Cookin Up Trouble
IC date: Winter 58
OOC date: 2/15
Location: The Hobknob Theater
PCs: Moonshine, Jellybean, Stormdancer, Bartender, Amber-Shot, Spearmint, Moka, Caramel-Sufganiyah
NPCs: Minty-Smile, Rumflower, Fiddle-Faddle, McGreedy
GM: Blackbird

Cookin' up Trouble

If one goes by the crude banner that's been put up outside the Hobknob, one could see that the annual Horseshoe Harbor Don't-Poison-the-Cook Cooking Competition has begun! The actual judging has yet to begin; for now, there are stalls set up all over the stage of the theater, where various competitors may set up, cook, bring their dishes, whatever.
The judges are nowhere to be seen as of yet, or at least no one official besides the announcer, who is a rather too-dashing stallion by the name of Minty-Smile. His smile is a little too shiny (just like his mane), but he seems to be happy mingling at the moment.

A pony up in the stage's lightning futzes with one of the bulbs.

"Ooh thankfully they let me in with my cart, oy those doors were a pain though" she shoulders her cart to where she's supposed to set up. Moonshine brings up her arsenal of tubs and vats, and, is that a still? and things bubbling? The unicorn does have a slight glint to her horn in that odd rippling silver-purple glow of hers as she sets up her wares. She does however bring up a platter with an array of beverages of colorful and fruity drinks set upon them. She trots out to the center of the stage and places the platter on a serving table right there into the middle, with a sign hanging there listing it as refreshments (nonalcoholic) The mare finalizes her setup by trotting down into the audience with another platter of these fruity drinks, for the audience!
Moonshine serves!

Jellybean signed up for the competition on a whim: he likes to cook but he's hardly an expert on the subject. It just sounded like fun! He's prancing in place on the stage, looking around with excitement.

Clatterclatter- whump. Flap-clang-whud. Stormdancer is rather overloaded in cooking supplies, but is still flying! Just… not quite in a straight line, what with the pot that had been balanced on her head slipping down to cover her eyes, so she's trying to see out from underneath it. Still, after rebounding off of a few supports, she gets into the clear and over to an empty stall, where she makes even more of a ruckus by depositing her cargo in the simplest matter possible- Dropping all of it at once.

Across the stage from where Moonshine is setting up, a simple yet sturdy bar made of dark stained oak is already constructed. A shelf with miscellaneous bottles in a variety of colors is set up behind it, along with various assorted fruits. Standing in the middle of the workspace is the bartender from the Champagne Bay, who raises an eyebrow at the portable still being wheeled in. "You're not going to score brownie points by juicing up the audience," he says.

Spearmint is fidgeting on the stage and looking a bit pouty. He didn't sign himself up for this, after all! His mom comes up with the /strangest/ grounding conditions. Public humiliation is /hardly/ an equal return for sneaking off to a seapony city without permission. He had adult supervision! Hmph.

But a cream-and-cinnamon unicorn is still staring at him from the wings, and you don't ditch when mom's giving you /that/ look, even if you, y'know… can't see it. You can /feel/ that look. It bores into your soul. So he fidgets in place, and nudges at his saddlebags, and checks his little table for supplies, and /really/ hopes none of his friends found out about this whole thing anyways.

One more of the stalls is filled up by…wait…WHO? An odd-looking zebra makes his way onto the stage, both pushing and towing what looks like a several old wooden shipping crates tied together with ropes. His mane and tale are in dreads, but it's his coloring that is the most offsetting. What's black is white, and what's white is black! He pushes a few of the crates against each other to form a semi-circular countertop. A light kick of the hoof to the others and he starts pulling out a few bizarre looking foods along with cooking implements.

Minty-Smile, waltzes right up to Jellybean and smiles brightly. "How're you doing, sweetheart? You need any help setting up?" He looks around at the other competitors and grins. "My, my. So many different ponies here! Even a zebra! This stands to be a fantastic competition, I'd say! Don't you say?" This, he asides to the yet-unnamed bartender.

Jellybean smiles. "I have no idea what I'm doing. Have the rules been announced? I brought my supplies." He gestures to a picnic basket next to him, apparently full of pans and knives and all of these things.

"I'd say, looks this is gonna be fun!" she giggles, as she tap-taps her still and glances to the bartender, "not all thats fermented is alcoholic, there just needs to be some bubbles involved" she grins to the bartender type and looks over to the other ponies setting up, over to Stormdancer with her array of scattered pots and pans, "anypony need any help in setting up, I'm good to go, but totally willing to lend a hoof" Moonshine announces. "oh and those drinks are perfectly safe, no alcohol for the crowd today, didn't want to risk any foals n stuff!.

"The fact that only two out of six brought alcohol this year already makes it pretty different than last year's," the bartender responds to Minty. "We might get some actual bread this year instead of just the liquid stuff." He looks in the direction of Spearmint, who doesn't seem to want to be here at all, and makes a thoughtful noise. "Hey, kid, what are you doing up on stage?"

Stormdancer bustles about, getting- well, not more organized, but rather, less messy. There's a difference! "Yeah, we doin' any special-type stuff, like 'must use deep-fried kelp' o' somethin'?" A pause, a blink, and she nudges a bottle of whisky back behind a bag of flour. It's never too late to change plans!

Spearmint blinks and twitches an ear at the voice, blushing. "…Cookin'," he finally mutters, scuffing a hoof and nudging at the saddlebags again. "My mom m-… said I should sign up." Grumblemumble. Huff. He starts arranging his table - pots here, cutting board, knives, little portable stove, feeling each thing out and laying it just-so.

The zebra pulls apart some of the crates, revealing a few more larger cooking items including a cauldron-like pot and what looks like a very old wood-stove. He certainly knows how to pack…inside the cauldron is several more ingredients to cook with. Remaining silent, he focuses on setting things up more than anything else, though a few curious looks go out to the audience.

"The judges will announce the rules when they arrive," Minty assures Jellybean with a *shwing* of a smile.

As the ponies mill around and do their thing, three ponies step in from backstage with name-tags. The first is a strapping mare, mocha in color with dark amber mane and tail, whose nametag says Rumflower. The second is a positively ancient mare with popcorn-yellow coat, apparently deemed Fiddle-Faddle. And last it a grumpy older colt with thick glasses and a goatee named McGreedy.

