By Tom Cardella
Yesterday was my wife Fran’s birthday. It was what people call a “special” birthday. We celebrated by spending a couple of nights in New York. New York has always been a magical place for us. Bobby Short at the Carlyle. The Oak Room at the Algonquin. Frank, Ella and Basie at the Uris Theater. Liza on Broadway. Much of the glamor we knew has all but disappeared giving way to the coarseness of Trump’s America in 2018. Life is not a Cary Grant movie. Never was. But that hasn’t stopped us from chasing the remnants of a lost time. Call us romantics.
Fran loves the look and style of actress Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Her ideal gift is a piece of jewelry from Tiffany’s. I have managed to purchase a modest gift — by Tiffany’s standards — from the store almost each year for her. TIffany’s signature color is robin’s egg blue. Fran and I still laugh about what happened after she donated a kidney to me nine years ago. She expected a blue box from Tiffany’s, and that’s exactly what she got. A blue box from Tiffany’s. No gift. Just kidding.
A couple of months ago, I found out that Tiffany’s had opened The Blue Box Cafe in their flagship store on Fifth Avenue. You can now enjoy breakfast at Tiffany’s. The Blue Box Cafe seats fewer than 30 people. Reservations must be made online, no more than 30 days prior to the date requested. Exactly 30 days in advance of our visit, I went online at 10 a.m. to make a reservation for one morning during our planned January trip. My reservation request was not accepted. I was advised to leave my phone number and wait for a call back. The return call never came. When I returned to the website, I found the cafe was sold out for the three days we would be in New York. Forget about our having breakfast at Tiffany’s.
About a week before our scheduled trip to New York, I passed by our local Tiffany’s store around Broad and Walnut. I got an idea. What could I lose by pleading my case to the Tiffany’s store manager? The manager turned out to be an attractive young woman by the name of Tania. I introduced myself and told her about our foiled plans. Tania smiled pleasantly as she listened to my heart-rending tale.
I explained that my wife not only was scheduled to have a “special” birthday this month, but that she’s a special person — a kidney donor. Perhaps most importantly, I was the lucky guy who received her kidney. Married 53 years. Tiffany’s customers, too — although I hastily added that the modest gifts I’d purchased through the years from their store were hardly responsible for Tiffany’s success. When I was finished, Tania explained that Tiffany’s management folks have no clout in obtaining reservations at The Blue Box Cafe. The restaurant, it turns out, is run by a third party. But she offered to find out why our reservation had not been accepted. She took my contact number. I admit that I wouldn’t be surprised if she were only being polite. But to my astonishment, I heard from Tania the next day. True, she couldn’t get us into The Blue Box Cafe for breakfast, but she did get us a reservation at Tiffany’s private VIP salon where we would be treated to a glass of champagne.
On a bright and cold blustery afternoon in New York City, we entered Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue. The store contains assorted baubles bearing the Tiffany’s logo from key chains to fabulously expensive jeweled bracelets. The 128-carat Tiffany Diamond is on display on the main floor. Holly Golightly was nowhere in sight, but there were plenty of shoppers, including some obvious tourists such as ourselves for whom Tiffany’s is as much a museum of art as a place to shop.
Upon showing our invitation, we were escorted to the salon on the mezzanine level. There we were greeted by an executive sitting at an impressive desk. He in turn introduced us to a charming young man, Dio, from the Dominican Republic. He escorted us to a private salon. The décor was decidedly robin’s egg blue. We seated ourselves on the sofa. Dio brought us champagne in beautiful fluted glasses.
Sipping on champagne, we told him our story. He, in turn, related how his immigrant family achieved success in America. Dio then brought us a tray of petit fours decorated like Tiffany’s boxes. And we enjoyed more champagne. Fran and I shared a petit four. We ended the day with a tour of the rest of the store, including the elusive, sold-out Blue Box Cafe. I noted just one male patron.
Fran stopped before a display case containing a small 18 carat gold bracelet with two Amazonite stones on either end. The stones were robin’s egg blue. She would not let me buy the bracelet for her. I made a note to double back to buy the bracelet despite her pleas.
That was before we ate dinner that night at La Grenouille. The menu in the window seemed reasonable. Turned out that was their lunch menu. The prix fixe dinner cost $500. It was too embarrassing to try and leave.
The lovely bracelet from Tiffany’s would have to wait.