Friday, November 2, 2007

Eating Seattle: Squid & Ink

I found out about Squid & Ink while doing research for a project I'm working on. The project involves searching for a good (hopefully great) Monte Cristo sandwich in Seattle. Squid & Ink serves a Monte Cristo. Thing is, it's vegan. A vegan Monte Cristo.

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.

I might've eaten this today

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?

Squid & Ink in Seattle


[where: 98108]

11 comments:

Meg said...

Hmm. I'm not a vegan, but I'm speaking up, anyway. I love the name of the place. And I love that they had an idea for a vegan Monte Cristo, but... I enjoy when vegetarian dishes use a classic meaty dish as inspiration (Cafe Flora's portobello Wellington comes to mind) while relishing and highlighting the real vegetal ingredients they're using. Fake meat annoys me in the same ways that, say, Splenda and its ilk do. Blech. Looks like I'll be saving my dining out with the kids money to give Quinn's a try.

Ali Scheff said...

I love the name too, and even more I love that Georgetown can support little independent, quirky restaurants like this.

But I really am mystified by the idea that most of the menu includes fake meat.
Then I thought, maybe that's the only reason to eat out as a vegan? Maybe the only time a vegan eats faux meat is when he/she is at a restaurant, so that's why S&I has so much fake meat on the menu? Who knows. I guess I always thought "vegan" was somewhat synonymous with "health nut" but after reading what goes into making fake meat I no longer think that's the case.

Anonymous said...

stupid stupid stupid ....
a good thing is a good thing..I like White Lion and death metal. The thing is I have been to this place and everyone is friendly to all the food is cheap and delicious.
If you are a vegan/ vege it is hard to find a kool place to hang out get free wi fi and don't have to worry about a hamburger being cooked next to your vege burger.
ROCK AND ROLL FOREVER!

Anonymous said...

When people are about to eat vegan food, especially not being vegan, they have a tendency to put forth false expectations of the meat dish counterparts. I should inform you all, especially if you're not vegan, that a LOT of vegan food DOES NOT taste like the meat dish it mimics for one reason...it's not.
"Faux meat", is a way to label dishes in vegan restaurants to avoid an extensive amount of questioning from the patrons and to accomodate non-meat eaters by appealing to a menu they are used to. I believe using faux meat labels is very helpful for people who have little experience eating outside of their comfort zone.

Could you imagine going into a vegan restaurant and seeing a list of items that had these names listed below without any explanation or correlation to what it is in the meat world.

"Tempeh"-is fermented soy beans.
"Seitan"-is wheat gluten combined with water boiled and spiced.
"Tofu "-is coagulated soy milk.

If you didn't call the sandwich a "Monte Cristo", what would YOU call it. The "Syrupy, cinnamon, bread with something like ham and cottage=y tofu cheese.

Veganism is simply a dietary choice that some people have adapted in their life for various reasons. No matter the reason, they just want to eat a hearty dish out on the town and not have to cook for themselves. When you approach the prospect of dining vegan you must keep on open pallet as much as an open mind.
Take care and happy eating!

FED UP! PUN INTENDED said...

This sounds like your average uneducated meat eater wandering into a vegan punk D.I.Y. atmosphere.
Hmmm. Your hair fell out when you tried being vegetarian? I wonder if you know how to cook, or how to integrate protein into your diet without the dependency on slaughtered animals.
Probably not.
Just as you probably weren't aware that some vegans became vegans for moral reasons unrelated to health. The fake meat is just another alternative to prove to the masses that you don't need to destroy the planet procreating animals for tortuous lives leading to their untimely tortuous deaths, whilst starving masses here and overseas to have that fresh feeling you get from stuffing two different types of animals down your throat in one sitting. EDUCATE YOURSELF.

Anonymous said...

I am down with vegan food and fake meat, but I am more down with the Monte Cristo. It is my favorite sandwich of all time. I grew up in a casino infested desert where you could eat one of these amazing things 24 hours a day. I love them. They are bad for me, so alas...I haven't had one for years. I was excited when I saw that they had a version at Squid & Ink, but it wasn't quite right. It tasted good, but not Monte Cristo good. And it was missing the strawberry jam, which in my humble opinion, makes the sandwich so addictive.

