You might not suspect it from the outside, but a dainty old house in downtown Rochester is home to two bustling foodie businesses with big appeal for kids.
Busy mompreneur Tonia Carsten has hosted themed youth teas – in addition to grown-up events – at Tonia’s Victorian Rose Tea Room & More since she bought the business a year ago on Jan. 9, along with Rata2ee, where kids learn to cook.
For Carsten, who has 12-year-old twins, it all began during a random vacuuming moment in late summer 2014, just days after she waved goodbye to corporate life at a big IT firm. Her future plan rang “so hard it was like a bell,” she says. “Open a cooking school for kids!”
Rata2ee, an after-school program, launched the following January with 37 students. The kids learn to prepare meals, yes, but they also master nutrition label fluency, become antioxidant savvy, conquer gardening 101 and build teamwork skills. Summer camps also aim to teach children holistic healthy living and fun recipes at various local schools.
Seeking a Rata2ee headquarters, Carsten moved into a tea room a year ago, after the long-time owner retired. She also now serves luscious Downton Abbey-style afternoon teas with finger sandwiches, scones, tarts and cakes, plus a hearty menu of crepes, soups, salads and potpies.
But her over-the-top meals, increasingly geared at kids and teens, take this 38-seat restaurant to a new level. “Creative themed dinners really allow me to utilize my strengths,” says Carsten. “Our Harry Potter dinner was awesome,” from the Dumbledore’s Ear Wax Crème Brulee to the Polyjuice Potion.
This year, watch for Game of Thrones, Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland dinners, plus a Sound of Music singalong – cosplay welcome.
Rata2ee offers classes for beginners in grades 1-4 and advanced kids in grades 5-9, along with lessons for older teens and adults. January and February, held at the tea room, will bring two new series focused on “healthy meals” and “etiquette.”
Try Rata2ee’s healthy cauliflower mash recipe for yourself. Here’s the scoop on how to prepare this dish.
Four servings in about 20 minutes
- 1 medium head cauliflower
- 1 Tbsp. cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp. fresh or dry chives
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a stockpot, boil water over high heat.
- Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces, then cook in boiling water for about six minutes, or until very tender. Drain well.
- While still warm, pat cooked cauliflower dry between several layers of paper towel.
- With an immersion blender, puree cauliflower with the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until almost smooth.
- Garnish with chives and serve hot with butter.