Category Archives: Stories and Events

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Operation Chile – Day One in the Chilean Wine Adventure

Having never been to South America I was looking forward to arriving in Chile very enthusiastically. Having long been a wine lover I was looking forward to arriving in Chile even more enthusiastically!

Chile is a long thin country in South America. It is about stretching 2,670 miles long but only 217 miles across.  Chile is a land of extremes. Bordered by the Andes Mountains, the Patagonian Ice Fields, and or course the Pacific Ocean cooled year round by the Humbold Current. A goliath border between the Chile and Argentina the snowcapped Andes tower above Chile shrouded in fog. Seasons change, snow and glaciers melt and as the winter passes they create rivers which travel all the way to the sea.  Some rivers still flow, others stopped hundreds or even thousands  of years ago creating fertile growing areas for a variety of grapes. Some grapes grow well in the volcanic soil of the Andes, others in the granite of the coastal areas or the alluvial soil in in between. Chilean wine makers are pushing the limits and trying to grow grapes in other non-traditional areas, working there soil, learning and focusing on the grape and the terroir.

Lunch Day one has brought us to an awesome winery in Isla De Maipo, the De Martino Winery.  Martino has a slogan, reinventing Chile.  After hearing the wine maker talk he is all about having the variety of grape speak for its self, allowing the flavor of the land and the grape shine through.  There wines were very good and really showcase where they are grown.  Truly appreciate there hospitality, wine and knowledge here at De Martino.

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A really nice first course prepared for us by the winery.  A traditional Chilean dish made with local fish and cheese.

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Local Beef and Potatoes with naturally with a red wine reduction!

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This is a  unique and a very old fashioned and traditional way to make wine.  They make two types of wine using this very natural technique.  The wine is fermented in these clay vessels called tinajas.  The tinajas are sealed with adobo.  The wine is natural and sulfate free and have a very unique flavor.  A picture of the bottle is below.  Cinsault is a traditional Chilean grape.  They also use Muscat.

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Barrels aging on a rainy day at the De Martino Winery

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Traditional oak barrels aging at the winery

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Many wine makers are going to a larger oak cask to limit the exposure to the wood.  Let the true flavors shine through.

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Table set to go!

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A job well done, by the time the afternoon was over we tasted 12 wines and have a full afternoon to go.  Not to mention the four more days of visiting wineries.  Its a tough life.  More on the rest of day, and week in posts to come soon.

Thyme for some wine

Jason

 

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A nice shout out on Starchefs!

A while back my good friend Jan Loov  and I had a chance to spend a afternoon with Antoinette Bruno and Will Blunt of Starchefs.com.   If you have not been on the website be sure to check it out, it is  a awesome resource for anyone who loves food and beverage.  To say starchefs.com is on the cutting edge of the industry is a understatement.  Guided by CEO and Editor and Chief Antoinette Bruno, Managing Editor Will Blunt and advised by a team of legendary chefs this site is a on line temple  of industry knowledge and creativity.

Yearly they host a international Chefs Congress which is a veritable magnet for the best Chefs and Beverage people in the industry.  I had a pleasure to go there twice once while I was with the French Room, when I  go to know Bruno Goussoult, and once while I was with Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, as part of the Pierre Gagnaire camp.  I highly recommend a trip to this congress held yearly in New York City, well worth it, you will learn and absorb so much knowledge (also food and drinks).

Some years back, while at the French Room I had done a tasting for them and had some photos put on the site.  What a honor to do it again.

Jan and I were very honored to have some of our cuisine photographed by Antoinette and posted on the site.  Check it out!  Congrats Jan!

https://www.starchefs.com/cook/photos/director-food-and-beverage-jason-weaver-and-chef-jan-loov-texas-spice-omni-dallas-hotel-dalla

Thymes Change,

Jason

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Blueberry – Butterscotch Dump Cake

Once you have Dump Cake on the brain it’s tough to abandon the thought. Such a simple dessert and so many possible variations. I had to get lunch together today and had only an hour to do it. A quick trip to the store produced some nice fresh corn, some turkey burgers, jalapeño, and avocado. . . sounds good so far right?  Got a lot better.

