Heather is packing up her bags. No, I didn't manage to spoil the ouster for this week, unfortunately. It's just a small glimpse of what's in store for the remaining perfectionistas, challenge-wise. The teams pile into roomy GMC vehicles and it's...
Over The River And Through The Woods...
to a run-down gingerbread-style bed and breakfast we go. The groups gather on the rolling green lawn of the Roger Sherman Inn located in old-money New Canaan. Thank heavens that Joan has come to her senses and is dressed in the appropriate attire for the countryside, pastels and plaid. As the weekend inn keeps, both teams have to clean rooms, man the front desk in shifts, and prepare any munchies that the guests may need upon their arrival. The second phase of the collaborative challenge comes in the guise of a brunch to be served the following morning. Judging will be based on the quality of the edibles as well as the overall air of comfort and attention extended to the guests. The individual creations this week hark back to the basics. Each person has to design a wreath that is suitable for gilding the front door, and it must be partially elaborated out of fruit. The mere fact that the personal project is something that won't take too long to assemble means that running the inn will eat up the majority of each teams time, effort, and sanity.
The problem of team member disparity is broached by Joan. She informs the Crafty Beavers that they get to steal away the Fabric Queen of their choosing. With very little debating, Mitch informs Darlene to give up her tiara and faux-fur cape, as she's now an official wood-loving oversized rodent. I could have said "crafty beaver" but where's the fun in that? Darlene does not seem too upset about switching teams.
Roaches Check Inn, But They Don't Check Out
With only four hours left to get the inn ready for the arrival of the first guests, the teams hit the ground running. Speaking of guests, they'll be none other than our illustrious judges, with maybe some extra baggage. Candace's husband and David's female "friend", for example. The arrival of the guests will be staggered, all the better to fray nerves and throw contestants into a tizzy.
While some members play at being hotel receptionists others check out the spacious and professionally equipped kitchen, which both teams will share. All foodstuffs that are provided are identical so that there are no unfair advantages as far as raw materials go.
The second floor guest suites are a study in skankiness. I'm talking mats of hair on the carpet, stained mattresses, and the worst case of "ring around the bathtub" known to mankind. I've seen rooms at La Quinta motels that have been cleaner. In fact the deplorable conditions are a bit suspect. What reputable bed and breakfast would end the season and leave the filth to fester over the course of the off-season months? I think that lots of show production trashing and stage dressing took place in order to make this challenge a bit more of an ordeal. Well, that's my theory, at least.
Dawn and Denise busy themselves sanitizing bathrooms and avoiding infectious airborne diseases. An hour later and Darlene's taken helm in the kitchen, preparing a cookie platter for the first guests. Mitch is pleased to have a competent soul in a cook's apron. Other nibbles that are whipped up involve smoked salmon and bruschetta.
The less useful Beavers(Amy and Heather) are left to play chambermaids and clean their allotted rooms. This is possibly a bad idea, but the kids need to be assigned to do something. Personally I wouldn't trust either one to clean Barbie's DreamHouse.
While Artisan Dawn spins creative lies to anyone calling the inn for information, the rest of the team members continue to strip beds and dust. A light bulb goes off in Margo's head that maybe someone should whip up a snack or two for the first road-weary guests of the house. Yes, they best get started on that, what with an hour and a half left before the first arrival. Denise confides in private that she thinks Margo's food ideas are pedestrian and ill-advised, but she lets Margo run off to the kitchen anyway.
This week's Twilight Zone moment is a side by side replay of Darlene vs. Margo in the vast expanse of kitchen. Darlene rushes around like an Energizer Bunny yet manages to produce a staggering array of tempting platters, while Margo gets flustered. She drops utensils, fights with tongs and makes a mess of her work area. Bobby Flay would have docked her some points for not having her mise en place, or prep items, in order. She threatens to "do what she knows" which can only mean Egg Beaters, frozen waffles, and possibly some turkey bacon.
In contrast, Darlene is working clean and efficiently, showing off some enviable knife skills and finishing off the plates alone. She's got some flair for food presentation, most likely honed during her HSN tenure. The selection of food is well thought out, fresh, and balanced. There's savory items along with some sweets. Margo can only come up with a chicken noodle soup. God bless can openers! Allow me to interject my fear that soup is all wrong for a bed and breakfast snack. It's potentially messy, requires the use of bowls, saucers, and spoons, and is just blah. It's good for an old folks home lunch menu, but it's not the best thing to present to an inn guest in the hopes of wowing their socks off. Kimberly goes along with Margo's idea, but makes it clear that she doesn't agree with it.
