The food of Iceland is an intriguing adventure
For me, the food of Iceland takes second place behind the breathtaking abundance of nature.The beauty of the vast flat lands, numerous snow capped volcanoes, enormous waterfalls, and pale blue icebergs continue to keep me dreaming of our Northern Lights Tour. Reykjavík is the capital of a country with only 350,000 people and is the culinary barometer for this fascinating destination.
The culinary scene in Iceland is different. Not different in a negative way, just different. We were able to sample their unique fish focused cuisine and also discovered the most popular hot dog in the world, an organic tomato farm and the freshest farm to table dairy products. What a combination!
In early days it was necessary for Icelanders to utilize what they had access to like the ocean fish, including arctic char and herring and the lamb they found on land. In present day, they still eat a great deal of fish and lamb served many different ways. Additionally they do serve horse as well Minke whale. Yes, they do. Although I would not eat these dishes myself, many locals and tourists do.
I will focus on the food we enjoyed and I want to emphasize that a city like Reykjavík caters to tourists with an international palette, so rest assured, if you explore enough, you can find what you want to eat. Craig and I found several super cool, hip, foodie-type restaurants where we enjoyed friendly service and the dishes were eye-catching and delicious. Next week I will share our time at Grillmarket, an extraordinary establishment in Reykjavík. It blew us away.
The Best Hot Dog in the World
I am sure hot dog connoisseurs everywhere will argue that the best hot dog in the world is probably not in Iceland. However, any time you walk by Baejarins Betzu, a tiny, popular food kiosk in Reykjavík, there is always a line. Legend has it that when Bill Clinton was President, he tasted the hot dog and proclaimed it “the best in the world”. So indeed it must be!
We took a stroll from our hotel over the old world cobblestone streets to form our own opinion. The hot dogs are a mix of beef, lamb and pork and are served with your choice of crispy fried onions, diced raw onions, spicy brown mustard and a mayonnaise-type aioli. Since I don’t eat hot dogs, my traveling companions Craig, Dan and Drew offered to be photographed and share their unbiased opinions.
They liked them, but were they the best in the world? Maybe not, but I don’t see the line getting any smaller any time soon. It was such a fun adventure and we talked with several tourists who were having a blast and loving their dogs!
Of course there is an abundance of seafood!
What would you eat if you lived on a volcanic island where trees and vegetables don’t grow and you are surrounded by water? Additionally, nearly everything you eat, you need to import. Icelanders used their ingenuity and built upon what they have and procure what they need. The food of Iceland provides lots of conversation and for an adventurous eater (there were many on our tour) it is a culinary bonanza!
Check out this video of one of our buffet dinners in Reykjavík
A tradition of fermented shark and a potent liquor called Brennivin
Would you eat fermented shark? This delicacy is part of Iceland’s heritage and made of Greenland shark (or sleeper shark) and smells like ammonia. What if you could chase it with the local liquor that was especially strong and tasted like something between rubbing alcohol and grappa? Yes? No?
The liquor is called ‘Brennivín’, and is a clear, unsweetened akvavit schnapps flavored with caraway. We felt that when in Iceland… you must try the local delicacies. We did it, but it was nasty.
Handcrafted cocktails with chiseled glacial ice
For two cocktail enthusiasts, what could be more cool than drinking bourbon over the ice of a glacier? What? How did this happen? Much to our surprise and delight, while we were visiting my favorite place, Diamond Beach, our Collette tour director Barbara and the fantastic bus driver, brought back a small, completely clear, iceberg from the beach.
The bartender at Hotel Katla used a fancy, leather-handled, ice pick to create the perfect “bourbon on the rocks” This was the most incredible libation we have ever tasted! Imagine 1,000 year old perfectly clear ice!
Skyr and Efstidalur Farm
Are you familiar with Skyr? You may have eaten it, but didn’t know you were eating it! Icelandic yogurt is called Skyr and we can get it here in the States. It is similar to Greek yogurt, but thicker, creamier and not as tart. We took a drive over to see Efstidalur, which is run by four siblings and their families. They are the 7th generation living on the property, but their family has been living there since about 1750.
“We are dairy farmers first and foremost, but since 2002 the business has developed with increased tourism in the area. In 2013 we opened the restaurant and café and began to make our own products from their milk and offer them to our guests to taste and enjoy”.
Now they focus on the tourism aspect of the business which includes delicious ice cream, skyr, an amazing café, tours of the farm and a farm hotel. I didn’t want to leave! Our hostess offered us tastes of the Skyr, their delicious coffee served in a glass and farm fresh feta cheese to die for! The farm is located on the Golden Circle which is the primary tourist road, so make a reservation to ensure a spot.
Tomatoes under glass at Fridheimar
We could see way off in the distance, an enormous glowing glass dome. The golden light intrigued us and as we drew closer, we arrived at the most delightful indoor “farm”! At Fridheimar, we walked through the double glass doors and could feel the warm temps and humidity as well as the smell of tomatoes! Loved it!
The tomatoes are grown all year round, using state-of-the-art technology in an environmentally-friendly way. Green energy, pure water and biological pest controls make for tasty and healthful tomatoes. If you are interested in just how these tantalizing tomatoes are grown please click here for their explanation. It is not that complicated, but very logical (although pretty genius) and they utilize all of their natural resources like geothermal water.
We then tasted the delicious tomato soup and ice cold Icelandic water flavored with tomato and then…Dessert! Tomato dessert?
Whether you are a picky or adventurous eater, you will certainly find the unique food of Iceland quite the conversation starter. No question! It was such a fun culinary departure from what we were familiar with and I look forward to another visit so I can try even more.