I just got home from a fantastic trip deep down in the Louisiana Bayou to visit McIlhenny Company, the folks behind that delicious spicy sauce we all know and dearly love…and when I say delicious spicy sauce, I obviously mean Tabasco! You guys know how much I love hot sauce, so this trip was practically made for me (I was pretty much just like a kid on Christmas morning the entire time)! I mean….once, I participated in a “let’s get hot and sauced” hot sauce gift exchange party that involved fog machines, strobe lights and a sit down hot sauce tasting at midnight. What else can I say?
Needless to say, I was so thrilled with Tabasco originally reached out to me a few months ago, asking if I would be interested in not only visiting their family home and headquarters on Avery Island, Louisiana, but also in developing a recipe using their hot sauce. I already have my recipe swirling in my head right now, so look out for that sometime next week!
The trip was fantastic! Not only did I get to hang out with some of my good blog friends (Gaby and Lori!), but I learned so much about Tabasco and ate some of the most delicious food of my entire life. I realize I say that often, but this time it’s true! There’s just something about Cajun food that gets me every time.
We learned how Tabasco is made, all the way from the teeny tiny cute pepper plant….
Then to the barrel (they keep the Tabasco in those barrels for three whole years!)….
And, finally, into the little bottles you see everywhere today!
One of my favorite parts was getting to taste the extra spicy mash (basically just a mash of really, really, really spicy peppers before any of the vinegar is added). We all had to taste the mash and chase it with bourbon as part of our Tabasco Tastemaker “initiation”. I can’t say I minded.
That’s Tony in the background of the below photo—he’s the president of the company and is just so awesome. From the moment I shook his hand, he memorized my name (a little thing that really goes a long way!) and even hooked me up with extra spicy sausage at the crawfish boil the next day because he knew how much I loved it. We are practically besties for life now.
As for the pepper mash tasting, I went from being extremely curious…
…to crying in a napkin in about one second flat.
That was some SERIOUSLY spicy pepper mash. 40,000 scoville units, to be exact (if you know what in the heck a “scoville unit” is…if not, just trust me on this one).
Tabasco also was awesome enough to bring in chef Alon Shaya, of Domenica in New Orleans. Chef Shaya is up for a James Beard award for best chef in the south this year (see menu above!), and I swear that man cannot cook a bad meal. Everything he made I claimed to be “the best ever” (obviously) and his fried eggplant with whipped feta and Tabasco green pepper sauce was life changing.
I’m officially booking a trip to New Orleans just so I can eat at his restaurant.
You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
Who’s with me?!
He was kind enough to lay out some snacks for us while he cooked! Just a little snack plate—no big deal!
Just when I thought I couldn’t eat any more, I could. It was utterly magical the way that happened!
I think I want to make a t-shirt that says “there’s always room for a donut!”. Donuts + chicory coffee seem to be a match made in heaven!
Don’t mind if I do…
To work off the intense amount of food we were given, we went on airboat rides and ate some more (a fruit cleanse may or may not be happening at this very moment…don’t judge). I hadn’t been on an airboat since I was about eleven on a class trip to the Everglades, and it was both Gaby and Sarah’s first time!
That handsome dude driving us is Heath! He rocked…until he spun us around in circles and got us up close and personal to a lovely little gator.
I had such a fabulous time visiting with McIlhenny Company and learning more about my favorite hot sauce. It was so wonderful and equally refreshing to see a company run by such a good, kindhearted family. The history buff in me loved listening to Shane Bernard, McIlhenny Company’s personal historian, educate us on all of the 19th and 20th century behind the scenes Tabasco action, while the adventurer in me loved going out on a secret late-night gator excursion with Took Osborn (senior VP of the company) and the girls.
I didn’t get to see my Louisiana black bear, but there’s always next time.
Though my travel expenses were covered for this trip, all opinions are entirely my own. A huge thank-you to McIlhenny Company for hosting us—it was truly a pleasure!