It is hard to think the Paris Irish Professionals group is less than a year old. We’ve had some great events during the last year, a couple in pubs, a lot of us have met up informally to watch the Rugby (come on Ireland) and a particularly excellent event in Euronext, but this was the first event where we charged money for entry (i.e. sold tickets) and we were prepared for a bit of learning along the way (i.e. there was a chance we could screw it up completely), the event went incredibly well and was a really tribute to the organizers and the people hosting us, who did everything possible to ensure the attendees had a fantastic night.
The venue was Cook With Class (18th arrondissement) who gave us not only the use of their venue for free and their time (thanks to Tara for hosting, welcoming and organizing us and chef Alex who made us wonderful petit fours to welcome us). The wine teacher was Preston Mohr who prepared an incredible menu of combined French wine and Irish cheeses (particularly given that we got the cheese to him so late in the day). The source of the Irish cheese was Therese from Tradext. I will include more details below on all these guys because I can see myself involved with all three in the future as a customer. Because of their wonderful sponsorship, we were able to organize a wine tasting night worth €85 for €20 per head. (Even the €85 price wouldn’t include the amazing prizes on offer, nor the small bottle of wine and portion of cheese we gave everyone to take home!)
I have always been fascinated with communities. What makes them come into existence? Why do they behave the way they do? How do the nature of an individual’s contribution fits in to how the whole community operates?
A lot of this interest come from my professional life, because I spent four years at Yahoo! Answers where we had 250m users every month, comprising thousands of smaller communities around their interests. But also in real life, because I have set up a product management group here in Paris called ProductTank and also been a founding member of the Paris Irish Professionals or PIPs as we have been labelled (and we all know what happens when you resist a nickname, it sticks even more!)
For organizing this event, we had Elaine, Glenda and myself as organizers and we managed to divide up the workload well and get the various jobs done. Having a team to help put an event together really helps. When it seems like nothing is working, or we’ve all been too busy to answer emails this week, it helps when somebody makes a breakthrough or gets something done. It really forces you to up your game as well. And I think we’ll always look to take turns, and also to put together teams of volunteers for our future events. What the next event will be, how a team gets formed and who wants to be involved is probably a meetup which our next event will be. But it really works well to have a group of people supporting each other.
Giving such a night at a hugely subsidized rate, we were a bit worried about the event selling out in an hour, and people buying 8 tickets and all such eventualities. In hindsight, pure delusion. We did sell the tickets, and we could have sold a few more, but we only sold the last ticket two days before the event, and so there was no reason to be worried along those lines. For the PIPs, we do want most of our events to be free, and we do want people to be able to come together most of the time without having to pay anything. But having the first paid event went very well, and it’s because of the sponsorship of the people I’ve mentioned above.
Wine and Cheese
The CookWithClass venue itself is fantastic, a modern, newly refurbished space. We used the two upstairs rooms with areas for two cheeses each (with their respective wines) so people could wander around and browse and chat to wherever they wished. As you can see in the picture above, this is a place ideally suited to tasting, drinking and talking about wine.
Where to start with this French wine Irish cheese extravaganza? I personally started off in the smaller room, to try the Cooleeney (soft brie) with a little baguette and a glass of Cremant. This was delicious, and surprisingly even more so with a little strawberry. This did have a slightly mushroom flavour, as mentioned, which is unusual but really nice. The other station was the Killeen, a harder goat’s cheese served with the Corbieres Ollieux 2012. This combination was my favourite of the night.
In the second room was a wonderful Wicklow Blue (brie) served with Sauvignon 2o12. I also tried the Coolea (my other favourite cheese) which resembled a Gouda and was accompanied by a remarkable red, the Maury Domaine de Pouderoux 2012 a fortified Port-like wine. An excellent wine to finish on because of its strenghts. This reminded me of when I visited Jerez all the way back when I lived in Spain, a really beautiful, aged port-like taste. Also, a section of Irish porter cheese lay nearby, unaccompanied by any particular wine but tasting amazing all the same.
Coolea and Irish Porter Cheeses
Corbieres Ollieux Romanis Cuvee Alice 2012
Maury Domaine de Pouderoux 2012
Tara generously donated four fantastic prizes to us. Two top prizes of a Cookery Class with CookWithClass worth €100 each, a fantastic bottle of champagne and a CookWithClass apron. The competition was a smell test (so important to wine) where we had to detect and identify the smells from various vials of different food, berry, nut smells. I fared poorly myself – it’s not often I am asked to identify the smell of hazelnut. However, some of us did quite well and you can see our winners below with Tara, Alex and Preston.
I really enjoyed this night, I have to say a big thanks to Tara, Preston, Thereze and Alex as well as all the staff at CookWithClass and also Elaine and Glenda who organized a huge amount in a short time. I think we want to put all our heads together and think about who, what and how we can generate some future events (with at least as many free as paid) and using everybody in the community to do it, so that we can have more nights like these. And most of all, I’d like to be speaking to Tara, Preston and Therese in a year’s time and know that this event has generated some good customers and publicity for them.
Alright, who wants to help with the next event? Who has some good ideas?
More about Preston:
After many years of working in short-term apartment rental management, I casually began studying wine, first in a three day intensive course, followed by a seven day course series from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) at the Ecole du Vin in Paris. I began to think I could become one of those people that loves what they do, turning my passion into a career. It was a revelation and I was elated to have found my calling. The next step would be to take the plunge and complete the difficult two-year Diploma from the WSET, which I finished in June of 2013. I am also very proudly an Associate Member of the Institute of Wines and Spirits (AIWS).
I have served as Wine Specialist at Cook’n With Class, a cooking school in Montmartre, since 2010. Since 2013, my passion for wine and education has also brought me to some very interesting places as Wine Host for AmaWaterways In Celebration of Wine river boat cruises.
Read Preston’s full story (and it is well worth reading) at: www.parisbytheglass.com/about-preston-mohr/
More about Cook’n With Class:
Cook’n With Class was set up by French chef Eric Fraudeau, and is managed by Irishwoman Tara Byrne. The school offers a range of hands-on cooking classes taught in English, in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Learn the secrets of French cusine – then eat your own creations!
What better way to spend 3-4 hours with friends in Paris while learning to cook some of the best French dishes?
See more at: www.cooknwithclass.com/
More about Tradext:
Tradext was set up by Thereze O’Haodh-Leduc.. This French-based company specializes in sourcing and importing only the best Irish cheeses and salmon.
See more at: www.tradext.fr/