"And the judges appear to have arrived!" Minty-Smile says suddenly, brightly. "Everyone give a warm welcome to them!"

Rumflower is the one who steps up with an easy smile. "Hello, citizens of the Harbor! I recognize some of you from when you saved my distillery from a fire a year or so ago. It's nice to see you again. The competition is thus: we are going to be judging dishes on several categories: taste, texture, presentation, yumminess — that /is/ a category!, and finally regional delights. That is, which is the most quintessentially… /Horseshoe Harbor/.

Unfortunately, alcoholic drinks do /not/ get an automatic up in this category; we've had problems with that in the past." Rumflower pauses, and shakes her head in exasperation. "The pony whose dish gets the most points in all categories total will receive a trophy. This trophy!" The curtain draws back behind the competitors and an enormous golden cake is revealed, embossed with '1007 Annual Horseshoe Harbor Don't-Poison-the-Cook Cooking Competition' (as one would expect!). Rumflower smiles. "With that, you have thirty minutes. Game on, ponies! Wow us!"

Moonshine practically squeaks' and gets back to her stall to get started. She sets up a little more. She deploys magic and brings a basket of oranges from her cart and sets them aside for now. She dashes back to her cart where she pours a pitcher of frothy liquid, from the still, "Ooooh gotta love them' bubbles!" she squeaks as she then sets that aside. She dashes to her cart, and rummages inside, bringing out a flask, of obvious alcoholic origin, for which she actively uses/drinks a good swig or two, ponders something, then sets that aside and lays out a big pan about the ground and several kettle like devices. Dash here, dash there, do this dump that, go Go Go!

Jellybean leaps into action!
No, that's probably somepony else. Jellybean looks confused. He takes out some pans and starts organizing things. He sets out some fruits and vegetables and then starts chopping them. Very conscientiously. Very slowly.

"The competition is looking pretty strong this year," the bartender says to Spearmint while the foal sets up his workstation. "You're gonna have to try extra hard to impress your mom." He shines one of his glasses and puts it under his bar as Rumflower arrives and begins announcing for the competition. "It's been too long since that trophy's been on display at the Bay," he says. The yellow stallion puts some fruit on his bartop, grabs a knife in his teeth and begins chopping.

Stormdancer blinkblinks. "'alf an' 'our?" And with that, there goes everything but her main dish! Poof, into dreams! She briefly flails about at her cooking instruments, before settling on a sack of veggies and a knife and beginning the dicing. And after a moment, pulls the boozeahol back out to take a swig, too.

Moka tosses a few logs into the wood stove. He blows some powder into it and the wood catches fire. A bag of deep brown coffee beans get poured out into a bowl. The zebra takes out a mortar and grinds them into a coarse powder then sets the bowl on-top of the stove. Glugluglug! He pours water into the bowl and puts a lid on top of it. Hay gets stuffed into the cauldron and soaked in more water, various powders and liquids added into it. A light hazey smoke forms on top, hovering to the brim like a heavy fog.

Spearmint blinks and blushes, gulping a bit and scrambling to get to work chopping vegetables. Carrots, onions, potatoes, celery… mushrooms? Oddly damp-looking mushrooms. He sniffs at them for a second, then lays everything out in organized little piles before beginning to chop and dice and slice, dropping the finished pieces into a waiting pot of broth he'd set up to simmer on the stove. He works quite precisely, pausing often to sample a small bit of what he'd sliced up before dumping it into the pot with the rest.

Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop chop. Jellybean is chopping vegetables and fruit. His mother taught him to be careful about it. Careful in this case means slow. Is he even going to get anything done in thirty minutes? We'll have to see, won't we?

With his fruit chopped the bartender pulls out a boul and begins mixing together eggs, sugar, milk… several ingredients that look like he's going the dessert route. "Rumflower, do we have any unicorns on staff for flash chilling this year?" he asks as he puts a mixer on the table, puts the bowl into it and begins stomping on a foot pedal to get it whirring away.

Moonshine lays out flour, some other various powders, and dumps em all into various bowls mixing with her mouth while she furrows her brow, oh the pressure, the time, one other mixing implement is involved mixing licuid with vanilla, and cream, and ooh is that orange juice in progress. The unicorn is huff huff huffing in obvious exertion, she's not had a 'time limit' to do anything before, so its taxing her quite a bit.

Moonshine's eyes cross, looking to her muzzle-tip in concentration, getting a little bug eyed at that, and the sound of exertion going for her too as she floats out a line up of twelve glasses all while performing her other tasks. Huff, huff, huff, huff, a cupcake pan appears from her grouping, and then *Smash!, Smash! Smash!* the sound of shattering glass is heard as she can't keep all the glasses up and do everything else at the same time, she's lost a whole three glasses from the twelve she was floating over to her table. The unicorn visibly winces with their loss but strives on

The pony mucking about in the lighting rig finally fixes the bulb that wasn't working previously. Hooray!

Another bag is emptied into a bowl, this one full of some sort of dried green plant-like substance. Water gets poured in along with what looks like flour and a few more baking ingredients. The Zebra grabs a whisk in his mouth and beats it all together before cracking a few eggs into the mix. He whisks at it a bit more then brings the bowl to the stove. Over a flat-top area of the stove, several small puddles are poured into what look like small pancakes. The bowl is set back down on the counter and Moka tends to the bowl with the coffee cooking in it. He filters the dark liquid through a piece of cloth into the bowl the pancakes had been in. More baking ingredients are mixed in and once blended, poured into some form of muffin tin. This gets stuck into the front of the wood-stove to bake.

The blue-maned pegasus is rather more hurried about her knife-work, but hey- It doesn't end up in her hoof, so it's fine! Though it comes rather close when Stormdancer shakes her head, muttering, and switches over to the oven to get it going. Then she's pulling up the flour and water, looking up… And mutters again, pulling out a deep pot and filling it. And back to the oven, to send the heat to the top instead. She's such a flurry of flustered feathers!

