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a birthday, a not-so-good lunch, composing music - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
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a birthday, a not-so-good lunch, composing music

This morning, "J" and I went to Bellevue Square. Usually I avoid going anywhere near the place, due to the traffic and hordes of people, but it was pretty calm there today.

Our first stop was to buy a birthday gift for our sister-in-law "M". My brother "C" had suggested a specific clothing item, and of course the store was out of stock in her size, so we settled for a gift card. I don't care much for gift cards; to me they say, "We're too lazy to shop, so here's some money you can use only at this store." But C and M don't see it that way, so it was OK.

Next stop was a restaurant, Fogo de Chão. Thanks to the light crowds – and getting out of the house with more time to spare than usual – we had some time to relax between when we made our way to the restaurant and when the birthday lunch was scheduled. Her actual birthday is tomorrow, but everyone is pretty busy tomorrow so we're celebrating a day early.

My first impression of the restaurant was that it was decorated like a fancy business hotel restaurant, and probably expensive. When the six of us – J and I, M and C, and my parents – were all seated, the waiter gave us only two or three menus; I'm not sure why we didn't each get one. The menus confirmed that the place was expensive; the gimmick was that it was all-you-can-eat, which isn't all that attractive when one is trying not to overeat. Although the place features steak and other meats as the main dishes, I chose the salmon. I asked the waiter what variety it was; he said he didn't know, and would check, but guessed that it was wild.

Everyone else ordered meat, even J. They had a choice of a single cut of meat or all-you-can-eat variety; J ordered the former, M and C ordered the latter, and I'm not sure what my parents chose.

Another mishap was that when the waiter was placing my tea on the table, he tipped over a glass of water, spilling it onto my father's lap. Years ago, J did that on her first day as a waitress, and was offered a job in the kitchen instead.

The highlight of the place was a spectacular salad bar, with forty-some items. But as we were picking up plates, I got my next negative impression of the place: a large icky-looking bit of something stuck to one of the plates at the head of the salad bar. Yuck! I set it aside and looked carefully at the plate I chose.

The salad items were all good or great. I wish I had ordered just the salad, because it was surprisingly filling. Before long, waiters visited our table with various cuts of steak (and also offered chicken and lamb), and cut pieces for the others at the table.

My salmon took quite a while to arrive. The waiter hadn't told me what kind of salmon it was, so I asked again. He apologized and again said he'd check. It was presented beautifully on the plate, but it was overcooked and dried out. I usually use little or no lemon on my fish, but in this case I squeezed on a lot to salvage it. Before too long, the waiter returned and said that it was Atlantic salmon. (Atlantic salmon almost always means farmed.) I had pretty much guessed that already.

J later said that her steak was tough, so even ordering the place's featured cuisine wasn't a sure thing. C and M were enthusiastic about their food. My parents either got good food or were good sports about it.

When the main courses were all finished, the waiter offered dessert menus – again fewer than the number of us at the table. M and C shared her complimentary birthday dessert, a molten chocolate cake. J and I got one to share too; my parents shared a crème brûlée. The cakes were served with ice cream. The desserts were pretty decent, but by that point in the lunch they were a bit more food than we needed.

Anyway, I'm glad M had a nice birthday. But it would have been nice if the lunch had been better.

After the meal, J and I walked back toward where we parked, and were sucked into a stationary store. It was a much better customer experience. Their employees were really on the ball. I bought a fountain pen for $4.

This evening, J prepared a light dinner for us: salmon burgers on cheese bagels. I think the salmon burgers were better than my fancy restaurant salmon.

I spent a fair amount of time working on my musical composition. I had spent a lot of time searching for inspiration and studying various points of music theory, but tonight I wrote quite a bit, rather than just taking notes. I have six measures of introduction that I'm pretty happy with.

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