France
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France
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Joined: February 14th, 2013, 2:19 pm

May 12th, 2014, 1:20 am #11

Francis agreed with being eager to be able to try the treat in its final form. Leaning a bit, the taller man managed to peer at the other's notes as the Swiss jotted them down. Although he recognized the characters as the roman alphabet, Francis could not decipher the ungodly mess of words on Basch's clip board. Unless the other was writing down code on purpose, so no one would be able to read his notes at all. So very Basch.

“Think you can focus on the next team long enough to take down good notes, or do you need to skip straight to your own team to remove the distraction?”

Looking past the Danish station to the one of his native home, Francis looked back at Basch, wondering if that question had been a challenge. After witnessing what the Danes were doing with blue cheese, mascarpone and chocolate, the Frenchman wondered if this group had all imbibed copious amounts of alcohol before coming up with their ideas. Francis had a taste for blue cheese, but he'd never dared thought to mix it with chocolate. It sounded preposterous. That kind of cheese was best eaten on it's on, on a nice baguette.

“I don't think there's anything worth noting here,” he replied, a skeptical expression on his face at the Danish approach. They should really just stick to making pastries...

Although Francis did note the way Basch was acting. He should have known the little one would favour this combination. When the Swiss looked back up, Francis took it upon himself to guide his wayward companion towards the superior station.

“I think my team will more than impress,” the Frenchman said with a flourish, giving Basch a merry squeeze and shake, with the arm still around the other's shoulders.

When they'd gotten in front of the French station, the odour of cassis drifted towards them gently. Ahhh... crème de cassis. A good choice, thought Francis. Spying the bottle on the work station in front of one of the chefs, he nodded in approval of name of the wine. From what he could see of what was laid out on the tables, it appeared his home team was going to make a fudge like caramel with the liquor.

“Now this will be far better than what's going there,” Francis bragged proudly, motioning back at the Danish table. He peered towards the next station, and gestured in that direction as well. “Or that one,” he added, sneering at the Union Jack. As if any good food came out of the United Kingdoms...

“I vote we skip that one. There's no point in wasting our time there,” Francis continued, having to lean backwards a bit to see who came after his hated rival. It looked like bubbly Italy's team.
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Switzerland
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Joined: June 28th, 2013, 4:11 pm

June 26th, 2014, 5:57 pm #12

Judging by Francis’ shocked-and-appalled tone, he seemed to be a great deal less appreciative of the Danes’ ingenuity than Basch was, himself. And the ill-shaven man was giving the Nordic team that same look that Basch had seen him give to Arthur for mixing two clashing patterns – Putain de bordel de merde, cher! Houndstooth with argyle?! It was a bit surprising, really; the Swiss man thought that Francis, of all people, would have been more open to unique culinary pairings. Maybe he was losing his sense of adventure in his old age. Or maybe there were just too many McDonald’s in his nation these days and it was his sense of taste that was failing.

Cheese and milk chocolate were the two best dairy products one could ask for, and the Danes had combined them. Perfection.

“I think my team will more than impress,” confidently declared the Frenchman. The last note Basch had been scribbling down on his notepad got skewed as Francis decided it was time for more physical contact and threw an arm excitedly around him despite the blatant glare of objection. Boisterous idiot.

At the French station, Basch didn’t immediately spot anything out of the ordinary. There were a few opened bottles of something that looked like red wine, but no bizarre flowers or alienesque fruits seemed to be going into the mix.

Upon closer inspection, the wine proved to be a blackcurrant liqueur. An expensive one, noted the fiscally responsible little Alpine nation. He only recognized the product as something Francis had served as part of a cocktail during some dinner party he’d hosted. Kir royal, if he recalled correctly, was the name of the drink.

So it wasn’t a typical red wine, but it still didn’t stand out to him. Anyone could go down to their local chocolatier and find a dozen sorts of truffles filled with a liqueur-based filling. It was a classic combination, but classic wasn’t the point of this contest.

