After a near paradise experience whilst eating a Croque Madame (a Croque Monsieur with an egg on top) in Calais back in 2000/1, I set my sights on a World Tour...the aim? To experience as many Croque Monsieur/Madames as possible and to rate them out of 10 with my Calais experience as the bench mark.
The Big Question: would I find one as good as this again?
So what made the "Calais Croque" so good? To experience such a cullinary pleasure set against the back drop of the industrialised port of Calais begged the phrase: a jewel amongst rocks, a rose amonst thorns...
The Croque Tour so far:
Location: Calais 2000/1
Comments: What a memory, what a dream! Alas the image remains in my head. Yet the comination of an unexpectedly large (size in food terms matters) Croque Madame with a large (again good) pile of French Fries as accompaniement, with the remaining space on the large (good) plate filled with a large (g...) pile of lucious lettuce dripped delicately with a subtle French salad dressing, created a meal made in heaven...oh but the "pièce de la résistance" was the small glass of red wine to accompany such a feast. "Does a humble Croque Monsieur meal live up to the class of a good glass of red wine?" I hear you ask. "Who cares!" I cry. It worked! Especially the cafe style glass that it was held in. Oh I could go on... Now for the rest...
Location: Geneva 2005/6
Comments: Disappointment on first sight. Bad "pain de mie" bread and dry. The Swiss should stick to what they do best: chocolate and Swiss watches.
Location: Rouen 2006
Comments: No notes made so can't remember the rating...Can't have been amazing. Satisfactory at best.
Location: Paris 2008
Comments: What a great find! In the fashionable area of St Michel we sourced a bar that would serve our World Tour delight. Good portions, fries, salad and wine (with good company!) made this an enviable contender.
Location: My flat 2008
Comments: Wonderful! Had a great time sourcing a good recipie (no it's not just a cheese and ham sandwich...) and making it for my good friend Anabela. Insecurities on using too little cheese resulted in too much cheese and big fat bellies afterwards. Indeed we were unable to finish - a shocker and source of much pride breaking on my part. Nevertheless, lesson learned and more shall be attempted in the future. (I cheated with frozen chips but when one is busy...)
Location: Versailles 2009
Comments: This rating is generous. The cheese was nice but the sauce lacking. The bread was toasted - possibly as using up the previous day's bread.
The bottom line - is it right to rate it against a classic? In fact is it right to mess with a classic at all? In the light of this we placed it in a category of its own: "Tartine facon Croque Madame" / Bruchette (I was assured by our French colleague on the exchange that the latter exist "au resto à Nice qui semble des Croques Madames ouvertes").
We move on...
Location: Eurodisney 2009
Comments: Classed as a "Euro Croque" we gave the following critiques: Miss Hinge - Bechamel sauce good and not too heavy but more ham needed. Grilled bread not good. Miss Hardman - good top bread layer, soft and springy, with a layer of soft grilled cheese. The runny sauce was nicely warm.
Overall, however, is it right to compare a Croque Monsieur with a Croque Madame (the latter being my true love of the two and source of this World Tour)? However, I think it fought it's corner well - despite the lack of fries and salad as accompaniement.
A last attempt on this leg of the tour...
Location: Service station, France 2009
Comments: Satisfactory - surprisingly good for a service station or does my memories of English services stations marre my open mindedness on this matter?
This post shall be continually updated as I yearn to seek the eternal pleasures that are held within the humble meal of a Croque Monsieur/Madame...but for now some advice for anyone inspired to embark on similar such tours: do your research, know what to expect, and aim high!
One might say that I have too much time on my hands, yet the promise of school reports as my next task forever pushes me to further creative ventures.
The next generation...
Location: Starbucks, Kent, June 2009
Comments: The "Starbucks Croque Monsieur Panini"....panini??. Ghastly idea. Didn't even go there. I refuse to mess with a classic (see comments - Versailles 2009). No photo, no rating, no nothing. The tumble weed moves on...
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