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Ottawa Sun

"A Group of Singles" December 9, 2020

In this world of speed dating and Internet hookups, I've so far stayed away from organized dating-ish things, aside from the blind variety. I've always liked the idea of meeting the next good guy the old fashioned way, know what I mean? But after spending a couple of hours with Doug, Bill, Jim, Jen and Gloria at the Empire Grill last week, I've changed my mind. On Dinnerworks, at least. It's a setup which sees different age groups of singles brought together for dinner parties of six or eight at a hip local restaurant. Giving brand new meaning to the phrase "group date," the people at my dinner ranged in age from 28-37 and included an athletic trainer, a librarian, two guys in financial services and one student. QUALITY PEOPLE Quality people just looking for love, and a night out with like-minded others, you might say. I have to admit I was apprehensive, but they were funny, they were interesting and they were informative. Among the things I learned from them during dinner: As a beer, Guinness is not only delicious, it is filled with nutrients, and you can order brand-new books and CDs online through the Ottawa Public Library to be delivered to your nearest branch. I also found out the hard way not to order seafood pasta with mustard seeds in the sauce and determined at least two of the participants at my dinner don't want to let many people know about their Dinnerworks experience because they asked for their first names to be changed. AWKWARD MOMENTS Our host Ariel stayed for the first half-hour while we all ordered a drink and introduced ourselves. When she stood up to leave, I felt the way I imagine a three-year-old does as their parents prepare to leave them with a babysitter. Don't go, I thought, we need you. I won't lie to you, there were awkward moments to the dinner, especially right after Ariel left. But I'd rate this experience above that of your regular, run-of-the-mill blind date. If you find one of the guests hard to talk to, silly, dumb, obnoxious, self-involved, slightly off or any of the other reactions which can happen when you meet a total stranger, there are a half-dozen others to fall back on and you haven't blown an evening talking to a misanthrope or total bore. It didn't seem to my practised eye as though any sparks flew during the dinner, though I could be mistaken. But the opportunities for networking, friendship or finding new opportunities for socializing -- should you be new to town or simply find yourself adrift in a sea of married people -- I think might make up for it if they didn't. DISCREET INQUIRIES Participants can make their own inquiries after dinner or contact founder and point person Liisa Vexler in Toronto to discreetly forward any expressions of interest on their behalf. Vexler started Dinnerworks in Toronto and Vancouver after learning about a similar venture while living in Washington, D.C. She introduced the concept to Ottawa last spring and now has about 200 members who pay an annual fee of $149 and $15 per dinner. For more information visit www.dinnerworks.ca. photo by Tony Caldwell, Ottawa Sun ANN MARIE (Single Gal) McQueen finds in fellow reporter Denis (Bachelor Boy) Armstrong a willing shoulder to wine on.