Apparently Jellybean has things chopped the way he wants them because now he's feeding the chopped fruit into a bowl and is tossing them with tongs. Fruit salad, it seems. And now he's putting a pot of water on to boil.

Rumflower smirks at the bartender. "Flash freezing? We do have Snowflake available, if need be. Does anyone else need some magical assistance? We have a crew we can alert."
Fiddle-Faddle steps up to Jellybean's stall. "Ooooh, such a careful hoof! This dish will be prepared with care, I just know it." The elderly mare smiles warmly, and then moves to Spearmint's. "A child! You seem to know just what you're doing, for being so young! How excellent!"
McGreedy, on the other hand, is surveying Moonshine with a hard stare. "Maintenance," he calls, "we need some cleanup over here." And without another comment, he moves on to Stormdancer and Moka, watching them with a dark and irritable air. Hmph.

Along with the vegetables, a few other things have found their way onto Spearmint's table. He's got some long, strange leaves that look somewhat like seaweed; some little nuggets that look like bright red-and-green peppercorns; a little pouch of some type of nuts, pre-shelled for just such an occasion. He blinks and blushes faintly, twitching an ear towards the elderly judge. "Th-thank you, ma'am."

The little blind colt might not have wanted to be here, but at least he does indeed seem to know what he's doing! He pauses to stir the vegetable pot, then shrugs his saddlebag off onto the floor beside him and flips it open, tugging out a few different bottles of spices.

"Not freezing!" the bartender says quickly. "Just a chill so my custard will set." He pulls the bowl off of the mixer, dips a spoon into it, and then deftly tosses the spoon into the air and catches it in is mouth the other way around so he can taste the unset custard. "Yeah, that's about ready for chilling." He reaches under his bar and pulls out another bowl, a pot, a portable stove, a jug of heavy cream and a bag of sugar. The sugar goes into the pot which in turn goes on the stove, and the cream goes into the bowl and is plugged into the mixer to whip.

Moonshine is straining with her task evidently not cut out for speed. She mixes everything together finally pouring the mixture into each of the cups of her cupcake trays. She adds a little bit of orange zest to each of the cupcakes themselves individually. She mixes some of that orange juice she was working on earlier and mixes it with a great deal of sugar until it is moldable, for which she makes bits of that sugar oj mix together and dashes that mix atop the cupcakes. She slides the cupcakes into one of the kettles, hangs it upon one of the tripods she has setup over that large metal pan on the floor. *another long swing of that alcohol* The tip of her horn ignites and lances out a little light, for which she exhales deeply and sends a column of flame around that kettle oven with the cupcakes inside, its her own version of oven. The copper alloy of the kettle outright glows with heat of that fire she has cast around the kettle.

The mare turns about and pours orange juice and fizzy bubbles into each mug, adding vanilla adding a dash of those sugar-oj cubes, then blazes some cream atop all that like a mad mare as Moonshine tops off her drinks.

Moka picks up a spatula in his mouth and proceeds to flip the somewhat greenish pancakes over to finish cooking. The fog over the pot of hay turns into a brownish-grey before clearing away. Using a strainer and a pasta spoon, he pulls the hay out which is now limp like noodles and strains it out over a spare pot. The strainer gets hung over the stove from a hook and the heat starts to make the hay crackle a little. Moka picks up the cloth with coffee grounds in it and squeezes it in a small press. A somewhat thicker black liquid runs out into a pan. Cutting up some odd-looking peppers, he populates the pan with a few more ingredients including what looks like brown sugar and bananas. After setting it on the stove he grabs a potholder in his mouth and removes the muffin tin from inside the stove, setting it on a rack to cool. 6 dark brown and creme-swirled muffins are puffing out of it.

Sure, take an already frazzled pegasus, and stare judgmentally at her. On the plus side, the accident this is bound to create -won't- involve the knife, since Stormdancer's already done with chopping! Buuuuuut… it does involve her slipping on some slopped water, dropping the bag of chili powder she was carrying with her wings (more of a sack, really- and who needs -that- much of it in the first place?!) heavily onto the front of her stall. Which wouldn't be that bad, except it was followed immediately thereafter by her head. POOF. Hot, red, peppery dust fountains out from the stall! Inside, the ill-fated chef immediately starts sneezing, rattling the walls of her space.

Water is boiling and now Jellybean is filling it with onions, garlic, potatoes, celery and a blend of spices. He's humming happily now, a little tune he always hums when he's making soup. Yes, he has a soup song.

"Waaah!" the bartender says in surprise when Stormdancer's bag of chili powder explodes. "Watch where you're dropping that! You'll get it in my custard!" He quickly grabs some napkins and puts them over his dishes until the dust clears. That'll cost him some time.

Spearmint's ears perk at the calamity of disaster going on over yonder. Whoops. Somepony had a problem! …And now it smells… spicy. He sneezes. Twice. And wrinkles his nose a bit, rubbing at it. Uh-oh. This is gonna be a problem if all he can smell is spicy!
He stirs the pot again before giving it a little taste, frowning thoughtfully. Then he picks up one of the seaweed leaves - veeeeery carefully - and dips one end in the pot, hooking the other over the edge for easier finding later.

And McGreedy stumbles back with a sneeze, face full of chili powder. He swears up and down, and sneezes again. "Get that cleaned up!" he says in a strangled voice. Maintenance, who was already on their way to clean broken glass, split off to take care of that too.
Meanwhile, a blue unicorn pokes her head out. "Flash chill? Can do!" She emerges from the curtain and nudges her glasses back up her nose. "Just let me know when."

Moonshine dashes from her cook station, holding a fresh mug of that Orange Cream Soda, and holding some rags so she can help attend to the now sneezing cooking pegasus, "Ere' drinkup, will ease the spice" she offers politely, while she takes those damp cloth's and attempts to wash up the pegasus, so she doesn't get any in her eyes or anything dangerous like that. "Ya hold still, I'll get ya cleaned up" Meanwhile her kettle is still glowing but slowly starting to fade

"Now is fine," the bartender says as he continues to pump his pedal-powered mixer. The heavy cream inside of it is whipping up quite nicely. "The bowl sitting on the counter, if you please." He abandons the mixer momentarily, letting the flywheel attached to the pedal keep it going, to pick up a spoon in his mouth and stir the sugar on the stove as it melts.

