Bernachon Chocolate

bernachon coffee bar

For my birthday, back in December, Romain presented me with a Kalouga bar from Bernachon, handwrapped personally for me by Denise Acabo of A l’Etoile d’Or, one the best, and wackiest, candy and chocolate shops anywhere in the world.

I’ve been afraid to open it since I know what’ll happen once I do. So I’ve been saving it for a special occasion, or a WTF moment. And yes, I’m aware that it’s a long time, but I guess things have been going pretty well lately.

sideofbarsblog

Well, that is until a recent trip to my bank to simply change the status of my account since I found out I was being overcharged up the wazoo for services I didn’t understand or use. (Like, even though she insisted I did, do I really need two free money orders a month? I think the last time I used a money order was in 1998. But I’ve learned that not speaking picture-perfect French can easily tack on 20-30% to the cost of things.)

The banquière hefted a thick dossier of paperwork so voluminous, it made the Sunday New York Times look like a pin-up flyer for a lost cat. It took my breath away, and I spent an hour and a half going through it and just to get out of there, I signed away whatever it was they wanted me to sign away.

When I got home, that bar was certainly tempting me. And I held off.

But I don’t need to hold off any further.


Life took a turn for the better and I made a trip to Lyon to refresh my stash, and came back with so many blocks of chocolate that a stone-mason would’ve had trouble hefting them onto the train back to Paris. What a haul!

For those who aren’t familiar with Bernachon, they’re both a chocolate-maker and chocolatiers, meaning that they don’t just buy chocolate and melt it down (fondeurs, or ‘melters‘, in French), but they roast and grind the beans and make the bars themselves. Yes, there’s lovely pastries in their shop. And their chocolate bonbons are to die for, especially their signature palet d’or, but I usually make a dive for the bars.

chocolate tablet

There’s Jour et nuit, a ‘night and day’ bar, filled with half milk and half dark chocolate. Pepitos is jammed with roasted cocoa nibs, and Café is a smooth mocha-like bar (shown at the top), made from cocoa and coffee beans roasted then ground together to make a smooth bar with the intense flavor of café express in the background.

cafebernachon bars

But my favorite, the one I’m saving (and saving for last) is Kalouga. This bar came, and went—and now is back in their line-up. The runny salted caramel was giving them a run for their money, as soon after the bars would get filled, the caramel was too eager to burst out. But the sticky problem has been resolved and I bought all I could carry, and then some, to bring back to Paris. So I’m stocked up for whatever happens for at least for the next 3-6 months. Unless I need to go back to the bank, that is…but at least I’m ready.

I’m often asked by people coming to France, what is something that they absolutely shouldn’t miss. Bernachon is uniquely French, and their chocolate that’s made in the back of their shop was the inspiration behind Robert Steinberg, who ignited the bean-to-bar explosion in America when he started Scharffen Berger chocolate. If you can’t make the trip to Lyon, tant pis. At least I know there’ll be more for me when I go back.

Bernachon
42, cours Franklin-Roosevelt
Lyon
Tél: 04 78 24 37 98

A l’Etoile d’Or
30, rue Fontaine (9th)
Paris
Tél: 01 48 74 59 55

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67 comments

  • Hi David,

    Aaaggghhhh Bernachon. It was only this past January when I had their chocolate for the first time (they exhibited at Salon du Chocolat in Tokyo), and after sampling a piece of palet d’or I just had to go and grab more even if their small box of bonbons set me back $80 (gasp!). And another (!!!). And the best-before date wasn’t that long way off, so I had no choice eating them up pretty quick! I know where I need to go next time I’m in Paris, but I’m seriously considering going to Lyon… (and stocking up their bars for later!)

  • I always need a pick-me-up after dealing with my French bank too! When I opened my account, the lady wrote down the wrong address. I corrected her at the time, but it took two months to clear up…

  • Jennifer: There was a story on Capital on M6 about all the ways that the banks take advantage of customers and talk us into all sorts of services we don’t need. I was so happy to get an account, that I just signed up for anything. And apparently everything. Once I read over the services I was getting, I realized that I didn’t need any of them…especially for what they were charging!

