Hello, my friends! I just photographed a wedding yesterday, and I am tiirrred. Luckily, I have a mini-stash of vegetarian and vegan tartlets from The Rogue Traders to keep me fed with a minimum of cooking as I chill at home a bit. I met with founder Wendy Testu over lunch the other day to talk about how she started the company, a little bit about her life and career journey, and stand-up paddling!
But first, the food. Wendy makes two savory tarts at the moment from organic, organically grown, and non-GMO ingredients. There’s the vegan and gluten free tartlet packed with beans, quinoa, onion, olives, sweet potato, kale, carrots, olive oil, bok choy, and garlic. And there’s the “French Style” tartlet with onion, kale, goat cheese, sweet potato, stone ground whole wheat flour, butter, carrots, corn flour, eggs, bok choy, sunflower seeds, and ground flaxseed. I tried both at the same time, just for you.
The Vegan + Gluten Free Tartlet
Obviously, this tartlet is wonderful if you’re vegan and GF, but if you’re not vegan, Wendy suggests adding some olive oil to a pan and cooking the tartlet over medium heat, with the lid covered. Toward the end, she likes to break an egg and add feta cheese to the tartlet for a savory garnish. I did that, but because I didn’t have feta cheese, I used Hungarian kashkaval, a young sheep’s milk cheese, instead. When I finally sat down to try it, I found it hearty and satisfying, thanks to all those beans, egg, and added cheese. It felt healthy, and packed with vegetables, which I loved. The ingredients felt high quality, too, which made my belly even happier.
The French Style Tartlet
I have to admit, this is the tartlet that drew me in when I first tasted Wendy’s tartlets. The crust is crispy and wholesome (maybe it’s because the germ and bran are included!), and the tart had an over all sweetness from the vegetables (but not too sweet). It felt more dainty than the rough and tumble bean and quinoa tart. I felt like I could serve it as an elegant side dish at a meal.
After first encountering beautiful, bright-eyed Wendy and her delicious tartlets at the Good Food Mercantile in January, I wanted to get to know her better, so we set a lunch date at Papito Hayes in Hayes Valley. Over queso fundido, tuna tartare, and jicama salad, she told me of growing up by Mount Shasta, her long career in the fashion design world, and of raising her daughter. Between the busyness of the latter two, she was always looking for ways to eat healthy and tasty meals with minimum prep times. She would prepare meals in advance and freeze them (after tasting the deliciousness of her tartlets, I wonder what she created when she had no restrictions at all!).
After leaving the fashion industry in the Bay Area, Wendy moved part-time up to her parents’ farm in Oregon, Greyback Farm. She decided she wanted to create something with her hands, to encourage happy, healthy meals, and to help busy people keep their sanity. Food was the answer. Wendy created her tartlets, using produce from Greyback Farm and surrounding small farms to make them. Even today, she makes her tartlets herself. Seeing how her company is quickly growing, maybe that will change!
I asked Wendy about how colorful her tartlets art, and she admitted it’s from her background and interests in fashion and art. She has created sculpture as well as clothing designs; it only makes sense that her food is beautifully presented! She arranges bright orange carrot rounds and tops them with herbs or sometimes flowers. Like any creative work, her tartlets are an outlet for expression, and she takes advantage of it. Check her Instagram for the full effect. ^_^
Pretty soon, our lunch was finished, but we were still chatting. We moved on to ice cream. Wendy asked if I had tasted Miette’s crème fraîche ice cream sandwiches (I hadn’t), and I asked if she had tasted Smitten ice cream (she hadn’t). We were off, and we loved our double ice cream date.
Over ice cream after ice cream, we talked about what we like to do when we’re not thinking about food. Wendy recharges on her stand up paddleboard, which she takes out at Half Moon Bay to do SUP yoga, sun herself, and take in nature. No wonder her company logo is filled with waves! I’ve been getting back into hiking—every week, I try to get at least one 7-10 mile hike in, even if it’s just around the Presidio and beaches of San Francisco. With that on top of my love of the arts and design, I guess it’s really not surprising that I would love the total aesthetic, organic, and flavor package The Rogue Traders offers!
If you would like to order some of The Rogue Traders’ amazing tartlets, order them on her website or visit Other Avenues in San Francisco. As of right now, she only sells on the west coast, but I expect that will change soon!
Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your creative and epicurean gifts with me!
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