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.