Moka 's eyes narrow slightly at the chili powder going everywhere. He pulls a palm frond out of a crate and fans air away from his workstations to keep any of the powder from infecting his recipes. Once things seem to be in the clear, he stirs up the odd coffee mixture on the stove. The pancakes look about done so he flips them onto a triad of stoneware plates. The hay in the strainer is starting to dry back out as intended.

Stormdancer gives one more giant sneeze, sending a couple blue feathers floating up into the air and drifting over to the audience. With a wheeze and watering eyes, she gets something resembling a thanks over to Moonshine. Considering all of her ingredients are now biohazards, if she can recover soon enough to finish anything… it should be interesting! The water in her pot's bubbling up now, at least.

If Jellybean is concerned by the chaos going on around him he's not showing any signs of it. He continues to hum happily around the cooking spoon as he stirs the soup. La la la, cooking is fun. This is the face of domestic bliss.

The bartender turns down the heat on his sugar — now a simple syrup — and dumps his chopped fruit into it. He gives it another stir to coat, then begins grabbing bottles off of the back counter. He uncorks a couple, sniffs them experimentally, then recorks and reaches for others. "Ah, this'll do," he says on the fifth bottle and pours a splash of it into the fruit syrup, then another splash into the whipped cream.

McGreedy staggers to Moka's stall, away from that dreadful powder at Stormdancer's. "And what…are you making?" he wheezes, eyes tearing. Snowflake, in the meantime, sparks her horn, chilling the bartender's mixture instantly.

Rumflower, meanwhile, approaches Moonshine. "Ooo, any Grand Mariner in that?" And Fiddle noses at Spearmint's soup. "Mmmm, smells delicious, whippersnapper!"

And now it's time for spicing! Spearmint picks up a bottle and gives it a shake or two over the simmering pot. And then a second. He drops a couple of the red-and-green peppercorns into a grinder and gives it a few turns over a small bowl, tasting the result before putting a pinch or two into the pot. Then he tastes the whole mixture! And adds another shake from the first bottle. There we go. Better. "Thank you, ma'am. I… hope it all works out."

Moonshine rushes to her kettle and re-flames it huffing up a storm again, then works on the frosting, minutes wasted helping another pony, worth it, but twas sacrifice all the same. Powdered Sugar, a bit o' butter, more vanilla, some of those sugar-oj cubes and a mixmixmix, add some milk to that whole mix. She's tiring fast. "Oy this is tough" she pants as she adds a cherry to the top of the whipped cream atop the remaining 8 frothy looking Orange Cream Soda drinks. She dashes orange zest atop the cream jams straws into each of them. The mare trots to her cart, and yanks on a pull out table, yanks a little hard, but manages to bring it to the front of her stall, where she deploys it using her magic, which fizzles out completely by the time she's done, the mare is panting and having difficulty keeping up now. Still all the same she lays out a nice silver mirror platter upon it sets each of those mugs down around the perimiter of that platter.

The mare trots back to her kettle, and opens it with a staff thing, and tries to magic levitate them out, her horn fizzles again, and she concentrates really hard tears running down her cheeks. She gets frustrated and pants sitting down looking beat. She takes a few deep breathes and stands up gets cooking server out and pulls the tray out of the oven, lands it in a clatter upon the work surface. Moonshine removes the cupcakes manually, and frosts them by hoof, without using her magic at all, and it shows, they aren't particularly neat this go around, but she manages to get them frosted, and presentable more or less. She gets them to the platter, dashes them each with orange zest, and dashes a little bit of oj-sugarcubes atop them making for one heck of a presentation. The mare practically trembles as she sits there before her creation.

Jellybean watches his pot carefully, wings doing a sort of slow flutter. He's hopping in place, waiting for his soup to be ready. Salad? Check. Soup? Impending. …is he going to make anything else?

Moka blinks a few times at McGreedy before pulling a small flask out of a crate. He pours it into a tiny little cup and noses towards the judge, "I see that you are short of air. Drink this and you will breath fair." Infact, if the judge drinks it, he would find his breathing and eyes to be much more bearable. Now that it's dried enough, the zebra pulls the strainer from the hook on the stove. The hay is now thin and brittle, sprinkled with the coloring of various spices. He arranges it in a circle around the pancakes, almost forming a nest. "Some recipies from my hometown," Moka finally responds to the judge, "Surely they won't make you frown."

Stormdancer finally manages to get herself together enough to actually do something- Rather overly-spiced veggie chunks go into the boiling water, along with salt and a bit of flour. It's a rather sad attempt at stew, especially with how little time she's going to have left for it to cook up. But she stirs it anyway, slowly blinking her vision clear.

Spearmint seems to be satisfied with what he's put together! He puts a lid on the pot and turns the heat down a bit, just leaving the results to simmer. While that's going on, he begins chopping up some nuts. Every dish needs a finishing touch.

Moonshine is done, she can't really do any more, and her magic is spent, she steps from her table to the front of her table then bows to the judges and to the audience, then trots over to Stormdancer's area, "Anything I can do to help, ya look like you could use a hoof?" she asks kindly

Moonshine glances back to Rumflower offering the slightest bob of her head, "n No Miss Rumflower, the only alcohol I used today, was to keep my fires burning, and to keep the cohesion of the sugar-cubes, though that burned off at the temperatures I use" she offers politely to the question. She curtsies and politely returns her attention to that of Stormdancer, so she may lend a hoof to that mare

McGreedy takes the drink, and lets out a breath of relief when he can actually do so. "Thank you, ehh…" he leans forward to look at the nametag. "…Moka. I look forward to trying your…cultural fare." With a sniff, he moves over to Jellybean, giving the salad and soup a stern once-over. "And what is this?" he asks.

Fiddle-Faddle heads to Stormdancer, now, looking the stall up and down cheerfully. "Now this looks interestin'! Where'd you find the recipe from, eh? Did someone tell you I like my food spicy? That's cheatin'." She winks at Stormdancer and smiles a creaky but energetic smile.

