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Hot Sauce Misadventure in the Big Easy

Here's a bit of a story for you. I hope there is something for all to learn.

I had the opportunity to spend a few days in New Orleans for a conference, and I enjoyed the city very much! I knew that while I was down there, I should scope out the spicy food and buy some sauce for souvenirs. Or at least I thought I knew that. Cajun food is know for tasty spices, and Louisiana-style hot sauce is well known, but super-hot or extreme foods are not that popular. In fact, I came to see that almost all "touristy" stores had almost exactly the same hot sauce displays featuring Tabasco brand, Louisiana Gold, and Crystal hot sauces. Not very encouraging for a hot sauce fan.

With some research, I found that World Famous N'awlins in the French Market had a hot sauce stand with their own brands of sauce and some national brands. But they closed at 6pm, so I had to make it there in good time after my last conference. Well, it was pouring down rain and I didn't want to wait for a trolley, so I had to find an easy route and covered as possible to hoof it there.I started out walking through the Riverwalk Mall. That was nice, dry, air-conditioned, and covered a lot of ground, Near the end, I saw a little hot sauce kiosk -- "Golden Grill". What luck!! The owners were a married couple. He makes the sauce and she works the kiosk along with another employee. There was a small variety with samples. I tried most of them. The gal working the kiosk along with owner warned me about the ghost pepper'd sauces, but they weren't too bad. Honestly about the heat of a good habanero sauce. But I bought some, and an orange flavored sauce as well. They had small 1.7oz bottles as well as 5oz. bottles. I bought the smaller since I only had carry-on baggage for my flight (any liquids must be under 3.4oz.)

About the bottles, they are plastic, any size. And they were priced for tourists, but I didn't mind.

I still had about a mile or so to walk and the rain was letting up. I headed toward the French Market as focused as I could be in this city. When I got there, I was really amped up, and I had to dive into the samples and find out what I would buy. They had about 4 super hot varieties which I tried, and I narrowed down my choice to one. They had three ghost pepper sauces and the best flavor was in N'awlins VooDoo Curse. Low and behold, they only sold super hots in 5 oz bottles. So I had to start tasting the lesser sauces to find what I liked. Turns out that their habanero VooDoo sauce was good too, so that's what I bought in 1.7 oz. But things started dawning on me as this process was unfolding. The bread for samples seemed stale. Not to unusual at the end of the day, and french bread is pretty crusty anyway, but add to that the fact that I did not sample some sauces because of their appearance in the cups. I pulled the lid off one, and it seemed as if 90% of the liquid had evaporated. Another had completely separated. one tasted pretty funky. Why were there lids when every other place has open dishes ... as I'm tossing these ideas around, I started to walk around and take in a little more of the market. Some bubbling in my stomach, but hey, I can man up to hot sauce samples...

I met up with some friends, and all seemed fine. We were walking some more, and I came across the Pepper Palace. This one did not come up on any of my internet searching, but WHAT A STORE!!! Over 3000 products. Sauces, condiments, salsas, jellies, preserved peppers. You name it! I even saw some of Columbus's own CaJohn's sauces there! I immediately tried their "Hottest" sample. A small, maybe 2 oz bottle sells for $13. No extract, just ghost peppers. No one under 18 allowed to try. I got my taste, and it certainly was the hottest I have ever tried. I even got a sticker for surviving the experience. Man, did that stuff hurt in my stomach ... uh oh.

But there were so many dozens of samples to try. How wonderful!!! Why is my stomach hurting so much? Candied jalapenos, cherry salsa, jolokia ketchup ... boy am I sweating...

I told the kid working there about how suspicious the samples at the last place looked. He said he wouldn't touch them. They don't use fresh samples each day. Right, diss the competition kid ... why am I sweating so much? Is the room spinning. I need to step outside. Boy, kneeling down sure feels better than standing.

My friends find me. Is something wrong? I sure don't want to puke on the street in front of them. We go back in to find the bathroom. Why are my ears ringing?!?! the kid is leading me to the employee's rest room. What a pleasant dream I'm having. Why are you guys waking me up? How did I get on the floor? You brought me a bag of ice and a bottle of water? Who are you again?

Holy crap. I passed out in a store! Me, the guy from work everyone knows is a chili-head! I need to get to that bathroom!

Long story, a little shorter ... I felt fine after taking some time in the restroom. I drank some water. No ambulance needed. I bought a bottle of sauce (I couldn't leave without that!) I thanked the kid who worked there PROFUSELY. Only 19 and he had great composure and kindness. I told him to let his costumers know that their sauce is so hot, it makes people pass out, lol! Then we left.

We walked to a nearby restaurant where I drank some cola and ate a bland meal. It stayed in my body! Back to the hotel shortly later, and I was fine again.

Here's what I surmised: A bit of dehydration + a little food poisoning + lots of capcaisin = unconsciousness.

By all means, go to New Orleans if you get the chance. Check out the places I mentioned. ALWAYS be critical of the samples before you partake.