As I pulled up on the crisp January morning, the frost on the grass still flashed in the sunlight and my stomach growled. It wass that time of day when breakfast wasn’t exactly the right choice anymore, but eating standard lunch fare appealed about as much as free-diving with deadly jellyfish. What’s a man to do? Little did I know my life was about to change forever.
Being the adventurous gastronomist I am, approaching a new restaurant creates a rush of butterflies within, and that familiar feeling of anticipation overcame me once again as I opened the door to McPherson’s.
Inside it seemed like any number of continental restaurants, with the classic Americana feel reinforced by football on the flat-screens and drink specials jumping off the walls in neon and pastel colors. To my dismay, much of the menu read as you’d expect any continental restaurant menu would, replete with a variety of burgers, steaks and chicken options, only adding to my apprehension about how to fill my belly. That’s when I noticed, between the Philly and the club, a name I hadn’t seen before, the elusive Monte Cristo!
This sandwich’s sheer bravery to be itself in a time when food items are segregated into timeframes of appropriateness makes it stand against the crowd and defiantly dare to challenge the boundaries set in place for acceptable mastication.
Having its roots in the French croque-monsieur, the Monte Cristo is a sandwich that found itself in American cookbooks under other names between the 1930s and 1960s and became popular in southern California by the 1950s. McPherson’s didn’t follow the book on this one exactly; this Monte Cristo hit the scene 19 years ago when the pub opened its doors in Greensboro and put a personal spin on it.
This hybrid sandwich unveils the joy that fresh French toast sprinkled with powdered sugar brings, then steps it up with grilled ham and turkey piled high and covered in melted Swiss cheese. To make the experience leave the stratosphere, you dunk this conglomeration into sticky, sweet maple syrup and allow the meats and sugars to combine into a heavenly combination.
This is why brunch was invented: Let the saltiness of the ham melt into the creaminess of the Swiss, while the French toast provides little pillows for the turkey to snuggle into, all the while being escorted to your gaping maw by fingers coated in sticky brown syrup and powdered sugar. Ah, heaven.
While some may not share my affinities for breakfast or sleeping in (which typically juxtapose each other), this discovery was, to me, akin to the Rosetta stone. At last the link had been made and there was a communication between my troubled desire to gorge myself on the most important meal of the day and my inner carnivore that wants nothing more than mass quantities of animal protein and the fullness that comes with it.
Like the adventures that came to fruition with the translation of the Rosetta stone, so had my gastronomical expedition as I pushed in the last bite of Monte Cristo, with beads of syrup sticking to my smacking lips. I had found the answer to the dreaded brunch challenge that didn’t’ include jellyfish and was abounding with flavor while fitting perfectly between eggs with toast and hoagies. The satisfying fullness and realization that this can be made over and over now that I have the knowledge may be a discovery more important than the Rosetta stone. At least in my book anyway.
Is it breakfast? A sandwich? Or both. (photo by David McGee)
McPherson’s 5710 High Point Rd Greensboro, NC 27407