Rumflower chortles, the mare nodding. "Fair enough. Look forward to trying them, then." She winks, and moves on, this time to Spearmint. "And… you've got a soup! How /souper/." Beam :D

"Perfect! I couldn't have asked for a better chill!" The bartender nods his thanks to Snowflake and then disconnects the mixer from the flywheel to get the paddle to stop churning. An oversized glass snifter is now brought out from under the bar and placed gentle on the bar. Custard goes in, then some of the berries in syrup. More custard, more fruit, and finally the liquor-flavored whipped cream up to the rim of the glass. He picks up a spatula in his mouth and begins smoothing out the top of it.

Stormdancer gives a weak smile in return to Moonshine and the judge. "Thanks, but think all's left's time. -Was- gonna be pot pie wit' local veggies an' 'erbs outta th' Win'ersong. Then was gonna be stew." She pokes at her concoction once more with a spoon, then puts the lid on and the heat down. "- Now, I ain't sure -what- it's gonna be." One wing scoops up the fortunatly-capped whiskey bottle, offering it to the other two. "- Care fer a drink?"

Jellybean seems to be finished with his soup. He then fishes out some rolls that he brought with him: something to go with the soup. He swishes his tail back and forth, beaming with pride. Apparently he IS done.

A moment later, Jellybean seems to register that somepony was asking him a question. He points. "Fruit salad with strawberries, peaches and apples." He points again. "Onion and mushroom soup. It's my mommy's recipe." He's beaming again. "I didn't make the rolls, but I thought they'd be tasty."

Minty-Smile speaks up: "Five minute warning, everypony!"

Moka sets the stoneware plates on the flat-top after pouring water into the woodhatch to douse the flames. He stirs up the strange sauce in the pan a bit more before drizzling it over the hay-noodles and making a nice little spiral on the center of the pancakes. It's an odd color…very dark brown with hints of orange. Everything seems to be finishing up, though there's still one last touch he needs to make. He pulls out a stone bowl and pours a reddish powder into it. A clay coffee pot is placed in the middle of it then filled with water. The cloth-wrapped coffee grounds are dipped in and closed off with a lid. The zebra pulls out a vial and puts a little drop of liquid into the powder…it makes a 'poof' before catching fire. Judging by the glow, it's hot enough to heat the water almost instantly. After a minute, the flame dies out and a light steam emits from the spout of the coffee kettle. He pours it into three stone cups and sets them to keep warm on the stove with the plates.

Moonshine offers a little curtsy to Stormdancer "thank ya, no, I've got me own whiskey in the cart" she hooks a hoof in the direction of her distillery, "me' own stuff" she grins, "Its ok, I wasn't able to finish my stuff either, had all the ingredients n everything, just not used to the speed part" she sighs but smiles, "we did our best!" she admits, and trots back to her presentation table, and starts to clean up the remainder of her supplies, gives a little try with her magic, really concentrates, but only gets drifting sparks.

The mare looks a tad defeated, but goes about with her cleaning until its as if she were never there sans that of her presentation table with its beautiful table cloth, silver platter, and pretty little Orange Zest Cupcakes with Orange Cream Soda shakes. She trots up to her cart, and remains there for a few moments, then trots back out wearing a cute summery dress that matches her fur-coloring just lighter shades of pink and purple, with a vine of purple looking flowers running through her mane.

Spearmint blinks and perks his ears. Five minutes! Luckily, he's pretty much finished up. He stirs his pot of stew a few times, removing the seaweed leaf before tasting the finished product and adding a couple last-minute touches - a little paprika, another pinch of that peppercorn stuff - and then begins ladling it into bowls, making sure to give each a hearty scoop of vegetables. He's starting to look a bit nervous, now! He sprinkles the crushed nuts over the top, just a bit in each bowl, then sits back on his haunches, letting out a breath. Whoo. Done. No more messing with it, you'll ruin it.

The bartender adds the finishing touch to his giant parfait: a decorative arrangement of sliced fruit and berries in the shape of a sinking ship. Horseshoe Harbor-themed, indeed.
Stormdancer oofs at the time, taking a swig and giving a nod over to Moonshine. "Right- 'least we tried!" Presentation time! She pulls out three bowls that mostly survived the peppering (though still- Don't rub your eyes after picking them up,) and a ladle. Wait a little longer- liiiiiittle longer! Then she loads up the bowls with mostly cooked firebombs of vegetable chunks and fairly watery broth. Sure, the conclusion is a given, but she's gonna finish it out!

Jellybean puts the soup in small bowls, served alongside the salad and the rolls on matching plates. Having done so, now he's fussing with the positioning of the displays. Nudge, nudge nudge.

Ding ding ding! The bell rings, and Minty-Smile beams. "Alright, folks! Step away from your dishes! We're going to start the judging now. First, the trio of judges approaches hapless Stormdancer. McGreedy looks wholly unimpressed from the get go; Rumflower has a benign sort of grin on her face; and Fiddle-Faddle looks positively excited. "Let's try your soup, then!" the latter-most enthuses.

Stormdancer takes on a proud stance, wings half-flexed. "I'mma callin' this, Harbor Disaster Stew. E'rythin' goes wrong an' then, 't catches fire." Grin!

The bartender snorts at Stormdancer's description. He should have figured there'd be multiple ponies on stage with 'it catches fire' as the Harbor theme.

Rumflower breaks into laughter, and Fiddle-Faddle grins brightly. Even McGreedy has to give a sour sort of smile. "Yes, well," McGreedy mutters. "Let's have a taste, shall we." He takes a bite…and immediately spits it out, wrinkling his nose. Rumflower and Fiddle do as well. Rum's face gets very red, and she laughs, fanning herself. Fiddle just beams. "Whooo-ee! That is some spicy stew you got there! Thank you kindly, Miss…" She squints. "Stormdancer? Stormdancer. Nice name!" And the three of them jot down notes onto their clipboards.

Next up, it appears to be Moka. The three of them approach the proffered plates, the ladies tilting their heads curiously while McGreedy just looks irritable. As usual. "Let's see what we have here," Rumflower says, picking up a plate as the other three do, and trying a bite.

