I was determined to find the best authentic Icelandic food. Yes, I am aware that Reykjavik is a tourist trap, and there are better options outside of the city. But hey, life is short and I wanted to make the most of my trip. Icelandic food is actually not bad. I am not a fan of European food because it is not very flavorful and somewhat on the bland side. I knew I was taking that risk coming here understanding that the food might not be very good. However, my opinion changed when I had the Seared Perch on top of Mixed Greens, Baby Potatoes, with a Blueberry Balsamic Dressing and Carrot Puree from Matwerk in Reykjavik. It was the catch of the day and I was really anticipating on what the flavor would be like. The meal itself was not bad, but it did bring out a noticeable theme of what was to come about Icelandic food – They do not season the food as much, however, they rely on quality and freshness of the ingredients to be the star. Now given my black ass palate, I didn’t mind this at all.
My first taste of Iceland came from the bottled water on the plane which I thought was very clean tasting. Icelanders get their water from the glaciers on the island. One doesn’t need to drink the bottled stuff since their tap water is the safest and cleanest to drink. My daughter calls it water from heaven. I had the Islenski Barinn Karamella (Icelandic Donut filled with Toffee) from Dunkin Donuts at Keflavik Airport. It was tasty, but way too sweet and I love sweets. Arriving at the airport, my first stop was at the Duty Free Shop to stock up on some liquor. I have had family and friends ask me if I can bring them back something and thought about the hilarity of me going on a global liquor run. So I said why not. I got 2 bottles of Icelandic Schnapps, 1 bottle of Brennivin, a gift set of liquors, some candy, and some smaller bottles of Vodka.
I also had to be mindful of the food budget. Everything is so expensive there, even places outside of Reykjavik was somewhat expensive. I did manage to get a Hot Dog with fried onions and mustard from a convenience store in Borganes. I love how the hotdogs snap when you eat them. The sauce was a sweet/sour kind of mustard. The ketchup however was very sweet and had a floral note to it. I did find a convenience store around the corner from the hotel that sold sandwiches and snacks. I did not like the Bearnaise and special sauce they put on the sandwiches. I don’t do eggs, and many of the sandwiches had eggs in them. Instead, I scrapped off the sauce and ate the contents. Because Iceland gets it water from the glaciers and through geothermal energy, everything I ate had this slight sulfuric/floral note to it. I think the floral comes from the moss that’s all over the island. The hotel we stayed in had breakfast
included and it was one of the highlights of the entire trip. Breakfast was spread out continental buffet style with fruits, breads, croissants, cold meats, cheese, deviled and scrambled eggs, pickled herring, cucumbers, tomatoes, biscuits (tea cookies), juice, tea, and coffee. Sitting in the dining hall and hearing so many languages spoken as I nibbled on my cookies and fruits gave me chills, and reminded me why I needed to brush up on my German and Spanish. All was not lost – there are Bonus Discount Stores all over the island and I found some great finds for around the same prices I would pay here in the US. I found this gem on day 3 of our trip and wished that I would have gotten there sooner. I stocked up on bread, ham, popcorn, hummus, and other treats. The food lasted a couple of days and helped cut back on going out to eat.
My next meal came from Islenski Barinn in the heart of downtown. I had the infamous hakarl, fermented shark with an ammonia taste(it tasted like pee), Fiskur (dried herring) with butter, and Grilled Puffin with Skyr, arugula and blueberries. Puffin is a local bird cooked rare like steak with a flavor of liver. I liked the puffin a lot, didn’t care for the fishkur, and the hakarl,…they give you 6 pieces, I was able to do 3. Another island favorite that’s becoming popular here in the US is skyr. Skyr can be found all over Iceland and is a yogurt product that tastes like cream cheese and Greek Yogurt It comes in a variety of flavors that’s usually eaten the traditional way with cream and sugar. I don’t care for skyr that much because I’m not a big yogurt person. Friedheimar is where we went to tour the local greenhouse where they grow tomatoes using geothermal energy. The coolest thing about that was instead of pesticides, they use bees as a natural repellent. The last meal I had in Reykjavik was a Creamy Seafood Soup with Salmon, Lobster and Shrimp from a Scandinavian Restaurant. Lobster was so soft and sweet and the salmon literally melted in my mouth. So delicious. Overall, the food scene is poppin – I wouldn’t sleep on Icelandic food as they rely on freshness and quality versus over seasoning the food. Takk fyrir matinn! (Thanks for the food!)