Letting The Bon Ton Roll

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris June 11, 2020 07:04 in On The Radio

It was a rather packed radio show today. Debbie Pierce called in from her post-Bon Ton retirement. She and her husband Wayne ran the Bon Ton for 47 years until just last March 6th, closing exactly one week before the lockdown. The restaurant has been purchased by Tulane grad Jerry Greenbaum, whose place across the street, The Chop House, was an earlier location of The Bon Ton. Renovations haven’t started yet, but expect an updated Bon Ton.

As usual, we spent a lot of time on the Ask The Chef segment talking about remembrances of the restaurant. We talked about favorite dishes, Debbie’s personal favorites and those of her diners.

Of course there was a discussion of the signature sauce of the restaurant, The Alvin Sauce.Wayne created it on a whim, as he often did. He named it for his uncle Alvin, from whom he inherited the restaurant. Wayne and Alvin worked together, and Alvin loved the sauce the first time he tried it.  

Alvin loved fried oysters, and Wayne poured his new sauce over oysters. It seems unlikely to have a beef-based sauce over seafood, but it was wildly popular. The fried seafood was crispy and golden brown, and the Alvin Sauce an unusual but excellent complement. The Alvin Sauce went over all the different fried seafood at the Bon Ton when it was ordered, but especially the oysters and soft shell crabs.

We also talked about Tom’s favorite Crabmeat Au Gratin, and its topping of American cheese. Debbie explained that the recipe was Alvina’s, and no one changed Alvina’s recipes. American cheese was grated over the top and inside the ramekin was whole milk, not cream, and the sauce began with a basic Bechamel sauce.

We ended the conversation speculating about the new Bon Ton when it emerges from the upcoming renovation.

After Debbie left, Jan Lantrip, who with her husband owns the English Tea Room in Covington, called to talk about iced tea. We asked her to call in to chat because today is National Iced Tea Day. Jan is so passionate about tea it is simply intoxicating. She is so knowledgeable it is fun to listen to her talk about her 225 specially blended teas, and which ones of those are good iced and which ones maybe no.

She talked about cooling off a customer with a Bangkok-blend green tea with lemongrass, vanilla, coconut and ginger tropical-like tea, and vanilla-based teas that are so cold and creamy tasting they are almost dessert-like. Jasmine, lavender, rose and cornflower all came up as notes in tea blends.

The English Tea Room is a unique place with charming and passionate proprietors we could listen to all day. We had only a little time with her, but it was well spent. There were a few calls squeezed in, and a chat about port, and soon the two hours had passed. Listen here.

The recipe for Alvin Sauce is below, estimated from what Debbie said, The cooks in that kitchen cooked straight from the heart, but not a lot was written down.

Alvin Sauce

2 Tbs.  Margarine (or butter)

¼ cup flour

½ cup chopped mushrooms

3 cups beef stock

1 Tbs lemon juice

In a medium skillet melt butter or margarine. Add flour stirring constantly, to make a blonde roux.

Add mushrooms and cook but not fully before adding beef stock. 

Add lemon juice and simmer to reduce it.

Serve over fried seafood.