I recommend making one on your own. Try bread-ham & swiss-bread-turkey & cheddar-bread dip it in egg and FRY THE WHOLE DAMN THING! Sprinkle with powdered sugar and dip it in jam. You will try to justify it for every meal.

Patti O. said...

As a vegetarian of 23 years and a damn fine professional cook(four-star dining joints both meaty and non-meaty) I consider myself an expert on the subject of both cooking and eating... Although I'd like to see vegan restaurants featuring more hand crafted dishes that utilize complex proteins found in nature closer to their natural forms... they're called whole foods... I'd appreciate more if meat-eaters didn't respond to this mysterious VEGAN eating as if it was to oddest thing they've ever done. It is simply a question of educating yourselves. The criticism I've received for 23 years is baffling. The absence of meat from my diet stirs quite a strong reaction from meat eaters and I'm not sure why. I'm not at all curious about why one eats meat. You like it, I don't, big deal. Dissecting one's vegan meal in a caveman-like manner is a reaction I'd expect from a meat-eater who's, well, not so smart. Eat the freakin' Monte Christo or don't, but don't be so surprised that it's not an exact replica of the greasy, powder sugared block of anti-nutrition your parents passed off as a meal while they were neglecting to educate you on how your body functions properly.

Patti O. said...

As a vegetarian of 23 years and a damn fine professional cook(four-star dining joints both meaty and non-meaty) I consider myself an expert on the subject of both cooking and eating... Although I'd like to see vegan restaurants featuring more hand crafted dishes that utilize complex proteins found in nature closer to their natural forms... they're called whole foods... I'd appreciate more if meat-eaters didn't respond to this mysterious VEGAN eating as if it was to oddest thing they've ever done. It is simply a question of educating yourselves. The criticism I've received for 23 years is baffling. The absence of meat from my diet stirs quite a strong reaction from meat eaters and I'm not sure why. I'm not at all curious about why one eats meat. You like it, I don't, big deal. Dissecting one's vegan meal in a caveman-like manner is a reaction I'd expect from a meat-eater who's, well, not so smart. Eat the freakin' Monte Christo or don't, but don't be so surprised that it's not an exact replica of the greasy, powder sugared block of anti-nutrition your parents passed off as a meal while they were neglecting to educate you on how your body functions properly.

Anonymous said...

Dear vegans who are commenting on this blog, I've gotta let you know, you're kind of coming off as a bunch of assholes. with the exception of the guy who said "take care and happy eating!"

i like that guy.

Ali Scheff said...

I have to say, the idea of eating a vegan meal is not mysterious to me at all. It's the idea of eating a meal that is packed with fake meat that is totally and completely illogical to me.

To put it in other terms, let's say you hated green peppers, or maybe you didn't hate them, but you'd decided not to eat green peppers ever again. Why, then, would you want to go out to eat fake green peppers?

I'm sure many vegans chose to stop eating meat for moral reasons and still crave things that taste like meat. I understand that to a certain extent, although why eating eggs from your own chicken or goat cheese made from milk bought from a local farm is perplexing. But if morality isn't behind the decision, then I just don't understand the urge to eat faux meat. Apparently I deserve to be called stupid (3 times!) and uneducated for feeling this way. I call it being honest. I've yet to read a good explanation for all the faux meat at the vegan place, is all I'm sayin'.

Anonymous said...

vegans can and do eat analogs for a couple of reasons. the choice to be vegan is usually one of ethics, and many ethical vegans consider ourselves to be abolishionists, meaning that we oppose animal slavery and oppression just as anyone would oppose any other form of oppression. that said, we eat analogs because we know what they really are. to me, fake bacon isn't a replacement for pig flesh, but a tasty way to prepare tempeh. i know it is tempeh, and i am NOT eating it because i miss or love bacon!! i think a lot of vegans have this same opinion. i can't wait to try squid n ink when i'm in seattle next week!