    No wonder they made it so difficult to switch accounts. But I was persistent. Now if I could only do that with my cable company…

    Chika: I came back with about 16 bars, which was about the maximum that I felt I could carry around the rest of the day. Lyon is just a short two-hour train trip from Paris and is easily visited in a day. If you buy train tickets online in advance, you can get very good deals if you’re willing to go during slightly off-hours. Highly recommended!

  • David, when I lived in Paris, I was so ecstatic that I was getting a bank account (I thought they had made a mistake) that I also signed my life away for all sorts of services and it then took me a good year and multiple lengthy visits to get rid of everything I didn’t need so I totally understand your predicament!

    Love the look of this chocolate – noting down the addresses for next time in France… Hmmm, a day trip to Lyon to stock up on chocolate – brilliant idea…

  • I am going to be in Paris for the day on Sunday, but I guess A l’Etoile d’Or will be closed like everything else….le sigh. I guess we’ll have to be content to see a few museums before heading back across the Atlantic. I would have loved to taste the Kalouga bar, next time.

  • I don’t have a French bank account so rather than them ripping me off, I got Citi ripping me off, long distance.

    Each time I take money out of the ATM here, I get charged about $10 for “fees and currency transactions” – and that’s on top of the crap exchange rate.

    So, when it comes to the banks, you generally cannot win.

  • Sorry about the banking troubles…those chocolate bars look heavenly, though!

  • Kristin: Bernachon may ship, but perhaps only in France, or in Europe. You can check on their website for information…although it’s much more fun to get bars at the “mothership.”

    FN: There are some US banks, such as B of A and BNP Paribas, that have agreements with banks here where there are no surcharges. You might want to take a look at switching–ten bucks is a few chocolate bars!

  • six-years ago, I lived in Lyon for three months. We rented an apartment on the sixth arrond, very close to Bernachon…. I remember having there ice-cream, chocolate and pear ice-cream and buying chocolate… great memories.

  • At least your bank isn’t as bad as this dude’s: http://failblog.org/2009/09/11/bank-fail-3/

    And for American’s just traveling abroad, a Capital One credit card is wonderful – they charge no foreign currency fees and even refund the fees that MasterCard charges.

  • This post makes me feel as if I have died and gone to French chocolate heaven!

  • I was in Paris in April and thanks to your suggestion on this site, David, I went to L’Etoile and got to meet Denise. She had just received a fresh shipment of Bernachon and I chose the Kalouga to bring home to my husband. She wrapped it exactly like yours! It was delicious. Thanks for all the tips and “insider” info.

  • That opening picture ruined my willpower for staying away from sweets for the rest of the day. But I think I’m ok with that.

  • Kalouga sounds like heaven! Is it made with dark chocolate? I’m having a dizzy spell just thinking about it.

    People keep asking me why we always want to go to France for vacation (when we can manage it with our four children). I think I’ll just have to link them to your blog and this entry. You’ve given me yet another place I have to go next time we get there.

    P.S. Finished The Sweet Life last week. Although we’ve only ever been tourists in France, there was so much I could relate to. It would take another book to list it all, but I have to mention that my husband also discovered Comte, his new favourite, in a fromagerie on Ile St-Louis. Thanks for helping me relive some great memories!

  • Wonderful story Dave…I often thought how interesting it would be to get a small group of chocoholic friends and do a World wide tour visiting and sampling the best of the best chocolate chocolatiers & factories of the World. Imagine the wonderful fun collection you would have? My life would almost be complete than I thought hey I would have to do another one of all the pastries as well. One lesson I have learned traveling all throughout Europe is you can never have too much Dark rich chocolate except when it melts in your travel case! Don’t know how many shops I have encountered just exploring and sampling chocolates & pastries but I can’t recall regretting a single one of my purchases. Ever notice how many friends you attract when you mention dark chocolate?

  • Huminuh, huminuh.

    Extremely effective lead photo, Mr. Lebovitz.

    That is all.

  • What a timing! I just bought 6 bars of Bernachon Jour & Nuit for my friend to bring back to my other friends in the States on Tuesday. Denise wrapped them up for me so nicely and explained the comic strip wrapping paper for me. She is such a delight. She made fun of me because I had called her ahead of time asking what time shes closes in French. She laughed and said you must be American. The correct way to ask is “jusqu’a quelle heure etes vous ouverte?” and not “a quelle heure etes vous ferme?”.

