Sunday, January 19, 2014


For those of you who missed it - my birthday was last Tuesday.  It was a fairly quiet affair.  My son and I had dinner at the local Mongolian Grill and my mother fought traffic just so she could give me a birthday hug.  I got a couple of gifts at work, but other than that, it was fairly uneventful.

Which is okay, because my family planned on celebrating my birthday on Saturday (yesterday).  We normally don't celebrate things on the correct day.  My son is frequently at his father's house for his birthday, so we celebrate early or late (once, it was months late so he could have a summer birthday).  I don't remember the last time Christmas was celebrated on December 25th.  This year, it was celebrated in January.  So, having my birthday party a few days late wasn't unexpected.

My mother had previously asked me what I want to do.  I told her I want an experience.  My life is just so mundane, right now, so boring.  I really wanted to do something different, make some memories.  We went through a list of things I would like to do: go to a live show, go to the observation deck at the Space Needle (I've lived here how long and have never done that?!), eat a meal where you watch them cook it, etc.  I told her I'd love for it to be a surprise.

A few days later, she told me to dress in business casual, but layer and bring my walking shoes.  What in the world did they have planned?!  She wouldn't even tell my son what we were doing, and he's pretty good about keeping secrets.

The morning of, she stopped by to pick my son and I up and then took us to my sister's house to pick her up.  She took the back road to Seattle. The scenery opened up and I found that we were at the Seattle Center.  And we were pulling into the Space Needle Parking!  Yay!  I get to see the observation deck!  Wait - do you get valet parking to go to the observation deck?  It quickly became apparent that we were eating there.  Oh my heavens!  I never would have expected that!

Giddy with excitement, I made my way through the gift shop to the receptionist.  My mother gave her name and was given a card and instructions to go to the elevator.  There was a woman waiting there to answer any questions, etc.  The elevator had some windows so even the trip up had a view.  It was all just so fancy!

We arrived at the top where my mother requested a window seat.  As we stepped onto the revolving floor, I had to become adjusted to the movement.  It was quite slow, so motion sickness wasn't really an issue, but it did take a moment to adjust.  I was glad we were given a window seat - the view was astounding!  It was cloudy out, so it was like Seattle was encased in a cocoon.  I could see all of the surrounding parts of the city, but it was like we were our own little city, protected from the rest of the world.

After I sat, my sister explained what was going on.  We were having the brunch, so I was to pick one juice, one Starter, one Main Course, and one Dessert.  Looking at everything, I wondered how I could ever decide.  I'm a foodie, so just looking at the menu was a treat - seeing the combination of foods, wondering what they could taste like.  I finally decided: apple juice, shrimp with grains and red onion bacon jam (?!), wild king salmon with hazelnut sauce, and cranberry bread pudding.

As we waited, we watched Seattle go by.  As we turned, little scraps of paper we set on the wall - people leaving messages (jokes, questions, etc.) for others to enjoy.  I found it quite amusing that this would be a part of this fancy-schmancy restaurant.  According to what my sister said, this is normal, making me laugh.

A man came by with a camera, asking if we wanted our picture taken.  Now, my mother has taught me that if you have to ask the price, it's probably too expensive, so I told them I didn't need a picture.  My sister insisted that we did.  We posed for a couple of pictures and the man gave my sister some cards before walking off.

The juice and basket of breads arrived, starting our culinary adventure.  It sounds weird, and anyone who's never experienced this won't understand, but it was the best apple juice I've ever had in my life!  I'm not a fan of apple juice, but my son adores it.  He'll go through an entire jug all by himself because I simply don't care much for it.  The apple juice at this restaurant was simply the best I've ever had!  It was light and sweet and tasted of apples instead of bottled apple juice. The basket of bread was also special - slices of some sort of glazed sweet bread, scones, and biscotti.   Of course, I had the sweet bread.  Yum!  The bread was moist and dense, the tart fruit inside a bright flavor, and the sweet glaze balancing it out.  I'm not normally a fan of glaze, but it worked nicely on this bread.

