Elinor (left) and Evelyne (right) in matching crazy-prints!
After attending a few in-store parties at Presidio Heights shop Eel & Ermine, we assumed that owners Elinor Diamond and Evelyne Aikman would know how to throw-down in a major way off-the-clock, as well. And, boy, were we right! The mega-adorable boutique owners and designers, who met while working at a local bakery, invited us to one of their homes and shared all the key ingredients for achieving dinner-party success. Bonus: It went down around the Season 9 premiere of Project Runway! Check out all the adorableness that ensued (naturally, guests wore stunning Eel & Ermine garb!), find out more about the duo behind the boutique and label, and get their secret recipes after the jump. Who’s ready to party?!
The "Intern! Bring me a Campari!" cocktail: 2 parts Campari, 1 part gin, a splash of fresh orange juice and soda.
You guys seem to have so much in common. How did you meet?
Elinor: “We met while working at a bakery here in San Francisco, and over the last few years, we've definitely discovered a lot of similarities. We both studied art, our birthdays are one day apart, and our families even have some interesting parallels. The most striking thing by far is that we both (independently, before ever meeting each other) faked having broken arms to avoid working at our waitressing jobs. In both cases, each of us skipped work in order to attend events with our boyfriends. Now, we've each been married to these guys for almost four years.”
The delectable spread, including zucchini and goat-gouda quichelets, bacon-jalapeno biscuits with tomato jam, orange-glazed crullers, and zucchini cupcakes with fresh ginger and goat cheese buttercream.
When did you guys decide to launch Eel & Ermine?
Elinor: “We don't remember exactly, but one day in 2009, we found ourselves discussing the creation of not just our own clothing line, but of our ideal shopping experience. We began with the modest hope of making a few online sales, but it turned into a full-time design studio and retail store. Once we found a location, everything else fell into place quickly. A few bits of paperwork, some paint, baked treats for customers, a few bottles of prosecco, and we were in business!”
The hosts and their pretty guests, all decked out in Eel & Ermine wares.
How would you describe Eel & Ermine style?
Elinor: “User-friendly! Since we make everything ourselves, we can provide our customers with the luxury of a great fit and personalized details that make wearing our designs easy. We're always excited to see our clothes on their new owners, because that's when the clothes really take on their final style. And we're surprised daily by the diversity of our clientele. It's such a cool experience to see how each person fills and transforms their Eel & Ermine piece into something uniquely their own. We want our clients to enjoy getting dressed and understand their own body shape and personal style. So, if we make any alterations, we always explain what we're tweaking and why, so that our ladies can make better clothing and fit decisions with other retailers, too.”
Is there anything better than Tim Gunn's worried face projected five-feet tall? We think not.
What elements do you think make a great party?
Evelyne: “People are the most important element. If you're with fun people, you will have a good time no matter what. If that falls through, then you'd better have good food! But you should have good food, anyway. It's also pretty important to have a good open space where all of your fabulous company can mingle and snack in comfort. Flowers are an easy and lovely way to enhance said space, and if you aren't screening Project Runway or hiring circus performers, then you should have great music and great lighting to suit the mood.”
The cute ladies play mixologists.
What’s the most unforgettable party you’ve been to?
Elinor: “My wedding! We had a cocktail hour before the ceremony, and guests could sip their drink while watching our nuptials. Amazing lighting, food, cocktails, and a New Orleans brass band put everyone into a great party mood. We also provided transportation to and from the event, so our guests could really let loose.”
Evelyne: “Probably my mother's 60th birthday party. My siblings are scattered all over, so we're rarely all together, and when we are, it's quite an event. We all met up the night before and knocked on our parents' door at six in the morning. Obviously, it was quite a surprise! Then, we all made a bunch of food and had a party under the big maple tree in my parents' front yard.”
Let the drinking begin!
What were your ideas going into this great Project Runway-celebrating party?
Evelyne: “Definitely food first! The decor we kind of figured out using whatever we had between the shop and our homes, but the food we thought about ahead of time, because we both love to cook and bake and make drinks! And we think most people like to be involved with good edibles and drinkables at a party.”
Who’s your fave Project Runway host?
Evelyne: “Michael Kors. He's very funny, with a dry sense of humor, but not too mean. And he's a designer, so we imagine it might be a little easier to take criticism from him.”
Getting down to business in the kitchen (left); Elinor enjoying the fruits of their labor (right).
Would you ever want to compete on Project Runway?
Evelyne: “Only if we could do it as a team! Most of the challenges seem so stressful, and though we are used to having deadlines, it's quite another thing to have a deadline while competing. So, backup would be essential! It would also be pretty tough to be on camera throughout, so it would be great to be able to tag out whenever one of us were on the verge of embarrassing ourselves on national television!”
Any early Project Runway winner predictions?
Evelyne: “Bert! Not just because he won the first challenge...”
Elinor: “I still think there's a sleeper in the pack. It would be too obvious for one of the early front-runners to win. And Bert may be hindered by old habits.”
And on to the recipes!
Bacon-Jalapeno Biscuits With Tomato Jam
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 stick chilled salted butter, plus more for greasing baking sheet
1 cup milk
2-3 small jalapenos, finely diced
4-5 strips cooked bacon, coarsely chopped
1 carton cherry tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
1 handful chopped basil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the biscuits: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Generously butter a baking sheet (this makes the bottoms extra-crispy and delicious!). Mix flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Use a pastry knife to cut in butter until you have a consistency of coarse meal. Mix in jalapenos and bacon. Stir in milk until mixture mostly clumps together. Turn onto lightly floured surface, and gently knead together until dough forms a ball. Don't over-handle. Roll out to 3/4-inch thickness and cut with three-inch round cutter. Place on the prepared baking sheet and cook until biscuits are golden-brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.
For the jam: In a medium-sized saucepan bring all the ingredients to a boil , and simmer until much of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has reached a thick, "jammy" consistency. Cool.
Note: The jam can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, but the biscuits are best served straight out of the oven.
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Orange Glaze Ingredients:
Fresh orange juice
For the cruellers: Cut out 12 four-inch squares of aluminum foil, and generously grease on one side of each square. Place them on a baking sheet. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup water with the shortening, sugar, and salt. Bring to a full boil, and stir to make sure the shortening has melted. Remove from heat, add the flour all at once, and beat with a wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until the pastry is smooth and shiny. Beat in orange zest. Put dough in a pastry bag (or a Ziplock with a corner cut off), and pipe circles onto the greased foil. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. In a heavy pot, heat two to three inches of canola oil to 370°F. Drop two to three doughnuts at a time into the hot oil and cook for five minutes each, turning once or twice, until puffed and golden. Remove and discard foils. Carefully remove doughnuts with tongs and let drain on paper bags. When doughnuts are cool enough to touch, dredge through the orange glaze. Let them sit until the glaze sets.
For the glaze: Mix the powdered sugar with the orange juice, adding the juice a little at a time until you get your desired consistency. It should easily coat the back of a spoon, not too thick, not too runny.
Photos by Carolina Ramirez