“Babe, I got a letter in the mail,” I said, standing somewhat confused by the front door. I was reading a piece of correspondence from an outfit called My Mystery Date.

“That’s my boy.” She was washing dishes.

“Some company wants to send us out to dinner and an event for free. To evaluate their date-planning service.”

“You tell ‘em you already tried to take me to Sayler’s this week, but it was too expensive, so we walked right out.”

I continued reading the letter of introduction. If my intuition was right, this was going to be something like The Game, starring Michael Douglas, only with the protagonist wearing significantly less-expensive shoes.

(more after the jump)

A few days later, having agreed to participate in the service in an evaluative, professional sense, we found ourselves holding two wax-sealed envelopes: one to be opened an hour before dinner, one to be opened during dinner. Two hours before dinner, I cracked under the strain of needing to prepare a fresh, appropriate shirt: it would be Trébol, an upscale Mexican eatery and tequila bar I had never heard of. In my line of work, that’s a really nice surprise, so I picked out a Mexican eating shirt I got off of eBay.

The restaurant part of this date package (retail value: $179 for the entire evening), having been fully pre-paid as it would be for any client, set us up with a custom menu including a three-course dinner, cocktail, dessert, and tip. (Dietary preferences are listed during the online sign-up.) It is a luxurious and wholly nice thing to leave your wallet in your pocket at the end of a meal, never see numbers, and know that the staff has been well-compensated. Our servers at Trébol were well-informed of our situation, and had a cozy table reserved for us, complete with a printed menu that had two options for each course. The element of surprise throughout the evening put us on a level playing field—and kept the excitement level steady. Trébol, for its part, was a good fit for the package’s price point, and we enjoyed food we probably wouldn’t have ordered given our old habits.

Somewhere during the entrée we opened our next envelope: a pottery painting session at Mimosa Studios. (We were told we could pick out $50 worth of merchandise to paint.) Again, something I never would have conceived of doing after dinner, or maybe ever, turned into a stimulating curveball of an event that generated its own freestyle conversation and pleasant challenges. After an hour or so of painting, she was awarded a “dia de los muertos” butter dish, and I a coffee mug with blue polka dots. Our Mystery Date complete, we found ourselves across the street for a wind-up cocktail at Aviary, another nice bit of subtle planning: finishing the event in an area with nightlife, should we wish to carry on.

In sum, the service was fair value for money, given the amount of planning and small premium My Mystery Date adds to the market value of the food and services. If you’re out of ideas, feel like a lark, or congenitally unconfident in your ability to plan a night out, I’d say letting My Mystery Date shoulder the responsibility is a safe bet for a refreshing, interesting time.