Wednesday afternoon, I was in-between visits to the eye doctor and the ear doctor (ever since trying to converse with AOKrent, dougk other others within the echo-ricocheting walls of Le Creole, Ive convinced myself I was going deaf turns out my hearing is near-perfect; the audiologist suggested that the shrill whine I sometimes hear when The Wife speaks may be more psychological than physiological).
Having some time on my hands, I went in search of Salisbury steak at Cozy Corner in Oak Park. They didnt have it, but they did have Monte Cristo sandwiches on the menu, so I went for it.
Last Monday, at the red hot Ultimo-orchestrated Thai Aree pre-tasting, Ron recounted that he was a little disappointed with Georges Monte Cristo because it had rough cut turkey and ham that failed to meld with the cheese into an organically integrated taste experience. I could see his point. A few weeks before that, when VI, CQ and I began our quest for the areas most excellent Salisbury steak (yet to be found), we discussed the way different cutting methods change the taste of food. We all agreed that thinly sliced cheese liberated the rich, cheesy flavor more readily than chunk cut-cheese. VI and I differed, however, when we applied the same principle to meat. I held that the cut of the meat might affect taste, da Mare disagreed. I checked McGee for guidance/support, but no help there; I think the answer may be found in some simple principles of quantum mechanics.
The smaller you make a thing, the more surface area it has relative to its volume. The surface area of a pound of regular table salt is 5 feet square. The surface area of a pound of salt pulverized to nanoparticles is 5 ½ acres. On a grosser scale, pound for pound, the surface area of thinly sliced ham is much greater than the surface area of roughly cut ham. That means theres much greater likelihood that the surface area of the ham will come in contact with the surface area of your tongue when youre eating thinly sliced ham. More taste buds are touched; more flava the result.
But back to the chow. At Cozy Corner, the Monte Cristo featured six thin slices of griddled ham nestled in a warm blanket of melted Swiss cheese. Theres something about flat meat that helps it mesh nicely within the moist heat of the melted cheese and French toast the flavors happily marry. Instead of chunks of meat, the evenly sliced pig sheets fall into one another in a humid union, like lovers on an August afternoon. The cheese was gooey, the pork stood up to the challenge with salty tang, and the whole thing worked together within the warm and eggy walls of toast
The French toast on the Monte Cristo at Cozy Corner was actually better than at Georges it was, as the owner assured me, made fresh, and it had crisp, web-like splatters of fried egg around the edges. Because the ham is deli-flat, its actually possible to conveniently eat the Cozy Corner Monte Cristo with ones hands which seems like the right way to go with this or any other sammich.
Incidentally, there is no turkey on the Cozy Corner Monte Cristo. I queried my raven-haired waitress (Lady Clairol, black), and she referred me to the Monte Cristos bastard brother, the Monte Carlo, which is turkey, bacon and Swiss on French toast (thus does the gambling genesis of the sammich come full circle, from the Earl of Sandwichs off-the-cuff invention to this decadent delicacy named after a modern day casino town).
Ive been to Cozy Corner a few times, and this time I sat at the window, amidst an all-female clientele: just tables of women, single and in pairs, smoking and talking about from the wisps of conversations I was able to eavesdrop dead husbands. Across the way, Cosi was foaming with younger, brighter faces, nibbling panini and biscotti, sitting mostly alone in the glow of their laptops. The contrast tasted good.
For an entirely un-picturesque pedestrians eye-view of Cozy Corner, Ive attached a link to militantly bland civic website.
138 North Marion Street
Oak Park, IL 60301
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