Fany Gerson's Mission to Share the Sweetness of Mexico
Q&A with Fany Gerson
FOUNDER/Pastry Chef at La Newyorkina in New York City
Describe what makes La Newyorkina unique?
We make all-natural, handmade, Mexican-inspired ice cream and sweets. It's a company that I started in 2010 and, as a friend put it once, it's like a delicious and sweet love letter to Mexico.
What is your earliest ice cream memory?
There was a small park near my house in Mexico and I would go with my parents and my sister Yael when I was little to play with the boats on a little reflecting pool and we would often get ice cream afterwards. I always got the lime sorbet, which is very popular in Mexico, and my sister would get a different ice cream every time. Any flavor except chocolate.
What are your most popular flavors?
We are known for our paletas (Mexican-style ice pops) and we try to have around 40 flavors at the shop, but the Mango Chamoyadas—a slushy/sorbet concoction with pickled plum sauce, salted chile, and tamarind candy straw are extremely popular, as are our Tres Leches Cake, Oaxacan Chocolate Chunk, and Coffee-Salted Cajeta ice cream flavors.
What is your favorite flavor?
It really depends what I'm in the mood for. I know it's simple, but I gotta say I love our Mexican Vanilla Bean.
What is the most unique flavor you've ever offered?
We make hand-paddled ice creams and sorbets that are very special and we rotate flavors. There are some things that may seem unique but are quite popular in Mexico, like Queso Fresco, Avocado, and Burnt Milk. The whole shop is filled with very unique flavors if you aren't familiar with them and nostalgic if you are. We do make a Horchata with housemade churros now exclusively for our location at North Third Market in Williamsburg that I think is awesome.
Is there a flavor you love(d) that didn’t find an audience?
I did a Prickly Pear flavor and a Beet-Hibiscus paleta that I loved, but they did not sell at all.
What inspires you?
There is inspiration all around but the people, flavors, colors, history, art, sounds, and energy of Mexico where I was born and raised inspire and shape everything I do
How did you get into the ice cream business?
I had been working as a pastry chef for several years and spent a year doing research in Mexico for my first cookbook, My Sweet Mexico. When I came back I had a new mission—to share the sweetness of Mexico—but the truth is that I didn't know what to do as I wanted to do it all. Breads, confections, pastries... One day, I had a dream that I would open a Mexican ice cream shop in New York, so I thought I would start with paletas to test the idea and see how New Yorkers liked the sweet flavors of Mexico. I had two jobs at the time and got into the Hester Street Fair, which was opening that summer. I rented a kitchen that was a bakery in the daytime. My friend Hannah would start and I would go there after my shift was done and wait till the paletas were frozen to put new ones in the molds. We were udually done in middle of the night.
How did you learn to make ice cream?
I have been working in kitchens for a long time, but I will say I continue to learn every day as making ice cream in restaurants is very different than for a shop. I learned how to make the hand-paddled kind, nieves de garrafa, in Mexico while doing research for my Mexican ice cream book.
Cup or cone?
Any fresh-made cone.
What is your topping of choice?
I love sorbet and we make these spicy candied mangoes that go well on any flavor. Hot fudge or cajeta (goats' milk caramel) with fresh whipped cream for ice cream.
A surprising thing you’ve learned about ice cream or ice cream fans?
The incredible amount of styles and varieties. Because our ice cream is inspired by Mexico, many people engage in conversation and tell us about the ice cream from wherever they are from or have traveled. Also, in terms of making ice cream, cold infusion often extracts more flavor that when you heat the dairy.
Best advice for those who want to get the biz?
Have a clear definition of what you want to do and be true to yourself. Focus on quality ingredients and flavor and most of all, have fun.
Any industry mentor or person who inspires you?
So many and for many reasons, but I'll mention three—Alex Raij , chef/owner of Txikito, La Vara, and El Quinto Pino restaurants; Daniela Soto-Ines, chef/partner of Atla and Cosme; and fellow ice cream maker and entrepeneur Jeni Britton Bauer. Three amazing women. They are talented, kind visionaries and all around badass!
Any advice for making ice cream at home?
Make sure the mixture is as cold as possible before churning and enjoy it soon after you make it. Homemade ice cream can't hold that long, but in any case, who can resist enjoying freshly made ice cream?!
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