When I was passing the baking isle I thought of Dump Cake, as I am prone to do! I went with a classic made with crushed pineapple, blueberry pie filling and yellow cake. However some butterscotch chips caught my eye so in the cart they went.

Once I got home this was ready to go in the oven in less time than it took to preheat.

Ingredients

1 can crushed pineapple (about 20 ounces), not drained

1 can blueberry pie filling (about 21 ounces)

6 ounces butterscotch chips

1 stick unsalted butter (1/4 pound)

1 box yellow cake mix (about 16 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350f

1.  In a 9 by 13 pan put the pie filling and the crushed pineapple.

2.  Spread 1/2 of the butterscotch chips evenly over the pie filling.

3.  Top with  the dry cake mix, scatter the remaining butterscotch chips evenly over the cake mix.

4.  Slice the butter in 1/8th inch slices evenly top the Dump Cake.

5.  Bake at 350f until golden brown on top.  Typically about 40 minutes.

6.  I prefer to serve dump cake cold or room temperature.  Top with a bit of whipped cream.

Thyme for More Dump Cake,

Jason

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Strawberry – Pineapple Dump Cake

One of the simplest and best things in life. . . dump cake!

I was first introduced to dump cake several years ago.  I was just married and  relatively fresh from the Marine Corps.  My Wife introduced me to a amazing classic American dessert, Dump Cake!  Any time we had to go to a pot luck or when I  would have my friends to the house to play Dungeons and Dragons (not a dork), she would always make dump cake and have fresh whipped cream.  It was awesome.

Dump cake is simple easy and quick to put together.  Don’t feel any pressure to buy a expensive cake mix.  It has been my experience that the cheaper mixes work great. I suppose there are those that have figured out how to do this from scratch, with out the box cake.  I personally have never walked that path, perhaps some day, for now Its too good and easy the way it is.     One thing to always remember is to buy unsalted butter.  Then again, Its always good to use unsalted butter. . . One of life’s simple truths.

One of these days I will include her “original Dump Cake” recipe but for today I decided to make a slight variation.  Here in Texas we have had so many days of rain and storms it seemed like when we had a day of sun something with strawberries, or at very least strawberry flavor,  seemed like the natural thing to make.  Funny how once in a while something from a can or box hits the spot.  Dorito Topped Chili Dog Enchiladas come to mind. . .  ahh another day perhaps.  Today there is Strawberry Pineapple Dump Cake.

Ingredients

1 can strawberry pie filing (about 21 ounces)

1 can crushed pineapple, not drained (about 20 ounces)

1 box strawberry cake mix (15.25 ounces), I used Pillsbury Moist Supreme

1/4 pound butter (1 stick)

Preheat oven to 350f

1.  In a 9 by 13 pan spread both the pie filling and the crushed pineapple.

2.  Dump the cake mix on top, trying to keep it fairly even.  Cut the butter in 1/8th inch slices and place evenly over the cake mix.

3.  Bake at 350f for about 40 to 50 minutes depending on your oven.

4.  Remove when golden brown.  Your kitchen will smell amazing, you will crave dump cake.

5.  Enjoy with a dollop of whipped cream or even just plain.  I prefer to serve this either room temperature or cold.

Thyme for dessert,

Jason

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Founding Farmers and a Long Absence

Greetings Friends,

Wow, It has been too long!  I apologize for my long absence from Thymelife, but life has been a bit of a whirlwind for the last few months and I let some things slide.  Not ok!

One of the main catalysts to this “sliding” was my accepting a promotion to Food and Beverage Director.  Having been a Chef for 20 years I have had to adjust to this new responsibility and for the lack of a better explanation . . .  I had to “figure this thing out”!   In short I have shouldered the extra load and am ready to get back to it!

To complete my last post about Washington DC.  A little about dinner at Founding Farmers.

Founding Farmers is a well known farm to table restaurant in Washington DC.  I had first heard of Founding Farmers while in the process of opening up Texas Spice (a farm to table restaurant in the Omni Dallas). Founding Farmers had a great reputation and a solid menu. Naturally when I had the chance to visit DC, Founding Farmers was on my radar!    I will say that due to my delinquency to post, the menu has changed.  I do believe they are holding on to many of the classics though.

