Q&A: Fany Gerson of La Newyorkina
My friend and I just arrived in New York City. After checking into our hostel in Chelsea, one of the first things we did was explore the High Line. The day was perfect for it: sunny, hot, and sweltering. We passed by a food cart between 17th and 18th Streets, called La Newyorkina that sold paletas (Mexican-style ice lollies). We thought what a perfect treat given the weather. I got the raspberry-lime and my friend got the pineapple-jalapeño. They were beautiful in colour and bursting with flavour and fruit chunks. It was definitely a food highlight of my trip.
La Newyorkina was founded in 2010 by chef Fany Gerson, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, after being inspired by her trip to Mexico whilst writing her first book, My Sweet Mexico. Fast forward to 2014 and La Newyorkina’s products can be found in over 10 locations across NYC, with plans of building a stand-alone shop in 2015.
What is the best part of your job?
That I get to do something that combines creativity with my love for Mexico and my culture and most of all that I get to make people happy.
And the worst?
That it can often be so consuming and you miss out on a lot of things.
What sells out the most at your stalls?
It really depends on the day and we have rotating flavors but the mango-blackberry is very visual so it quickly sells out once people see it. On a hot day however, the cucumber-lime takes the win.
Where do you get your inspiration for your flavours?
Inspiration is all around. I get inspired by what I see in the markets, by memory and nostalgia, and sometimes just different ideas that come to mind for no clear or apparent reason.
What makes your ice lollies stand out?
I think the flavours we have are very different than what many people have tried. As well as the fact that we are continuously changing and adding flavours, makes us stand out. We do ones with chillis, fruit chunks, different layers of fruit, combinations, and our flavours range from things like hibiscus, mango chilli and passion fruit to avocado, tamarind-pickled plum, strawberries and cream, lemon verbena with blueberries, and guajillo chilli ice cream bar with apricots. I also think that the balance of sweetness and texture is something that makes us different and we are continuously evolving.
What’s your favourite dessert?
My all-time favourite is crepas de cajeta which are crepes with a goat’s milk caramel sauce and pecans.
Your company is very much into giving back to its community. Why do you feel that this is important?
I think it is important to do so in life. To be grateful for what you have and I knew when I started I wanted to give back to the place and the people who continue to inspire me. Doing the research for my book, I got to meet a lot of people and realized that the less people had, the more generous they were in every way. That was something that really touched and amazed me so I wanted to make sure that it was a priority when I started.
Since ice lollies are seasonal, what do you do during your “off-season”?
That is definitely a challenge so since the very beginning I knew I wanted and needed to do more. That’s why even on the logo it says “Mexican ice and sweets” the ice refers to anything frozen and sweets just left the door open. We are now doing ice cream which people eat more than ice lollies in the fall and winter as well as many other Mexican sweets and confections.
What can we expect from La Newyorkina in the upcoming months?
To continue developing our line of sweets and confections and will also do some pan dulce (sweet pastries) for some of the markets.
Any plans of creating an actual brick-and-mortar version of La Newyorkina?
We have a little tiendita (small shop) in the front of our production kitchen. It’s a converted utility room where we can showcase many of the things we are doing. We are hoping to open a stand-alone store next year in Manhattan and will start looking for a place in January.
Any plans for a third cookbook?
I am actually working on a third cookbook about the ice creams and sorbets in Mexico.
When are you happiest?
When I’m with my family.
Complete the sentence: “The meaning of food is…”