Amour or Less

Photos by Gabriela Lingenfelder

(Published in the March 2010 issue) 

Other than effecting a little hanky-panky here and there, PacificSD's over-paid matchmaking masterminds have failed to muster a real love connection since who-can remember. There was a kiss and a Snuggie back in December, but the January date registered a deep-freeze on the romance meter (despite his nimbleness on skates, Bruno was just too young), and February started with a back massage, only to end with a cold shoulder.

Spring is about to happen here, date-fans. Seagulls are chirping and the bees are beginning to buzz. As bluer skies make their triumphant return, it's this town's favorite magazine's responsibility to get things fired up. (Sadly, they went out of business. Luckily, PacificSD is here to pick up the reins. Giddy up!)

Will tonight's blind date be the first hot night on the road to a scorching summer, or will there be six more weeks of winter? Perhaps it depends on whether the daters see each other's shadows after the magazine crew leaves them alone after dinner.

Ari and Brannon are about to meet for the first time at Toast Enoteca, a new East Village wine bar on J Street. Before they arrive for vino and appetizers, let's review the pre-date interviews.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

Ari: I was born in Mexico City, but I grew up in the Bay Area, in a town called Danville-aka suburbia. I live in La Jolla now.
Brannon: I am just a country boy from Oklahoma, living in Crown Point now.

What do you do for a living?
Ari: I'm the VIP Host and Director of New Media for Fluxx Nightclub. I also dabble in web design, video editing, social media and marketing consulting, and founded RedRopeReviews.com in 2004.
Brannon: Business development for a technology company.

Why are you going on a blind date in a magazine?

Ari: I think it's because of the issue with Ty Hauter-I couldn't believe he got engaged and married after going on the blind date (see Taking the Cake, October 2009). I'd settle for just meeting someone who gives me butterflies.
Brannon: Well, going on regular dates clearly isn't working, so why not?

Rate yourself physically on a scale from 1 to 10.

Ari: An eight? Always room to improve.
Brannon: I plead the Fifth.

What makes you a good catch?

Ari: Depends what your idea of "a good catch" is. I'm definitely not Susie Homemaker, but I am loyal, independent and caring, and I'd like to believe I have substance.
Brannon: Considering I haven't been "caught" yet, I'm not sure I have that answer.

What person, food, drink, song and other item would you take to a deserted island?

Ari: I'd definitely take my puggle, Baxter. He's so wise-he's like a miniature Buddha covered in hair. (A puggle is a dog-half pug, half beagle.)
Brannon: Halle Berry, Subway, White Russians, Bob Marley and my golf bag.

What do you hope your date will look like?

Ari: I hope he's a head-turner.
Brannon: Brunette, blue eyes and dark skin...and smiles a lot.

Which celebrity do people say you resemble?

Ari: For some reason a lot of people tell me I resemble Amanda Bynes. No clue why, because she is Caucasian and I'm Latina, but I guess it must be our big cheeks, smile and bubbly personality.
Brannon: I have only been told I look like Luke Wilson , simply because I have a crooked nose.

What are your biggest turn-ons?

Ari: A guy who is well dressed and charismatic. A chiseled face and abs don't hurt.
Brannon: Confidence, Southern accents, brunettes, tank tops, sundresses, thunderstorms.

Ari is seated at a table by the high-tech wine-sample dispensensing machines when Brannon arrives at Toast Enoteca. The two embrace, then sit briefly before strolling through a self-guided wine-tasting adventure.

As they get acquainted over wine samples and gourmet pizza at Toast Enoteca, Brannon and Ari are smiling. Their body language and frequent laughter seem to suggest that the date is off to a great start.

After about an hour, it's time for dinner at Bice Ristorante, the ritzy new Italian place on Island Avenue. The daters finish their last sips of wine, and then head out into the pre-spring night for a short stroll across East Village to the Gaslamp.

The décor at Bice exudes refinement, but the atmosphere is lively and warm. The place is bustling when the daters arrive and are escorted to their seats by the cheese bar. After they've had a few minutes to look over the menu, Ari and Brannon split for mid-date interviews.

How's it going so far?
Ari: It's going good. I'm actually impressed with your picking skills. I wrote in with a big long list of wants, and you hit it on the dot. 
Brannon: I have to be honest, I'm pleasantly surprised. There's definitely a personality connection, which is rare considering we were thrust into this without knowing anything.

Is he/she the type of person you'd normally date?

Ari: I normally don't meet guys like him. But, if I could choose, he would be a guy I would date.
Brennan: No, because of the age, but yes, because of her personality. She's spunky, she's feisty, she seems like she's very independent, she's motivated and she's secure. (She's 25; he's 32.)

