A DELICIOUS FIND
In the 2001 romancer that shares the name of the cherished sweet shop, Jonathan Trager (played by John Cusack) and a mysterious woman named Sara (Kate Beckinsale) huddle over a bowl of ice cream unlike anything else on the planet. Jonathan takes a sip of the ice cream through a large straw, proclaiming “This is the ultimate blended drink. How’d you find this place?” Sara replies, “I first came in because of the name: Serendipity. It’s one of my favourite words.” Jonathan asks “Why?” “It’s such a nice sounding word for what it means: a fortunate accident.” That Kate Beckinsale has always been a quicker and sharper draw than the fools over at Merriam Websters Dictionary—well played, Kate Beckinsale.
THREE STARVING ARTISTS
Picture 1954: I Love Lucy was the number one television show in the country while, “From Here To Eternity” won Best Picture and Audrey Hepburn took home an Oscar too! In New York City, you could rent an apartment for about eighty-five dollars a month, plug in your transistor radio and tap your feet to Bill Haley and The Comets number one hit ‘Rock Around The Clock.’
In a small apartment in Little Italy, three starving artists rehearsed scenes and dreamt of the big time. During the day, the three would run around the city auditioning, sketching and writing music. At night, Calvin Holt—a native of Hazen, Arkansas, and cast member of 1955 Broadway Show “Catch a Star!”— created delicious sundaes and desserts at a local Howard Johnson’s. Stephen Bruce—a Jerseyite and trained dancer—worked at Macy’s where he designed window treatments. Patch Carradine—another performer from Arkansas, who met the other two princes in dance class—was trying to book a gig as a songwriter/composer. It was Patch, though, who stumbled upon the most curious of words… Serendipity.
THE THREE PRINCES OF SERENDIP
Carradine had read an 18th Century translation of the Persian fairytale The Three Princes of Serendip, which follows the adventures of a few Princes… yes… from Serendip (known today as Sri Lanka). The title was leading enough to help you figure out Serendip right? Please tell us you weren’t thinking ‘sounds like these guys were from Cleveland.’
The story of the three Princes is actually an adaptation of Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del re di Serendippo, written by Michele Tramezzino roundabout 1557. Word on the street was; even the Italians themselves couldn’t pronounce it, which made it a tough sell indeed.
Tramezzino himself translated the story from its original Persian and it was then translated to English by Sir Horace Walpole, an English author and statesman. It was Walpole who coined the word ‘serendipity.’
What does this have to do with Frozen Hot Chocolate? Well…
THE THREE PRINCES OF LITTLE ITALY
Holt, Bruce and Carradine latched onto this word and decided that they would appropriate it for their new business venture. A venture that would forever change their lives.
The three men pooled their entire collected fortune (a grand total of about $300 or $2,600today) and put down a deposit on a basement level shop on East Fifty-Eighth Street.
The new partners scoured the city for interesting little trinkets and pieces to decorate their new shop: best known of which were Tiffan glass windows (named for the stained glass designed and crafted from 1878 to 1933 by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his team), which they purchased at garage sales and flea markets for a few bucks here and a few bucks there—literally! People from the show Storage Wars—eat your hearts out! They gathered worn-out, empty old picture frames and pinned them against white washed walls. Victorian mirrors that bounce the light from ornate Chandeliers were hung above old statues and ornate planters. Small porcelain oddities and giant figurines danced around the shop. Nineteenth Century remnants—antiques re-purposed into a sort of collage of modern merriment, also adorned the space.
At night the three Princes taught themselves to cook up delicious meals and crafted a menu of unusually named but classic dishes. Shake, Batter and Bowl (chicken and fries) anyone? Perhaps you’d like a High-Heel Pump… Don’t worry, it’s not a shoe. It’s Prosciutto and melted brie on raisin pumpernickel with Russian dressing.
Serendipity 3 (S3)…—named for the princes of Serendip, Sri Lanka, the Englishman translator guy, Little Italy, New Jersey and Arkansas…you haven’t been skimming right? This all makes humorous sense right? …burst onto the New York scene, and was the first “coffeehouse boutique” in the city, with a grand total of four tables and a whopping sixteen chairs and of course, a massive espresso machine.
ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK
Lines were soon forming and people were going nuts for S3 and not before long, even the glitterati of New York were stopping in! A young Andy Warhol,for example, declared it his favourite sweet shop.As a struggling young artist, he’d sit there for hours before finally paying his bill with the offer of an original drawing… and eventually he was literally drawing the walls as he pretty much got his start in the adored shop. Tennessee Williams enjoyed a burger or two. Marilyn Monroe was a regular. Jackie O was a regular as well. Makes one wonder if the two ladies ever had to squeeze past one another on the way to a table full of sugary goodness. Awkward!
Soon, higher demand for a table and a taste of their incredible confections required a move to a larger space.
“We decided to make a blended drink with 10-to-15 different kinds of chocolate.” The “Frrrozen Hot Chocolate” was born and the recipe kept under strictest confidence.”
– Stephen Bruce.
Eventually and finally, S3 moved around the corner into an epic and 125 year old brownstone. They added a boutique gift shop full of oddities and unusual toys and soon, the new spot at 225 East 60th Street between 2nd and 3rd Ave., was just as crowded, with lines stretching around the block.
The menu was soon expanded to match the broad palate of the customers—and the strange but oh, so classic feeding hours of the modern New Yorker… from omelettes to burgers, crepes to pastas, they have it all!
A DESSERT FOR THE AGES, A DESERT FOR ALL AGES
If there’s one thing that should be on everyone’s “must have at least once in my life” list, it’s the “Frrrozen” Hot Chocolate. Coca Cola doesn’t hold a torch to the iconic secrecy and recipe that the trio of princes have built a boutique around.
Priced at USD 1,000.00, this creation of the best the world has to offer consists of 3 scoops of the richest Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream infused with Madagascar vanilla beans, and is covered in 23K edible gold.
GOLDEN OPULENCE SUNDAE
Recognised by Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive sundae, the Golden Opulence Sundae was created to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Serendipity 3.
Priced at USD 1,000.00, this creation of the best the world has to offer consists of 3 scoops of the richest Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream infused with Madagascar vanilla beans. It is covered in 23K edible gold leaf, drizzled with the world’s most expensive chocolate, Amedei Porcelana, and covered with chunks of rare Chuao chocolate, which is from cocoa beans harvested by the Caribbean Sea on Venezuela’s coast.
The masterpiece is suffused with exotic candied fruits, gold dragets, chocolate truffles, marzipan cherries, and topped with a tiny glass bowl of Grande Passion caviar, which is salt-free, sweetened and infused with fresh passion fruit, orange and Armagnac and served with a petite mother of pearl spoon and topped with a gilded sugar flower. The World’s Most Expensive Sundae is served in a Baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet with an 18K gold spoon to partake in the indulgence.
As a little bit of time is required to prepare this exquisite dessert, the Golden Opulence Sundae is available by appointment only.
Serendipity 3 is celebrating its 60th (Diamond) Anniversary on September 15, 2014. Many events have been planned throughout the year to celebrate this milestone including the launch of the new cookbook—Sweet Serendipity: The Diamond Anniversary Edition that will be out in the Fall. A new Guinness World Record is also on the cards in addition to the Mayor of NYC proclaiming the anniversary date, Serendipity Day!