristo sandwiches are a rare find elsewhere these days"