Shake + Stir

Hosted at the annex kitchen

What happens when a Leo, a Cancer, a Gemini, a Pisces, an Aquarius, a Virgo, and a Libra get together? The instant chemistry between Ashley Hyatt, Nicole Giordano, Rae Pardini Matson, Caroline Bonadelle, sisters Barbara and Sammie Krikorian, and Kelly Amendola was enough to fool patrons of The Annex Kitchen that these ladies were girlfriends from high school that hadn’t seen each other in years… CVLUX’s Donna Kaczmarski kicked off the seventh installment of Shake+Stir by asking the women to share their zodiac sign as part of introductions—that explained a lot. Four cocktails and five appetizers later, an answer emerged: fast friends!

The dimly lit, wood-paneled restaurant is located on Shaw, where Van Ness extension begins, in Fresno. The Annex Kitchen features rustic, Italian-style cuisine, influenced by the seasonal offerings of farms throughout the Central Valley. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday, with a daily Happy Hour from 4-6 P.M. Guests will enjoy views of beautiful, old trees through the expansive windows (both of which line the establishment), and they can opt to sit at the bar, which runs the length of the restaurant.

First out, the Bee Keeper cocktail caused a stir for its outright summer-freshness. Venus Gin No. 01, St-Germain, lemon, lavender syrup, honey, orange bitters, and Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon soda come together to create what Ashley befittingly referred to as “a bubble bath for the tongue!”

Tequila more your fancy? Try The Dilbert. Dos Manos Tequila, Cointreau, and lime serve as the base, and just enough habanero syrup allows a little bit of after-bite, which is accompanied by a refreshing mix of muddled dill and cucumber for a Mexican-Californian flair. “That kick from the pepper is a fun, subtle surprise,” said Barbara of the aftertaste. 

If you aren’t a fan of asparagus, Annex’s Wood Grilled Local Asparagus will be the best effort at conversion you’ll even encounter. “It has so much flavor! It’s amazing!” Nicole couldn’t contain her excitement. The spears are topped with a warm gribiche sauce, then finished with a hefty sprinkling of smoked prosciutto breadcrumbs.

Someone asked what the creamy cheese being served with toasty bread was... “It’s burrata!” Caroline and David Manning, CVLUX Editor in Chief, simultaneously exclaimed with excitement, eliciting a reflexive laugh around the table. Annex’s take on bruschetta is comprised of creamy Burrata Mozzarella with Peperonata (theirs is best described as a hearty, savory jam featuring roasted bell peppers) served on grilled bread and finished with Jacobsen Sea Salt. Caroline revealed that this is one of her favorite things here. A crowd favorite, Barbara expressed that guests, like she, will “appreciate all the textures and flavors going on.”

Half of the ladies present identified with each other over the struggles of being working moms—all their children are young. But since Kelly is expecting her second little one, Annex’s bartender created a special mocktail (featuring blackberry and ginger) so she could still enjoy the camaraderie of drinks with the girls. “This is so good; tart and refreshing! It doesn’t taste like I’m missing out on anything!” Kelly mused.

Basically, the mocktail was a virgin Blackberry Bramble. “It’s summer in a cocktail,” declared Ashley, describing the Absolut Elyx Vodka, blackberry puree, lemon, simple syrup, and Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon soda mixture.

Annex’s Arancini are, essentially, crispy risotto balls filled with mozzarella and basil pesto, then served with tomato sauce. “They are truly what I crave here!” Nicole said of the breadcrumb-coated, fried spheres. I mean, what’s not to love?

Eyebrows soared when the marrow appetizer arrived, but Sammie offered to be the taste-tester without hesitation. “Gelatin…Smooth…Sweet…Silky…” she went on. “Buttery! That really is the best way I can describe it,” Sammie concluded the slew of adjectives. Wood Oven Roasted Bone Marrow naturally serves as a spread for Annex’s grilled bread, and is accompanied by pickled shallot with parsley salad and garlic confit. “I like bone broth, but I’m not sure about this,” Rae hesitated at first, but she was pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely different, but worth a try for any self-proclaimed foodie; remember, pretty much anything with garlic is good.

Annex’s Wood Fired Pizza list offers traditional pies with farm-fresh flair. The Puttanesca pizza uses a customary tomato sauce and mozzarella base, then stars house sausage, chilies, anchovy puree, olives, and leafy arugula. Rae gave everyone a good laugh when (upon seeing the pizza set on the table) her eyes grew to the size of tennis balls and she seemed to go into a trance until Donna offered to put a slice on her plate! 

The Flight of Fancy cocktail waves at being a Manhattan, but isn’t quite. A concoction of Eagle Rare 10 Year Bourbon, Armagnac Castarède, St. George Bruto Americano, and Dolin Rouge Vermouth is served in a coupe glass with a black cherry garnish. “This could run my car!” exclaimed Nicole. It’s definitely a sipper, but it also “has a very interesting finish,” Ashley followed-up—she is clearly a cocktail connoisseur, and obviously knows what she’s talking about!

Over the course of the evening’s conversation, the ladies compared everything from where they get their news and favorite bloggers, to makeup and skincare products they cannot live without. But amid the shop and kid talk, a theme runs through their day-to-day lives: positive outlook—that constant strive for happiness and choosing betterment. It’s clear that relationships and interaction are at the core of the human experience; food is a universal social experience, and dinner at The Annex Kitchen will certainly leave you, like these ladies, with a lasting memory.