Nice welcome experience, host stand was alert and receptive.  I really like the fact that they had reading material to look at while we waited (although we did not wait long).

Once seated service was crisp and on point.  We did not wait for drinks or food, which is great as this is something I am very sensitive to.  Quick service Is a plus!  The restaurant was busy and had a great buzz to it, a popular spot..

Savory courses were very strong.  I think the concept of a popcorn of the day is cool and hard to resist.  The deviled eggs were well seasoned and rustic, lots of flavor.  Fried green tomatoes were crisp and the sauces were balanced and tasty.  The farm bread was one of the stand outs, warm griddle chiabatta with a tangy sauce and perfectly smoked salmon.  The lobster mac & cheese was also a favorite.

If you make it to Washington DC I strongly suggest you head over to Founding Farmers, really great food and service!

Thyme Back

Jason

 

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Popcorn of the day

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Deviled Eggs

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Farm Bread with Smoked Salmon

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Dogs & Rolls

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Fried Green Tomatoes,  Remoulade and Green Goddess

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Chicken Pot Pie

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Lobster Mac & Cheese

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Cookie Platter

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Red Velvet Cake

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Cheesecake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dead Shirley’s Buttercream

 

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Shirley was, to the best of my memory, a mean woman.  Not pleasant and not well put together.  Shirley was not friendly, at least not to us, although she seemed fond of her gaggle of cats.  How my family fell into buying our special occasion cakes from her I cannot say.  I was too young to know the politics of that.  I suspect that she was the relative of a friend and we were under some sort of unwritten obligation to do so.  Whatever the case, I grew up eating birthday cakes and special holiday cakes made by Shirley.  I do not know her last name but the frosting she made, in my mind,  is synonymous with a celebration.  Like many foods from childhood, one bite can take you back 20 years.   Before she passed away we were fortunate enough to get her icing recipe “Shirley’s Buttercream.” After she was gone we referred to it as “Dead Shirley’s Buttercream”.

When I first started cooking professionally I had the opportunity to try many pastries, some of which really were amazing and in some cases just ridiculously good.  Some pastries that really made an impression are baklava, Eaton mess, pavlova, and soufflés.  Not to mention the many awesome original creations by pastry chefs around the country.  One thing that has always left me unsatisfied, however, is the icing on cupcakes and special occasion cakes. . .  it’s always too refined, not sweet enough, not Dead Shirley’s!

I had given the recipe out for a few years to any colleague who wanted it, after singing the praises of my wonderfully unrefined icing of course.  One day, while working at the Ritz – Carlton in Dearborn Michigan, we had a visiting Pastry Chef from the Ritz – Carlton San Francisco.  The most amazing thing was that he was making a recipe called “Dead Shirley’s Buttercream”!  I asked him where he got it and he said from a friend who is a Pastry Chef.  Not being able to resist I asked him if he knew the origin of the name. He did not but speculated that it’s so full of sugar and fat it must have killed someone named Shirley. . .  He may have had a point!

 

Thyme Remembered,

Jason

 

Dead Shirley’s Buttercream

Makes about 1 quart (enough to ice 30 – 35 cupcakes)

Ingredients

360 Grams Confectioners’ Sugar

200 Grams Butter

200 Grams Shortening

15 Grams Vanilla

  1. Combine in a electric mixing bowl with whisk
  2. Start on slow until the ingredients come together then turn up slowly
  3. Beat on high 10 minutes
  4. Store in a cool place covered in plastic for up to a week, you do not have to keep in a refrigerator unless keeping for an extended period (just be careful its covered so it does not take on any off flavors)

 

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Cooking with Friends, 72 Hour Short Ribs, Eggs at 62c, and Walls of Lettuce

I recently had the opportunity to get together with some great Chefs and collaborate on a 4 day general managers conference in La Costa Resort in San Diego, California.  Several Chefs from around the country, including myself,  flew in to help.  We are talking 15 hour days — on your feet the whole time.  There were several creative minds who refuse to do anything standard; who were always pushing the envelope.   At the end of each long day there was always time for a few drinks, because why would anyone want any extra sleep.  Good times to be sure!