The pancakes in the center of the plate have been made with kelp, something likely picked up from sea fare. It gives them a bit of a moist texture, with a bit of an interesting planty flavor. The hay has been infused with spices such as rosemary, basil, and sage. They are brittle, but flakey instead of hard. To blend the two together, a slightly spicy sauce has been drizzled over both. It boasts a low-heat, rich-flavor pepper flavor, harnessed with a hint of banana and drawn completely together by a rich coffee aftertaste. Un-touched by the sauce is are the muffins, a nice swirl of cappuccino and vanilla flavoring with a hint of nutmeg. The coffee in the mugs is rich and robust, strong without being over-powering or too thick. The zebra looks to the judges, "Please, do enjoy my dish. Your delight is my wish."

The judges all peer at the fare curiously, not sure what to expect, clearly. But they all dig in. This time, McGreedy lights up. "Such nuance!" he murmurs. Rum and Fiddle mmmmm appreciatively, both surprised by how all the strange flavors come together. "How interesting! Mmm, wow!" And they note that down, and move on to… Moonshine's!

Moonshine looks up to the judges, and looks down slowly to her layout, "Well, this is called Summer Dreams" she intones softly, "I couldn't put the finishing touch to it" she sparks her horn with that pathetic result of mere flares of light coming from the tip and a bit of an exasperated sigh coming from the mare, "Mmnot used to crunch time like this" she sighs, "nother Mare would have been a better show of it, but Miss Ginger-Spice couldn't make it tonight" she returns to her fare. "Twas going to have a bit of candy in the shape of Celestia's Sun upon the frosting, but I ran out of spark" she taps her horn once to indicate she'd need something special to make it complete. "Summer Dreams, cause well its dead o' winter here and we could all use a bit o' summer in our lives bout now" she offers of her Orange Cream Soda Shakes, and Orange Zest Cupcakes.
for recipe on the Orange Cream Soda Shakes see: community

The troublesome light bulb up in the rigging goes out /again/.

"Oh I do look forward to summer," Fiddle agrees cheerily. She knocks her own horn. "Don't feel bad, dearie. These old things just do whatever they darn well please, don't they!" She smiles warmly and then plucks up a cupcake and shake — as do the other judges. "Delicious!" mmms Rumblossom. "Extraordinary!" adds Fiddle. "…Decent," mutters McGreedy. "Thank you, Moonshine!" beams Rumflower, as they move on to the bartender.

McGreedy glances up at that light and grumbles, "Maintenance! For pony's sake!!"

And at the bartender's, they lean forward. "You are… ah…" They pick up the name-card and squint. "…errr… Contestant number four!" Rumflower nods. McGreedy looks sour.

The bartender frowns. "Aw, come on, my mouthwriting isn't THAT bad…" he says, mildly disheartened. But no matter, it's his time to present! "I call this guy 'Winter Berry Trifle'," he explains pleasantly as he ducks his head under the bar. "The custard is made with eggs, milk and sugar from the farms around town, and the fruits and berries are harvested from near the edge of the Wintersong Forest. It gives them that sharp little chill without being so magical that it freezes your tongue."

There's a sound of something scraping before the bartender lifts his head up again, carrying a long, lit fireplace match between his teeth. "There's a bit of liquor in there to offset a bit of the Wintersong chill. Maybe a little too much for a dessert course, so I'll cook off a bit of it for you." He touches the match to the alcohol-infused whipped cream, which catches almost instantly and very much gives the impression that the fruity sinking ship design is cheerfully ablaze as it goes down. It goes out on its own after a few seconds and gives the desert a creme burlesque crust.

"Oh, my," Fiddle gasps, watching it go up in flames. "How delightful!" And Rumflower grins. "That's my kind of dessert!" McGreedy just grunts, and tries some, marking things down on his sheet with a snort. Harumph.

Next appears to be Spearmint! They approach the child, McGreedy looking half sour, half intrigued now. "Okay, and this is?" he asks the colt.

The little blind colt suddenly looks very nervous! And… a bit embarrassed. He clears his throat a couple times. "Well, er… it's… a vegetable stew, sir. …I'm sorry, I don't have any real… name for it. I used local vegetables, from the farms outside town. An' spices… my mom gathers 'em from traders and the local plants." He fidgets a bit. "There's mushrooms that're from seapony town, and some of the spices are zebra stuff. We get all sorts of ponies in town - I got zebra friends, and a seapony friend - so I wanted to sorta… blend cultures."

The stew is rich and hearty, with all the normal vegetables one would expect. The mushrooms are juicy, and a bit salty, but the broth has a nice, herbal sort of spice to it, warm but not too hot. A nice cozy sort of winter-time dish, with a few exotic flavors thrown in.

The three judges taste the stew, with McGreedy seeming the most intrigued. They all jot down notes, though Rumflower notes brightly, "Very impressive, kiddo! Quite complex for a kid your age. I'd've expected this from someone many years your senior." She winks. "Maybe you should come work for me t the Distillery." Fiddle nods enthusiastically. McGreedy mutters something about foal labor.

And finally, they come to fair Jellybean, and his simple but delicious looking fruit salad and soup. "And this is?" asks Rumflower cheerfully.

Jellybean hops excitedly, wings flapping. "I haven't made this in forever. This is my daddy's favorite soup: it's got onions and mushrooms and garlic and some spices in it." He grins in a fashion he no doubt thinks is coy. "I promised never to tell what spices, though. The salad is just something I learned to make while I was in weather school."
The soup is warm and brothy, relying mainly on the taste of the onions and the mushrooms with some help from what is no doubt garlic salt and a few other herbs. The salad? Well, it's a fruit salad, fresh and crisp.

McGreedy seems wholly and completely unimpressed, but the other two seem encouraging. "It's really good! Reminds me of my dad's cooking, too." Fiddle-Faddle beams. "You should be proud, youngun! This is good soup!" They mark down their thoughts, and then nod.
"There will be a minute or two for deliberation!" calls Minty-Smile.

The pony up in the lighting rig is back at it, trying to get that dead bulb to come back. After several minutes of unsuccessful fiddling it finally just raises one forehoof and gives the thing a good smack.
Unfortunately, this somehow manages to cross some wires and causes the entire fixture to spark brightly, send up a plume of smoke and short circuit the /entire building/. The room is plunged into darkness.

