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Yule Tide Latte 

City Coffeehouse & Crêperie
36 North Brentwood Boulevard, Clayton

The jagged circumflex accent over the "e" in "City Coffeehouse & Crêperie" reminds us of the angry eyebrows we seemed to encounter at every turn from passersby in Paris, a city we ultimately deemed anything but gay. Couple that with an unfortunate crêpe-tastrophie during our first day in France, and the chances of us being caught mort in another crêperie, stateside or otherwise, seemed extremely low. But a couple years ago we were forced here against our will and even we had to admit that the food was lovely. We've been enjoying their eats in shamed semi-secrecy ever since. Sometimes we come in wearing a snug baseball cap with the bill pulled down low and defiant over our face, looking every bit a would-be shoplifter or ugly American. But the Crêperie is approachably French in a way that does not make us want to beat the baristas senseless via crusty baguette to the skull.

Like Michael, for example. In front of his register, there's a handwritten sign on plain white paper that's taped up like an afterthought: "Yule Tide Latte." Espresso and steamed eggnog. We ask him if there's any alcohol in it. He says no and seems somewhat disappointed, as are we. "A shot of whiskey's always good," he concedes.

Up on the wall, their blackboard menu seems to quiver with its bright, bold chalk, the oranges and yellows standing out like neon. There are photos of Rudy Giuliani tacked up on their bulletin board from when he visited, shown drinking out of the Crêperie's black-and-white paper cups. Our drink now ready, we take a seat next to our friend at one of the tiny round tables. When we open the Ladue News to gawk at the society pages, the table is almost entirely blanketed. But that's OK: We know a table here on a crowded day is a piece of real estate that's nearly as coveted as the mini-castles featured within the Ladue News' pages.

On this day, the Crêperie's clientele consists mostly of thin female customers. They are not unlike the Radio City Rockettes, minus the kick line, costumed similarly as they are in black leggings and puffy North Face jackets, their hair pulled back in ponytails. Theirs is a choreographed routine, these shopping dervishes whirling like tops: Almost all of them order their drinks to go. Unlike us, the City Coffeehouse & Crêperie is their layover, not their destination.

We sip the Yule Tide Latte and watch the blur of frenzied shoppers go by. The taste reminds us of hot, sweet milk that's left over after six or seven snickerdoodles have been dunked until they're waterlogged. Even our friend, an avowed eggnog-hater, tries the drink and continuously steals sips from our paper cup. We're happy to share the closest thing to liquid Christmas we've had all year, so we let him.

The crowds are increasing, and our back is now almost pressed against a planter that's affixed to a faux interior window. We rub the poinsettia's silken petals between our fingers and let out a contented sigh. With all the forced merriment and plastic currency that's being flung around Brentwood Boulevard and beyond, these flowers — and the warmth welling up inside of us from this simple pleasure — at least, are real.

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