In a sauce pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.
Remove the crisp bacon leaving about 2 Tbl of the bacon fat.
Add the butter and melt into bacon fat.
Add the onions, celery, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until soft, not browned.
Stir in the thyme and the flour. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, no color.
Stir in the clam broth mixing well and bring to a boil.
Add the bay leaves.
Add the potatoes and continue to simmer until they are soft but al dente.
Add splashes of water if soup begins to thicken too much.
Just before you are ready to serve the chowder, add the clams and cream and bring back to a boil.
Check for seasoning and add salt, white and black pepper, and hot sauce.
Chowder Crackers recommended.