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Dear Matthew Alice:

My husband and I really enjoy the savory, thick bacon that we get with breakfast at the Original Pancake House and at Mission Café. Is it available to "ordinary" folks?

-- Mrs. Spot, the 858 area code

Ordinary? Please, Mrs. S., no Alicelanders are "ordinary." Certifiable, maybe. Insufferably overinformed, maybe. On a list somewhere of people to keep an eye on, maybe. But never "ordinary." Though that doesn't mean you can buy that bacon in an ordinary store, because you can't. The lovable Mission Café treat is called smoked apple bacon. The best I can tell, it's wholesale only. The Original Pancake House restaurants (Poway and Kearny Mesa) serve Hormel's Old Smoke House bacon, but not the kind you find in the supermarket. Theirs is a wholesale-only 9/13 bacon -- 9 to 13 slices to the pound. Common supermarket bacon is a flimsy 14/16. According to the Poway manager, to get the full benefit of the dee-luscious smoky taste, you need the thick slices that retain the juice and the flavor; you need just the right grill temperature; you need to set aside an area for cooking bacon only, so it doesn't take on the taste of hamburgers or hot links; in other words, perfect bacon is only slightly less complicated than a soufflé. But if you want to try it at home, the Kearny Mesa OPH will sell you the special Hormel's by the pound. My guess is, it won't taste anything like the bacon does when you eat out. There's something about the relaxation, the ambience, the fact that you sit on your butt while someone else cooks and serves it, the fact that you can get up and walk away from the crumb-covered table and greasy pans when you're through....

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