We're celebrating the artisans, writers, makers, and more who make up the diverse and inspiring world of food.
Today: Fany Gerson of La Newyorkina has a tough day -- bookended by a parking ticket and a towed car! -- that is redeemed by her delicious ice creams and paletas.
Fany Gerson was born and raised in Mexico City. After attending cooking school in Mexico and at the Culinary Institute of America, she worked in kitchens worldwide, including Michelin-three-star Akelare in Spain, Eleven Madison Park, and Rosa Mexicano in New York, where she developed their acclaimed modern Mexican desserts. Her cookbooks are My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats and Paletas & Aguas Frescas, both from Ten Speed Press. She started her company La Newyorkina in 2010.
Mexican desserts are chef Fany Gerson's speciality. In particular, she's famous for her frozen confections. You can catch her cart full of paletas -- fruit-laden Mexican popsicles in flavors like mango-chile, tamarind, and fresh coconut -- at the High Line in New York. You'll be in good company at the High Line, too, where they're raising the standards of park food all around with vendors like Blue Bottle Coffee, Northern Spy Food Co., and Terroir's open-air cafe, serving local beer and wine as well as stunning views of the Hudson River. If you've never visited The High Line, you're in for a treat. It's not just a park -- it's an elevated rail line from decades ago that's been renovated into a park! It's a beautiful way to take in New York's West side and enjoy an amazing lunch or dinner at the same time.
Here, Fany shares a typical Saturday with us, with all of its ups, downs, and ice creams.
During this time of year, my days are particularly long as I begin to get ready for the different markets and fairs, leaving other duties for the end of the day or time in between. This particular Saturday was a special one because it was the opening day of the Hester Street Fair, where I happily started La Newyorkina two summers ago.
My day began at about 6 am. I answered emails for about an hour, showered, and grabbed breakfast to eat on the road (these days, I am loving yogurts on the go). As I walked towards my car, I found my first unpleasant surprise: a bright orange envelope decorated its window (I could’ve sworn I had parked it one block ahead where it could’ve been there until 8:30). Oh well, I had bigger things to worry about. I went to my kitchen in Harlem (I rent a space in Hot Bread Kitchen) and filled 4 coolers with colorful and tasty paletas and another with ice cream bases and things I would need for ice cream making for the following day. It sounds like it’s not a big deal, but the handling of the dolly and big coolers makes me feel so awkward.
I then headed towards the High Line, where I filled the cart. There is something so peaceful about being on the High Line so early and even as I am running, literally, pushing the dolly, I take a second to absorb the beauty and the peacefulness before heading towards the Lower East Side.
It was a chilly day and the sun was not shining at all where I stood. Truthfully, I was miserably cold -- I felt like a paleta -- and I am not happy when I’m cold. After all, I am from Mexico! I didn’t think it was going to be a good day for business, but as soon as I set up regular kids started arriving and asking for their mini paletitas, which they all know I have (even though it’s not written on the sign). Honestly, seeing these kids was the thing that excited me the most. This is my third summer so I feel I have seen them grow up.
A few hours went by and before I knew it, the day had warmed up a bit. Although I still thought it wasn’t quite paleta weather, I had a continuous line for a while. Again, the best thing was seeing familiar faces. I even had a customer who used to live in New York (she is now back in India) who was really excited to get the mango-chile paleta, her favorite.
Many hours later, things had calmed down a bit. I realized I was quite hungry and our other friends from the La Sonrisa empanada stand stopped by to say hello, bringing a delicious, warm chicken empanada a few minutes later.
By the time we finished it must’ve been close to 8 or so. I decided to grab a bite to eat before I headed to the kitchen to spin the ice cream. We went to my favorite pho place in New York. I was so happy to be there, enjoying the time to sit and talk with my friend Kareem. We gave each other advice on how to grow our businesses and commiserated on all our struggles, hoping it’ll get easier one day, while savoring each bite very slowly.
Finally, I headed to the kitchen to spin. I had four flavors planned: arroz con leche ice cream, coconut lime sorbet, passion fruit swirl ice cream and Mexican vanilla ice cream with Taza chocolate and candied pepitas. As tired as I was, I was so happy to be making ice cream -- I always am, but I was a little bummed that I didn’t have time to do the handmade cones plus the sweet tomatillo and chocolate sauce toppings I wanted.
A little while later, Kareem came to the kitchen and helped me clean up. We headed to the car and I was going to give him a ride uptown but then, at almost 11:30 pm, my other surprise of the day happened: my car was gone! I turned to Kareem and started laughing. It was one of those moments where one thinks, “What else can go wrong?” (it had been a very long week). But I figure laughing is better than crying.
I headed to the tow pound and waited. It was around midnight and there were lots of people, most with tight lips, crossed arms, and shaking heads (except for the priest who was standing behind me).
As I patiently waited, I took the opportunity to charge my phone. Oh and by the way, I still had my apron on. I only realized because these women with fabulous shoes were really staring at me. Seeing those shoes made me smile because they made me think of my sister, Yael, who has awesome fashion sense and would not only love but be able to pull off those heels.
A little while later, I headed home. I was exhausted and dizzy, feeling like I had a hangover. What to do when you feel that way? Eat something spicy! As soon as I arrived, I prepared a sincronizada (it’s like a quesadilla but not folded) with a raw salsa I try to prepare once a week. The flavors of Mexico make me so happy. The tortillas were from Mexico (my friend Josefina had brought them for me) and my sincronizada tasted so good!
One last task before going to bed was to work on the proposal for my next book, which I’ve been trying to finish for months. I corrected about a paragraph and fell asleep on my computer, literally. I woke up and tried to gather myself. I thought about the day I had and realized it is like life in Mexico City – complicated, busy, tiring, exhilarating, and annoying -- but above all, as my dad would say, never ever boring.