Moonshine 's horn sparkles, its about all she can get, but there's a glow at least, "best I can do!" she announces with a little whimper

Stormdancer's voice floats up out of the darkness. "Th' lights come up an' somepony's dead, -I didn' do it-."
Spearmint seems completely unfazed by the darkness, though the smoke makes him sneeze a bit. "What? What happened? …Is something on fire?"

Out comes McGreedy's voice as well: "MAINTENANCE!" he bellows.

Moka stays in place. After all, it's dangerous with so many knives and hot pans around! "Surrounded now in total black, I hope that this is no attack!"

The bartender moves around behind his bar, reaching out his hooves to make sure nopony steals any of his liquor while the power is out. This is just that sort of town, unfortunately.

Jellybean flinches, looking around nervously. "Wh-what's going on?"

The lights stutter woefully for several seconds before finally coming back on. And when they do… the trophy is gone! In place of the golden cake is a significantly smaller golden globe, about the size of a snow-globe. In addition to the normal longitude and and latitude lines on the map it is also marked by common trade routes across the seas. All in all a very ornate piece… but certainly no replacement for the Don't-Poison-the-Cook trophy!

GASP!! The judges gasp! Even McGreedy!
In case someone couldn't tell (like Spearmint), Rumflower shouts, "THE TROPHY IS GONE!"

Moonshine was seriously trying to bring some light to the room, but alas her sparkler of a bit of unicorn magic was useless in this venture. She looks about, "Well, that really takes the Cake" she mutters with a grunt.

Stormdancer blinks, settles back, and reaches for her drink. "Lil' blatant, b' fast work. Give't a se'en outta ten."

Moka perks a brow. Talk about a warm welcome into town! He sighs as he packs up a few of the crates, "It seems my guess was almost on. But, who has made the trophy gone?" His eyes focus in on the snow-globe as he walks up to inspect it.

Jellybean looks around. "…does this mean that the contest is over?"
"Oh, come on!" the bartender complains. "I had it in the bag this year! Who took the statue!?"

"Good evening, my little ponies!" a voice shouts from the lighting rigging up above. A black-maned mare is standing on the edge of them looking down, one of her front hooves hooked around a wire to keep her balance as she leans over the edge. "I hope you don't mind that I helped myself to a bit of cake. The dishes all looked so good, I couldn't help myself~" She seems unperturbed by Stormdancer's critique of her theft— even if it /was/ much better than a seven.

Spearmint blinks and tilts his head, frowning uneasily. And looking quite thoughtful. Thinkthinkthinkthink "Hey! Hey!" He bounces in place a bit. "I know that voice! That… that's the pony that stole the statue a few months ago!" He's /still/ not sure entirely how that worked. But apparently it had. "…She stole the trophy?" Hey, sometimes it's a bit hard to keep up with things when you can't see what's going on.

"Boastin' afte' th' fact? Six outta." Stormdancer snarks up at the Daring Thief, and blows a raspberry after. Then blinks. "- /An'/ ya done this act 'afore? Oi." Time for a swig!
Moonshine looks up at that thief, to her cooking utensils, and ponders. Her magic is spent and she's a bit out of it, but…. spatula, plus sugar cubes plus a hoof in the right direction/ *Slamm* and fire one! there's a sugar cube mess flung towards that thieving pony. and a whinnyraaar! "FooooooodFight!" she shouts as she lines up several more volleys', "heya Stormdancer, prep some of that chili powder!" she shouts as she starts shooting shots of various kitchen products up at that mare!The unicorn mare, oh the only one of the participants, gets another volley setup, and fires, all catapult style so that if they miss the arcs of flung food will hit the backdrop not the audience. Thick gobs of gooy sugar-oj and whipped cream keep going up, shot after shot!

"Well, give it back!" shouts the bartender. "You didn't do anything to earn that cake!" He was really looking forward to that trophy, he was!

The Zebra lets out a sigh with a bored look on his face. He walks over to the crate of more magical goodies, pulling out a pouch of powder, the same he used for lighting the stove. After sprinkling it onto one of the extra muffins, he slings it through the air. It catches fire as soon as it's released, but the powder works too well and the muffin is completely incinerated by the time it reaches the trophy thief.

Moonshine waves to the Zebra, "no fire indoors could catch the rigging!" she squeals out to Moka, "Nice idea though!" she squeaks.

The mare in the rigging shakes her head at Stormdancer as dons her hat, a great red piece that does an excellent job of obscuring her face where her mane falling over one eye doesn't. "You're grading me as if the heist is worth anything," she tsks at Stormdancer. "The important thing is the message, which you must admit is awfully difficult to convey without words, as our little blind friend can attest. I'm happy to see you remember me, little one." When food starts flying in her direction she unlaces one of the ropes holding the lighting rig up and kicks away, swinging above the stage in a wide circle and making it impossible to lob further foodstuffs at her without risking a miss hitting the audience.

"If you'd prefer I kept quiet, though, I'll honor your wish," The thief pulls out a red card from under the hat and flings it down at the stage at the apex of her swing. She passes overhead on her return pass back to the lights. "Your precious trophy is safe and sound, you need only find it. Ta ta~" She gives the broken light fixture a kick, twisting it around and crossing the wires to short it — and the theater's grid — out once more. When the light returns she's nowhere to be seen.

"We…well, I never!" stammers Fiddle-Faddle.

Moka grumbles a bit to himself. This is not the way he imagined the contest would be going! He trots over to the red card and takes a look at it. "I think this might be a clue; what do you think we should do?" the zebra asks anypony listening.

"Don't just stand there with it," the bartender says as he trots out from behind his workstation. "What's it say?"

Stormdancer sighs, stepping over towards Moonshine and giving her a reassuring pat. "Don' fret none. Jest think've 'er like a show-pony what can't git a willin' audience." Then walks towards the center, shaking her head. "- /'course/ there's a clue. Can't believe Mama weren't jest makin' those stories up."

Spearmint blinks and lays his ears back, blushing. Well, of course he remembers. It's hard to forget somepony stealing a whole /statue/. He's not /that/ forgetful. …And then someone yells for a food fight, so he's spent the past few minutes ducked under his table. He peeks his nose out now, though. "Aw, man, is she sending us on another scavenger hunt? Do I gotta go in that icky-smelling bar again?"

