Photo: Christian Rodriguez
Annie Shi is one third of the trio behind King, the two-year-old Soho bistro that’s a lesson in living well. While her partners Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt run the kitchen (and have received significant praise for their cooking), the Queens native is the one who ensures you have a good time and drink well. When she wasn’t indulging in her anchovy habit at King this week, she found herself out for spring rolls with high-school friends, snacking on cheese samples at H Mart, and celebrating Christmas Eve with beer over ice and hot pot. Read all about it in this week’s Grub Street Diet.
Thursday, December 20
I’ll preface this diary by saying that mornings are not my strong suit, but one of my life’s aspirations is to be a morning person. That is not yet the case, so I woke up on Thursday and grabbed a watermelon-flavored Perrier before I ran out the door.
We had a morning meeting in the Financial District and I had a delicious oat-milk flat white from Black Fox before we toured James Kent’s soon to be opened restaurants. I love seeing restaurant construction sites — I think envisioning what a restaurant will look like, how it’s going to operate, and being able to materialize the potential of a space are the most exciting parts of opening a restaurant.
After that, we got back to King where I made myself a double espresso before I started preparing for lunch service. At around noon, my stomach was in full rebellion so I grabbed a few crusty nubbins of bread from the kitchen, which I dipped in our zuppa di cavalo nero. Also some crostino with bottarga butter. I know it’s weird, but bottarga or anchovy butter on toast is truly my preferred breakfast or lunch snack.
I was training our barista behind the bar, and unfortunately Thursday lunch ended up being a crazy crazy pre-holiday service with lots of cocktails being ordered. I always taste any cocktail I make to make sure I didn’t botch it, so I had bar spoonfuls of Calvados and cider, the delicious spritz that we’re serving for the winter, Plymouth martinis (served up with no vermouth! It was basically tasting straight gin at noon), Moscow mules, and lots of Savart Champagne for a large party in the front bar room. I drank a liter bottle of sparkling water while I closed out lunch reports to combat all those sips.
I was trying to make it out on time to do some holiday shopping, but before I knew it, family meal was served, and I was starving, so I had a piece of sirloin dipped in its resting juices and rosemary, a spoonful of chickpeas, and a few sprigs of watercress. There was also a really amazing cheese toasty made with our leftover Il Noci cheese.
It started pouring near the end of my errands, so I called an Uber Pool back to my apartment. The route ended up being one of those obnoxiously inconvenient ones that dropped me far enough away that I might as well have walked. I decided to stop in at Lupe’s as my own form of protest and because I was still cold and wet. It’s a regular spot of mine, and great to have in the neighborhood. I drank a rumchata (if you haven’t had one … run, don’t walk!) and had a cheese quesadilla with lots of El Yucateco habanero hot sauce and rice and beans.
I felt a little weird from how much hot sauce I consumed at dinner, so I took my Good Girl probiotic pills before I went to bed.
Friday, December 21
Again, I woke up and grabbed a bottle of strawberry Perrier before I ran out the door. I recognize that these are slightly unusual sparkling water flavors, but my boyfriend, Oliver, really wanted to try them so here we are. We had the citrus ones, like grapefruit and orange, and he was very insistent on doing something new.
I was delighted to see that my morning meeting was right next to a Toby’s Estate, which is one of my favorite coffee chains in New York. After the meeting, I had a drip coffee (the man asked me if I wanted Brooklyn, Ethiopian, Kenyan, or Venezuelan. Is that a normal question to be asked at a coffee shop these days??) and an egg and avocado toast.
I was off, but I wanted to put away some wine orders and check in with our new manager so I stopped by the restaurant where I inevitably made myself a double espresso. Our espresso machine is calibrated only to make doubles so unfortunately anytime I drink a coffee at King, which is 90 percent of my coffee consumption, it’s a double espresso.
During lunch, I had a snack of some broken pieces of our carta di musica with the new oil we got from Cappezzana and lots of Maldon salt. Our printer was down so I had to run a few things over to FedEx to get printed. On the way back, I picked up blueberry vanilla protein smoothie from Juice Press and a Clean Green for my boyfriend. He’s never had Juice Press and it was 50 percent of our diet in year one of King, so I felt like it was important he try it out.
After lunch, I went home to tackle some winter cleaning. I’d been reading Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and was inspired to try my hand at organizing all my clothes. She recommends you take out every single item of clothing you have and lay it out all around you as a starting point. I was so overwhelmed by the mountains of clothes that I had about three pots of Genmaicha tea.
That evening, I had dinner with a few of my best friends from high school, who were in town for the holidays. We went to Bricolage in Brooklyn, where I had the best spring rolls in recent memory. They’re something I usually order even if they’re not often good in New York.
We also had lots of papaya salad, shishito peppers, and all shared the duck cassoulet, shrimp clay pot, and peekytoe crab glass noodles, along with a bottle of Assyrtiko wine.