The first course was served - I received a small ramekin with two shrimp floating atop some unidentifiable grains (flax was the only one I could make out) with a puddle of dark good in the middle.  Trying the grains first, I found that they were savory.  Since I was prepared for a breakfast-like grain (think "oatmeal") I was expecting sweet.  The cheesy, savory flavor of the grains was a happy surprise.  Next, I tried the red onion bacon jam.  And my world was forever changed.  Now, I'm a fan of bacon, but this was out of this world!  The onions were the predominant flavor, but the bacon and whatever it was they had used to sweeten it all combined to make a tiny bit of heaven.  Next, the shrimp.  Now, I'm a good cook, but for some reason, I have a hard time with seafood - almost always overcooking it.  This was perfectly cooked and very lightly flavored so the other tastes in the dish could compliment it.  And this was just the starter!

Our dishes were removed, giving us some time to take pictures out of the wall of windows.  Since the Seahawks are going to be in the NFC Championship game today, there was a plane flying the "12th Man" banner behind his aircraft.  I don't like football, but it still felt important to get the picture.

And then the main dish was brought to us.  My salmon perched atop some wilted greens, which were resting on some tiny potatoes which were setting helter-skelter on a hazelnut sauce.  Now, I am not one for my food to touch.  My mother bought me some divider plates a few years back and I use them all the time.  For all of my food to be touching was a little unsettling.  I carefully removed the fish and set it to the side.  Looking at the greens, I took a deep breath and tried my first bite (I am really not one for cooked greens!)  I found it to be quite tasty!  The chef is a miracle worker if he can even let me enjoy cooked greens!  I downed a lot of them before trying the potatoes.  Eh.  They're potatoes.  They were better with the sauce, but I'm not as big into carbs/starches as a lot of women seem to be.  And then the salmon.  It was perfectly cooked with a wonderful flavor that wasn't too fishy.  When I swooped it through the sauce, it took it to a whole other level.  Yum!  Our plates were removed, giving us more time to look at the city and take pictures.

And then dessert arrived.  Three of us had ordered dessert, but my mother had said we want the "special dessert."  My sister, son, and I were given our desserts, and then a dish was set in front of my mother.  It was immediately obvious what it was special.  I wasn't sure what it was, but the dish was ... special.  Before I knew what was happening, the waitress poured something into the dish and a thick fog quickly covered our table.  Grabbing my camera, I snapped a few pictures of it.

Now, I'm not one to be singled out.  Please, oh please, don't sing Happy Birthday to me in the middle of a crowded restaurant.  But, I do like some attention.  This dessert was absolutely perfect - our table was the center of attention for about 20 seconds, but all eyes weren't trained on me.  It was quite lovely!

The bread pudding was yummy.  It had pieces of fruit in it with a crusty top - like they had taken a torch to some sugar and a mound of vanilla ice cream happily sat atop that.  Yum!

I have to mention that the wait staff were all amazing!  Actually, everyone who worked there were helpful, friendly, and were very good at their jobs.  Customer service is a big part of an experience like that, and they did a great job!

When we were all done, we went to the observation deck.  We toured the whole thing, chatting, pointing out bits of Seattle, and taking pictures.

When we had made it all the way around, we went inside and found the photo kiosk.  Oh - we did use the restrooms.  I only mention this because even the signs for the restrooms were fancy - the stick figures of the man and woman denoting which was which was much more than the normal figures. They were dressed to the nines - fancy hats, tie, etc.  It was cool!

Back to the photo kiosk.  How crazy expensive was this going to be?!  I was so pleasantly surprised to find that you could e-mail the picture to yourself at absolutely no cost!  What?!  How great!  Since I collect keyrings, I wanted the photo in a keyring.  I was surprised that it was relatively inexpensive.  I mean, I was going to get one anyway.  This way, I got a very personalized keyring at a decent price.  I was ecstatic!  I paid at the kiosk and had the receipt e-mailed to myself.  The next screen told me that I could pick up my gift in the gift shop downstairs.

Back down to Earth we went, watching the view as the ground rushed up to meet us.  I realized then that my stomach didn't feel the trip either time (you know how sometimes elevators can make you feel like you left your tummy behind?)  We stepped off and I made a beeline for my keyring.  It was great!  I signed the credit card slip and took my treasure.  We cruised through the giftshp to find my son a souvenir.  I was pleasantly surprised at the prices.  I thought things would be ridiculously expensive but they were all fairly priced.  Yay!  We picked up a few more trinkets and were on our way.

Back at my sister's house, I opened my birthday gifts (the meal would have been gift enough, but I still got to open presents!)  I received some things I needed, some things I wanted, and a special culinary treat I hadn't expected, homemade by my mother.

All in all, it was a very good day!

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