Valentine’s Day is a struggle for everyone. If you’re in a relationship, you’re forced to spend money on expensive dinners and gifts. For single folks, it’s a reminder that no one loves you and you’re all alone. We’re almost a month past the year’s most stressful holiday, but in some East Asian cultures, the giving tradition continues with White Day.
To many Americans, February 14 is considered a day of gratitude to the men who bought those chocolates, those flowers, and those dinners in high-end restaurants. White Day, March 14, however, goes the other way. It’s customary for men (generally) to give women (usually) sweets like marshmallows and white chocolates.
See, in Japan, men are showered with chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Stores are filled to the brim with sweets. Two types of chocolate can be handed out on the global holiday. Giri-choco roughly translates to courtesy chocolate or obligation chocolate; these are purchased for friends, colleagues, or bosses. Honmei-choco is for lovers. Some people prefer to even make them by hand, as it’s supposed to indicate higher displays of affection.
Like many gift or food-bearing holidays, White Day was developed as a marketing ploy. In the late Seventies, Fukuoka-based confectionery company Ishimura Manseido started advertising marshmallows to men on March 14, originally dubbing it “Marshmallow Day.” It didn’t work. So the National Confectionery Industry Association stepped in with “White Day,” as a response to Valentine’s Day. Men were urged to reciprocate the tokens of affection for the women who gave them gifts on February 14. The holiday eventually spread to Taiwan, China, and South Korea (the South Koreans keep it going with Black Day for singles on April 14).
If you’re looking to keep the love going (or just find an excuse to eat sweets), White Day is here this weekend. Here are five places to celebrate in NYC.
Mira Sushi & Izakaya (46 West 22nd Street; 212-989-7889)
Executive chef and former pastry chef Brian Tsao was researching Valentine’s Day traditions in Japan when he learned about White Day. In an effort to combine both, he came up with the Kyoto S’more, a green-tea brownie topped with house-made marshmallow, vanilla bean ice cream, and chocolate ganache.
Patisserie Tomoko (568 Union Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-388-7121)
This French-European-Japanese hybrid dessert shop by Tomoko Kato (an alumnus of Bouley, Le Bernardin, and the Russian Tea Room) is known for its unique blend of classic technique paired with Japanese ingredients. The treats are interesting, to say the least, a blend of control and cheerfulness. The two- ($12) and three-course ($16) tasting menus are the perfect opportunity to explore more than one. Right now, the shop is including a couple of white desserts as part of the tour, including a green-tea meringue with white-chocolate ganache and a coconut crisp cookie with citrus cream. Add a wine pairing for an additional $11.
Tous Les Jours (31 West 32nd Street; 212-967-9661)
This international Korean bakery chain specializes in French-style pastries made from Korean ingredients. With several locations spread throughout Queens and Manhattan, it’s easy to get your hands on a White Day–appropriate dessert. The shop is currently offering a pure white-milk mousse cake made from organic mousse cake and cream cheese. It’s offered whole or by the slice.
Three Tarts (1 West 59th Street; 646-755-3232)
For a traditional take on the holiday, this is your place. Three Tarts concentrates on bite-sized sweet treats and the confectionery has garnered wide acclaim for its pillowy small-batch marshmallows. Pick from interesting flavors like cinnamon, espresso, and rosemary chocolate, raspberry, mango, and simple vanilla bean. Indoor S’mores gift packages and Inside Out S’mores Tins are also available.
MarieBelle (484 Broome Street; 212-925-6999)
MarieBelle is known for offering whimsical takes on one of the world’s most popular sweets. Where other chocolatiers eschew the colorless variety, this place incorporates it into creative combinations. From white chocolate with Japanese matcha to white chocolate and vanilla hot chocolate to white chocolate bark wafers sprinkled with Spanish roasted almonds, Turkish pistachio, and Sicilian hazelnuts, here you’ll find the same attention to detail in the unpigmented cacao products as you normally would in the dark.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.