Welcome back to breakfast with designer Luke Laurie and Cardboard Alchemy owner Peter Vaughan. We have recently escaped from the KublaCon Convention space, and wandered to Peter’s Cafe, much to the joy of Peter, who may be expecting royal treatment. Peter’s son James certain expects it. It is his dad’s cafe after all. [it really isn’t] We are just driving up to the restaurant.
LL: Yeah, so it’s right here on the corner.
DTD: Did you get any sort of impression… Oh, they have a parking lot, OK.
LL: They have a parking lot.
DTD: In this area, you never know.
The greater San Francisco area tends to be fend for yourself with regards to parking.
James: Dad, look it’s your café!
PV: I know.
James: What do you serve here?
PV: Hopefully good food!
James: Serve banana bread, so I can eat banana bread.
LL: So, they have a… They make their own sausage here.
DTD: I don’t want to know how it’s made.
LL: No, I do not want to watch it being made.
Sausages. Wonderful mystery tubes. Don’t burst my bubble.
DTD: This is it, right? Oh, that was easy.
LL: So, this is my long walk, when I want to break from the con.
DTD: And you just go over the bridge there?
Luke is much more athletic than I, and would take regular walks around the city, including to this cafe, nearly 2 miles away. Of course, most people and several housepets are more athletic than I.
James: At the convention there was a muffin, and there was like banana bread muffins.
DTD: The ones that were wrapped in the brown paper? Oh, they’re good!
James: There was the banana-blueberry. It was way good.
DTD: I might have bought like six of those. [laughs] Oh, did you get stuck?
It’s fitting that I knew exactly which muffins within the convention James was talking about. And they were very good.
Everyone was getting out of my car now, which can require some figuring out.
DTD: There’s a button here.
PV: It sort of… I did the window instead. Or maybe I…
DTD: No, the button will make the window lower a little bit, to unseal it. And then it’s…
PV: Oooh, that’s it. I thought I was hitting the wrong one.
DTD: No worries. I get so spoiled with this car now, because there’s no keys. So you just… If I have my phone on me, I just walk in and drive away.
PV: That’s so nice.
LL: You’ve got a little outside wear on this tire, here. That edge right there. Yeah, it might be bowed in a little bit.
I would not be surprised if Luke simply did a tire rotation for me, here in the parking lot, then tuned up the car. He’s just that kind of a guy.
DTD: Oh, I do. I know. I’ll take a peek at it.
LL: I’m sure those have four wheel alignment.
DTD: But almost everything I know about cars is just out the window. There’s no transmission, no oil, no…
PV: Wow. Yeah, that’s bizarre.
DTD: It’s weird to think about… It’s all electric, so you don’t care if you run the A/C or you run the lights.
We made our way into the cafe, and were immediately greeted by an amazing specials board and the smell of pancakes.
DTD: Oh, that’s looking good. Yeah, I need to… I always forget to take pictures. And I kind of decorate everything up with pictures. Oops, I’m sorry – I’m running you guys down! I just gotta get a quick picture.
PV: Oh, OK.
LL: Even crowded here. This is not the quiet space.
DTD: No, this looks great.
PV: We could take it out somewhere.
We are approached by the host, who promises wave upon wave of breakfast tides upon the shores of my hunger.
LL: I’m actually a fan of the place. We have four.
DTD: And like I said, I called Stacks, and they were very straight forward. They said, “We are slammed.”
LL: They said “Forget it, don’t come.”
DTD: Yeah, pretty much..
PV: I don’t know if I’ve been to that one or not.
DTD: I did my interview with Scott Caputo at the Stacks in Campbell.
I had been talking up the restaurant Stacks mostly because I had such a good breakfast with Scott. And it would have been so fitting – during my interview with Scott he was discussing a work in progress with Luke Laurie – Whistle Mountain.
But now we are at Peter’s Cafe with Peter Vaughan. And the waiter is seating up in a lovely booth in the corner.
DTD: Thank you. [to Peter and James] I’ll let you guys sit together if you’re OK with that.
