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edible Monterey Bay Summer 2015

EDIBLE ARTISAN Kiln to Kitchen From a studio and gallery overlooking the sea, Dark Horse Pottery of Davenport offers fine vessels for fine food By Kathryn McKenzie Photography by Michelle Magdalena Ceramic artist Joel Magen says he’s not a wealthy man, but he’s rich in the things that matter. At his Dark Horse Pottery studio and gallery in Davenport— where he welcomes the public on weekends—he shapes and fires pieces that are both useful and beautiful, taking inspiration from his ocean view while he works. Friends, family and surfing provide additional sources of happiness. One of the things that means the most to him is seeing people serving and eating from his handmade tableware. “It’s amazing,” he says of seeing his life’s work swoop by in the hands of wait staff at Ristorante Avanti, an Italian eatery on Santa Cruz’s West Side. “It’s very fulfilling, to see that silhouette I like, with pasta nestled inside and steam coming off of it.” The idea that handcrafted food deserves to be offered on lovingly made dishes is one that’s taken off in the past few years, hand in hand with the farm-to-table movement. Slow food, meet slow tableware. (See our story on Annieglass, EMBWinter 2014.) 58 edible monterey bay Summer 2015 Magen’s ceramics have long been sought out by foodies as well as collectors because of the way they marry functionality with an Asian aesthetic. And although many fine dining establishments are just now discovering handcrafted tableware, it’s nothing new for Magen, who has been creating serving bowls, vases and other items for Monterey Bay restaurants for years. He’s been making his living as a potter for three decades, and has been in Davenport almost as long. He began making pieces for Ristorante Avanti almost 20 years ago, and continues to make specialty pieces such as a serving dish for gnocchi, which Magen describes as “a flat green pasta bowl,” a shape that has evolved over the years to make it the ideal showcase: “When it goes by, you think, ‘What’s in that bowl?’” Restaurants are moving away from using traditional white porcelain for a number of reasons—not only do the textures and colors of handmade ceramics set off the food better, restaurants can also get exactly what they want by working closely with ceramic artists. Bowls and platters can be shaped just so to accommodate signature menu items, and by choos


edible Monterey Bay Summer 2015
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