Tales Of The Crescent City

New Orleans is an amazing city.

Outstanding food, some of the best cocktails in the States, great live music, beautiful architecture, friendly people — these are just a handful of its many perks.

I first visited the Crescent City in May 2004, more than a year before Hurricane Katrina hit it in August 2005. On that inaugural trip, I did all the touristy things: beignets at Cafe Du Monde, watching a jazz show in the French Quarter, eating a roast beef po’ boy at Mother’s, dinner at K-Paul’s. Although most of what I did was cliche, the Big Easy still managed to capture my heart. And so ever since Katrina, I’ve been going back as often as I can, at least once a year, exploring new areas each time.

During my many visits to New Orleans — with hopefully my third visit of 2014 coming in October — I’ve been fortunate to interview an interesting cast of locals. From a voodoo priestess to the host of a daily three-hour radio show devoted to the city’s cuisine, they’ve all had great stories to tell (including their memories of Katrina).

In tribute to the city, here are links to the strangers I’ve met there:

It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but I’m happy to say I’ve kept in touch with a couple of the interviewees. And each stranger I’ve had dinner with down there has just made me fall further in love with the city.

Here’s to New Orleans having a long and wonderful future.

How To Get To Sesame Street

Anyone who grew up watching the incredibly popular children’s show Sesame Street recognizes the theme tune immediately. Several kids sing the question “Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?”

After my latest meal with a stranger, I know the answer.

Turns out the puppets that populate that fictional New York City neighborhood are housed in a workshop in Queens, just across the bridge from Manhattan.

That’s where I met Melissa Creighton, production manager for the Jim Henson Creature Shop. She gave me a tour of the company’s workshop — including a meeting with Cookie Monster! — then we had lunch at a nearby coffee shop.

During the couple of hours I spent with Melissa, she told me how she first got into the world of puppetry, all about her work with the Sesame Street characters, and much more.

Read my interview with her by clicking on this link or the pictures above.

DC Beer Week

It’s Beer Week in Washington, DC, from August 17-24.

Alas, with this site being Dining With Strangers and not Drinking With Strangers, I won’t be writing anything about the celebration. But the festival’s website shows there are a host of beer tastings and other events taking place throughout the week.

One person who would likely enjoy Beer Week is Brendan Kelleher. He’s responsible for Behind The Craft, a website where he interviews owners of craft breweries from across the country while enjoying some of their beverages.

Brendan was also interview #60 for my site. During dinner in the District, he told me what led to the creation of the website, and why he loves writing about beer.

My Dinner With Matt Bauman

There’s a pretty straightforward headline for you: today’s update is interview 61, my night out in New York City with actor/realtor/website owner Matt Bauman.

Click on the picture above or on this link to read about our dinner at Italian restaurant Locanda Verde in the city’s Tribeca neighborhood.

During our enjoyable meal, Matt told me about the various roles he plays in life — not just on the stage, but also selling luxury properties, and running a website that acts as a database putting people in the theater industry in touch with the right coaches.

Interview 62 should be up next Friday, August 14.

Out Of Hands We Go

Back in February 2013 I had an enjoyable and interesting lunch with David Rogers-Berry, drummer for the goth country band O’Death. He told me about his love of good music and how he’s focused far more on ensuring the integrity of his band than churning out millions of albums and raking in money for an inferior sound.

I mention my interview with David because it turns out that O’Death last month announced the upcoming release and tour for their third album, “Out of Hands We Go.”

The album is available starting October 7th, with the U.S. tour kicking off the next day. Check out the band’s website for more details on both the upcoming release and the tour.


Actor and former dinner interviewee Jack Fry is getting great reviews for his one-man show “Einstein!” in which he plays the eponymous scientist as he describes his push to prove his theory of relativity.

Jack and I had dinner one night in December 2009, after I saw his other one-man show “They Call Me Mister Fry.” That play was based on his real-life experience as a teacher in South Central Los Angeles. It was a great show, with Jack deftly portraying several characters in a story that never once lost my attention.

During my interview with Jack in New York City, I learned that when he’s off stage he’s just as interesting and charismatic as when he’s performing.

I haven’t had the chance to see “Einstein!” but based on the reviews on the show’s website, I’ll make a point to see it should Jack end up performing anywhere near Washington, DC.

Louisa’s Ukelele Shows

I’m back from holiday, hooray! I did two new interviews, hooray!

Now I have to do the hours-long process of transcribing and editing them. Far less hooray. But stay tuned, because I hope to have the 61st dinner interview online next week.

Meanwhile, if you live in the Washington, DC, area, you can hear the hilariously offbeat musician Louisa Hall performing with her ukulele at several shows in August.

According to her website, Louisa will be on stage August 1 in Haymarket, Virginia; August 2 in Tysons Corner, Virginia; and as part of a nine-songwriter series August 9 in Washington.

I interviewed Louisa in May at the Big Bear Cafe, and had a blast. If you’re on the fence about going to one of her shows, check out my interview with Louisa. It includes a clip of her singing a song. That should push you off the fence — in a good way, naturally.

Holiday Road

Heading out on the road for a holiday with a few stops along the eastern seaboard, so there won’t be any updates for a couple of weeks. That should save you the exasperation of hitting refresh every five seconds.

I’ll be doing a couple of interviews while on my travels, and hope to have the first of those up later this month. Meantime, I’ll be sporadically updating my Twitter feed, so go follow me on there if you like.

And I’ll still be checking my email, so if you live in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, New York or Miami and want to do dinner with a stranger between now and July 27th, follow this link to book a meal with me.

Behind The Craft

Writer Dave Barry once quipped, “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”

Brendan Kelleher would likely agree. He runs Behind The Craft, a website featuring his visits to craft breweries where he samples the beers and chats with the owners and staff about making their beverages.

Late last month, Brendan and I put Mr. Barry’s statement to the test by getting pizza and beers in Washington, DC. Click here or on the picture above for my interview with Brendan, in which he told me about his previous life as a futures trader in Chicago and his current focus on learning about the art of craft beer.

Gettysburg Rap

If you’re looking for some musical entertainment today, check out ukelele-playing singer-songwriter Louisa Hall’s tremendous “Gettysburg Rap” — a lyrical ode to one of the most important battles of the American Civil War.

Louisa is a funny and charming woman, as I discovered when I interviewed her in Washington, DC, recently. Click here for the interview. And her great sense of humor is present (along with a cameo by her kazoo) in the above video.

She performed the rap as part of the UnreheasedDC series, which has the simple but tremendous goal of filming great bands in unique locations. The location for Louisa’s performance? A shower. Once you’re done with the musical history lesson above, check out some of the other videos on the UnrehearsedDC site — including Louisa’s “Awkward” song.

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