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Food Blog

Two Opinions:  One that matters.




October 2015

Countyline Tavern


Ok so we are NOT famous. Repeat, NOT famous! =P Husband is really excited about this!

On the other hand, the more I read about Countyline Taverns's new opening the more excited I got also. Contagious? Perhaps. Also many things about Husband are frankly contagious. #hottie

Countyline apparently opened in a space occupied by a well-liked bar in Buffalo Grove, IL. Many thousands of renovation dollars went into this place and it shows. The space has excellent lighting, lots of light and dark wood, and is best described by the Swedish word for "cozy" or "hygge." As you know, the Nordic countries suffer through months and months of frigid darkness. How do they keep their spirits up (besides committing the occasional brutal murder which then becomes a bestseller)? By keeping their interiors "hygge" - bright, cozy, warm. Countyline is just that. There are all sorts of excellent nooks with fireplaces and big stuffed chairs you can retreat to. The cold and dark are shut out and all is well within.


The premise of Countyline's new menu is farm to table, upscale tavern, authentic American cuisine. I kept this in mind wandering around nibbling and was pleased to find that it was an excellent description of what we ate. Please keep in mind that America is diverse, which is part of what makes America so tasty. And rotund.


Pork Rinds: we walked in and cones of pork rinds were lined up on the bar. For this writer, a beautiful sight! Love me some pork rinds! Especially consumed on beaches where everyone else is speaking Spanish and they douse 'em with hot sauce! #Montrose These were light and greaseless and very crisp. Whoever mans the frying basket is doing a stellar job. On the other hand, they lacked the aggressive porky flavor of the beach-food pork rinds. More upscale? The pigs got massages?


Charcuterie Board Featuring Housemade Pates: yes! I'm a sucker for a good charcuterie board! Like Marja Vongerichten (JG's lovely wife) I could happily eat meat and cheese only for days. The house pate had an excellent rough texture, and was well-seasoned, but overall had a mild taste, none of the more aggressive juniper, nutmeg and cognac flavors of the French pates. Anything wrong with that? Not at all, remember this is American food.

Each of the sliced dry sausages had a distinct flavor, showing they had been carefully selected. Nothing worse than encountering a board where all the sausages look different but taste EXACTLY THE SAME. #meatproblems


Note: for some inexplicable reason the chef waited till the end of the party to bring out a GIANT PLATE OF SLICED MEAT! MY DREAM DINNER HAS APPEARED!!! Unfortunately it appeared when the desserts did so I'm afraid the desserts got a bit neglected as I parked myself right next to the meat and wouldn't budge.

"Dear...dear I don't want to sit right next to the meat because then no one can help themselves."

"You got the right idea." *sits in front of the meat*


Pork Belly Sliders on Pretzel Buns: to be clear His and Hers loves pork belly. Hers loves the fatty parts and is happy to gnaw on all manner of crispy, gristly bits. His loves a tender fatty bite but it has to be tender. #whitemanbelly
This was a pork belly BLT, a good idea, but underseasoned. What makes a BLT work is the balance of acidic tomato, crunchy lettuce and aggressive salty crunch of bacon. The pork belly had the fatty element to work with the tomato, but was not salty enough. The sriracha mayo was MIA. Where was the sriracha? That would have been a really good vinegary element! #sadness A well-made pretzel bun though, and you know this lady doesn't eat much bread!


Sirloin Brochette with Chimichurri: Oooo this was tasty! Meat on a stick! The sirloin was expertly cooked, neither too rare nor overdone, and was also very flavorful. The tomatoes were VERY acidic and really complemented the steak. I had seconds. 'Nuff said.


Ducktrap Smoked Pastrami Salmon: this was also delicious! Rounds of fresh, crunchy cucumber with lemon zest and curls of salmon rosettes. The salmon was expertly done, very tender and with the long savor of cured food. Delicious! The one off note was we went back for seconds and thirds (!) and some of the bites had waaaayyyy too much lemon zest. Enough to kill the salmon flavor. Solution? Another bite! =P


It's hard to believe, but all this was only the pre-amble to a further spread of food, which was happily descended on.

House-made mini brats - the presentation of this was adorable! Who doesn't love a juicy baby sausage all tucked into a soft bun with a slathering of mustard?! So. Cute. This was a very mild-mannered brat, all crumbly white meat. To be honest this was not my favorite, too gently flavored.

Shrimp and Spinach Croquettes - as I said before, they have a good hand at the frying basket! The interiors were melting rich cheese (but not too rich!), with crispy exteriors. Delicious. Also there was more than one shrimp bit per croquette, which we appreciate in these cost-cutting times. I may have had 3...or 6...

Chicken Yakitori - here's a delightful example of how 'American" food means "anything goes YAY!" This is the perversion of a Japanese dish, with spare, light flavors. That said, who cares. If it tastes good, eat it. This was delicious, not at all dried out, juicy grilled chicken with sweet and salty coating! We also may have eaten these by the handful.


Smoked Chicken Wings - His&Hers has a weakness for the chicken wing. It's a small nubbin of meat that requires chewing, wrangling, gnawing and besides, meat closer to the bone tastes great! HT doesn't really like to clean his bones so one of the things I do that demonstrates affection is to clean off his bones. Chicken bones. Right.

Anyway, these were expertly cooked,  not at all stringy or fatty (pitfalls of the chicken wing!), and with the predominant flavor of "smoke." Not complaining, we likey!