How was Toast Enoteca?
Ari: It was a little awkward. I think both of us are outgoing and charismatic, but in that situation, we were a little nervous. I liked the salad and pizza, and it was cool how you could try out all the different wines.
Brannon: It was cool: a good place with a good vibe, good ambiance, good atmosphere. I think it was key to be able to get up and sit back down. On a first date, it's awkward when you're just sitting there...stuck. At Toast, you can get up and mingle with people, so I think the place is actually ideal for a first date.

Does your date want to kiss you?

Ari: I have no idea.
Brannon: I knew that was coming. I think so...I hope so.

Do you want to kiss your date now?
Ari: Even if I wanted to, I would never kiss someone on the first date.
Brannon:Oh, absolutely!

Rate your date, physically, on a scale from 1 to 10.

Ari: He is-oh, really, do I have to answer that? Ok, he's a nine.
Brannon: I think I'm more attracted to her personality than anything else. The looks-what are we basing this on? The grand scheme of things? I think she's a confident 8.5.

And for personality?

Ari: I think he's a 10 because he has A.D.D., just like me. I don't know if he's a 10 personality-wise, but we're just right on.
Brannon: Absolutely a 10-plus.

Chirp! Buzz! Holy onomatopoeia! Has spring really sprung? Will PacificSD's illustrious match-makers be able to keep their jobs? For their sake, let's hope dinner goes as well as the first half of the date.

 As the daters' entrees are served, the magazine crew departs, leaving Ari and Brannon to enjoy the rest of their evening in privacy. PacificSD calls the next day to see what we missed.

Overall, how was the date?

Ari: It went surprisingly well. Definitely exceeded my expectations. Somehow Brannon had a lot of the qualities I look for in a guy, and that's pretty rare.
Brannon: It's like Russian Roulette when you go on a first date, especially a blind date. You can pretty much chalk it up as a disaster, but I got lucky this time. Ari has an infectious laugh, and her personality meshed really well with mine. Couple good looks with a charming personality, and you have a recipe for success.

How was Bice?

Ari: The cheese bar and the wine room are very elegant, and the lighting gives a romantic and inviting vibe. The owner picked out a great white wine for us, and for dinner we had the seared ahi tuna and the pappardelle with Mozzarella cheese and fresh basil in a pink tomato sauce. Everything was exquisite.
Brannon: It was a good scene-small and intimate, yet very energetic. The cheese bar concept was genius; it added a little extra flair to the place. Gents, if you are looking to make an impression, rock it out at Bice. You'll thank me later. We had the seared tuna and a pasta dish, and a bottle of white wine picked out for us by the owner. It doesn't hurt when you go out with a good-looking lady, because you get VIP treatment. Funny how that works.

Was there a romantic connection?

Ari: There was a lot of chemistry. Our personalities are pretty much dead-on. I felt really comfortable around him. Brannon is extremely charming and confident, but not in a cocky way. We were laughing the entire night.
Brannon: Anytime you get the blood rushing through your body and your heart racing is a good thing, and Ari had the power to make that happen numerous times. She carries herself very well and is confident in who she is, which in turn acts as sort of a natural aphrodisiac.

What's the sexiest thing your date did last night?

Ari: Brannon is confident and I think that is the sexiest quality a guy can have.
Brannon: When she spoke Spanish to me and rolled her "R"s in my ear...no clue what she was saying, but it didn't matter.

What happened after the magazine crew left?

Ari: We had dessert at Bice, then went over to La Puerta. We danced 'til 2 a.m., and Brannon walked me to my car and said goodnight.
Branon: We had dinner just down the street from La Puerta, so we popped in there and had a few cocktails and a little fun on the dance floor. We closed shop there and called it a night, not before we swapped numbers, though.

Was there a kiss or romantic moment?

Ari: Oh, boy. Well, my first-date-kiss rule may have kinda/sorta been broken, but that's all I can say.
Brannon: There were a few occasions that I might have to plead guilty to.

Will there be a second date?

Ari: I think Brannon has a movie date planned for us this week, we've been texting.
Brannon: Wheels have already been set in motion for Round Two.

Aftermatch

Springtime blooms with a fresh promise of romance, but sometimes that romance can blossom only when a promise is broken. Ari swore she would never kiss on a first date, but Mother Nature had other plans. It's the blind date paradox of spring: Sure, you can silence the birds and the bees, but it wouldn't be any fun. When it comes to passion, even golden rules have exceptions, and it might just be making them that propels you to the gold.

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