Last week I was off in the great North. My family and I took a trip to not so faraway Iceland (5 hours by plane). Before going a read a lot that Iceland is not a country known for it’s culinary tradition. The food is expensive and lackluster. However, in my experience I found that this may be an unfair view. I had a lot of really good dining experiences both at restaurants and eating at home.
Today I’ll share with you some of the highlights and one of the oh so lowlights.
Highlight: Skyr. If you know me, you know I’m very much into Greek Yogurt. So when I heard that Iceland made a product that was reputed to be BETTER than Greek Yogurt, I was beyond intrigued. Skyr it turns out is yogurt-like, but is technically a cheese. I don’t want to bore you with a lot of the details (it’s extremely high in protein, they make it pasteurized skimmed milk, it’s extremely old traditionally, etc.), but suffice it to say it’s amazing. Like yogurt it’s naturally plain, but flavored with all sorts of flavors. I set my sights on the standard Strawberry and was not disappointed. The consistency is hard to describe, but it’s creamy and smooth and all sorts of wonderful. It doesn’t leave any residual chalkiness, which is a complaint I’ve heard about Chobani on occasion. Skyr can be purchased in the US under the Siggi’s brand. Go and try some and tell me I’m wrong.
Highlight: Pylsur, or hot dog. Bæjarins Beztu (or World’s Best) is a local landmark. A street dog of epic proportions, this is probably the most affordable and delicious food item you can buy in Iceland. For just a hair over $2 your getting a delicious hot dog (if a little small). Ask for it with the works, which gets you some serious flavor. A remoulade, sweet and spicy mustard and some crunchy fried onions will leave you needing more.
Highlight: Austur-Indíafjelagið. This Indian restaurant (yes you read that correctly) is amazing. Now dining out in Iceland is expensive, and yes I mean very expensive. But sometimes you have to splurge. I went with the Khandari Kebab (Well marinated filet of lamb in a blend of beetroot, fried onions, chironji seeds, cashew nut paste, cumin and chili) and holy moly was it awesome. Toss in some truly tasty naan (including spelt naan) and I had a wonderful meal.
Highlight: Lamb and Langoustines. These are two of the can’t miss staples of Icelandic dining. Whenever possible I ordered lamb or their take on lobster. Langoustines are like small lobsters, and extremely sweet. As a proud New Englander I am ashamed to say that these may very well be better. In soup, grilled, pan fried, you name I tried it and loved every bite.
Lowlight: Salted Lamb. You may be asking yourself what on earth is that? I still really have no idea. In the grocery stores I decided that I wanted to grill some lamb for myself. The apartment we were renting had a grill and I figured I had to use it. At the grocery store the options were limited and so I grabbed what I knew to be salted lamb. Know I had no idea what this was. I didn’t have the internet on my phone, so I couldn’t discover that it’s only really for use in soup. But oh boy, never grill this stuff. It’s terrible prepared this way. It’s like drinking the ocean accidentally in food form.
That was really the only lowlight (besides the price). There are a bunch of other places I could mention, but won’t for brevity’s sake (this is a DC food blog after all). Iceland has some real gems out there, but my biggest recommendation: Grab a baguette, some cheese, and some cold cuts from a grocery store and hit the road. There’s too much to see out in there to spend your time exclusively eating in Reykjavik.