The Swiss Ambassador

Martin Dahinden is the Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States.

He’s also the 83rd stranger to dine with me for this site. His staff at the Swiss Embassy were incredibly generous to arrange an evening meal last week for Martin and me, taking place at the gorgeous Swiss Residence in Washington, DC.

Martin and his family have an apartment on the second floor of the residence, while the ground floor — laid out to resemble the cross on the Swiss flag — is used for formal receptions and similar events. That’s where a table for two was beautifully laid out, and I enjoyed a four-course dinner with a menu designed to promote the Swiss contribution to cuisine, something Martin is eager to discuss.

Click on Martin’s picture above, or on this link, to learn all about the role of the Swiss ambassador and Martin’s goals during his time in Washington.

In Transit

There’s an interesting new site launched called In Transit, in which blogger Evy approaches random strangers while traveling and asks them for their life story.

As described on her “About The Blog” page, In Transit “explores the stories and lives of people who are waiting in areas of transit. Why are they there? Who are they waiting on? Where are they headed? These are some of the questions my interviews attempt to answer as I turn my attention to the people who are sitting still in areas of bustling commotion.”

The interviews are a good read, and I’m in awe of Evy’s nerve in approaching random people in public. In contrast, Dining With Strangers is typically organized by me emailing someone or a stranger booking a dinner with me.

Another FuckUp Night

FuckUp Nights, the group that hosts discussions about the lessons learned from business failures, is holding its eighth event in Washington, DC, on November 18 at 7pm at WeWork in Dupont Circle. Click on this link for more details or to register for the event.

As the hosts describe it, “FuckUp Nights is a monthly event where awesome people talk about one of their biggest professional or business failures in a candid and irreverent way.”

I learned all about FuckUp Nights when I dined with stranger Meredith Denbow, who organizes the events in the city. While she took the initiative to get the organization going in the District, she told me that the success of the events is a group achievement. “Surrounding yourself with a good team when you’re trying to pull off something that’s really big is essential,” she said during our meal at Jyoti.

Night Of The DC Dead

Vaughn Irving wants to scare you senseless.

He’s one of the creative minds behind DC Dead, a temporary attraction for Halloween. Groups of people sign up to enter an abandoned building and must attack — or in my case, more likely run screaming from — hordes of zombies that have taken over the building. It’s an “immersive game” that is running through to Sunday November 1.

These haunted houses, scary mazes and similar events that pop up for Halloween are not something that’s done much back in my home country of England. So when I moved to the States 11 years ago they piqued my interest.

Eager to learn more about why people host them and what goes into their planning, I contacted Vaughn for an interview. We recently got dinner in Alexandria, Virginia, at the Lost Dog Cafe, where he told me all about DC Dead.

Click on the picture above or on this link to read my interview with Vaughn. And please appreciate that I opted against using a bunch of Halloween puns and lame jokes in this post (e.g. “It’s a scream! Fun for all the guys and ghouls!”).

Podcasting With Strangers

Just wanted to say a thank you to the podcast Take 3 for mentioning Dining With Strangers.

The weekly podcast by Danielle Sills and Sara Shookman of WKYC Channel 3 in Cleveland, Ohio, features local and national news and cultural discussions. I’m honored their thought my website was interesting enough to discuss on this week’s podcast.

They had some very kind words to say about my interviews (though apparently I’ll have to agree to disagree with the duo about my hatred of sushi). “Learning about someone’s life and getting to know them, some of that conversation can be the most exciting conversation, I think, possible,” they said. I agree, and I’m glad they enjoyed checking out the site.

Click on this link or the picture above to get to the Take 3 podcast page and give it a listen.

Welcome To Night Vale

It’s always nice to see former dining strangers enjoying success.

So I was suitably giddy to see actor Cecil Baldwin (the 10th stranger) appear on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night. He was on the show to promote the podcast Welcome To Night Vale, presented as a radio show for a fictional desert town. Cecil plays the role of, aptly enough, Cecil, the radio show host who shares the news around town.

Cecil and I got lunch together in New York City way back in August 2009, while he was working a day job as a waiter and attending as many theater auditions as he could manage.

“One day I would love to take off my apron and not have to put it back on again, to have a life where I don’t have to ask another person whether they’d like bottle water or tap water,” he told me during our meal at the now-closed venue Belcourt.


Click on the picture of me and Cecil above to read about my afternoon with him. I just re-read the piece, and what’s most jarring to me is how young I looked back then.

Fred Melamed Follow-Up

Here’s a brief follow-up on what actor Fred Melamed (stranger 76) has been up to since we got dinner in Beverly Hills in May.

First, he’s one of the actors in the new Hulu series Casual. During our meal at the Palm (accompanied by Fred’s wonderful wife Leslee Spieler Melamed) he talked about the fun he’s having making that show.

Second, the trailer for the Coen Brothers’ new movie Hail, Ceasar! is now out. When Fred and I ate, he told me he had to keep his role a secret. But he said he had a great time filming the movie, which reunites him with the Coen Brothers. They cast him as the “villain” of the piece in the film A Serious Man, a character he talked about during dinner.

Click here to read part one of my two-part interview with Fred.

The Immigration Attorney

Amber Murray‘s work can be stressful, but she sticks with it.

She’s an immigration attorney currently specializing in asylum seeker and human rights cases. Amber has countless stories of people she’s met who are living in devastating conditions, persecuted by their government, trapped in a country where they’re in a constant state of fear and desperate to escape.

Through her self-owned specialist law firm, Amber aims to help her clients looking for a new life in the United States. It can a years-long process and full of disappointment, as Amber told me during a dinner interview last week at La Bonne Bistro in Washington, DC.

Click on her picture above or on this link to read about my meal with her and find out why — despite the major challenges — Amber is committed to this line of work.

Attend FuckUp Nights

Eager to learn from other peoples’ business failures?

Then get to The Coupe restaurant in Washington, DC, on Thursday October 15, at 7pm. That’s where the group FuckUp Nights will be hosting the latest in its series, or “volumes,” of events where people share their calamities and what they learned from them.

I learned about FuckUp Nights back in July when I did a dinner interview with Meredith Denbow, who organizes the group’s DC volumes.

Apparently the upcoming event at The Coupe will have a focus on food-related failures (and the venue also serves some pretty tasty dishes).

Click on this link to RVSP for FuckUp Nights Volume VII.

The Lion’s Den

Jazz vocalist Aaron L. Myers II — the 52nd stranger featured on this site — is gearing up for the release of his second album, The Lion’s Den, which will be available starting October 2.

I met Aaron in Washington, DC, in January 2014. Over a decent meal of Mediterranean food, Aaron told me what got him interested in piano and jazz, and his experiences trying to make it as a musician. He sang to me, talked about his first album, Leo Rising, and spoke a little about his then-pending second album.

On his website, Aaron says, “Completing this album has not been an easy task! But the product is something I’m proud of and displays the true collaboration between genres.”

He says the album has a wide mix, ranging from the song “Black Lives Matter” — which is “dedicated to the activists of today” — to the last number on the record, which he describes as a “touching tribute to his grandmother Velma Sanders”