It’s no secret that Fany Gerson is a master in the realm of sugar. Since starting her company, La Newyorkina, in 2010, her desserts have garnered her two James Beard Award nominations and an ever-growing collection of fans, both at her seasonal paleta stands and at Dough , where she serves as the chef and co-owner.
On any given night, while the city sleeps, she works to freeze new flavors and fry up fresh dough. In the wee hours of the morning, one can peep through the glass walls of the Bed-Stuy shop. A hungry look into Dough in the middle of the night reveals the type of hard work Fany and her crew have been doing lately. With the opening of her new “tiendita” and a second location of Dough coming soon to Union Square, there’s a lot brewing in the Newyorkina universe. We caught up with mind behind it all to see how it began, and where she hopes to go next.
Fany first got the idea for her business while traveling doing research for her first cookbook, ‘My Sweet Mexico.’ “When I returned, I wanted to start a business of my own and continue sharing the sweetness of Mexico,” she says. “I had many ideas and couldn't pick just one, and one night, I had a dream that it would be a Mexican ice cream shop.” That dream became a reality as she began to focus on making paletas, which she calls the quintessential frozen treat. “[I wanted to] see how people responded to it and if New Yorkers would be as excited as I am about the sweet Mexican flavors.”
And they certainly are. Fany fused traditional Mexican flavors with her background as a pastry chef. When creating a new variety, she’s always on the look out at local markets for whatever catches her eye. At its heart, each paleta has one thing in common though: “a balance of flavors and textures,” Fany says. “I think a paleta shouldn't be too sweet, should have a bit of a bite if it's water-based and should be all natural.”
The desserts themselves are a lovely thing to behold. Indeed, Fany’s wares are often as visually appealing as they are tasty. The shimmering fuschia of the hibiscus doughnut and the bright green kiwi-studded paleta certainly come to mind. But for Fany the most rewarding part of the whole journey has been her interactions with the city. “I get to make people happy while sharing part of my culture and get to do something I love,” she says. “Our purpose and mission goes beyond paletas. It’s something deeper. I want to share a deep part of my culture, which is very rich and wonderful.”
So what is Fany’s favorite treat to cook up? “That's hard because I love making so many things,” she says, adding that it really comes down to “the joy in trying to make everything better every time and improving.” But come this fall, there is one specific dish that comes to mind: “I do have to say, though, that I particularly love making pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread.)”
Though paleta season may be coming to a close soon (honestly, we’ll eat them all year round) there’s plenty more treats on the horizon for La Newyorkina. Will the paletas finally get the storefront they deserve? “We opened up a little ‘tiendita’ where we have the production kitchen and want to open a storefront next year,” Fany says. “We'll start looking in January and hope to find something to be able to open for late spring.” Right in time for paleta weather, of course. In the meantime, the tiendita will begin to expand its lineup of Mexican sweets. “I am very excited about the ice creams we are making at the tiendita and the new candies we are starting to develop,” Fany says (to the chagrin of everyone’s dentists and delight of our tastebuds.)
Many masters of their sport keep their game sharp by continuing a life-long education, so we wanted to know if there were any desserts out there that Fany hasn’t conquered yet, but would like to try in the future. “I don't have experience making Japanese confections,” she says. “They are so intricate and beautiful that I'd love to learn how to make them.” Sounds to us like another good reason to keep an eye on La Newyorkina’s next moves.