Don't Dog, or Dine, Alone

It’s Friday night, and I’m going out.

In sweatpants.

For this reason alone, I already love Downward Dining. Helmed by professional event planner and recreational yoga-fanatic Jessie Rubin, the L.A.-based monthly dinner series launched in March and sold out its first night. The inaugural Zen + grub event took place on a cavernous white soundstage in Hollywood, where 45 attendees lined up their mats for a 60-minute all-levels yoga class taught by YogaWork’s Sarah Ezrin, who also makes a hell of a playlist.

Doing Eagle pose to a soundtrack of Skrillex is a thing that I never knew was missing in my life. In a word: awesome.

“I'd like for guests at Downward Dining to feel a freedom to try something new,” says Jessie. “To push themselves physically and socially: Try a new pose, meet a new friend, have fun in a way that's perhaps not typical for them in Los Angeles.”

Not typical is exactly, wonderfully, what it was. After an hour of hip jams and vinyasa flow, a macrobiotic buffet awaited: shitake-avocado sushi, vegan inari, spicy peanut kale salad, sesame soba noodles and Madras tempeh salad by M Cafe de Chaya. As for beverages, it’d be uncouth to get hammered five minutes after working out, right? (I guess.) So Vita Coco, Honest Tea and BluePrintCleanse kicked down some liquids so folks could get their hydration on.

The space, dotted with bowls of fruit and potted succulents, featured a perfect low-light atmosphere for my sweaty, makeup-less face. Into that face, I crammed two orange-chocolate vegan cupcakes by Bella Savour in a self-congratulatory post-workout fashion. Fellow diners at the communal tables mingled and swapped yoga tales, tips on favorite healthy eateries and, from what I overheard, some online dating horror stories. (Apparently, you should never trust a guy who wears suspenders.)

I was stuffed on sushi by the time the gift bags were rolled out, but I still couldn’t contain my glee at a canvas sack bulging with organic chocolate and energy bars and magazines and yoga headbands and coconut water and more organic chocolate. “This is more stuff than I got for Christmas!” is a thing I wailed in ecstasy in front of dozens of strangers.

For a totally justifiable $35, Downward Dining delivered a Friday night with plenty of food, energizing Zen and new friends. And a portion of the ticket price went to the charity Off The Mat, Into the World, so I even got some karma in return.

Does Jessie want to take Downward Dining into other cities?

“Yes!” she says. “I'd like to see Downward Dining eventually land in New Orleans, Kansas City, and the list goes on.”

“I'd love to take it to my hometown, eventually -- New York,” she continues. “I’m excited to see where this thing goes.”

Judging by the first sold-out event, it appears to be going up while also doing a downward dog and a forward bend all at once.

Downward Dining on the Web:

Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark are best friends who met outside a tragically hip dive bar in Los Angeles. Together, they created the cocktail abomination called the McNuggetini. You can find them on Cooking Channel stirring up Drinks with Alie and Georgia, getting schooled on Classy Ladies and devouring desserts for Unique Sweets. Find out more about them here.

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