Date Lab: Does food critic Tom Sietsema have a future in matchmaking?

Photographs courtesy daters

(PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHEETAH AND OTTER FROM BIGSTOCK; WILL FERRELL, LEFT, IN “ANCHORMAN” BY FRANK MASI/SMPSP; TIM ROBBINS IN “THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION” BY MICHAEL WEINSTEIN; PAUL MCCARTNEY, LEFT, COURTESY OF APPLE CORPS LTD.; STEPHEN COLBERT BY LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS; THANKSGIVING TURKEY FROM PHOTODISC)

Interviews by Marie Elizabeth Oliver

What happens when a food critic moonlights as a matchmaker? After Tom Sietsema perused applications, his recipe for Date Lab success combined two down-to-earth adventurers and one of 14th Street’s buzziest restaurants. Says Tom: “I was amused to read from their profiles that both had broken into after-hours places on dates and both had memorable paddle boat experiences.” He sent them to Doi Moi, which he recently gave 21 / 2 stars. (Unfortunately the cameras we sent with them didn’t work, so Anna and Darren sent us pics from home.)

Anna: I was there one or two minutes early, and he walked in by himself. We just gave each other these slightly weird looks like, You’re probably who I’m supposed to be meeting with.

Darren: She’s a very pretty girl. Definitely if I met her in a group of friends, I would say she’d be a girl I’d be interested in getting to know.

Anna: First impression was he was nice and tall, and that he also had a good sense of humor about the whole situation. I felt a little underdressed. He looked really good, and I felt like, Man, maybe I should’ve stepped it up a notch.

Darren: It was a tapas-style restaurant, so we picked out a bunch of things to order.

Anna: Luckily we both gravitated toward the same items, like a spicy curry and duck.

Darren: We were convinced by the server to order the whole fish as an entree to share.

Anna: When it came out, it was, like, a ... whole fish. Not something I think we’d normally been like, Oh, yeah, please send that my way.

Darren: We did kind of make a mess all over the table with the fish.

Anna: We were given chopsticks, and we both kind of failed at the chopsticks, which was funny.

Darren: It was very easy to talk to her. We had a lot in common. We talked about our past experiences: where we’d been traveling-wise and what we’ve been doing work-wise.

Anna: We had a lot of similarities. And he was just down-to-earth. A lot of people in D.C. tend to not be, so it was refreshing.

Darren: You kind of forgot that you were on a Washington Post date. It just felt like an actual first date, so that was nice. She suggested drinks afterward.

Anna: We went over across to the street to the Garden District and got a drink there. He was telling me that friends of his, when they found out that he was doing this, suggested that he make up a ton of stuff. For instance, they suggested that he come in with this really thick accent and just maintain the accent the entire time.

Darren:My roommate wanted me to order something like spaghetti and eat the entire meal with my hands. It was a funny thing to talk about.

Anna: He mentioned at the end of the night that since he filled out the [Date Lab] application, life has changed and there’s more work going on, and he doesn’t think that there’s a lot of room for more than just a friend.

Darren: Wesaid our goodbyes and said it was a nice time. She asked if we could exchange numbers, and so we did. I thought, Sure, why not?

Anna: We walked outside, and his bike was out there, and we both said, yeah, if we both have time later on, we should get together again. We gave each other a hug.

Darren: I’m not so sure there was any huge sparks or chemistry. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. My philosophy is I want to be friends with whoever I’m pursuing. If it turned into something more, then great.

RATE THE DATE

Anna: I would say it was a 4, and that’s because the conversation was natural and fun and we laughed a lot. Not a 5, because I don’t see it going any further.

Darren: [A] 4.5. It was very relaxed. It was like two friends going out to dinner, and I really enjoyed that. I would say if I had a free weekend, I’d be up for getting a drink again.

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UPDATE:  Well, it looks as though Tom may need to stick to reviewing restaurants. Anna tells us that she and Darren haven’t gone out or made any plans. Says Darren:
“I gave her my number, but I still haven’t heard from her. Still willing to do something casual.”

 
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