A Meal In Milan

During my recent trip to Italy, I had a night alone in Milan. That meant I was looking for a stranger to dine with me.

I posted an ad online asking if anyone would join me, and waited. Thankfully, along came Federico Leidi for a meal at a decades-old restaurant in the city center — a place he recommended, and that turned out to be fantastic.

Federico was great company as he told me about his three big interests: his career in business; his interest in Italian politics and the career of Silvio Berlusconi; and the enjoyment he gets from playing in a Beatles tribute band.

Click here or on the picture above to read my interview with Federico.

She’s Good At Cooking Crumble

The mistress of melody Lorraine Bowen is finally getting the recognition she deserves!

Lorraine, a delightfully outgoing woman, is a singer-songwriter from England whose hits take on unusual topics. She’s written ballads about waiting in a queue at a post office, or opining about the mysteries of what burger meat is made from.

Recently she made it through to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, after one of four judges saved her in an earlier elimination round. I’d have done the same. Her performance of “The Crumble Song” — an ode to her own baking talents — clearly had the audience entertained. And it’s understandable, because her stage persona is exactly what she’s like when not performing. Her semi-final song, which you can see in the above YouTube clip, just underscores her unique act. Unfortunately, she didn’t get through to the finals.

Based off her Twitter account, Lorraine has nothing but thanks for her time on the show. And that’s fitting, because she’s a wonderfully upbeat woman. I know this because she was kind enough to do a dinner interview with me in London in January 2013. Get yourself a spoonful of crumble, then click here to read all about Lorraine, how she got started with music, and her hopes for the future.

The Primary Instinct

Stephen Tobolowsky is a great actor, and an equally great storyteller.

He’s getting ready to promote his upcoming film The Primary Instinct, a Kickstarter-funded “concert” movie featuring him telling his unique brand of anecdotes. Nothing else. Just Stephen, a camera, and his stories. And I already know it’s going to be great.

Although he’s recognizable to many as a character actor (Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, among almost-countless other roles), Stephen also greatly enjoys telling stories either with his podcast or through the written word.

Back in October on a trip to Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen about both his writing and acting careers. Click here for part one in which he discusses his love of acting, and click here for part two about his writing.

Today on a return visit to LA, I had a very pleasant lunch with Stephen and his friendly wife Ann. During our conversation I learned about The Primary Instinct and its upcoming premiere — this is definitely a movie that’ll be worth checking out.

Dating In DC

After four years and almost 100 first dates, Craig Schattner is still single.

So he decided to try and answer the question of whether the inability to find a long-term girlfriend stems from a problem with him, or with the District of Columbia where he lives. Craig — an experience cameraman — decided to launch a web-based video series calling “Dated” in which he sets out to learn more about the hurdles to dating both through his own experiences and interviewing others about dating in the city.

Craig’s series was recently featured in the Washington Post and that’s how I found out the project. I reached out to him for a platonic dinner date, and he was kind enough to agree to get a meal at DC’s Mintwood Place.

Click on Craig’s picture above, or on this link, to read my interview with Craig, in which he discusses dating, work, bagels, and more, including the question about his love life struggles: is it really the city’s problem? Or is it Craig?

The Trip To Italy

Just back from a trip to Italy (insert joke here about arms being tired).

As expected, the food was great in the three places I visited: Milan, Lake Garda, and Venice. Below is a picture of the very first meal I had in the country, a pizza at the fantastic Milan restaurant La Cadrega.

In addition to a host of sightseeing and plenty of over-eating, I also had the chance to do a dinner interview with a stranger in Milan. Check back in a couple of weeks for that article. But first I need to write up my most recent dinner in DC.

Oh, and please email me at mail (at) diningwithstrangers (dot) com if you spot any broken links. My site had a slight wobbly moment today and I had to re-upload some stuff, so some links might no longer work.

Visiting The Lincolns

April 14-15 marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth during a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. But you probably know that factoid, so what’s the connection between that tragedy and Dining With Strangers?

Back in February 2011 I had dinner in the District with Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller. They tour the country performing as Honest Abe and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln in a production called “Visiting the Lincolns.” Their two-person performance imagines the couple at the White House talking about all their lives, politics, triumphs and tragedies, in the hours before their fateful trip to the theater.

Michael is easy to imagine as Lincoln, as he towers over most people at 6 foot 4 inches and also has an impressive presidential beard. Both he and Debra were great company during the dinner interview and I highly recommend watching their show if possible.

In Christy’s Shoes

Jacki Barnett never intended to be a fashionable fundraiser. But after her best friend Christy passed away from brain cancer at age 33, Jacki and two other friends launched a fashion-focused charitable organization in Christy’s honor.

In Christy’s Shoes hosts shoe fashion shows to raise money that the group then donates to charities helping women and families in need. The idea stemmed from outgoing and generous Christy’s love of shoes, as I learned during dinner with Jacki.

We met at the fancy Bourbon Steak restaurant at the Four Seasons in Washington, DC’s, equally fancy Georgetown neighborhood. I had a blast during the almost three hours I spent with Jacki, who is a very fun, friendly person.

Click on this link or on the picture of Jacki and me above to read about my lavish dinner with her — and meeting Bourbon Steak’s executive chef.

Next Step Realty: NYC

Great news for former dinner interviewee Matt Bauman — the New Yorker will be appearing in an upcoming ABC reality television show about Next Step Realty, a firm that works with college graduates moving to New York City to pair them with realtors.

Matt was one of the founding real estate brokers at the company, and the natural energy he showed during our meal is bound to make for some fun viewing.

Variety has more details on the show, which will be called “Next Step Realty: NYC,” and their article even features Matt in the main picture.

I interviewed him in New York City last July, over a great Italian meal at Locanda Verde. In addition to his work in the real estate industry, Matt is an experienced actor and also launched a website to connect acting and other entertainment industry coaches with students. Click here to read about my dinner with Matt.

Searching For Louise

Maryland resident Dr. David Sherer has fond memories of the African American maid Louise that helped raise him as a child. But the two lost contact in the 1980s. A few decades later, David decided that he needed closure and wanted to reunite with Louise — and to chronicle his efforts in a book.

That’s how he ended up writing his autobiographical tale The House of Black and White, as he told me during a dinner interview at Le Chat Noir restaurant in Washington, DC. It’s the second book he’s written, following a guide for patients on how to deal with hospital visits. And he hopes it won’t be his last.

In addition to talking about his love of writing, David also talked about his lengthy career as an anesthesiologist, and his plans for his looming retirement.

Click on this link or on David’s picture above to read about my dinner with the doctor.

Ukelele Joy

Ukulele-playing singer-songwriter Louisa Hall — dinner stranger #57 — was on stage at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center recently playing her instrument, singing her songs, and generally appearing to have a great time.

You can watch her performance by clicking here. She starts out with her cover of The Decemberists’ “Shankhill Butchers,” a song about the Irish paramilitary gang of the same name. It’s also the song she played for me during our meal.

The video gives a great example of Louisa’s effortlessly upbeat nature and quirky sense of humor, which was also on show when she and I got dinner at DC’s Big Bear Cafe last May. Click here for my interview with Louisa.