It was great to see and cook with my task force brothers once again.  For 190 people we did three days of  breakfast, lunch, dinner, breaks and after parties.  There were also several amenities.  Working with these Chefs barely feels like work!

The whole event culminated with a sit down gala including my sous vide 72 hour short rib.   A great time had by all.  Wonderful to work with the team!

Chef Daven Wardynski

Chef Joshua Hasho

Chef Michael Gottlieb

Chef Breanna Metauro

Chef Marc Therrien

Pastry Chef Jaimie Hileman

Many thanks to the great chefs at La Costa for allowing us to share there kitchens with them!  An excellent team to be sure.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the awesome team of food and beverage directors who came out to help and support!

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Arrival amenity, healthy snacks

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Table set for a nice picnic arrival lunch

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Trail Mix Break

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House Made Seltzers, fresh pressed juices, carbonated at the last minute

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Nice creative signage for the sliders

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Kobe sliders and crab cake sliders

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Breakfast Breads

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Love the sound of eggs circulating in the morning!  Eggs at 62c with spinach, duck confit            and hollandaise sauce

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Granola and yogurt display

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Nice garden salad buffet

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Carving boards ready for meat!

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Creative signage and garden herbs

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A wall of living lettuce

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A break with a construction theme

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The final gala – butter presentation on tomato chimichurri, black salt

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Butter lettuce salad, blue, candied walnuts, tomato vinaigrette

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The 72 hour sous vide short rib, potato and artichoke gratin

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Tro of desserts to finish it off!

 Good thymes,

Jason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Savor Dallas – William Hill Wine Dinner

It’s always a good thing to receive several bottles of wine from a fantastic winery, then task yourself  with tasting them all while thinking of what to serve with each of them!  Makes for a great day. I  really enjoy thinking about and creating a menu like that.  Fantastic wines make it both easy and difficult to pair with food.  It is important to make sure to do the wines justice!

I had the opportunity to do a dinner with William Hill Winery in conjunction with the great annual event, Savor Dallas.  Jim White and his wife Vicky Briley-White were kind enough to include me in the programing.   I had a great time tasting the wines, putting together the menu and ultimately cooking the dinner.  We were lucky enough to have Scott Koze, Vice President of Coastal Winemaking with E. & J. Gallo at the dinner to speak about the wines.  Scott oversees many winemaking teams including those at William Hill.  It was a real honor to have him at the dinner.  I was happy to speak about the food and the pairings.

A few of the pairings were controversial, specifically the pairing of the Venison with the 2010 Bench Blend Chardonnay and then the Pairing of the King Crab with the two Cabernets.  The Sika venison, the celery root and the vanilla pineapple paired so well with the Chardonnay because of the delicacy of the dish.  The mildness of the venison and the vanilla ultimately brought it together.  The king crab was poached with butter and garlic, the sunchoke ravioli was earthy and rich. . .  ultimately the umami of the mushrooms made it work with the cabernet, which had notes of porcini in the nose.

The wines from William Hill are Fantastic!  Great food wines!

I think we had a great success and I hope to work with them again!

Could not have done it without great Chefs and their teams:

Bryce Dahlgren – Chef d Cuisine

Pablo Martinez- Chef Garde Manger

Kristina Kent – Pastry Chef

Good Thymes!

Jason

 

The Menu

Passed Reception
2012 William Hill North Coast Chardonnay
2013 William Hill North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Foie Gras “Key Lime Pie”
Buckwheat Noodle and Lobster Spoon – Chef Bryce Dahlgren
Watermelon, Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Balsamic Pipette – Chef Pablo Martinez

Dinner
Sika Venison, Vanilla Pineapple, Celery Root
2010 William Hill Bench Blend Chardonnay

Herb Cured Wild Salmon, Smoked Potato,
Caramalized Onion, Horseradish
2012 William Hill Napa Valley Chardonnay

Sunchoke Ravioli, King Crab, Garlic, Wild Mushrooms
2010 William Hill Bench Blend Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 William Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

44 Farms “72” Hour Short Rib, Basil Potato, Pickled Rhubarb
2009 William Hill Meritage Red Blend

Lemon Yogurt Cake, Berries and Mint – Chef Kristina Kent
Lamarca Prosecco

Dark Chocolate Cake, Caramel, Cardamom – Chef Kristina Kent
2009 William Hill Meritage Red Blend

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Chasing the “Hummus Ghost”

 

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Years ago my wife and I moved from our relatively miserable neighborhood (actually downright dangerous) to our first “nice” house.  Granted we were in Michigan, not Texas, so the standards of “nice” were clearly different,  As we all know, Texas is the supreme state and is difficult to be rated against.  Specifically Allen, Texas (where the dew falls first from Heaven). I digress….

