I had something to look forward to after two grueling weeks of school.  Juan came to visit for Thanksgiving!  On his first day here, we went home to Cupertino and feasted on my mother’s delicious cooking.  Which includes my favorite “mom dish:” stir fried shrimp in tomato sauce.  We spent the rest of the holiday in San Francisco where we walked through some pretty neighborhoods and I had an excuse to finally pull out my camera.

Our first destination was to the Mission District where I forced Juan to eat a taco with me at Pancho Villa Taqueria.  When he started licking the salsa verde off his plate, I knew that Mexican food has finally won him over.  Then we walked over to Clarion Alley where almost every inch of space is crammed with murals and street art.

These Koi fish are actually from a sidewalk near Mission Dolores.

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The old man picture on the left is one of my favorites.

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Looks like Escher’s “Relativity,” doesn’t it?

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I don’t really have to describe how beautiful the artwork was; it clearly speaks for itself.

We also tried a bunch of restaurants that were all great, but the one worth mentioning is Parada 22 in the Haight.  Few weeks ago when I discovered this small Puerto Rican eatery, I was super excited to take Juan there and see whether the food was legit.  And it was!  At least, Juan claims it actually tastes like his mom’s cooking.  If you ever try this place, order the Mofongo con Camarones.  The shrimp comes with a creamy garlic sauce that is to die for.

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I forgot how much I loved strolling through neighborhoods and taking pictures with Juan.  We covered a fair amount of ground.  Cupid’s Span and the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building (where they sell amazing flavored olive oil–perfect “grown-up” gifts!), North Beach and Russian Hill (to see the view from curvy Lombard street), Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, and then Chinatown for dinner.

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Fisherman’s Wharf.  We were tempted to buy some calamari, but we held out for dinner.  Instead, we amused ourselves at Musee Mecanique where they have the antique arcade machines (like Pong, Pac Man, and pinballs) and tons of those “fortune teller boxes” like Zoltar from Tom Hank’s “Big.” There went all our quarters.

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City Lights Bookstore is around the corner.  It’s sort of touristy and pricey, but worth browsing through if you like cozy independent bookstores with “San Francisco’s liberal flare.”

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Yes, we took a picture of Juan laying down with the bow and arrow in the background so that it looks like he’s getting pierced.

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I’m not a coffee connoisseur but Juan grew up on this stuff.  We visited Ritual Roasters (Mission), where Juan fell in love with the their “El Cipres,” which apparently is infused with citrus and carries no bitter aftertaste.  Not that my taste buds can discern such subtlety.  Blue Bottle Coffee at the Ferry Building tasted just like Peet’s, although that may be because the coffee at that location isn’t representative of the main Blue Bottle somewhere downtown.  And the Mojito Mint at Philz Coffee was MY favorite.  Juan bought three packs of their “Greater Alarm” light roast grounds to take back to Boston. 

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And finally, the best part about the holiday was cooking a meal together.  We made empanadas from scratch; I was in charge of the dough and Juan took care of the filling.  Even though we couldn’t get all the Latino ingredients, they still turned out fantastic.  We chose to bake these instead of frying them the traditional way, so they taste so much healthier.  Juan’s a miracle-worker when it comes to spicing up meat.  Mmm, can’t wait to make these again next month for Christmas.