Cheesy Devils on Horseback - this is a twist on a fabulous dish involving dates (sweet) and bacon (crisp and salty) and blue cheese or gorgonzola (funky, sharp). These dates were perfectly cooked, not an easy task! The dates were soft and warm, the bacon was crispy and the cheese was gooey. On the other hand, I appreciate the funk of a strong tasting cheese to cut through the sweet and salty flavors, these dates were stuffed with a very mild cheese that I didn't really think helped the flavor profile at all. Did I stop eating them? No. =)

Best Damn Grilled Cheese Ever - ok so I don't really like grilled cheese. Too much bread (dislike) and the cheese is too mild-mannered (I appreciate really offensive, sharp cheeses that make my neck veins stand out). For a grilled cheese hater this was tolerable, which is actually saying a lot. These had a thin layer of acidic tomato in it plus a thin layer of green pepper. Really helpful! The bread was nice and buttery. Hey man if you gotta eat bread it better be slathered in things to make eating it worthwhile!


Kentucky Bourbon Budino - this was delicious, my favorite of all the desserts. It was incredibly creamy with a nice contrasting crunch on top, a well-balanced dish! Plus you could eat it with a spoon and I have a weakness for such things. =P


Bread pudding - so given my dislike of bread, this was a bit rough going. It was tasty enough, soft, butter, rich, with a nice cool crème anglais to dip it into. HT would be better placed to review this properly.


Seasonal NY-style Cheese cake - another thing I don't really like. Actually in general I'm a salty person rather than a sweet person (hahaha!). I parked myself near that giant plate of meat (see above) and was happy. The cheesecake was only so-so, but it had some stiff competition. #meatqueen #proteinprincess


Overall this place is really pleasant!!! The interior is really conducive to relaxing and unwinding, especially when it's cold and dark outside. The food is tasty, very comforting and delicious. The dishes were also very well executed, believe us we've eaten enough bad chicken wings in our lives to know a good one when we see it!


Go to Countyline. Sit. Have a drink. Order the Charcuterie plate and the Croquettes. Munch a teriyaki skewer. Enjoy!



As you have undoubtedly already heard, we were invited to Countyline's media night.   This means that we are now famous members of the fourth estate, and that henceforth you should refer to us only as "Sir" and "Madam."


Now for the review:


Countyline Tavern is, hands down, a fantastic tavern that may or may not be located on the border between two counties.  And I am So Very Famous Now that I can say this without regard to the $20 gift card and free food they gave us.  Seriously, check this place out.


They've really thought this place through.  The ambiance is great, the bar has outlets at every seat so that you can do work if you like or charge your phone, the wait staff is prompt and courteous, though perhaps this was because they were overwhelmed by the Famous People there.  Like us.


Their outdoor seating is as perfect as you can get outside one of the better downtown rooftops.  Firepit, body of water, and fountain.  Everything you need for a cosy date-night.


Now the Food.


For what they were serving, this was excellent.  I know that's not the most complimentary way to put it, but my point is that they were serving only snacks, and that many of these were served buffet style -- not at all the way they'll be serving YOU.  So given that they had to time the mass production of buffet style bar snacks so that hungry and judgmental people could take an assinine number of pictures before going home and writing a review, it was excellent.  More specifically...


I don't like pork rinds.  So these were fine, but read her review of these.


Bacon wrapped dates.  Yum.  You can't go bad with these and they did an excellent job.


Best Damned Grilled Chese is MY grilled cheese, not theirs.  However, theirs was really quite good.  Spicy, because they've got a pepper in there, but I like that.


Chicken Yakatori was flavorful and perfectly cooked.  I can't imagine that's easy when served buffet style, so my hat is off to the chef.


Table full of meats and cheeses -- see her review.  I was focused on the hot food. 


Ducktrap smoked Pastrami Salmon.  Tasty, but I did not undestand this item at all.  Was it duck?  Salmon?  Was it pastrami smoked by a duck riding a salmon?  Confused,but happy eating.


Little mini burgers were high quality.  Much better than the norm for a bar.


Shrimp and spinach Croquettes.  Yum.  Probably my favorite.  Pop a whole one in your mouth, and bite down.  Immense tasty flavor.


Chicken Wings!  Perfectly cooked, but the sauce was not my favorite.  Personal thing though.  People have varying levels of desired sweetness.  This wasn't mine. But again, hats off to the chef, who managed to produce them perfectly en masse.


Mini Brats.  Presentation great.  Flavor good, but I thought the brat itself could use more flavor.  Otherwise excellent.


Bread Pudding!  Yum.  I have high standards for bread pudding, and this met them. But again, I sort of had to imagine what it would be like served hot with ice cream, rather than lukewarm on a stick.  The fact that I liked it this way speaks volumes. Think about it.


Cheesecake.  Honestly - nope.  It was very good cheesecake, but not for me. 


Kentucky Bourbon Budino. Best of the desserts!  Loved it. But I'm also trying to give the other desserts a fair shake. 




As I commented to management, I'm looking forward to eating a full meal here rather than the bar bites that were prepared for us.  The chef is clearly a high-quality fellow.  We chatted with him for a bit and he told a story of learning to cook true, southern style grits from a scary grandma from one of the Carolinas.  This was both amusing, and proof that he actually goes to the source for the best way to prepare any particular item on his menu. And please don't think he's limited to grandma's cooking; he cleverly worked into the conversation that the grandma was scarier than the French chefs he'd worked with.  And seriously, can you be a combination of formal French training and Southern Grandma training?  I think not.   Go here.  Check it out.  And the first person who does and tells us about it will get our Gift Card for a follow-up trip to Countyline Tavern :)



Please note that once again, she writes waaaay too much.  On the other hand, she writes with education and erudition, while I write with... umm... a folksy charm?


The Famous People

The talented chef

Duck riding a salmon smoking a pastrami

This space reserved for pics from future meal!

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