  • I went to Bernachon in April, and brought back about 6 Kalouga bars. Having been converted to the Fran’s salted caramel type of caramel (extra salty), I dipped the bar in Hale Mon Gold sea salt before each bite. OHMYGOD. To die for! I really wish I had more of those bars…

  • Fantastic picture! I love the teeth imprint on the bar.

  • Good evening David.
    I often have to tell my mother about your posts or e-mail a link to her because she can relate to some of your (mis) adventures in France. When she first moved there to live with my French father she did not speak much of the language and a lot of her attempts were lost in translation ( but she had the accent down to a t, which only added to the confusion ). During her first month she walked gracefully into a furniture store as said “Je besoin d’acheter un nouveau matelot s’il vous plait”. As you may know, the word for matress and sailor are quite similar.

    I keep telling her to write a book, She has so many stories about her life in France.

    As for the chocolate, Thank you for the backgound and links. When we moved to the U.S. I always looked forward to my father returning from his trips abroad because sitting on top of his clothes in the suitcase were boxes and bars of French chocolate. Their packaging and flavour will always be a source of comfort. The only place that comes close to that kind of quality here is Vosges Chocolate.

    À tout à l’heure. :)

  • banks ! :(
    banks consumers are not protected in france by le code de la consommation, the bunch of commercial laws that regulate rights and obligations for the companies. This is the only commercial domain that is’nt concerned by those laws, and they clearly take advantage of this.

    Things are slowly changing, they are forced by other laws to send every client a bill with the yearly costs. But my bank for example sends the paper mentionning only the name of the commercial type of account and the global fee. No detail of what I’m paying. Pretty helpfull :(

    If I go to the bank, they keep me for two hours (twice this year), asking patronizing questions, insisting about keeping alive some services and even threatening me : be a good client or we will play this the hard way the next time you’ll need advice or help, we won’t be there for you”.

    My uncle gave me an advice I will probably follow this year : some supermarket cards are Visa juste as the bank’s ones, but they cost way less (no credit attached on those i’m talking about), and they allow to pay with your account just the same way your bank’s card does. 12€ per year instead of 120€, it worths to think about it I think. (the problem will be to manage to cancel the bank’s card… et c’est pas gagné :D)

    (btw I love the diastema bite marks on the chocolate, seems that you too have trouble to get all from the artichoke leaves in one bite :D…)

  • You win the award for the wittiest food blogger. Sometimes you are so amusing, I laugh right out loud, (and I needed to write that out, because this post deserves more than acronyms). Chocolate. Human beings have made some serious mistakes. Chocolate is NOT one of them.
    Happy indulgence David.
    -Michaela

  • I’ve tried making chocolate bars with runny caramel inside, so I understand what you say about the caramel trying to burst out! Arggg! Very frustrating…
    .
    Any hints about how they resolved the problem???

  • Sounds amazing – I dream about their chocolate bars stuffed with pistachio marzipan. Drool…

  • David, I have already professed my true love for the Kalouga bar to you, and I can not protest it being France’s best chocolate bar. It really is one of my all time favorite bars. I remember the very first time I discovered it, in Denise’s shop too.

    I saw above that you bought 16 bars (nicely done!). Did you freeze a handful of them? Or actually – eating that chocolate and caramel frozen could be an interesting treat in itself. Nah – and miss out on that sweet, runny goodness!?! Just curious how you keep your chocolate fresh, in such large quantities. I’ll be heading to Paris soon, and am anticipating a heavy suitcase on the train back to Zurich! Thanks !!

  • Oh that jour et nuit sounds terrific! Hope you are enjoying those chocolates! Are you getting tiny bits on your keyboard (salvage them!)? I may not be in France or be able to get some of the luscious chocolates you have but I am enjoying a wonderful bowl of your chocolate ice cream right now. . . .well, I was. . . .it’s gone. I didn’t even have lunch, just ice cream.

  • First comment ever on your blog, which I do read daily..but I had to, now that the secret about Bernachon is out. Ever since I moved to Canada, I have to get some family members to ship/bring me supplies of Bernachon chocolate…Hope you did leave a few behind so I can get some with my next visitor next week!
    They are truly amazing and their chocolate cakes are to die for…The Creole bar remains my favorite to date, yet it tends to dry out a bit which s an issue if you do happen to live overseas! The one thing I’d really like to do is visit the Bernachon atelier but each time I asked they made it sound very complicated…hopefully one day!
    Enjoy the few more bars you have left! And thanks for writing your blog, I feel less disconnected from France.
    I sympathize with the bank experience, but truly got the same here when trying to get a credit card in Canada with no Canadian bank history….never easy:)

  • I am one of your regular “lurkers” and honestly, I don’t know how you do it, but never fails that you make me laugh and/or envious, or both. Oh, that chocolate.

