Nothing makes you feel more elite than a secret society. Add in Patron-inspired cocktails made by mixologist Jennifer Queen and gourmet dishes created by former Top Chef contestant and restaurant owner/head chef Rich Sweeney and crew and you’re practically royalty.
So, what is this secret society and how do you score an invite? First, you become a member of the Patron Social Club (for free) which will alert you to Patron news including the super stealth dinner club that travels the U.S. When it stops in your city, you will be notified and have a short window of time in which to respond and cross your fingers that you’ve made the list.
When you receive that coveted RSVP confirmation, a scavenger hunt awaits you, leading you and approximately 50 guests to a disclosed location to wine and dine in style. Patron brings in top name chefs and premium locations for their dinners. Prepare to be wow'd.
The information leading up to the San Diego stop of the Patron Secret Dining Society included a request for cocktail attire and for women to wear sandals or wedges. Turns out that after a few clues sent to those in attendance via their Instagram: @patron in real-time, our location ended up being right down the road from Hotel Del Coronado at beautiful Silver Strand Beach. That surprise came after the second clue to the scavenger hunt, which led us into the Hotel Del courtyard where refreshing tequila cocktails were set up and passed around. Fortunately, we only had one clue left before we were boarding party buses to dinner.
What we stepped off the bus to was nothing short of stunning. Patron had set up an elegant beach party complete with a “Captain and Tennille” band playing classic rock songs while servers let the Patron flow and we were offered our first savory bites. The cored out apple had a filling of bacon and cheese and topped with a perfectly cooked quail egg for an innovative dish inspired by breakfast.
There was ample time to sip cocktails, take photos on the beach, and just enjoy the sunset and soak up the ambiance that Patron had provided its guests. Also, they let us slip off our shoes and into flip flops leaving the imprint of the brand in the sand. Now, if that’s not good marketing I don’t know what is.
As we sat down to dinner guided by our pre-placed name cards, we were introduced to our chef and mixologist for the evening, who together created “A Tour of San Diego” celebrating four of the city's fantastic culinary neighborhoods. Each course was expertly paired with a Patron-inspired cocktail resulting in a heavenly feast for all.
First course was a delicious Craft Beerviche, a traditional ceviche with a Ballast Point Sculpin addition and a spicy kick at the end inspired by beer-friendly North Park neighborhood. It was served with a twist on a Paloma, a refreshing start to the meal. Queen commented that she cares about the ingredients in her cocktails and the flavors, using only three or four ingredients per drink. This method allowed the Patron be the star, but transform itself from course to course.
The second course was a nicely-cooked scallop served with fresh vegetables from Suzie’s Farms and accompanied with a panna cotta and fennel pollen for a tribute to Little Italy. Quickly following was the third course inspired by the Asian restaurants along Convoy with a presentation of braised pork cheek using Patron XO Cafe Dark for a hint of coffee flavor and smokiness that added to the dish.
Chef Sweeney apologized because he had intended the meat to be sous vide, but kitchen setup was not working in his favor, and he thought the meat did not come out as tender as he had hoped. He was wrong. The meat was fall apart, melt in your mouth tender. Easily a favorite dish of the evening.
The finale was cinnamon crisps served with salted caramel ice cream and topped with smoked chicharon, an unexpected addition that made the dessert. It was served with a dangerously good dessert cocktail made with Patron XO Cafe, Horchata and cinnamon.
Between courses guests were entertained with a short movie about the creation of Patron tequila, a fascinating process that involves each bottle touching 60 hands during the making and distribution. After the meal was over, guests were invited to hang out by the beach bonfire and eventually boarded back the bus to reality and ordinary dining.
Patron sets high expectations with the Secret Dining Society and on this particular occasion they surpassed any guesses I might have had of what to expect. Definitely hope it’s not my last dining experience with the brand, but it will go down as a decadent, memorable first.