When Malibu matriarch May Knight Rindge built the Adamson House in 1929 as a gift to her daughter, Rhoda Adamson, she couldn't have imagined the goods it would inspire many decades later. But it's likely she would have approved of Modern Bite baking company's shortbread adaptation of the Malibu Potteries tile work that the landmark home became known for.
Given that Modern Bite's vice president of design, Greg Roth, is a Southern California Institute of Architecture alum and an interior designer, it's understandable why this subject matter caught his eye. He recalls being "enthralled" with the Adamson House ever since he and his business partner and spouse, Daniel Shapiro, visited the house in the late 1990s.
But instead of the clay, silkscreening equipment and glazes Malibu Potteries artisans employed during the company's existence from 1926 to 1932, Roth uses a butter-and-sugar-based canvas to apply the motifs -- using royal icing, edible ink and paper.
"It's a natural fit," Roth said, noting that Modern Bite's 3-inch-square cookies are already called "tile cookies."
The sweets are baked in Modern Bite's kitchen in Burbank, sold online and come boxed in four different sets, each named for a person significant to the history of the Adamson House and Malibu Potteries.
Roth designed the May, Rhoda, Merritt and Rufus collections to showcase his own interpretations of various geometric and color schemes seen in the home. (Rufus Kheeler was not a family member, but the head ceramicist at Malibu Potteries.) Roth said he plans to add additional sets to the line this summer.
Each box containing eight decorated cookies costs $30, with 10% of sales donated to the Adamson House Foundation. The nonprofit organization helps maintain the Stiles O. Clements-designed home and its trove of Malibu Potteries work, as well as protect the ecologically delicate Malibu Lagoon, which is part of California's state parks system.
Modern Bite's series is all the more apt in light of another local food history connection. Merritt and Rhoda Adamson established Adohr Farms in 1916 (it's her name spelled backward), and it remained a major dairy producer through much of the 20th century. So though it's no longer extant, what better than these cookies to pair with a cold drink poured from a vintage Adohr glass milk bottle.