The card is an identical shade of red as the thief's hat and sports an image of a globe matching the little one where the trophy ought to be, complete with common trade routes embossed into it. On the reverse, in delicate gold mouthwriting, it sports a riddle:

Countless stories above the crowd, only a chosen few allowed
From ships at sea to clouds in skies, the people ever-present spies
Day by day, night after night, history repeats its endless plight
Be not distracted by clever spoof, your fiction's end is underhoof

Moonshine merely sits down leaning against her table and smiles up to Stormdancer. The mare though is pretty spent, magic fizzled, and physically wiped out. She has sips at one of her Orange Cream Soda Shakes quietly, and just sits there really too tired anymore to do anything.

Moka blinks in disbelief, and looks down at the stage. His face once again gets that bored are-we-really-doing-this look on it. "Correct me for I may be wrong, but has it been beneath us all along?"

The bartender looks at Moka thoughtfully. How appropriate that the rhyming zebra read the rhyming puzzle, he thinks. What he /says/, however, is, "Beneath us how? The only thing down below us is the ground. The theater doesn't have a basement, I don't think."

Stormdancer flaps up and peers over Moka's stripy shoulder at the card. "Give 'er props fer speed 'f sa- First bit sounds like th' lighthouse? -That- got a basement?" She tilts her head to the side. "Risky for 'er, 'f she's tryin' ta race us there ta plant't 'fore we get there."

Moonshine looks to Stormdancer, "yeah The lighthouse sounds right, cause that light is always there night n' day always repeating, and its waaaay tall above us, Or, Or, Maybe its in town hall? Way up top?" she hmms

Spearmint frowns thoughtfully, edging out from under his table. "When she took the statue, she just lifted it right on up in the air. Somehow." He's not too clear on the details.
"And then when we figured out all the riddles, she just put it back down where it went."

Moka stomps his hoof on the stage to listen for the sound. Apparently there's no under-stage? Then again, he's new to the town so being thoughtful of places to look isn't his best subject.

A hollow sound echoes as Moka stomps. There is definitely a space under there.
Stormdancer quirks an ear before looking over at the judges. "Sa, any've ya know where th' way in is, or is somepony gonna 'aveta break't?"

Spearmint blinks and starts to head over to where the other ponies are stomping. He only makes it a few feet before suddenly there is no more floor! He falls through the opening with a yelp of alarm, the ajar trap door dropping open beneath him as soon as he sets hoof on it. THUMPH. "…Ow."

Moonshine trots over to the descended foal, "Pony Down!, Medic!" she calls out because, well maybe its appropriate this time, and looks into the gap, "Ya ok down there?" she calls sending her sparkysparks into the hole to put some light on the subject

It is dark under the stage. This is not surprising because if it was lit then all the trap doors in the stage would be visible from up above when the stage is dimmed, outlined in light! As it stands it is the other way around and from his new position Spearmint can see the various holes in the stage used for special effects when putting on productions. He can also see that directly underneath of one trap door is a large, cake-like object that glimmers gold where light leaks from around the trapdoor above it.
Or he would be able to if he wasn't blind as a bat. Silly pony.

Moka pulls a small lantern out of one of his mystery crates…you never know when you'll need one! He fiddles around with it and eventually gets it going. "Why is a pony not of age the only pony under-stage?" the zebra remarks, dropping down through the trapdoor.

The bartender stomps around carefully as well, trying to find if there are any other trap doors since the one Spearmint fell through is pretty crowded. "Is it down there?" he asks as he finds a seam that looks promising and begins trying to figure out how it opens. Probably magic, or a lever off-stage.

Mumbegrumble "Why do I always fall into thiiiiiings," the little colt complains, picking himself up slowly and shaking himself off. Mrrf. "Where they hay am I?"
Stormdancer crowds around the entrance, reaching down to offer some hooves up. "'e -is- th' smallest," she points out. "O'er 'ere, I'll pull ya out, Tiny."

Moonshine can't even fizzle her horn anymore and she's waaay tired to boot so she's not much help as she just sits there beside the open pit and watches the commotion with a little sigh. Its obvious

Moka shines the lantern around under the stage, and a few hints of gold catch his eye. He sets the light down to speak, "You fell right through a trap door, and it seems that there are many more…" The lantern gets pick back up and he approaches the object. "Mffmmfmmfmmm!" Of course they don't understand you! You have a handle in your mouth! Silly Zebra! He puts the lantern down one more time, "The clue was right, the trophy near. I do believe I've found it here!"

The trophy? The trophy!! In the end, all the ponies work together to get the trophy back onstage, hauling it through the various crannies and managing to get it to its rightful place. By that point, the judges have recomposed themselves, and Fiddle beams hopefully.

"Well, we have the scores…" she says, "though I must emphasize that you're /all/ winners. Especially after that dreadful scare…my heart's still shaking in its boots!"
McGreedy clears his throat, lifting his clipboard to read. "The winners are, in fact, a tie, between… Contestant Number Four and Spearmint, the little colt.

Second Place is Moonshine, and third is Moka. All placing ponies will get a 15 per-cent discount at harborwide restaurants for the month, and as for the trophy…" Rumflower approaches the cake and lifts the top two tiers off of the four-tiered golden cake. Apparently they weren't attached? "You may choose who gets which…half." One half says: Don't Poison. The other half says: The Cook. HMMM.

"In any case, thank you all for participating, and thank you for another eventful — but not /too/ eventful, all things considered — year!"

Moonshine bounes in place and then jogs over to Storm and grins, "I gots Second, but but, You and me gotta team up next year, then we can't loose!" she grins to Stormdancer, "We'll make a great team!

Stormdancer laughs, extending a hoof to bump to Moonshine. "That, o' we'll burn th' place down." And the other chefs get a wing-wave! "Nice cookin', all've ya!"

Moka raises both brows. While he may not have met all the 'requirements'
he is impressed with himself for placing in third. He packs up the rest of
his supplies back into the crates and shuts them all. In the same manner
that he brought them in, the zebra pushes and drags the crates off stage,
vanishing to who-knows-where.