Knock-Knock, Who's There?
As guest check-ins draw near, there's a flurry of last minute preparations set in motion. Darlene handles the front desk duties like a pro while her team mates go over the turn down procedures.
The CB crew send Amy out to great Candace and her husband Charles. They've brought their gorgeous black lab Betsy. Okay, I've snarked on this woman for her lack of fashion sense, but she's a good pet owner. Heather is in the role of porter and hostess but she's dressed in rolled up jeans and stiletto boots. I don't think the doorman at Trump Tower considers that get-up a proper uniform. Candace insists on using brand new sheets, which is a smart move, considering how nasty those rooms were and possibly still are. Heather clumsily suggests they head down to the patio for appetizers. Darlene gets the platters ready, and easy task since she selected menu items that can be served at room temperature, thus requiring no reheating. Little things like this really add up, as we shall see later. Betsy looks overjoyed to see some grub, but Candace is one of those overindulgent pet owners. She sends Mitch to the kitchen with an order to prepare a beef vegetable soup for her pooch. Maybe Mitch should dip out some of Margo's soup for Betsy? NO, the dog deserves better than that. Mitch grouses about Candace not liking him very much and relegating him to canine chef.
Hostess cupcake Heather approaches the dining couple and informs them that she's moved them to another room because the sheets they've provided are the wrong size for the bed. Never bother your guests with mundane details, you say? Well, it's an even bigger faux-pas to change the accommodations without notice, as Candace points out, with some irritation. She tells Heather to please move them back into the original quarters.
The Artisans are all set for the next guests, David and his friend Angie. As they check in, David has to request a beverage, which should have been offered as soon as they were greeted at the door. Margo begins to panic when she's told that there are hungry people to be served. She's stirring up a pot of "soup" that on close inspection looks just like a pale, protein-scummed broth that in a few hours might turn into a decent soup. That is after much skimming and clarifying of the stock. Anyone who's made soup at home knows what I mean. The snack Mitch boiled up for Betsy looked more appetizing. At least Dawn did a fantastic job of putting Angie and David at ease, reciting the inn's history and helping them settle into their rooms. As Margo praises her cooking, citing its heart-warming properties, the other shoe drops. David asks that the tepid brew be reheated. As Denise claims both bowls of soup Angie astutely notes that Margo probably doesn't go by recipes. Why, no. She doesn't. But she should.
It's painful to witness Margo crumble like cornbread. She's in complete denial as to the impending disaster, thinking that everything is in the pink as she schleps out soup plates, part deux. David and Angie refuse to eat it, citing terminal blandness.
Midnight At The Oasis
It's getting late and everyone is tuckered out and ready to rest up before brunch. As some perfectionists take naps others clean up the kitchen or cover desk duty. Bobby Flay strolls in casually and catches CB Amy unaware at the desk. As she gets him settled in and goes off in search of bourbon and ginger ale, Mitch crawls out of bed and heads down to help fix his meal. Darlene heads off an endive shortage by substituting leaf lettuce for cold chicken wraps.
Amy has neglected to get someone to man the reception desk, and the phone rings off the hook for a good fifteen minutes. I can tell that Bobby's itching to pick it up, but by the time that Amy is back with his cocktail, it's too late. I guess Candace won't be too happy to have her request go unheard. Bobby's pleased as punch to get his booze, though. Darlene and her Tweety Bird slippers recite the snack menu to Bobby, all of which agrees with his gourmet palate.
As the Artisans man the desk and construct their wreaths some of the ladies dissolve into a giggly, sleep deprived mess. Mitch works on something that is covered in baby gourds. Margo goes for a summer citrus motif. Heather uses various apples in hers, while Amy opts for cranberries. Dawn isn't feeling the fruity wreath vibe. So distracted is she that she makes up a square frame-like object instead of a more traditional round wreath. Denise's offering looks like a fruit salad with slices of citrus fruits and cherries.
It's early morning on Day 14 and it is the Artisan's turn to neglect the phone lines. It is all Dawn's fault this time around. Denise rouses her takes care of the early morning requests.
Everyone gets ready for the model room white glove inspections by the triumvirate of judges. The Artisan room gets a thorough run-through and passes muster. Candace is impressed with the bed layout and amenities.
At the CB suite, a dust check turns up some filthy areas around some picture frames. There are some stray hairs strewn about the bathroom floor that Heather, Amy, and Mitch's cleaning attempts missed.
Coffee, Tea, Or Me?
