LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THAT TIME I WON A MAJOR AWARD

Almost exactly two years ago. . .
  1. I happened to read an article online about the Patrón Secret Dining Society.
  2. The article detailed a series of dinners sponsored and arranged by Patrón. Each menu was created by an award-winning chef, featured a master mixologist, and treated diners to a one-of-a-kind meal in a special location. Attendees were chosen from members of the online club who solved a puzzle and RSVPed quickly.
    For example, in NY, Chef Marcus Samuelsson's menu was served at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion.
  3. I immediately went to the Patrón website and signed up. Receiving an invitation to this dinner would, for me, be second only to receiving my Hogwarts letter.
    Even though I don't really drink tequila. But: secret location! One-of-a-kind dinner! Fancy chef!
  4. Patrón announced an Instagram contest for their next dinner: answer a trivia question each day, post your answer in comments, correct answers would grant entry to win a ticket.
    As I recall, the questions were mainly about the movie Anchorman, and the city of San Diego. I answered all correctly.
  5. A day after the contest ended, I received an email from Patrón thanking me for my correct answers and asking me to verify my age to be included in the pool of winners.
    I assumed this would be where I was declared ineligible, as I am over 30. Not your typical rock n' roll liquor party lifestyle age group.
  6. A few hours after I confirmed my age, I received an email notifying me I'd won.
  7. The email directed me to invite a guest, pick flights for the next week, and await a FedEx package with addition details.
    Until that very moment, I thought I was entering to win a ticket to dinner in Austin. Instead, I was invited to spend 28 hours in San Diego.
  8. My FedEx package arrived with a flight itinerary, hotel confirmation, $100 dollar Visa card, and swag. I was instructed to wear cocktail attire and expect a driver to pick me up from the hotel at 5pm. He'd take me, the friend I invited, and the other contest winner + 1 to the secret location.
    Pretty sure this is basically what happens when you're invited to the Emmys.
  9. Sure enough, a few days later in San Diego, a driver rolled up to our hotel to take us to the secret location:
    The Hotel Del Coronado
  10. Once our crowd of about 50 assembled in the lobby, one of the Patrón staffers told us we'd have to find clues to our next destination using the Patrón Instagram account.
    That's my back side in a navy & white dress in the lobby of the Hotel Del (photo from sandiegofood.net)
  11. Clue 1: "Some Like It Hot. If you're one of them, you'll recognize this tree from the classic Marilyn Monroe film. Now go find it."
    We just followed the crowd. (Photo from Patrón IG)
  12. Clue 2: "Where did the lawyer build a fence? In the courtyard. Go there next. #BadJoke"
    In the courtyard, we found a cocktail reception. (Photo from Patrón IG)
  13. And drank some cucumber-y Patrón cocktails.
    Until it was time for another clue. (Photo by me)
  14. Clue 3: "Before Clark Griswold there was this: the first electrically-lit Christmas tree in the world. Find it. We'll be waiting."
    We followed the crowd again. (Photo from Patrón IG)
  15. The crowd led us to several waiting Woodys.
    These were small buses decorated like wood-paneled station wagons. Inside, half the seats were taken out and replaced with plush benches. (Photo by me)
  16. All aboard, we took off for our final destination. I'd decided the most likely destination for the dinner was the San Diego Zoo, where we would get to pet all the animals. So when I sat down next to the videographer, and he asked where I thought we were going, I excitedly explained my very specific plan: "...and I'll pet all the small monkeys!"
    (Photo by @ridley)
  17. Just then, something caught my eye out the window: there were dolphins frolicking in the ocean.
    Those wizards at Patrón thought of everything. (Photo by me)
  18. And we arrived at Silver Strand Beach.
    Guests were given flip flops so we didn't have to stumble around in dress shoes. (Photo by me)
  19. A yacht rock band serenaded us.
    (Photo from sandiegofood.net)
  20. The Patrón bar was pouring a round of pre-dinner cocktails.
    I don't know what was in the drink, but it was orange and tasted like sunshine. (Photo from sandiegofood.net)
  21. Tables were set for dinner.
    (Photo from IG)
  22. I'VE NEVER FELT SO FANCY.
    (Photo by me)
  23. Our Chef Richard Sweeney and Mixologist Jennifer Queen talked about the four course menu and the drink paired with each course.
    Craft Beerviche (a fresh shrimp ceviche dish), Suzi's Farm (scallops with seasonal veggies), Taste of the Mesas (braised pork cheek with crunchy noodles), Sunset at the Cliffs (cinnamon buñuelo chips & salted caramel ice cream) (photo by me)
  24. I vaguely recall them setting up a screen and projector, and showing a short film on the history of Patrón.
    But I was a little distracted by the view. And more than a little drunk. (Photo by me)
  25. By the bonfire, I declared my intention to marry the final drink of the night: Patrón XO Cafe Cinnamon Horchata
    Because I loved it the most. (Photo by Brett Alphin—IG brettalphinphoto)
  26. I still don't really drink tequila.
    But I'd jump at the chance for another magical night with the Patrón Secret Dining Society. (Photo from IG justluxe)