Of course, Francis didn’t see it that way.

“Now this will be far better than what’s going there,” Francis professed with Ibarefaced authority, offering a nod towards the Danish station. Cutting his eyes across to the neighboring British station, he added, “Or that one.”

Basch offered a quiet grunt as a response and shooed Francis’ hand away; his shoulder was starting to get a cramp from being tense for so long.

“Basic,” he read aloud as he marked down his impressions of the French team: Regulär. “Overdone. Nothing that hasn’t been seen before. Well-prepared, but uninspired.” Tucking his clipboard under his arm and sticking his pen behind his ear, he noted Francis’ aversion to the British competitors’ station and immediately and deliberately headed in their direction. Francis' vote was vetoed. He wasn’t normally so forward with his passive-aggression, but his neighbor had interrupted that wonderfully written article he’d been reading, and he’d had a really rough morning to boot, so he was feeling a little less pleasant than usual.

Something evil was being created in the United Kingdom’s workspace. Hard, shiny balls of bitter chocolate so dark they seemed black under the lighting of the competition space sat lined up on a tray like little bombs awaiting detonation. Out of each ball were shooting six needles made of what appeared to be sugar.

As one of the media crewmen, apparently also quite concerned by the Brit’s supposed truffles, interviewed the head chef, Basch listened in closely.

“Nopales. Prickly pear cactus fruit. Isn’t it a beautiful color?”

Basch turned his attention to the pot to which the chef was gesturing. Strips of the cactus – the quills seemed to have been removed; Switzerland prayed they had been removed – were boiling away into a foamy, yellow-green mush. One of the sous-chefs would occasionally fish out a strip, fold it in with some ganache to form an even more unappetizing shade of olive brown, and coat it in that black chocolate shell before sticking in the “needles”.

“Well,” Basch mumbled, “At least it’s… different.” He wasn’t exactly sure on how to take notes at this station, settling for the sugar needles are supposed to make it look like a cactus; hazardous but clever.

“Uh. Right. The Italians.”
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France
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France
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Joined: February 14th, 2013, 2:19 pm

July 29th, 2014, 1:32 am #13

“Overdone. Nothing that hasn’t been seen before. Well-prepared, but uninspired.”

Rolling his eyes at the criticism, Francis still looked pleased. There was nothing wrong with sticking to the basics. Simpleness had its own kind of attraction and reward. Besides, he was fairly certain his team would take out the big guns later, to the amazement of everyone else.

Yet, when he noticed the short Swiss man making a beeline for the British table, the taller blond heaved a heavy sigh. Trudging along grudgingly behind the other, Francis peered at the little horrors being concocted in this particular spot of the competition.

“Mon dieu!” he said in surprise, looking at the lethal looking chocolates. “What are they trying to do? Gouge everyone's mouths open?” the Frenchman finished, still shocked and slightly horrified. He was fairly certain you could throw those and they'd embed themselves into whoever happened to be your victim that day. Unless that was their plan all along. To simply destroy the interior of the judges' mouths and render them unable to taste anyone else's chocolates. Trust a limey to try and cheat things into his favour.

Making a note on his pad to be sure to remove the sugar needles before tasting, Francis had to silently and grudgingly admit using prickly pears to be interesting. He himself had cooked with them before and he'd quite enjoyed their flavour. Hard to come by though and on the pricey side whenever he did find them.

“Uh. Right. The Italians.”

“Oui, let's leave these burrs alone, before one flies into your face,” Francis agreed, nodding a bit and heading towards the next station. He'd been right, it was the Italians.

The smell of lemon curd hit Francis' nose right away. Of course, they'd do something tart, but there was also the scent of roasting hazelnuts. Looking at the work station before him, the Frenchman tried to decipher what was being put together in front of him.

“Interesting,” he finally murmured, scratching away on his clipboard with his pen. A white chocolate shell, with a chocolate hazelnut spread and lemon curd centre. The whole affair was being assemble to resemble the nut the team were using. Cute, but Francis had doubts lemon and hazelnut would go very well on the palate.