  • I adore that top photo, teeth marks and all.

    There is one chocolatier in Calgary. His chocolate is unique and mostly tasty, but his attitude drives me nuts. Let’s just say he would put the French to shame in that department.

  • When I lived in Lyon, I had trouble just getting an account at all because I needed a rental contract or a phone/ gas bill and couldn’t get a rental contract because I didn’t have a bank account. Eventually a bank employee took pity on me! Luckily, things are easier in Berlin, although finding free accounts is tricky. I wish I was still in Lyon to visit Bernachon though. Guess I’ll have to harass my friends to send me some…Mouthwatering pics.

  • David,

    I’m planning to join you guys for the Blogger Camp (even tho I don’t yet have a blog). Hoping I’ll get inspired to start one instead of just being a lurker.

    Will you bring some of the chocolate with you, PLEASE!

  • I am just wondering about Denise’s choice of comic strip wrapping paper for those special bars of chocolate – what is the story? Do tell!

  • I’ve been planning to get to A l’étoile d’or for ages now, originally for those salted caramels you always talk about, but now I have to get over there to try the chocolate.
    Not surprisingly, I am really, really looking forward to it.
    Merci encore !!

  • OK, thanks a lot David…. now I realize that my trip to Paris in 2007 (before I knew of your website) was all for naught. I could have easily traded my time in the Eiffel Tower for a trip to A L’Etoile D’Or…. now I’ll have to visit again. You’re killing my travel budget.

    But seriously, can one procure this in the States? Does Denise ship?

  • Friends of mine moved from Rome to Scottsdale, Arizona a couple of years ago and were stunned to find that a bank account could be set up within 15 minutes and a phone connected within a day or so. They were speechless.

  • The wrapping paper that Denise uses features an 18th-century design of a set of scenes that contain a riddle which is solved when the image is turned upside down and you see another image (e.g. one is of Robinson Crusoe looking for Friday then turning it on its head, the sand reveals Friday’s face). I forget their precise name. She explained that these cards were given out by the nuns who taught her at school at the end of every week for well-behaved children, and were, in her words, sought after like mad by children. She never got any and now dispenses these delightful designs on a daily basis. She really is an incredible woman, and I have a hard job believing she is 73 years old.

  • I just wanted to let you know that I bought your book- The Perfect Scoop- a few months ago and I love it.

    I’ve made your tin roof ice cream and most recently the cheesecake ice cream. I added cherry sauce and graham crackers for the ultimate scoop. It was incredible, so thank you!

    ~Monica
    http://lickthebowlgood.blogspot.com/2009/09/pretty-in-pink.html

  • Leah & Monica: Glad you like the books!

    pendant: Thanks for the explanation. I love that paper, and she loves talking about it : )

    Linda H: My bank here used to only take cash deposits if they were in a sealed envelope (for sécurité, they told me). They would slip the envelope into a slot without opening it, and say “Merci, au revoir“.

    When I asked them if they wanted to verify the amount to make sure the cash that was in the envelope was what I wrote it was on the outside, they looked at me like I was crazy.

    I guess the bank didn’t want (or trust) the tellers touching the money–which I thought was rather strange. They recently changed that policy, but I was sorely tempted to see if I could pull a fast one on them : 0

    Tim: I don’t know, but I highly doubt Denise does. You can check the Bernachon site for shipping info, though.

  • If I win the trip to Ixtapa, will you throw in one of these chocolate bars?

  • The rest of the family LB will be in Paris in a couple of weeks time, with yours truly left to look after the blasted cat (who is poorly). I have requested several kilograms of Bernachon chocolates from Ms (Mme?) Acabo as recompense.

  • I’m so glad to see this post. Much of our chocolate inspiration, design, and fudge flavors came from the earlier style of Bernachon.

