Avery Island, Louisiana
The Lourdes of Tabasco worshipers

From the March 26, 2001 Issue of New York

If you're a closet Tabasco-sauce addict, finding ways to integrate the stuff into breakfast, lunch, and dinner (don't worry, you're not alone -- some sprinkle it on ice cream), you might want to consider a pilgrimage to Avery Island, Louisiana, where Tabasco has been produced for 130 years. A three-hour drive from New Orleans airport, Avery Island is home to Capsicum frutescens pepper fields, a wildlife sanctuary, an active salt mine, and elaborate azalea gardens imported by Edward "M'sieu Ned" McIlhenny, son of Edmund McIlhenny, who dreamed up the original recipe. For the true junkie, a visit to the bottling plant can be a religious experience. You see how the peppers are ground into mash, mixed with Avery Island salt, then aged in white-oak barrels for three years before being drained and blended with vinegar. The Rip Van Winkle Gardens bed-and-breakfast and leRosier Country Inn in nearby New Iberia are recommended, as is some off-island Cajun chow at Mulate's in Breaux Bridge or Shucks oyster house in Abbeville.

Avery Island Visitors Center, 337-365-8173; leRosier Country Inn, 888-804-7673 (rooms start at $95); The Rip Van Winkle Gardens, 337-365-3332 (rooms start at $130); Mulate's, 337-332-9511; Shucks, 337-898-3311.