Tart Cart

Interview by Ashley Carpenter
Issue 46 • December 2016 • Fredericksburg

Her need for convenient, vegan, gluten-free food shaped the menu, but her eye-catching presentation made these snacks beautiful.

Georgia Rathje's Tart Cart brings refreshingly raw, sustainable, and beautiful creations to staple wholesalers in Fredericksburg’s historic downtown district. Some may recognize her as the Granola Girl or Tart Cart Lady from the area's seasonal Farmer's Market where she launched her line of gourmet, naturally-made sweets and savories just two years ago. These fresh, wholesome delights are as gorgeous as they are nutritious.

What inspired you to start Tart Cart?

I started out small at the Fredericksburg Farmer's Market with the idea of taking it day by day, just to see where it led me. Due to dietary restrictions at the time, I was one-hundred percent vegan and gluten-free. I spent a lot of time preparing food for myself that met these requirements, researching all-natural, wholesome ingredients and flavors that were interesting to me.

It is difficult to find “grab-and-go” food that is healthy or not packed with refined sugars and processed ingredients. I've always been a foodie and I love good and beautiful food. Going out sometimes, you feel like a pain asking, "Is there butter in that?" "What can I take out of this so I can eat it?" I understand that a chef may not want to alter their recipe. They want to make it the way they envision it and you don't want to mess with that.

At the market, I wanted to offer items that were convenient to travel with and accessible, simple lunch options to go. My first day at market was a mess and I almost felt out of my element, but it clicked when I saw someone walking down the street eating my food. I thought, “This is why I'm doing this.” It was the best feeling! I spent time reaching out to businesses that I frequent (many local businesses also reached out to me) offering to sell Tart Cart around town. Hyperion Espresso was my first big venture which really launched my brand. There, I currently deliver fresh seasonal salads, energizing granola bars, and cookies on a weekly basis.

Georgia’s crème cakes.

How do you decide which recipes to feature?

If I wouldn't eat it or it doesn't quite meet my standards, I won't sell it. I try to keep everything as nutritional as possible with clean, energizing ingredients like chia seeds, hemp seeds, nuts, agave nectar, coconut palm sugar, and maple syrup, with no artificial flavors.

For additional protein and an energy boost, I eat the bars or use them as granola almost every day. They all have the same base ingredients with great benefits, I just switch it up with different flavors. Life is all about balance and I try to keep that as my focus when offering others nourishing and convenient meal options. My food must be delicious, promote health and energy, be simple and raw, and of course it must be beautiful!

What’s in store for the future?

I've been keeping busy so far! Starting small, I've learned a lot along the way. Starting your own business, mostly as a one-woman show, is difficult. I like to go with the flow and Fredericksburg is a great community for support. They really enjoy my food and help to spread the word. Interested in maintaining the balance of personal growth and career growth, I am often trying to figure out the next step. As of right now, I work from home with only one other employee, Ryan, my granola guy. Finding my own commercial kitchen would allow me to branch out the most. It is busy, exciting, and I want to expand—not too big—to reach more businesses that I love and who love Tart Cart. For now, we're putting the finishing touches on our newest project with Forage clothing boutique, hoping to have the two new featured granola bars in the shop for December.

Where can we find Tart Cart in Fredericksburg?

Georgia’s Goes with Everything Salad Dressing

Ingredients
1 tsp kosher salt
2 garlic cloves
zest of 2 lemons
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
3 tsp agave nectar
parmesan, freshly grated (optional)

Mash garlic cloves with salt until a thick paste forms. Move paste to mason jar, then add lemon zest, agave, olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan. Shake well until combined, then spoon over salad to taste.

Follow Tart Cart online at facebook.com/tartcartgourmet.

Photography by Mike Lesnick

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