Last night was the cheesiest night ever—in the best, most literal way. I’m not talking no crappy slices of Velveeta or Cracker Barrel, either. Come on, now. This is France. I’m talkin’ slices of Brie, Chevre, nutty Comte and other unknown creamy creations of pure lactose joy whose names I don’t know and love all the same.
And get this: It was free! FREE!
What’s more, champagne was part of the equation as well, along with red and white wine being served in what looked like chemistry beakers. It was clever. It was cool. It was an “event”—a Paris event! (And did I mention it was freeeee?!)
I used to go to “events” all the time in New York. What constitutes an “event,” you ask? It’s essentially something that a PR company or organization will put on to drum up publicity for a new art show, fashion line, film or collaboration between a chef and a donkey. There were all types, and no effort was too grand or elaborate.
That said, you usually had to be on a list to get in or have some sort of clout or connection.
“Sara from The Post,” I’d say. “Oh yes, Sara. Hello! Thanks for coming. And is this your Plus 1?”
Then Rach-Anna-Jen-Saryn-Rebecca-Amy-Shira- or whomever was with me that night would smile and be like, “Yup! I come for the free wine and booze.”
I kid, of course. They didn’t really say that. At least, not out loud.
Because, really, that’s what everyone came for. Sure, as journos we were there to cover the event or mix and mingle with other media types. But really, everyone was there to shmooze and booze and fill our bellies after a long day of slugging through copy and transcribing lengthy interviews. This meant anything from munching on mini sliders with spicy mayo at the premiere of “Smash” at the Museum of Natural History, to tuna tartare on crispy tortilla chips at Esquire Magazine’s Sexiest Women party in the Meatpacking District, or risotto balls dipped in marinara sauce at the flagship GAP on Fifth Avenue for their collaboration with Havianas flip-flips. If we were lucky, there was an open bar or a specialty cocktail that didn’t at all taste like there was alcohol in it, but oooooooh there was! How they really expected anyone to conduct an interview or take legible notes while shilling out stuffed mushrooms and strong sips was beyond me.
In fact, because we were hungry journalists/teachers/designers or [insert cool, creative, yet not-so-high-paying-job-for-NYC-here], we ate up those risotto balls and stuffed mushrooms as if they were our last meals on earth. We found ourselves nonchalantly standing by the staircase or the door or the stage or wherever the kitchen was, waiting for waiters who hoped they might get further than five-feet before someone (ahem, us) attacked and emptied their trays, causing them to turn back around before they’d even crossed the room.
I still feel really bad about this. Like a First World bratty fatty. Especially because by the end of the night, the trays always continued to come ’round and ’round, only by this time we’d eaten so much that, “No, we couldn’t possibly have another goat cheese crustini, thank you.”
Why-oh-why did it always seem SO IMPORTANT to get to the tray first lest they run out?! They never ran out. We were pigs.
Yet last night, there I was again, swarming the servers like bees do honey. Now that I’m a freelancer, though, I feel slightly less guilty. Plus, at least I wasn’t alone. Literally not alone, as in not in my apartment eating cheese in front of my computer, and also not alone in being the only one gobbling up gratuit gruyere. Turns out even artsy Frenchies in their fur vests, bangle-adorned wrists and drool-worthy Jerome Dreyfuss handbags stand by staircases waiting for free food and drinks.
To my delight, I didn’t need a press badge or to be someone else’s plus 1 to attend last night’s event, which is good since my self-made freelance business cards can only get one so far en Francais, and I don’t have enough friends yet to be called upon as a VIP guest. Yet, seconds upon waltzing through the door without so much as a “Bonsoir,” I felt like I had entered Paris’ Narnia of Cool—despite the very crowded room smelling fairly foul due to all the unpasteurized cheese being gobbled up.
The event du jour was the celebrate the opening of Mounia et ses Filles a Fromages, a photo exhibit from fashion photographers Sophie Carre and Vincent Lappartient who shot French athletes posing with…cheese. (It’s all coming together now, isn’t it?)
Following the success of last year’s Les Filles a Fromages exhibit, which featured French journalists, creators and designers posing with the stanky stuff, they decided to turn to sportives, as they call them here. Eighteen athletes traded basketballs and boxing gloves for Beaufort and Langres while adorning all black and a sexy pout.
While I didn’t recognize or know any of the athletes, I did recognize some of the cheese. Plus, it was cool to be surrounded by such beautiful, strong women—both on canvas and in the flesh, as several of them were in attendance.
I preferred “Saison 1,” which opened last February and included more colorful and personality-driven photos of Frenchies such as the ever-chic shoe designer Ines Olympé Mercadal, who I interviewed for Hemispheres a few years go.
Still, the idea of the exhibition itself felt so apropos for Paris and I was delighted to attend—not necessarily as a journalist or a plus 1, but as a pretend-Parisian who just appreciates art…and cheese, bien sur.