  • bancaire (adjectif): banking

    banquier [fém.: banquière] (nom): banker

  • Well, this would be an appropriate time for me to say that your French chocolate delight would be lost on the citizens of Milwaukee who just offered up at their state fair —Chocolate Covered Bacon ON A STICK.

  • Bernachon does ship, at least within France and it’s less expensive to pay for shipping if you’re getting many bars than to buy at L’etoile d’or in Paris. I think you have to fax them your order or call them and give them your information over the phone. No online ordering, unfortunately (at least last time I checked)
    I love their pistacchio bar and force myself to have no more than a strip of three on any one day so that I eat the bar slowly over a few days. It’s torture, but then worth it because I get more days of chocolate! I’ve never tried the Kalouga because I never really liked caramel, but maybe I’ll try next time.

  • Coffee AND Chocolate?

    OMG………………………………………………………..

  • Love the picture,
    Can these be ordered in the US?

  • David,
    Did you taste their ice cream ? I had the opportunity to have a chocolate & coffee ice cream in their tea room, it was so great: Bernachon Ice Cream

    And if you go back to Lyon you should also taste Nardone Glacier

    From an ice cream addict !

  • Elisa: Yes, they do ship, but I think you’re right about only in France. There’s so many headaches involved (melting, lost orders, etc) that it’s likely easier for them not to do it.

    On their website it say to contact them for information regarding shipping. The bars are a few euros more at A l’Etoile d’Or, but when you factor in shipping, you’re likely right that unless you’re buying a lot, it might not be all that practical.

    Patricia: Thanks for the correction. Check out my pal Olivier’s post; Spotting errors in French. I actually corrected a bit of French too, this week.

    icecreamscoop: I didn’t have any ice cream, as it was 10 am when I was there. But I’m going back in October, so will have a scoop. Or two.

    Debi: Unfortunately chocolate and tropical beaches aren’t a good mix (see; melting, above.) But if you don’t win the trip–or even if you do, you should still go to Lyon.

  • I will definitely visit when in France next year. Thanks for your wonderful information and useful, interesting and foodie places to visit.

  • I met monsieur Bernachon himself some years ago when visiting his laboratoire in Lyon being in distinguished company. A great man he was, glowing with passion for his art, tireless in his search for perfection, loved as a grand cultural icon in accordance with the French adoration of those knowing how to
    elevate the earthly paradise into l’ extase suprême.
    On the other hand there are glorious chocolatiers in Paris honouring the art
    and who will send anywhere without problems such as Pierre Hermé http://www.pierreherme.com or is it very naughty of me to suggest him.

  • manon: I wasn’t aware that Pierre Hermé shipped globally, so that’s good to know. According to his site, Pierre Hermé, they only ship in Europe, though.

    His chocolates are indeed terrific, but he’s a fondeur (melter) instead of a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, like Bernachon is. There are no chocolate-makers (folks who buy and roast their own beans, then grind them into chocolate) in Paris…although there are a lot of extraordinary people like M. Hermé dipping and enrobing. There is a Pralus outlet, which is a branch of the chocolate-maker, who is located in Roanne, near Lyon.

    Perhaps at some point in the future, there will be a bean-to-bar chocolate-maker in Paris. And when there is, which I hope is soon, I’ll be first in line at the door!

  • Oh now I’m regretting why I didn’t try Bernachon chocs when I was in Paris earlier this year, The Café is probably my biggest vice, although i can resist anything caramelly…I wonder if I can find Bernachon in Melbourne in any gourmet chocolate shops, gotta do a bit of out-and-about I guess. Thanks for the chocolate post, it’s everyone’s favourite!

  • David, I would like to bake a cake with white chocolate in spite of dark chocolate required by the recipe. Is that possible? Do I have to reduce the sugar quantity? I’m trying to make blondies with white chocolate from brownies and Suzy’s cake. Thanks for your attention.

  • Camila: White chocolate is substantially different in composition than dark chocolate so it’s not possible to simply swap it out in most recipes. I would search for a cake recipe that called specifically for white chocolate–perhaps in one of your cookbooks or online.

    (There’s a lovely, light-textured, White Chocolate Whisper Cake in The Cake Bible by Rose Beranbaum, if you have it.)

  • If you people are into great chocolate, I would advise paying a visit to this site :

    http://www.histoiredechocolat.com

    These guys are in Brest, Brittany and deliver by mail. You can order an assortment starting at 15 euros. I specially love “littoral” chocolates (caramel inside…!!). You”l thank me for this one !

