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Sep 28, 2015

FOOD FOR THE SEOUL: Celebrating Korean Thanksgiving

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. 


  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped Chinese cabbage
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 2 stalks chopped green onions
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 package round Gyoza skins

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. 


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. 

CommentsCategories community food Tags west elm dinner party tonia trotter rugged and fancy korean thanksgiving chuseok yeowang pork dumpling recipe easy korean recipes

Sep 11, 2015


I love Tonia Trotter. We met via Instagram shortly after she moved to Birmingham from Nashville. We bonded over simultaneous pregnancy, glamour and art. She's a gallerist/curator on sabbatical after having her second child. We go to yoga together, text each other OMG photo moments of both Porter magazine photo spreads and ridiculous baby stuff, and we encourage my son Tennessee and her daughter Elise to kiss each other while we take pictures. Yeah, I know that sounds creepy and will expire in appropriateness very soon. 

Tonia is no stranger to Rugged and Fancy either. You can read her Korean beauty secrets here and if you're so obsessed with what she's obsessed with, you can check out what she was into last Summer here

PHOTO: Kenslie McGuire for Soca Clothing.


EATING// Noodle bowls. So easy, versatile and perfect for picky kids or entertaining. I prepare lots of toppings and everyone can make their own. My fave combo is buckwheat noodles in beef broth with kimchi, chopped kale, radishes, hardboiled egg and lots of green onions.

DRINKING// Very little alcohol. After two years of pregnancy and subsequent nursing, I have become such a lightweight! I can catch a buzz off of half a glass of wine these days! Since a full night of sleep isn't guaranteed with two munchkins, I've eschewed booze during the week for quality rest. I drink kombucha or herbal tea instead. On the weekends, I'll sip on a glass of Four Roses bourbon, Trim Tab's Raspberry Berliner Weisse, or Montinore Estate's Pinot Noir.

READING// All the September issues! I've devoured them every year since I was 13! Also, Judd Apatow's "Sick in the Head." I'm a sucker for a funny guy, and I have a girl crush on his wife, Leslie Mann.

LISTENING// Jenny Lewis, The Mavericks, Moon Taxi, Elle King, The Weeknd, Fetty Wap.

PRACTICING// Yoga. I've practiced on and off for a decade and have amazingly maintained my status as "beginner." I decided to step it up this summer- practicing 3-5 times/week, attending classes and pushing myself into more advanced poses and the ones I tended to avoid in the past because I always fell over. I would still describe myself as a novice, but I can feel myself getting stronger with every practice.

MASTERING// Dressing with purpose. I committed to the capsule collection movement this summer and have loved it! I enjoy having a uniform. I feel like I have such a better understanding of my style and how to compliment my body type than I did in my clotheshorse 20s. 

WORKING// I have been so fortunate to have been able to take some time off with my daughter. I took a year off when my son was born too, but that proved to be a difficult time financially and ultimately not as stress-free as I intended it to be. This time, we are a little older and more stable and have been able to live comfortably off og my husband's income, due to his hard work and keen budgeting. He has been immensely supportive of my staying at home with the kids, although sometimes, I wish we could trade places! I am definitely feeling ready to get back to work but am carefully considering what I want to do and how to balance it with motherhood. My background is in fine art, design, marketing and public relations, and I am always drawn to the creative. 

TRAVELING// My bottle-shunning 16-months old is nearly weaned, and I can't wait to go away for a few adult-only weekend trips! The Gulf Coast, Nashville, New York and Auburn are on the docket for this Fall.

DREAMING// Of a second honeymoon. My husband and I will celebrate our 10 year anniversary next year, and we are planning a romantic getaway. We're debating whether we want pampering or adventure. 

FEELING// Liberated! I have both kids in preschool a few days a week and finally feel like I'm not drowning in motherhood. I actually feel ike a kinder, more engaged mom because I've had some time to myself. 

PLAYING// Explorers with my kids. We live on a river with lots of incredible plants and wildlife exclusive to our area. We are always hiking, fishing, canoeing, skipping rocks and digging for fossils. It's so fun to watch them develop a love for science!

MAKING// Chai and matcha lattes with coconut milk, banana bread and pumpkin quinoa waffles with cashew butter, sliced apples or figs and local honey. Basically anything that tastes like Fall!

WANTING// Cooler temps and some kick-ass Fall boots. I'm drooling over Chloe's knee-high "Susanna" shit-kickers, because you can take the girl outta Nashville, but not the Nashville outta the girl.

Follow Tonia's adventures in life, art, fashion and family @toniatrotter

CommentsCategories ESSENTIALS Tags tonia trotter rugged and fancy fall essentials 2015 chloe susanna knee boots

Jun 16, 2014

Essential Summer 2014: Tonia Trotter

These Essential Summer lists are some of my favorite posts we do. It gives me a better glimpse into the lives of people I admire and just generally gets me even more excited about this Summer. Today's Essential Summer comes from Tonia Trotter, former gallerist, current domestic goddess, epicurian enthusiast and dancing queen. Tonia and I connected via Instagram as we carried babies at the same time and admired each other's impeccable tastes. And she's wickedly funny, too. Check out and follow Tonia on Instagram (@toniatrotter).

Eating/ Salads galore! This rainy summer has been good for my herb garden so far. I've been tossing tons of basil and mint in with micro greens, my fave seasonal fruits (peaches, watermelon and figs) and goat cheese from Stone Hollow Farmstead. I eat some combo of this every day.

Drinking/ Everything! Just kidding. Tequila, St Germain, sweet tea, muddled peaches and basil. I'm calling it "Tequila Mockingbird." Rose with dinner. Vision Cellars and Belle Glos are my faves right now.

Practicing/ Patience- with my family and myself. With a toddler, a newborn and a type A personality, that isn't easy. 

Mastering/ Living on very, very little sleep (see aforementioned newborn).

Learning/ To let go. It's okay if my home isn't constantly magazine spread ready because there are toys scattered on my living room floor. It's okay if my body isn't immediately snapping back into pre-baby shape a la Gisele Bundchen. It's okay if I take a hiatus from my career to embrace this season of motherhood with two little ones. This is my current mantra.

Trying/ Ballet, a bob haircut, to cuddle with my husband when the kids are asleep.

Playing/ First Aid Kit, Local Natives, St Paul and the Broken Bones, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 for pool days and early 90s hip hop. Whenever it comes on the radio, I can't help but start dancing. It's an automatic response.

Reading/ Not much right now. Skimming the news is about the best I can do with a one month old. Blogs on my iPhone at 3am while I'm nursing.

Remembering/ To be thankful.

Wearing/ Flats and anything floaty, linen and/or white. Insect repellant. Alabama summertime is no joke, y'all. 

Cooking/ Simple salads, cous cous with mint and dried apricots, roasted chicken or fish overstuffed with herbs and citrus fruit.

Working/ On building our new house. I'm playing designer. It's fun but harder than I thought!

Traveling/ The lake, the Gulf and my old stomping grounds Nashville to visit friends.

Wanting/ A deep tissue massage and eight hours of sleep.

Want more of the Essential Summer lists? You can find them here

CommentsCategories community ESSENTIALS Tags essential summer 2014 summer 2014 summer must haves tonia trotter