To be honest, having never made one from scratch and having probably not eaten one in half a decade, and now reading that it was possible to create a vegan one, I suddenly wasn't sure if I even knew what a Monte Cristo sandwich was. Isn't it that eggy sandwich thing my mom ordered ten years ago when we went to the sit-down restaurant in Nordstroms? Hmmm.
I looked it up.
According to Wikepedia, a Monte Cristo has a bunch of lunch meat--turkey, ham--and Swiss cheese either sandwiched between egg-battered bread (aka French Toast), or the whole sandwich is battered in egg and then fried (like stuffed French Toast). Then it's sometimes served with jam and/or syrup and dusted with powdered sugar.
After a quick count of the things that would not be vegan-friendly in this sandwich, I came up with four (egg, cheese, ham, turkey). Then I counted the vegan-friendly ingredients: one (bread). This oughtta be interesting.
So I hit the road and went down to Georgetown to try it. I found Squid & Ink pretty easily; it's on Albro, so you pretty much can't miss it as long as you don't turn too soon. When we came in, RATT was blasting from the stereo and a very tattooed and pierced guy said hi. He ran to grab Ruby a highchair and I took a look at the menu.
In case you hadn't figured it out yet, I'm not a vegan. I was a vegetarian for a year and a half in high school on a dare, but then I started losing my hair because of severe anemia. Nowadays it's rare if I go a week without sucking on a lamb bone.
I'm telling you this because, as I was reading the menu, I kept having to remind myself that none of the dishes listed were going to taste like their "normal" (read: meat-filled) counterparts. Quiche? No eggs, just tofu stuff baked until egg-like. Steak wrap? It's made with seiten. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but what the hell is seiten? Also, I kinda figured vegans were not into eating meat. I mean, what meat-lover thinks becoming a vegan is a solid long-term plan? So again I was confused: why does everything on the menu include faux meat? What am I missing?
I was getting distracted from the mission at hand: A vegan Monte Cristo. I ordered Ruby a "ham and cheese" sandwich and myself the main attraction. Then we sat and looked around.
Have you ever been to your favorite rock club during the day? It's kind of off-putting. You'd never noticed that the walls were painted weirdly, the floors were really really dirty, the bathrooms...I mean, it all looks fine with little or no lighting and three PBRs in the gullet, but in the light of day? Well, that's what this place looks like: A rock club, during daylight hours. Walls are painted a bright blue, the booths are low to the ground and look like they're broken, and the music's friggin' loud. And it's death-metal. Not what you'd call a "pretty" place to eat lunch. But I will say, every vegan in there was friendly beyond belief, even going so far as to jump up and down to make Ruby smile.
Our food arrived. Ruby's "ham and cheese" looked like it was coated in the nacho cheese from 7-11. It didn't taste like that, but that's what the cheese looked like. The faux-ham (I started calling it fam) was round--I guess vegan ham comes in a round loaf that is then sliced. I took the fam off the bread and cut pieces up for Ruby. She liked it. I gave her some of the "cheese" bread. She didn't really care for it.
The Monte Cristo came with a big glob of what would've been butter (if vegans ate butter) melting on top. I don't know what it was, but whenever I'm served anything with a pile of butter melting on it (you know, like pancakes or whatever) I wipe a good hunk of it off. So I did. Then I dug in.
Same faux-ham as Ruby's fam-n-cheese piled inside, plus what looked like cottage cheese except less cottage-y. To be totally honest I was very confused while tasting this. Shouldn't there be faux Swiss cheese? This was more like faux ricotta. And the bread itself tasted like French Toast with cinnamon. Dammit, nobody said anything about cinnamon belonging in a Monte Cristo! It was very distracting. This was clearly a case of corner-cutting in the kitchen (using the cinnamon faux-egg batter for both the French Toast and the Monte Cristo).
The sandwich was just strange, and no, it wasn't good. It might succeed on dare status--I mean, it's a great vegan stunt. But delicious? No. Then again, my experience with vegan stunt food is limited, to say the least.
So speak up, vegans, have you tried this? What did you think?