LL: So I’m already leaning towards trout and eggs.
I had my eyes on the same special. Now I needed to pick something else.
DTD: That sounds awesome. I’m a big fish fan. Usually my favorite breakfasts are some… [grabbing my badge] Why am I still wearing this? My favorite breakfasts are usually some kind of fish.
LL: I like just a classic whatever. You know, hash browns and eggs, bacon, whatever. But there is definitely a part of me that leans towards that… I loved that when I was in Hawaii, I could go to this Filipino food truck in the morning and get fish and eggs, and some nice fresh fruit. That’s just such good meal.
DTD: It’s so good.
James: He said to eat dessert first, so I have to eat dessert first. Because my Dad said so.
DTD: So, what’s a good breakfast dessert?
Knowing full well that almost all breakfast food is, by strict definition, dessert.
LL: Onion rings.
DTD: Onion rings? OK. That makes sense. Chili cheese fries for breakfast.
DTD: No? Well, it was worth a shot.
James: I think corned beef hash with eggs.
PV: [pointing to menu] There’s your Spam, dude, right there.
James: I don’t want Spam, Dad.
Ah, the american tradition – feeding your child Spam. My son loves Spam.
DTD: Spam is a good seasoning.
PV: We were at the airport and there was a… I’m trying to think of the food type. It was a Filipino restaurant, or something, and they had a spam and egg sandwich. And we had just gotten off. We had nothing yet on Friday, and so James was like, “Let’s do it. Let’s have this Spam.”
LL: Do you like Spam Musubi? It’s basically spam sushi. Rice. Wrapped in seaweed.
DTD: It’s awesome.
Spam Musubi is a bed of sushi rice with a, preferrably fried, slice of Spam and a sweet soy glaze. A sprinkle of furikake would not ruin it. It is delicious, although two of them could feasibly kill someone.
LL: It is. It’s perfect, and it’s like this perfect food.
DTD: My son is a freak for spam. It’s his usual breakfast. And musubi, he’ll always order it. I don’t know where that kid came from. [laughs]
LL: So, we went to Hawaii last year. And the first day that we moved into this condo, we got up in the morning. My daughter had made Spam musubi out of the stuff we got at the store.
DTD: Oh, that’s awesome. I love it.
LL: And this kimchi egg dish too. And we ate that.
DTD: That’s so good.
The waiter arrived just as all the Spam talk was sirring our hunger.
PV: Hot tea for me. James, what would you like to drink?
PV: You want like an iced tea? [to waiter] An iced tea, a hot tea, and a water.
LL: I’ll have a coffee and an orange juice please.
DTD: Coffee. And do you have grapefruit juice?
DTD: That, too.
Coffe and grapefruit juice are another perfect combination. Each makes the other taste so much better. I tried putting grapefruit syrup in my coffee once – it did not work. Apparently they are perfect together, but just so slightly seperated.
James: Dad, I’m going to get Spam and eggs. You can’t stop me.
James: You can’t stop me.
DTD: [shrugs] I tried.
LL: What are you getting, ham? Ham and eggs?
James: Oh, Spam and eggs.
LL: Oh, Spam and eggs. Yeah, go for it.
DTD: There was a smoked salmon benedict on specials, and that’s just screaming to me.
James: I really wish they would let me see what kind of eggs go with the spam.
PV: I’m sure they’ll let you choose.
LL: Yes. Yelp exists. You get to choose.
DTD: [laughs] You need to order your eggs coddled.
According to Wikipedia, coddled eggs are eggs that have been cracked into a ramekin or other small container, placed in a water bath or bain-marie and gently or lightly cooked just below boiling temperature. All I know is they are amazing, even though everyone around you looks at you funny if you order them.
LL: I would like my eggs Ostrich.
DTD: I’ve done that. So, I was a veterinarian for ages and ages, so I had a lot of friends who had farms, and strange things, and so we did it…
LL: You’re a veterinarian? Very cool.
DTD: Yeah. And then at a Christmas party, I made one deviled egg out of an ostrich egg.
