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You Choose the Winner: 7x7 and St-Germain's Valentine Dinner, Drinks and Dreamtime

It's the next and final phase of our inaugural search for the best story celebrating the love of friendship—and our online team has chosen the top three contenders for a fantastic group date night in San Francisco! And now it's up to you to choose the best from the entries below.

The story with the most votes earns its writer and up to six comrades a special night involving our fun and faithful friends, which includes:

A happy hour with specialty St-Germain cocktails in a reserved area at the award-winning Americano Restaurant on the Embarcadero, followed by dinner in the private dining room; A night out at the stunningly designed hotspot Chambers—recently voted Best Newcomer in 7x7's Eat+Drink Awards—with table service featuring a selection of bar bites from Executive Chef Trevor Ogden's seasonal menu, and St-Germain cocktails curated by bar program director Neyah White; An in-room nightcap at Hotel Vitale, finished with an overnight stay in a Deluxe City View room with two queen beds for the winner and one guest!

7x7 will also have a photographer on-hand to capture the fun from happy hour to nightcap, to be included in a special promotional feature revealed later in the year!

Deadline for voting for the finalists: February 3, 2012 Winner will be revealed on February 6, 2012

The San Francisco Valentine's Adventure will take place on Friday, February 10, 2012.

So whip out those tablets and read on!

Entry #1: "Love Is." by Abigail B.

One of my best friends Rach approached me one day asking, "What is love?" It was for a project she was doing, and for a very rare moment in life I had nothing to say. I've been single for years, and seemed to have forgotten. So instead, she tweaked the question for me, what a pal.

"Thank God," I said. "Because if you were to ask me what love is, I'd say it was us yesterday at Nikko's house."

The day before, three girls got in their Sunday's best (basketball shorts, tanks, sweats, and tees) and dragged themselves over to our girl Nikko's house. Some of us still drunk from the night before. OK fine, that was just me. At any rate, we all collapsed onto the bed makeup-less, and hair in messy buns. Through the wonders of technology we gathered around a Macbook and witnessed our friend get married all the way in New York, and through the wonders of Chinese delivery we grubbed on walnut prawns, garlic noodles, fried rice, mixed vegetables, and sweet and sour pork chops. The rest of the afternoon consisted of ice-cream, napping, chocolate, making it thunder-clap, Mary-Jane, chips and dip, me pretending to watch football, and even more chocolate.

We had just seen each other two nights before, yet there we were again. Doing absolutely nothing – and having a grand old time doing it. We didn't wait until the next day to text each other because we didn't want to clingy, and we didn't hesitate to make plans so soon for fear of smothering anyone. The laughs were bottomless, the conversation was natural, and no one hesitated to be too silly, or too weird, or too anything but be themselves. Now tell me that isn't love.

Not the most conventional answer, but it's my answer right now. And lately, it's all the love I've been getting. The love shared between friends will never be the same as that among lovers, but it doesn't make it any less important or real. In one of my darkest days my girl Rach said, "Even though I can't give you the love you want right now, I can give you the love I have, I hope for now, that's enough."

Well it's not. It's even more. And if it's this good now, I can't even imagine how great it will soon be.

Entry #2: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by Amy C.

I'm pretty sure that all men have a "charming quota"–a finite amount of game. Some men have a higher amount and are good at spreading it out over a lifetime or at least long enough to get a girl to marry them, while others seem to use up the charm by bar close. The latter group are the guys that go to great efforts to come across as engaging and dynamic up until the time it becomes clear you are not going to sleep with them. Without immediate satisfaction awaiting a boozy walk home from the bar, the game seems to be kicked like a keg at a high school party and they return to being the bland individuals they probably were all along, only now exhausted by their attempts at being interesting.

Does the charm re-charge while sleeping? Or does it require filling up like at a gas station? Are there any guys out there that are just genuinely witty, not just as a means to an end? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

My favorite wing woman, Katie, and I were at Lush Lounge when a pair of guys started chatting us up. They were dynamic, witty–a great flirting pair. A regular Maverick and Goose. These guys struck the perfect flirting balance between cocky and confidence, sweetness mixed with playful insults, jokes mixed with substance. They declared everything Katie and I were wearing "Man-repelling," but followed it up with that they still thought we were cute despite our  guy-repulsing sartorial choices.

Drinks at Lush turned into more drinks at Night Cap in the 'Loin. The whole time Katie and I laughed, chatted up our respective  guys, and privately congratulated ourselves for being such a dynamic duo. Toward the end of the night, my guy (I forget his name so let's call him Steve), started going with the more conventional flirting route, which for me, is the beginning of the end. I'd much rather someone make me laugh than gaze into my face and call me beautiful. Generally that makes me nauseous. Plus Steve just did it all wrong:

Steve: You're so beautiful.
Me: (Squirmy) Oh, you think so?
Steve: Of course I do. I wouldn't be talking to you if I didn't.

Douche alert! Well thanks for deeming me worthy of your attention. He seemed to be congratulating himself more than complimenting me and I seriously have issues with guys who don't give someone the time of day unless they find her attractive. But I convinced myself I was being too critical. Only I would dissect and take issue with how a compliment was paid. So despite my gag reflex beginning to activate, Katie and I agreed to go back to Steve's apartment for more drinks after Night Cap's last call.