So we end up in Dearborn, Michigan, a wonderful city.  I was working at the Ritz – Carlton Hotel, all was good.  We loved Dearborn, because it was close to work and . . . . the food! We ate hummus, baba ganoush, shawarma, and falafel almost daily. To us it was as normal as pasta or burritos, and was so flavorful and multidimensional, we ate it often!   We had no idea how special this little area of the world was!  Since Dearborn we have lived in Miami, New York City, Allen TX, Las Vegas, Houston, and back to Allen TX.  I had never even come close to having Middle Eastern food as good as in the “Dearborn Days.”  Not even close!  There was a particular restaurant called “La Shish” that was a real stand out.  Their hummus was legendary, the best I have ever had.  Creamy and rich with a depth of flavor that I could never achieve in a hummus.  It was addictive. One of the great culinary achievements!

For years I tried to get close to that hummus, searching hummus recipes high and low.  I looked in professional cooking books, home style cooking books, text books from culinary schools, the internet . . . you name it.  Never found it. I made hummus hundreds of times, and it was always good, unless you compare it to “La Shish”.    About two years ago I hired a younger cook named Rashid.  He is a Lebanese guy with some good experience.  Of course on my mind right away, hummus.  For 15 years I had been chasing the “hummus” ghost.  I asked him if he knew how to make a great hummus.  Rashid says “I ran the best Lebanese restaurant in DC.  I make the good hummus.”  I was intrigued.  When he said he needed three days . . . I was really intrigued.

Rashid “made the good hummus.”  I could close my eyes and think I was back in Dearborn.  The “hummus ghost” . . . I had it in my sights.

In Rashid’s hummus the devil is in the details.  The chickpeas are soaked in water and baking soda overnight.  Then they are cooked at a slow gentle simmer, for 6 or 7 hours, in the same water they soaked in.  The cooking should be stopped when the water is at the level of the chickpeas, and the chickpeas are very tender.  The chickpeas are cooled in that liquid, which will gel like a classic, well-made stock (Rashid chilled his overnight).  The liquid and the chickpeas are pureed together with tahini, garlic and lemon.  The puree must be very smooth!

Lebanese Hummus

Makes 1.5 quarts

Ingredients

½ quart dried chickpeas

¾ tablespoon baking soda

3 quarts water

3 ounces tahini (Lebanese if you can find it)

½ ounce garlic

¾ ounce lemon juice

¼ ounce kosher salt

  1. In container large enough to hold the 1st three ingredients, combine the dried chickpeas, baking soda and water.  Cover and allow to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, in a thick bottomed pot dump the chickpeas and water in to simmer, do not drain, simmer in the same water it soaked in.  Bring to a light boil then turn down to a gentle simmer and allow to simmer for 6 or 7 hours.  The simmering time will vary greatly depending on the size of you pot, specifically the width because of increased evaporation.  I have had great luck simmering between 5 to 7 hours.
  3. The cooking should be stopped when the liquid is level with the chickpeas.  Do not drain!  Cool in the liquid.
  4. When very cool the liquid will gel like a well-made stock.  You will be pureeing chickpeas and this liquid in the final step of the recipe.
  5. In a food processor (you may need to do in a few batches.  It’s ok, just stir all of the batches together well at the end) puree the chickpeas (and the gelled liquid) with the remaining ingredients.  Here is the final detail . . .  it must be velvety smooth.  You may have to puree in your food processor for 5 or 10 minutes, scraping the sides every so often.
  6. Adjust seasoning a bit if necessary, although you should not need to.
  7. Cool down and store in your refrigerator.  It will last for 5 days but you won’t need to worry about that, it will be gone well before the expiration date.

Thyme Remembered,

Jason