LL: A single deviled egg.
DTD: Single deviled egg.
LL: It’s like something you eat in a Doctor Seuss book.
DTD: It’s insane! But the whole party couldn’t finish it. It’s like 40 eggs!
LL: That’s great. Look, they’ve got this painting on the wall from the somewhere in the ‘aughts. And gas is $3 a gallon.
DTD: Now it’s nostalgic.
LL: It was painted five years ago.
It was strange feeling a painting was an old classic, because the gas shown in the image was under $4 a gallon. I wonder if Rembrandt felt this way?
DTD: It’s, uh, it’s surprising. A lot of these interviews that I’ve done, I think it’s probably a good third of them we talk about eggs and breakfast. And how poached eggs are really the only way to go.
LL: Well, see, I didn’t know you were willing to do breakfast, because every time you reached out to me, you’re like, “When are we gonna get a Santa Maria style barbecue?” And…
DTD: I know. It’s just, I was kind of fixated on Santa Maria.
Luke lives in the centra California town of Santa Maria. And apparently there is a style of BBQ known as Santa Maria style. Right up there with Texas or Kansas City style BBQ. I never knew.
LL: We can, we can still do that.
DTD: I would still like to do that. That still sounds really fun. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to Santa Maria.
LL: I have, yeah.
DTD: You’ve been there once or twice?
LL: Yeah. About 20 years I’ve been there.
PV: Good Mexican food!
DTD: Oh, that’s awesome!
LL: It is. It’s hard to get bad Mexican food in Santa Maria.
DTD: For a long time, my wife and I would do day trips all over California. We’d drive just wherever. And I think the closest, we did a few to San Luis Obispo, to Solvang, to San Simeon. In that area, but…
LL: Solvang is actually south of where I am. So you drove right through.
Solvang is an odd town set up all in Pennsylvania Dutch style. Horses in the street, fudge shops. It is a quite the touristy town.
DTD: Right through, maybe.
LL: And that’s what most people do, because it’s not a destination for too many things. But it is where a whole lot of people live. Believe it or not, it is the most populated city in Santa Barbara County.
DTD: I was reading up on it. I believe you.
110,000 people. Santa Barbara itself only has 88,000.
LL: It’s a good place to be home. I like it.
DTD: I was fascinated by the barbeque stories, because I had never heard of that before.
LL: I’ve got some good stories on that.
DTD: [laughs] Cool.
LL: So, I worked in Washington, DC., in the House of Representatives in 2006 and 2007.
DTD: Seriously? Wow.
LL: I worked for Congressman Mike Honda from up here, from….
DTD: Up here? Wow.
LL: He was a California’s 15th District, San Jose, Cupertino, and then back in the old days that included also Santa Cruz. That district changed. But in any case when I was there, my first experience… So these are all the tri-tip stories.
As Luke will explain, tri-tip is a cut of meat. Common in California, unheard of in most of the rest of the US.
LL: First of all, on the east coast, and in a whole lot of the United States, you can’t buy a tri-tip in a store.
DTD: Oh, they don’t even know what it is.
LL: No, they have no clue what you’re talking about.
DTD: I grew up in New Jersey.
LL: So, I’m just like, “Hey, I’m just going to go get a Tri tip in the store.” And it was like… It was like a science fiction movie. They’re like, “What is that? What are you talking about?”
DTD: “You’re from another planet.”
Pod people. Of course, I was one of those when I first moved to California.
LL: Yeah, so then we go to a brewery that has 50 dishes on the menu. And it’s built in an old bank, near the train station in Washington DC. The item on the menu for California is “Santa Maria style Tri-tip Barbecue.”
DTD: Oooooh! [laughs]
PV: Oh wow.
LL: Then, towards the end of my stay there, I go to this… It was a dinner for congresspeople, and it had like Harrison Ford and Patagonia as guests.
LL: It was for some environmental fund. And we go there, and it was all bougie and everybody dressed up to the nines. And I’m sitting next to two retired congresspeople. And we go to the line to get the food and they open up the silver platter, and they reveal perfectly cooked, medium rare, Santa Maria style barbecue. That was the dish they served at this thing.
