By Larry Bleiberg
The Dallas Morning News
Forget the personals, here's a no-fail recipe to spice up your life: Visit Avery Island, La.
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For anyone who's ever added heat to gumbo, the spot needs no introduction. It's home to Tabasco hot sauce. But visiting Avery Island isn't just a factory tour; it's more like a journey to Tabascoland.
The 139-year-old company is still owned by the McIlhenny family, and many workers live on the lush peninsula north of Morgan City. The company grows hot peppers on the island, but mainly for seed. Most of the peppers for the sharp sauce come from Central and South America. But the condiment is made here, and the smell of vinegar fills the air around the island.
The free factory tour is cursory, just a walk through a glassed-in hallway. Visitors can see the distinctive Tabasco bottles marching through machines to be filled with sauce, but that's about it. On a recent visit, the bottles were bound for South Africa. Tabasco is distributed in more than 160 countries.
But the real reason to make the visit? Samples, and the company store, of course. It offers a seemingly endless array of sauces, shirts and cooking accessories for sale.
Visitors receive tiny bottles of red and green hot sauce and are directed to the tasting table to dip crackers in bowls of Tabasco's many offerings, from steak sauces to pepper jellies. All with a bite.
Earlier this year, the company was touting its newest offerings: chipotle, and Sweet and Spicy sauces. For dessert, guests could sample cups of jalapeno ice cream - a whirl of sweet, cold and spicy.
© 2007, The Dallas Morning News.
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