Losing interest in what was before him after his assessment, the more fashionable blond looking around the competition's floor to see where they hadn't gone to yet. At that same moment, there was an announcement that the judges should head to the judging table to receive the chocolates of the first round for tasting, in about ten minutes.

“So soon? That leaves us just about enough time to see one more table,” lamented Francis, pouting just a little bit and briefly. Nudging Basch with his elbow, he threw the ball in the other's court.

“You should pick our next victim,” he encouraged, smiling. He was quite eager to sample some chocolates, ready to fill his clipboard with new recipes.
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Switzerland
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Joined: June 28th, 2013, 4:11 pm

August 30th, 2014, 7:26 pm #14

Francis’ warning sounded rather ominous. Basch could just envision the British station exploding after the addition of some terrible ingredient, those little truffle bombs exploding and launching sugar needles all over the room, taking out cameras and leaving people with more piercings than they’d come in with. How terrifying. There was no way the easygoing Italians could have concocted something as menacing.

The familiar Sicilian ingredients were a welcomed sight and scent. Bright citrus notes and creamy hazelnut were completely innocuous in comparison to the previous prickly pear bombs. In truth, with his own Italian population and his close borders, the Swiss man did like a nice limoncello every now and again, and the tangy smell of the curd reminded him of just that. All packaged in a white chocolate shell, it was comforting, almost nostalgic in a way. (Not that it would be easy to defeat those Danes in his book, and of course his own team would outdo them.)

The Frenchman’s reaction came across with a smidge more ambiguity, his, “Interesting,” saying nothing particularly negative nor positive about the Italian creation.

“Mmhm,” Basch concurred as he scribbled away, full of nothing but positive reviews which, by his standard, proved his excitement. His one criticism centered on the fact that the Italians were impossibly noisy as they worked despite the fact that their team was no larger than anyone else’s, but in fairness, that reproach could not rightly affect his judgment on their product. It looked delicious no matter how obnoxious the chefs were.

From overhead, a PA system crackled before a woman’s booming voice filled the room with echoes, alerting all competitors, judges and bystanders that the first leg of the competition was drawing to a close and that the judges should report to their stations for tasting.

“So soon?” Francis exclaimed, a bit too dramatically in Basch’s book. “That leaves us just about enough time to see one more table.” Prompted to meet the Frenchman’s gaze by an elbow gently to the ribs, the shorter of the two was given his orders. “You should pick our next victim.”

It seemed obvious, at first, to observe his own team. He was eager to see how crafty they’d been at designing their truffle and wanted to know how wide a margin would be created between the Swiss chefs and the second place team. But with some extra thought given to the fact that they’d already have enough pressure on them to perfect the chocolates in the final few moments of the round, having additional eyes on them might make them waver.

“We haven’t looked at anyone from the Americas yet,” Switzerland announced. “The Chileans are the closest,” was his call to begin the march a few rows over to Team Chile.

Of all the teams he’d witnessed so far, the Chileans had the most unique shell on their truffles. The coating seemed to be milk chocolate swirled with streaks of bright orange, topped with bits of candied orange zest. Listening in on a conversation with one of the English interviewers, the Chileans were going for a home favorite – a truffle-ized version of picarones with chancaca sauce. The orange in the shell was a white chocolate infused with orange liqueur, and the filling was a honeyed yam and pumpkin paste moulded around a crystallized molasses center.

“Seems sweet enough,” Basch murmured, noting on his clipboard that he’d never heard of these pikaronis and would have to investigate them online at some point.

As he jotted his last i, the buzzer sounded, announcing the end of the round. All around the room, chefs dropped what they were doing and stepped back to admire their plates, some of them clapping their sous chefs proudly on the back or exchanging relieved hugs. Tiny saucers proudly displaying their edible works of art sat ready for approval.

“Well,” the Swiss man sighed, tucking the pen behind his ear, “Looks like it’s time to report to our spots.”
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