I am fascinated with the word bougie – I hear it more and more. Technically, it derives from bourgeois, a descriptor for the communist ideal of the bourgeoisie class, the social class of the owners of the wealth. This is the opposite of the proletariat, the working class. So I guess “prolie” means base, cheap, or banal.
DTD: And they did it right?
LL: It was packed. Absolutely excellent, yeah. So, there’s a few other restaurants that have that as a dish now. So, it is… It’s slow cooked, very salty.
DTD: Yeah, I had never heard of it until I moved to California.
LL: So, everybody makes it, too. If you live there, you make it. It’s like a thing. If you don’t make it, you’re not like in this culture. Can you make fire? Yes. Can you go to the store? Yes. How’s your tri-tip?
DTD: [laughs] It’s true. And you better cut it the right way.
Against the grain. This is important.
LL: So, I’ve learned that mine isn’t as good as most of my friends’. So, I defer to their tri-tips, and I focus on my chicken. And my salmon.
DTD: Oh, man…
LL: Fair exchanges. Peter’s had a little of my cooking. You had barbeque at my place once, right?
PV: I love it, yeah.
DTD: Oh, that’s awesome.
PV: That’s how we broke the quarantine a little bit, right? We had a game of Dwellings [of Eldervale] over some barbeque chicken.
Dwellings of Eldervale was designed by Luke Laurie during pandemic, for the publisher Breaking Games. And at the time, Peter Vaughan was one of the head people at Breaking Games.
LL: So, I make this chicken. And it is, it’s the simplest thing you can imagine. It’s just chicken thighs.
DTD: The best.
LL: They’re always Foster Farms. Because that matters for this, because the skin is a big factor. So, I’ll get Foster Farms chicken thighs. A couple hours before I barbeque, I just rub them with Susie Q. So, Susie Q comes from Santa Maria, also.
LL: And it’s just a, it’s a type of garlic salt.
LL: Alright, so I rub down the chicken. I light my fire. My fire is always oak wood. I’ve built my own barbecue, where the grill is about 2 feet away from the base of it. And I let it cool down.
DTD: I am dealing with an expert here.
I suspect he grew and fell his own Oak trees as well.
LL: And I barbecue that chicken for about 2 hours. Slow, slow cooked chicken.
DTD: Awesome, man.
LL: Until it gradually… It’s kind of like the idea… Like, when you cook something in an oven on a low temperature; It cooks all the way through, but it never gets overcooked. When it’s done, the skin is completely “crunchy bacon” all the way around.
LL: The inside retains all of the moisture. It’s just dripping, and it falls off the bone, but it falls off the bone in a different way than like… You know, like a turkey, where it falls off the bone, but it’s dry?
DTD: Yeah. You’re driving me crazy, here.
Very. Hungry. Even just editing this interview, I keep having to get up and eat more snacks.
PV: Right? We could do several of these.
DTD: I know, let’s just drive to Santa Maria now.
3 hours, 50 minutes.
LL: So, my game designing originates from the idea that I like to make things. And I like to make things well. So, cooking’s that. Building, mechanics of various kinds. Lego robots. I build, I make things, and game design is the one that I found that is, that I share with people the most.
DTD: That is awesome. Wow. I love cooking. I’m kind of a foodie. But get strange things.
Just in time, the waiter came and took our order. Luke went with his planned trout and eggs with a pancake, so I had to go with a smoked salmon benedict with hash browns. Peter decided on a banana walnut waffle with bacon, and James got his Spam and eggs, over medium.
DTD: Thank you very much.
LL: Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Peter, I see that we’ve been in uniform now for three days straight. And I see that you made sure to match my shirt today. So, we wore Andromeda’s Edge shirts for the last couple days. And now today, I mean…
DTD: It’s because you’re in full coordination.
