A Feast of Fiestaware

They say you eat first with your eyes. A multicolored collection of iconic Fiesta dishes makes that a snap. Fiesta dinnerware has an active life in my Facebook feed. I place pale pork chops on deep purple plates, add blanched broccoli and baked sweet potatoes and click! —a color carnival for the eye and palate. I plate chili-marinated flank steak atop deep-green wilted spinach next to roasted baby red potatoes on mint green dishes for contrast and click!—my Facebook friends are drooling.

We paid 50 cents to rumble across a metal grate bridge and enter the town of Newell, where the factory store is attached to Fiesta manufacturing facilities.

I’m not obsessive about kitchen aesthetics, but a colorful canvas inspires playful plating. And it’s oh-too-easy to acquire those bright, retro dishes because the manufacturer is just a two-hour drive from Northeast Ohio in Newell, West Virginia—that wedge of the state that rests against Ohio’s eastern border.

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If they have a historic look, that’s because Fiesta has deep history. In the 1870s, an entrepreneur named Homer Laughlin perched his dish-making company on the banks of the Ohio River. Then, in 1936, his namesake company cheered up the culture with vibrant, art deco Fiestaware. The five original colors—those commonly found at antique stores—were red, yellow, cobalt blue, green, and ivory. The signature turquoise was added one year later in 1937.

Production ceased in 1973 for various reasons. Fortunately for Facebook food enthusiasts like myself, you can’t keep a good thing down. Production resumed in 1986 and continues today with a new color added every year—and others retired periodically.

Dishes exist in 48 colors with 15 currently available in the retail market. And as a conscientious locavore, I’m particularly pleased production is in the United States and that the finishes are lead-free.

On a sunny Sunday, my partner, Gary, and I rode our Honda Gold Wing with its generous trunk and side saddlebags through the winding backcountry of Trumbull, Mahoning, and Columbiana counties in West Virginia. We paid 50 cents to rumble across a metal grate bridge and enter the town of Newell, where the factory store is attached to Fiesta manufacturing facilities.

After passing through near-ghost towns, I was skeptical of the venture, but Gary insisted it would be worth it. He was so right.

The factory store has all colors and the new Foundry Collection, which, with a matte black finish, resembles my treasured cast-iron pans. Foundry is just starting to appear at regular retail.

A second room, attached to the outlet store, has deep bins of dishes in current colors. These have blemishes, if you can find them, and not all 75 pieces or 15 colors are represented at all times. During our visit, dishes were mostly sage green and poppy red bakeware, bowls, canisters, butter dishes, and many things I wanted but didn’t need. There was enough to keep me busy shopping and deciding for more than an hour. After all, I was limited to what the motorcycle could carry.

I already plan to return several times to see what colors and styles I might find. The store makes it easy, as they’re open every day with the exception some major holidays. And during several long weekends each year these prices go even lower for tent sales.

We’ll definitely be back. Next time in a car with more take-home space.

For more information on Fiestaware, go to FiestaFactoryDirect.com.