    Another great factory is Valrhona in Tournon, France south of Lyon. You can’t visit the factory itself but they have an outlet where you can taste and buy their products.

    pierre

  • Monsieur, ees eet, uh, not posseeble to find such sings anywherrre in se United Stateseh? Eet sounds so lovely, ah would have a leetle rrright now eef eet were posseeble.

  • wow! Must’ve just missed you. I was in Lyon two weeks ago and went to visit the shop too. Their ‘palets or’ are the best I’ve tried. Any Lyon is a great place to visit too! I must go back. But next up is this weekend in Paris. I can’t wait!

  • I love visiting Denise Acabo’s store. I always feel like I’m getting a glimpse back in time to a bit of Paris as it used to be — local, eccentric and very, very French. It draws me to a neighborhood I probably wouldn’t ever see otherwise. And each trip reveals some new and interesting little detail of Paris and Parisians. And I always leave with a bag of something delicious and special. Can’t wait to go back.

  • Years ago, when I lived in Manhattan, I seem to recall being able to buy Bernachon chocolate at, curiously enough, a Japanese store called Takashimaya. No idea if they still sell them, but that might be one place to look.

  • David,

    Sorry to hear about your bank woes but yay for us followers of your blog that it forced you to break into your Bernachon stash! I will have to figure out a way to get back over to your side of the world. I appreciate the shout out to our dear friend Robert Steinberg who passed away almost a year ago. I can hear him explaining the difference between a chocolate maker vs. chocolate melter.

    Looking forward to seeing you at Fog City News in SF next week

    Deborah

  • since reading about l’etoile d’or it has become a must-visit whenever i am in paris.

    i was there last week and bought a pistacjhio bernachon bar which is truly a taste of decadence.

  • Thank you David. Thanks to you I have discovered the most wonderful chocolate. I LOVE caramel au beurre salé and it blends perfectly with Bernachon’s dark chocolate. I often have tea at Bernachon’s but never tried “kalouga”.
    Do you know Roanne ? I own a cottage in Roannais, this is such a wonderful place for a cuisine lover, and only one hour far from Lyon.

  • Because of you, I now need to go to Lyon. I’ve got to discover that Bernachon chocolate.

    Bonne semaine,
    christian

  • Wow that really look so tempting. I bet it’s was beyond the definition of delicious since it’s a combination of cocoa and coffee beans.

  • Bernachon
    I had a tiny piece of France, decades ago, as an American kid. Weeks in Paris and a couple of months in Beaulieu-sur-mer.

    A fellow American’s family had a place in Var, up from St. Tropez and we spent time, that summer, in both, particularly, the beach at St. Tropez! (Ooh la la, and all that! ;))

    I remember the Salades Nicoises and the “Pan Bagnat”, as I recall. I could eat that whole sandwich, ten inches in diameter, at a sitting, probably along with a French beer, as well. (I was just sixteen at the time!). I remember quite a bit, actually!

    So, please continue to enjoy that crazy culture. I’m among those, back in the States, who will enjoy your every well-chosen word!

    Rob

  • Bonjour Monsieur,

    If you need any help clearing that chocolate shelf off, I will be in town from Nov1st-9th. Nyuk, nyuk. No, really :)

    Love the blog~and the tales of choco bliss! WTF!

    Au Revoir,
    Jill

  • I can’t be sure whether or not I am happy to know where and to have now visited this store (more than once I assure you). While my demeanor has definitely improved my wallet has suffered. I am from the States originally, and spent summers in France. My uncle (who recently passed at the ripe age of (94) ALWAYS had a box of assorted Bernachon chocolates for a post-dessert night cap. As a vain teenage girl from West Hollywood I never indulged for fear of the expanding size of my hips. I moved to Paris this August after beginning and pausing a culinary career in New York, (my last stage was at Blue Hill). A couple of weeks ago my Aunt received a box of Bernachon. I must have been channeling my uncle’s spirit because I ate half the box, no joke. I am planning a pilgrimage to Lyon just to thank the family for their genius. This chocolate has changed my life, and it is comforting to know that there are other people out there that will venture to the likes of Pigalle *gasp* for their fix. I am a dedicated reader of your blog. Keep doing what you’re doing :)