Peter and Luke were wearing matching outfits – blue jeans and salmon colored shirts. I participated by ordering a grapefruit juice that was almost exasctly the same color. And this was after a full convention of wearing matching branded shirts.
PV: Yes, I’m building up. We’re almost at a full con worth of shirts.
LL: We need a clothing line! Goes with all these.
DTD: Hey, if you have extras, I’ll buy shirts from you. I’m easy.
PV: Nice. So, when we plan our retreat, I’ll have you covered.
DTD: Anytime, man. It’s there for you.
LL: That’s awesome. Tell me about this retreat.
They call it a retreat. I call it having gamers over my house.
DTD: Oh no, Peter is organizing the retreat. I have a… I have a venue. [laughs] So I’ve got a place in Napa Valley, just outside Napa Valley in Santa Rosa. And it’s… I got it right before the pandemic, and it was set up basically to have a lot of people over to play games.
DTD: So, we’ve got 5 gaming tables, 5 guest rooms.
PV: Sounds romantic.
I have never known “5 gaming tables” to be an effective romantic instigator.
DTD: I’ve had cons with like 30 people.
LL: That sounds awesome.
DTD: And we have a good time. But again, I got it right before the pandemic, so I’m going a little stir crazy.
LL: It’s been underutilized?
DTD: Very underutilized.
LL: So, my wife and I have never really like “vacationed” and hung out in Napa. And so, she would be overjoyed if we went to Napa, and played board games instead of doing the wine and spa stuff. So that would be…
DTD: If you want, it’s open to you guys anytime you want. There’s room for as many people as you want to bring.
Corey completely missed the sarcasm thrown at him by Luke. About how his wife, starved of a Napa wine vacation, may object to going just to end up playing games.
LL: That sounds like a fair deal.
DTD: And there’s… Not too much of a wine guy?
LL: I love wine. In fact I pretty much love almost any alcoholic beverage. Especially Scotch.
PV: Yea for Scotch.
DTD: [Stephen] Buonocore is the Scotch guy. He knows his stuff.
I spent some time with Stephen in Florida and he knows Scotch much better than I. I will point out that this is the 6th interview where master Stephen Buonocore has come up in discussion.
LL: Definitely Scotch.
DTD: I’ve never really dove into that world, but… I’ve got a sommelier available.
LL: You’re supposed to tiptoe into that world, don’t dive into that world.
DTD: Oh, slow and gentle.
LL: Don’t tell me you own a winery, too? Right next to it?
DTD: I have interests. [laughs]
Translation: No. I do not own a winery.
DTD: You guys flying back, driving back?
LL: I’m driving back.
PV: Flying over here.
DTD: If you’re comfortable with it, take a bottle of wine. I had brought some to share with people, since I drove only a couple hours. And I’ve got some spectacularly nice wine.
LL: I would love to take a bottle of wine.
DTD: And it’s… When you are right by Napa Valley, you find all these tiny little wineries that don’t usually ship anywhere. And it’s… They’re just experiences, so.
LL: They’re just selling right out of their shops? Are they able to get them into retail, or do you know? Or ship to subscribers?
DTD: They get them into limited retail, but usually within the state. Or local or hard to find. There’s a lot of subscribers, “join the club”, that sort of stuff. So, I just love finding these little places. One they’re beautiful. Just to look at the scenery, walk around. And then the wines are just always small batch, really surprising stuff.
LL: We have tons of those in our area too. And it’s like, you know, we live there, and I still feel like we don’t have the opportunity to really explore it all. I think that’s what you do when you’re done working.
DTD: I’m done working.
LL: At some point I hope to be done working. That would be great.
But… Luke working means I get new exciting games. This is a true conflict of interest.
DTD: No, I get it. I kind of fell into it. We bought the house, and we didn’t intend to. But then all of a sudden I had a house right by Napa Valley, with wine storage. So, I started getting into wine.
LL: That’s awesome.
DTD: It’s really fun.
Come on back next time when breakfast arrives, and coffee gets its second refill. I know this episode was a bit food heavy, but I promise upcoming Legos, early crowdfunding history, and game design.