Hot sauce for a cold, wet London lunchtime

Beetroot Bloody Mary spiced up with Tabasco
Mixologist Tom Stevenson
Brunch at the Polo Cafe, Bishopsgate, London
Brunch at the Polo Cafe, Bishopsgate, London

When Edmund McIlhenny started the Tabasco company on Avery Island, Louisiana in the late 1860s, selling his original hot pepper at farmers’ markets across Louisiana, little did he think that a group of food bloggers and enthusiasts would be discussing his spicy invention in a cafe in the heart of the City of London on a rainy Sunday lunchtime 150 years later. However, perhaps Edmund might have had some idea. Blogging today involves social media such as Twitter and Facebook is not so far removed from how he promoted his business … by word of mouth, recommendations, sharing recipes and meeting news customers and keeping existing excited about his sauce. The London event was hosted in the fabulous Polo Bar, a 24-hour cafe on Bishopsgate, by Tabasco UK and About Time Magazine, a newish London-based online lifestyle magazine … the kind of publication Edmund would have enjoyed.

Tabasco’s distinctive bottle shape is derived from the eau d’cologne bottles that Edmund could easily get hold of. Decades later, Tabasco is still made much the same way except now the aging process for the mash is longer – up to three years in white oak barrels – and the vinegar is a much higher-quality distilled product. The word Tabasco is of Mexican Indian origin and believed to mean ‘place where the soil is humid’ or ‘place of the coral or oyster shell’.

We tasted Tabasco on Eggs Benedict, in Bloody Marys prepared by mixologist Tom Stevenson and in cocktails as food writers and bloggers mingled with digital marketing experts, Tabasco chefs and other marketing types to learning about one of the world’s most popular hot sauces.

Three tips I picked up from the brunch, apart how to make a proper Bloody Mary(!), were:

1) Work with other bloggers to share ideas, stories and promotion ideas. Don’t see them as competitors.
2) Make sure you’re readers know why you are writing your blog.
3) When you post a blog, are you happy for it to be shared beyond your existing readership. Edit it until you are.

Also, these three blogs and Instagram accounts were highly recommended by fellow guests

1) Burgers and Bruce. Bruce Springsteen groupies eating great burgers around the world while watching the Boss in concert.
2) Symmetry Breakfast. Instagram account of beautifully styled and photographed breakfasts.
3) Mydrunkkitchen. Does what it says on the tin … on Youtube, funny, with strong language!

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.

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