Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Orleans Trip – Day Five, Tabasco

You are not going to believe this, but on day 5, we still didn’t head for the French Quarter. That was our plan, but with the high rain chance and a desire to drive over to Avery Island, at some point, for a visit to Tabasco, we made the drive instead – it’s about 2 hours each way.

Wow – talk about flat country, this area is FLAT and we saw thousands of acres of what I think were sugar cane fields.

There really wasn’t a lot to see at the Tabasco plant - that's why I took a hot woman with me.

We saw a short video about the history and the process and had our questions answered by a tour guide. Then we walked along the area where the bottling operation is behind a glass wall. They had four bottling lines with the first one doing green sauce (it was experiencing some difficulty), the second was doing red sauce, and I couldn't tell about the other two.

We didn’t get to see the actual making of the sauce – perhaps to keep the secret process a secret. Basically they pick the peppers at the peak ripeness (they even have a colored stick for the pickers to use to ensure the right color), then crush them lightly and mix with a little salt. This mash then goes into white oak barrels purchased used from Jack Daniels and fermented for about 3 years, The mash is then blended with vinegar and stirred for 28 days prior to bottling. The vast majority of the peppers are grown in Central and South America, but all of the seed peppers are grown under the watchful eye of the McIlhenny family on Avery Island – they can keep the pepper strain pure this way. It’s a family owned company with a 5th generation McIlhenny as CEO and all of the board made up of family members – I’ll bet they’re all rich, maybe not Walton family (Walmart) rich, but still wealthy enough.

I found this interesting – the company founder was given the pepper seeds and began growing them in the home garden in the mid 1800's. He later developed and began selling the pepper sauce (1868) and was going to name it and the company for a little creek nearby. He ultimately chose the name of a State in Mexico (Tabasco) and gave this name to the sauce, the company and the pepper – so the pepper was named for the company and not vise versa as I would have thought. They now make a variety of pepper sauces and all of them, at this one and only plant, totals 700,000 bottles per day - nearly 22,000 gallons if my math's correct. They also market many other products containing their sauce - everything from mustard, mayo, and soy sauce to jelly and salsa. We also sampled two flavors of Tabasco ice cream which were very good - it was basically homemade ice cream with a tablespoon of either their Jalapeno or Sweet and Spicey Sauce mixed in - I'll plan to try it soon.

Of course, we had to buy a few products from their neat little store, even though they may all be available at our local grocer – we were especially intrigued by the new Chipotle Sauce. One of the family members is a naturalist who developed a nature preserve on the island and we intended to go, but the skies opened up again, so we just headed back to NOLA.

Along the way home, we decided to have dinner at a DDD place called The Rivershack Tavern. It’s basically a bar that serves food and I’d planned to get a shot of the outside as we left, but it was monsoon conditions again. We did get a shot of the food and the barstools. We had an alligator sausage appetizer, then, I had red beans and rice with andouille sausage and a salad with homemade Caesar dressing. The dressing didn’t resemble any Caesar I’d ever had, but it was delicious with a nice kick to it. I’ve been trying to eat as much homemade stuff as I can and this is the second unusual salad dressing I'd had. Bev had your basic reuben sandwich, but it and her sweet potato fries were both delicious as were the appetizer and my meal - I’d definitely go there again.

Sorry this is blurry, but I couldn't pass it up - each bar stool has the bottom part of a body under it and this was the best one.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.



  1. I am loving the body part bar stools. It sounds except for maybe the weather your trip to New Orleans rocks.

    keep it eating the local food and share the experience with us.

    Have a great time!

  2. How fun to go to the Tobasco factory. I'd love to try to make that ice cream too. As always, lovin these posts about New Orleans and looking forward to that photo of you wearing a bunch of beads, a hurricane in your hand and dancing to Zydeco at the French Quarter. ;-p

  3. Those bar stools-----oh how typical Nawlins!!!!! CUTE!!!

    I never went to Tabasco when I lived there... Of course, I also never use Tabasco as a seasoning!!!! ha

    Got some rain this morning. Hallelujah!!!

  4. LA - I'm afraid I'm going to let you down, but I did try some of Bevs Hurricane - it tasted like Hawaiian Punch.

  5. Betsy - We're getting a good rain here today as well - I'm sure the dry ground and plants are sucking it up.

  6. Larry, I have been trying all week to get to your blog to read about your trip. I have enjoyed reading about all of your adventures and drooling over the food.

    In Venice, the river is definitely higher than the FLAT, FLAT land! lol!

    I made some seafood and andouille gumbo last night and wondered what you and Bev were making with all your new fun stuff!

    The many memories!

    A.J. stopped in there while he was in town and can you believe after all this time the girl behind he bar still remembered him!

  7. Larry, As Tabasco is a critical part of my life...or lifestyle, I was a little disappointed to hear that there just wasn't much to do or to see on Avery Island. Maybe the nature preserve would kick it up a notch! Now I'm torn as to whether or not I'll include Tabasco in our future Louisiana/New Orleans plans. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  8. Katherine - Glad you could get caught up - sounds like AJ was a frequent or at least memorable customer :-).

  9. David - As a big time Tabasco man, you might at least enjoy looking at all things Tabasco in their store.

  10. Those bar stools are something else:-). It was good you had that "hot" woman traveling with you. I hope you both have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  11. Thanks Mary - I try to take this hot woman with me everywhere.

  12. What a fun place to dine. I'm thinking have you come across Kaitaia Fire? A chilli sauce from here that has won "Hotness" competitons!

    Not my style - would rather get a little heat and heaps of flavour!

    I hope this week has treated both you and your lovely Bev well,

    Michelle and Zebbycat downunder in NZ

  13. Michelle - For most things I prefer just a little heat but more for others - Bev's more likely to want higher heat on more things than me.

  14. One of my most favorite memories in NOLA was a little hot sauce shop that had hundreds of different types of hot sauce. We were there at 9:00 a.m. and they made us Bloody Marys that were so spicy and fabulous. They were free, of course, because they didn't have a liquor license. Loved the info about Tabasco.

  15. Marjie - They had one of about everything - fisherman, hunter, etc.

  16. Vickie - A fabulous and free Bloody Mary sounds like a great way to start the day to me.

  17. Man, Jack Daniels must go through some barrels! Just think of all the JD wood chips sold and here Tabasco is taking them out of circulation for 3 years each for what must be thousands and thousands of barrels. There must be a busy barrel maker somewhere.

  18. We have a Mississippi friend who made his own hot sauce after visiting the Tabasco plant. It was very good; maybe even better than Tabasco.

    I had forgotten until I saw your picture of the red beans and rice how soupy they make red beans in Louisiana.


I appreciate and enjoy your comments