Room inspections aside, it's time for the brunch to be served to the judging panel. Darlene has got the entire team working efficiently in the kitchen, which is something that uber-chef Mychael never managed to accomplish. She should have sent Heather off to whip up an omelet for Betsy because her homespun chicken pot pie looks loathsome. She substitutes vegetable stock for a more flavorful chicken broth and doesn't think to up the seasoning level to compensate. Also, asparagus, potatoes and broccoli aren't the best selections for a dough encrusted dish. Too much starch and uninteresting to boot.
The Artisans are busy clumsily slicing cantaloupes and prepping steaks and hash browns for Margo's version of an IHOP platter. Mitch's secret weapon is his granny's old fashioned cinnamon rolls. While Margo burns something, Darlene fans out strawberries for an artistic garnish. Mychael who?
The judges belly up to the CB table first. Out come the refreshing mimosa cocktails, which sparkle with citrusy goodness. Jaws drop at the sight of the steaming cinnamon rolls. Unfortunately the meal wraps up with thick wedges of Heather's pot pie/quiche. The pastry and vegetables are undercooked and the whole dish is pasty.
Hash House Hell
There is a glimmer of higher hopes as the judges rush off to the Artisan's brunch table. Margo sings out a greeting in a vain attempt that no will take notice of the fact that Kimberly's dressed up like she's ready to paint a house. Their version of a mimosa is probably made with TANG. The judges complain bitterly that it is not freshly squeezed and most likely not even an orange product. Denise's caramel apple french toast is as dry as plywood and desperately needs some syrup, but the Artisan girls are too busy trying out their competitors food to remember to check up on their guests. Bobby finally resorts to getting up from the table to request the syrup and snags another of Poppin' Fresh Mitch's far superior cinnamon buns as a consolation prize.
Margo has problems with the custom egg orders. Apparently she's never whipped up scrambled, fried, or poached eggs. She brushes Kimberly's suggestion of vinegar in the poaching water aside and manages to ruin four eggs as she tries to fry them. Denise tries a quick fix involving the microwave. Candace consequently cannot cut into the rubbery mess. Bobby's poached eggs are shapeless and watery. Margo shakes and quivers under his questioning and a grinning rictus is plastered on her face as he leads her into the kitchen to school her on egg procedure. He reaches for the vinegar and it's all over. Kimberly does a happy dance in a far corner as Margo practically runs off to her room in hysterics.
Carmen Miranda Gets Lei'd
It's nitty gritty time as everyone files into the study to get some feedback from the judges. They choose to address Team Artisan first. Candace praises Dawn's hostessing style as well as her knowledge of the history of the property. Bobby takes pity on Margo and chooses to commend her on work ethic. David felt offended at Kimberly's attire while presenting brunch. Bobby reminds them to be at the guests beck and call, balking at the excuse that Denise spits up about not wanting to smother her guests. There's a world of difference between over-attentiveness and the complete absence of service. They wrap up their comments with a lecture on the egg mess.
As for the Crafty Beavers, Bobby mentions being grateful that Amy was able to fill his drink requests on such short notice. Candace mentions the room switch and makes it known how displeased she was over it. She's only getting warmed up because she moves on to having her phone calls for service go unanswered. There is no excuse for that inattention. David saves his vitriol for the pot pie that Heather cooked up. She claims that having to make up for the lack of key ingredients threw her off, but the judges are hard pressed to believe that she didn't have access to a spice rack.
In deliberations, Candace mentions that CB member Heather blew the perfect brunch and was jittery and ill at ease with them. Bobby can't get over the poached egg mistakes. It's all going to boil down to the little differences. Both teams enter the room to hear the final decision. The Crafty Beavers have managed to pull off the bed and breakfast business with greater aplomb than the Artisans.
As for the fruit wreaths, upon their inspection of the anonymously submitted crafts, it is decided that two wreaths didn't measure up to their standards. It's interesting to note that Candace didn't have a clue as to what to call a lei. So much for her cosmopolitan image. They thought that Denise's wreath was reminiscent of a food garnish. Margo's project was too unwieldy and tropical. Both women shed a tear at the prospect of being voted off.
Never Say Goodbye
At this vote-off we finally find out why the celeb judges are always present when they don't seem to serve a function. They are there to break up a tie if one ever occurs. Joan allows the two ladies to give their final thoughts. Denise rambles on about the fun she's had and how she loves being a part of the team. Margo wants to see how far she can move up in the competition. Kimberly says that she has based her decision on the person's character and votes to boot Margo. Dawn accuses Margo of not being a team player and wants her gone as well. Her wish, our command. Margo is free to go home and get a refill on some tranquilizers. I'd also recommend a stint at the local Waffle House in order to master the art of egg cookery.
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