Sep 28, 2015
words by Tonia Trotter / photos by Rugged and Fancy
I am and have always been a girls' girl to the core. Nothing makes me feel more in my element than a good old fashioned girls' night. True friends aren't always easy to come by, especially as you grow older and your schedules tend to revolve around your families... and especially if you relocate to a city that is anywhere other than where your girls are.
Two years ago I packed up and moved my little family from Nashville, Tennessee to Birmingham, Alabama. I felt isolated and desperate to recreate the close female friendships I had cultivated in my twenties in Music City. It took some work and going out on a limb to find my people here, but I am now incredibly happy and thankful for the women who I have come to call my friends here. They're smart, interesting, funny, genuinely kind and authentic.
Julia Child famously proclaimed, "People who love to eat are always the best people."
Since I always insist on being friends with the best people, it goes without saying that a passion for good food is definitely a common interest within my crew. I love to cook for my friends and family, and I often get requests for Korean dishes since they aren't exactly common in the land of cornbread and fried chicken. Don't misunderstand, I really love those things, too. This past Sunday marked not only a significant lunar event (so I have heard) but also Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving and, most importantly, a rare evening that all my girlfriends had a free night without their babies and husbands.
THIS fact alone warranted a celebration. And since I am especially grateful for these friends this year, it was the perfect opportunity to host a Korean-themed girls' night in!
Traditionally, you'd eat rice cakes on Chuseok, but since I am only half Korean and was raised in the land of fried okra and sweet potato pie, I decided to prepare some of my personal favorite foods that I know are beyond foolproof.
I'm a firm believer that all celebrations call for champagne, so we ladies kicked the party off with some "YEOWANGS." Korean for QUEEN, the Yeowang signature cocktail is a lychee-orange libation topped with a little bubbly.
Following cocktails and chatting, we gathered around the table. The tablescape was a gold and soft blue theme with an eclectic contemporary vibe and key Korean details. I combined some tradition from my own Vera Wang china and cut crystal and everyday glasses with some of the amazing new pieces from West Elm.
I made my mom's Yaki-Mandu, a pork and veggie dumpling that is pan-fried and steamed, sauteed Bulgogi, thin strips of steak marinated in a sweet, savory and slightly spicy marinade. As a Southern nod, I served a cooked seaweed and spinach salad to serve as a bed of greens.
For the second course I prepared my all-time favorite Korean dish Naengmyeon, a chilled buckwheat noodle soup. I set up a DIY bar of noodle bowl toppings, including daikon radish kimchi (made by mother and tightly sealed and double bagged until serving on account of the, ahem, strong odor), hard boiled eggs, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, chopped green onions, red pepper and sesame seeds. Chopsticks optional.
For dessert, red bean popsicles were a hit. Popsicles can absolutely be a grown up treat when served alongside a stemless wine glass. You don't have to worry about slurps and drips when you can simply place the pop in your glass. The final touch was a cup of hot ginger and rosebud tea that paired beautifully with the red bean popsicles and served as that final moment to relax with my girls and pour over funny stories, in-depth discussions on style, motherhood, new reads and TV indulgences.
Around that table and over that meal, we five women shared bonding moments over personal struggles and achievements, and maybe a couple moments of over-sharing, too. (Of course there was plently of that. We are girlfriends.)
The night ended later than expected and definitely past all of our bedtimes, and it made me feel like the night was a great success. I cleaned up and floated to bed on a cloud of garlic and wine with a full belly, a full heart and a very thankful spirit. It was indeed a happy Chuseok.
RECIPE: YAKI-MANDU (PORK DUMPLINGS)
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Drop a small spoonful of stuffing in gyoza skin. Dampen edge of skin with water, fold and press edges together.
Pan fry uncovered with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil until golden brown on one side (about five minutes) on medium heat.
Carefully add 1/2 cup of water to the pan. (CAUTION: the water may pop!) and quickly cover to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
FOR DIPPING SAUCE:
Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and ground red pepper to taste.
To follow Tonia Trotter's adventures in food, fashion, motherhood and more, click here. This was not a sponsored post, though the fine folks at West Elm at the Summit loaned us some beautiful items for the night, including the chargers, votives, table centerpiece, prep bowls, table runner, branches and berries.