Two of my friends had just gotten engaged and their fiancés were with them, so we decided to make a night of it and ventured out after dinner, which is not something I’ve done in a long time. We showed up at Union Hall where we immediately ran into another high-school friend. I went to a tiny all-girls’ school (I transferred from public school through this really amazing program) and the frequency with which I see Brearley alums is disproportionate to the number of us out there.
We all felt slightly too old and out of place there — it was super-crowded, there was no place to move — so we quickly finished our beer and relocated to Blueprint down the street. That felt a lot better, and I had two cocktails there. The first was the Marksman, which reminded me of something that would be on our cocktail menu. It had apple brandy, pear liqueur, and allspice dram, and tasted appropriately festive. My second cocktail was a rye-based twist on a Manhattan. In hindsight, I definitely didn’t need that one.
Saturday, December 22
I was immensely hungover, which didn’t make a lot of sense and was highly unfortunate because I was on a double. Again, a strawberry Perrier to start the day.
As soon as I got into King, I made myself a double espresso. It didn’t help all that much, so I had another one along with a chocolate crinkle cookie that our sous chef had baked and brought in.
The kitchen took pity on me at the end of lunch service and made me a plate of carta with anchovy butter and Italian chili, as well as a square of the pissaladiere that just came out of the oven. If you’ve never had pissaladiere, you haven’t lived. It’s a savory puff pastry tart with caramelized onions and a lattice of anchovies dotted with olives and marjoram. It’s one of my favorite foods in the world, and makes me think that maybe anchovies are the solution to hangovers. I didn’t realize how much I eat anchovies until I did this!
Family meal that day was penne with tomato sauce, which I ate too much of, as well as a few spoonfuls of smashed coco blanc.
Sunday, December 23
My boyfriend and I woke up starving after a late night binge of Friday Night Lights, so we made some fried rice with the leftovers in the fridge which we had with more strawberry Perrier. (I know I’m five years — okay, ten years late to this show.) I mostly cook Chinese home food at home. My parents are from China, and my mom cooked every meal at home, every single night growing up. When I went to private school, a lot of assimilating to it was this exploration of this food world that I had never experienced before. I remember I had a bagel for the first time, and people were shocked I had never had one before.
Later that night, I met up with a friend at the bar at King, and we shared the panisse, finochietta, and anchovy grissini, as well as the winter leaf salad with fresh ricotta and walnuts, and the poached trout. I drank a few glasses of my favorite wines on our by-the-glass list, as well as a few glasses that were off the list.
My boyfriend came over after work and we shared a bottle of Eaue de Pluie from Closel that was delicious.
Monday, December 24
I was meeting my parents in the afternoon to drive out to Scarsdale for Christmas. While I tidied my apartment (KonMari style), I made myself leftover Singapore chow fun doctored with Thai bird’s-eye chili and soy sauce.
Later, my parents and I shopped at Costco and H Mart, which is my all-time favorite grocery store chain in the world. It’s the best-executed supermarket I’ve seen. You can’t find fish this fresh at regular supermarkets.
My dad and I shared a Mexican coke and cheese samples as we shopped. At home, we made ourselves snacks while we prepped for dinner. We had pigs in a blanket with Coleman’s mustard (the best mustard), some sweet soppressata salami and pecorino, and a bowl of Lay’s original chips. Also, a bowl of edamame. The beer we bought wasn’t cold enough yet, so I poured it over some ice. My boyfriend is really into beer, so I felt very self-conscious, and I know it’s weird and sacrilegious but whatever: it’s more acceptable than drinking warm beer. And unlike warm beer, it was actually deliciously refreshing.
Halfway through the day, I realized that the headache that I had been experiencing was caffeine withdrawal — I always forget to drink coffee if I’m not at the restaurant! My mom made a pot of Pu’er tea in the afternoon.
Christmas Eve dinner was hot pot, which is one of my favorite things to have at home. It’s a celebratory meal for us. I love variety and I love condiments and nothing gives you that more than hot pot. We had bowls of sugar snap peas, enoki mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and daikon radish, as well as bean sprouts, watercress, bok choy and escarole. Also some plates of rice cakes, really thinly sliced lamb, cockles, and fillets of catfish that I had cut up wafer thin. My mother made a chicken broth with about ten heads of garlic and an entire piece of ginger and loads of winter melon, and we poached all of our food in it.
One of the best parts of hot pot is that you get to make your own sauce. My sauce of choice that night was a combination of sesame paste, sha cha jiang (I really don’t know what that is in English!), Lao Gan Ma chili oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and a handful of diced cilantro.
We drank a bottle of Penfold’s shiraz which I knocked over onto our cream carpet near the end of dinner. It was the inkiest, most pigmented red wine. Of all the things to spill, it was that. It was a pretty terrible way to end dinner, but to be honest I’m surprised it took me three years to drop something on it. I am the klutz of the family, although my dad is, too.
I spent the next hour trying to stain remove with my dad. I ate bites of Van Leeuwen Sicilian pistachio ice cream while we waited for the stain remover to do its magic. I can’t believe I did that! It made me feel like a kid again.