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So guess what?

I did come back (See “The Sixth Avenue handwarmer,” below).

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I'm here at the Sixth Avenue Bistro (1165 6th Avenue, downtown, 619-239-4194). Same stool, same bar, but this time next to Shane and Karen on the left, and Dale on the right.

Kimmy the bartender and Jack the owner are here too, but running round serving half the audience from the San Diego Symphony concert up the road. Must be half-time.

Bottom line: I get the gumbo! It’s just so right for a night like tonight: Wet, windy, chilly.

First, I ask for a beer and get a Stone IPA ($5.50). And then go for the gumbo. Sounds so good on the menu: “Sausage and shrimp gumbo, savory stew with Andouille sausage, shrimp and filé, garnished with fluffy rice, $12.95, half-portion, $7.95.”

"Go the whole hog,” says Dale, who sees me counting my greenbacks. He spent 25 years managing food and beverage for the Westgate Hotel, turns out. Bit of a dab hand at cooking himself.

So five minutes later, Kimmy drops it in front of me, all alive with shrimp bobbing up like mini alligators in a steaming brown lava lake around an island of rice.

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I shoot a taste across to Dale. Suddenly strikes me: He looks just like the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz (looked it up: Frank Morgan played him in the movie).

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Dale

“Flavor’s more Italian than Provençal,” he says. “It’s the spices, the tomato. Jack uses Andouille sausage. I use Kielbasa. A little smokier. Personal taste.” He takes the slurp. “Hmm. But this is good, really good.”

I take my first spoonful. Oh, so rich, and h.h.hot. Love the contrast of the sausage and the shrimp. Ian (Pike) said watch for too much slime from okra or the filé (sassafras). This certainly has the flavor of the sassafras (bet that’s where the word “sassy” comes from), but no, it’s rich but loose. Almost louche in its richness. Like the three bears: not too runny, not too thick.

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Shane recs the Tabasco. But actually, my gumbo's hot enough as it is.

Only problem, so much good chat going on. I’m in danger of not eating this steaming pond of goodness while it’s piping hot.

Too much to tell here. Tin Fork, soon.

Note to self: Remember what Jack said about the Holy Trinity…

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