So we walk the couple blocks to Steve's apartment, the guys thinking that they were probably going to get it in, and Katie and I thinking we would probably get some wine out of the trip and maybe a number. When we get there, Steve turns on Pandora and the four of us sit on the couch while Whitney Houston sings softly from the computer speakers. They don't offer us drinks or turn on the TV. They just sit there looking at us while Katie and I awkwardly look ahead (at a weird anime poster on the wall I might add)  and attempt to make small chat. No more conversation. No more game. The charm had been drained. All these robots had energy to do was to rub our shoulders in circular motions and blow on our hair. Did they learn the art of seduction from an 1980s teen flick? I think they thought Katie and I would mount them in unison so they could high-five in the middle.

You know how teen movies always have that classic scene in which everyone is making out in front of each other on shag carpeting in some basement then afterward the two male buddies high-five and congratulate each other for finally finding girls who would touch them? Well these ADULT guys had somehow turned our night of semi-sophisticated flirting into a Judd Apatow movie. They went from Maverick and Goose to Seth and Evan from Superbad. Shockingly, Katie and I aren't into horny boys whose ideas of seduction is a clammy-hand neck-rub, so we mumbled some equally lame excuse about needing to find our drunk girlfriend. (That's also a convention of the teen flick, I think.)

Disappointed and drained of their charm juice, the guys turn into straight up blue-balled dicks. They barely walk us to the door let alone offer to call us a cab even though this apartment was on the corner of Gang Rape Alley and Crack Cocaine Avenue.

Katie and I fall out into the dingy hallway and immediately burst into laughter. Being the six-foot firecracker that she is, Katie decides to get to the bottom of this. Before we're even down the hallway, she turns around and knocks on the door of Steve's apartment, mere moments after we were all but kicked out for not putting out.

Katie: Excuse me…what the f*ck was that?!

These guys were so depleted from the couple hours they spent being normal, functioning humans that they weren't able to respond in any coherent way.

Katie: So like…I'm just so confused. What was that?
Steve: Uh well…..it just got sort of awkward. I don't know….
Katie: No numbers are exchanged? You just sort of sit there? What were you thinking was going to go down?
Seth/Evan: (dumb looks)
Katie: Ok have a nice night!

This exchange is exactly why Katie is the ultimate wing woman. The Romy to my Michelle, the Mary to my Rhoda. If our nights were turned into a movie it'd be the ultimate female version of the buddy flick, which, by the way, there really should be more of.

Entry #3: "Untitled." by Samantha H.

I started last year with a breakup, and a move – in that order. Come January 1st, I was surrounded by boxes in a new apartment, and for the first time since I was fifteen, I was single. The freedom and opportunity was inspiring, causing my new roommate and I to quickly coin those first few months "LaLa Land".  The city allowed me to live out my Carrie Bradshaw fantasies, and I was lucky to have my own Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha. Soon enough I was ready to start dating, and quickly realized I needed to establish boundaries if I was to begin these methods of courtship. I decided against getting involved with anyone I worked with or in my major, as well as my close guy friends, to avoid messiness.

The solution: Online Dating.

Luckily for me, the online dating site provided a catalogue of single men to choose from with the same ease as ordering sushi from a picture menu. Within a few days of setting up my profile, this online dating project became game changing. It was brilliant – I could quickly judge the character, intelligence, and appearance of a man - before entering the same room as him. I was screening dozens of messages a day, juggling four or five dates a week, and meeting men I would have never before encountered. I was drunk with power. Dating was becoming a game of complete control, zero commitment, and multiple back-up options. LaLa Land was quickly becoming the most exciting time of my life.

Flash-forward a few months, exciting was becoming exhausting.  To keep track of our dates, my friends and I started using nicknames to keep track of men, and they became very telling of our experiences. It was not uncommon for us to get "DouchebagFriday" mixed up with " PuppyBoy" and "TheHipster".  Suddenly, four new men a week felt less appealing than it used to, and not getting an offer for a second date felt less like freedom, and more like failure.  And it was wasn't just me that was becoming disenchanted – my girlfriends started dropping off the dating site as well, losing faith in men in the process. We started to learn the meaning of the term "jaded", afraid to talk about a new suitor for fear that it might be short lived. Refusing to get excited when a date went well. Where once we shouted "on to the next one" at the top of our lungs rivaling Jay-Z, we now spent mornings dissecting dates looking for what we did wrong.

The solution: We signed off. And focused on each other.

We replaced meeting strangers, with nights with each other. We exchanged going to bars to get "quick drink", for poetry readings in the Mission, and oysters at the Embarcadero. We started exploring different yoga studios, paying less attention to the hot instructor, and more attention to what he was actually teaching us. I introduced them to my passions: bikram, hiking, gallery openings, wine bars. They introduced me to theirs: cooking, brunch in the Marina, angsty teen television dramas.  We began to find something that didn't exist on a dating site. We found ourselves again – and how to enjoy the city as it's meant to be experienced - alongside excellent friends.

Since then a few of us have trickled back into online dating, myself included, with renewed hope and clearer intentions. And for some of us, it's yielded promising results. My roommate has met the man of her dreams, all thanks to a lucky quickmatch. While I would like to say this City is my boyfriend, I know it's my platonic love affairs with my close friends that give me my strength. Single is no longer debauchery with a different stranger a night. Single is the gift of having the time to really find yourself. Single is the pleasure of spending those open nights with brilliant, beautiful, strong company.

Single is finding out that LaLa Land, wouldn't be possible, without girlfriends.