Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Eating Iceland

Matt and I are back from our latest traveling and eating adventure. This time we headed to Iceland and Denmark. Jetlag is hanging on hard, but I wanted to share all our experiences with you. Our first stop is Iceland...
Iceland 2012
Iceland is an amazingly beautiful place especially at this time of year with the fall colors against the black lava rocks and snow covered peaks. There is something otherworldly about it, with its steaming geysers and huge waterfalls.
Iceland 2012
Thanks to Icelandair you can stopover in Iceland for up to a week without any added charge to your airfare when flying on to Europe, Scandinavia or Russia (or from those places to the US).

So let's talk about the food. Iceland is becoming increasingly known for its food and restaurants. I recommend if you want to go to any of the better known places, get a reservation. We discovered this our first night when we went to Forrétta Barrin which was recently voted one of the best restaurants in Reykjavík. It's a little off the beaten path in town, so we thought we'd take a change on getting in on a Saturday night. We were told we could have a table, but only for 50 minutes. Since we were pretty tired from being up for almost two days, we figured a quick meal was no problem.
Iceland 2012 Iceland 2012
Forrétta's menu is small plates, but not necessarily meant to share, The idea is you have three dishes and a dessert as your meal. Because of our short time limit we ended up just sharing four plates. The best and most unusual was a combination of salt cod, beef belly (yes, beef not pork), horseradish and chorizo.
Iceland 2012
The food was wonderful and I loved the atmosphere, but we felt the service was a little odd. I think some of that is just a difference of country and some was being tourists without a reservation.

The next night we went to Grillmarkadurinn where we had made a reservation in advance.
Iceland 2012 Iceland 2012
Iceland 2012 Iceland 2012
A beautiful restaurant decorated with the natural elements of Iceland like lava rock and stone. The long piller lights in the photo above are actually covered in fish skin. Their menu is also based around what is available locally from farms and the sea.

Grillmarkadurinn offers a couple different ways eat. You can order a starter and main, do the tasting menu or create your own tasting menu which the restaurant will serve in an order they feel works best. The tasting menu seemed to be very popular, so we ordered that. Oh, were we stuffed with wonderful food. When they brought our last dish I actually groaned. Here are a few of the more unusual dishes.
Iceland 2012 Iceland 2012
The first dish here is Minke Whale with a dipping sauce. The whale was seared like tuna. It was tender and had a flavor like the best beef, much less fatty than we expected. The tempura dish was squid and dried fish. Dried fish is very popular in Iceland. People eat dried fish chips with butter on them like crackers. As a tempura, it had a little bit of a chewy texture and a much milder flavor than expected.
Iceland 2012
Lobster with roasted orange. The orange added amazing flavor. In the back you can see some of the Icelandic lamb.
Iceland 2012
The dessert "potluck" was amazing with fresh fruit, sorbets, mousse, ice cream, a brownie and our favorite, a banana flan. Grillmarkadurinn also has a very popular fish restaurant called Fiskmarkaðurinn.

One thing we noticed eating out in Iceland (and also in Copenhagen) was a difference in the service than what we are used to in the States. We are used to ordering drinks right away and then spending time with the menu. At every restaurant, we were asked the first time the server came to the table if we were ready to order our food. Then once we had our food, the server didn't come back to check on us or see if we needed more drinks (with the tasting menu it was different because they kept bringing dishes).  I'm sure this is because they don't want to bother you while you are eating, but we get so used to a server checking in here in the States it feels odd. Most people linger over meals so, you need to find your server and ask for your bill when you are ready to leave.

A few other notes on our Iceland visit. We stayed at the Hilton Nordica which is a beautiful hotel just outside of downtown. It was about a 15 minute walk into the city center or the hotel offered buses a couple times a day. They had a wonderful European breakfast buffet with meats, cheeses, bread, yogurt, eggs and English staples like sausage and beans. One unusual thing they offered was shots of cod liver oil...we declined.

Since we were only there for two days, we used Reykjavík Excursions to get to the Blue Lagoon on Saturday and take a Golden Circle tour on Sunday. A Sunday tour makes a lot of sense since most businesses are closed on Sundays.
Iceland 2012
The Blue Lagoon was absolutely lovely and the perfect antidote to jetlag. It was easy to get there with buses that picked us up at our hotel and delivered us afterwards. The Golden Circle was a great way to see a lot of Iceland in a little time. We had a wonderful tour guide who kept us interested with Icelandic history and current events.
Iceland 2012
I thought it was great that the tour took us to major sites, but also included a stop at a family farm to learn how they are growing organic, fresh vegetables in the Icelandic climate using geothermal energy.

It was a quick visit, but both Matt and I ended by saying we would go back to Iceland in a minute. Next time we'll stay longer and rent a car to see more of the island. Plus I never got to try the smoked puffin!

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://agoodappetite.blogspot.com OR at http://agoodappetite.com then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at katbaro AT yahoo DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author unless otherwise noted. © 2007-2012 Kathy Lewinski

6 comments:

Psychgrad said...

Nice! Good to hear that you'd go back. So - you'd suggest renting a car? Is it very drive-able?

Sometimes I think the return inquiries about whether we want drinks is just the restaurant's way of pressuring customers to spend more money.

kat said...

Psychograd - For a first trip I'd definitely do the bus for all the info you get. But to see more I'd rent a car. It is drivable but some areas require a jeep I guess.

Thing was I wanted another drink, mine was empty most of the meal ;)

tamilyn said...

We went to Iceland 2 years ago for our 20th anniversary. It was beyond words-the beauty, the people, the food. We also had whale, I tried lamb for the first time, and we stayed just down the street from the Hilton at the Radisson (I think) and they had the same type of breakfast buffet. We have been plotting a way to move up there ever since.

Lori said...

So cool. I would love to go there. Would love to jump into that lagoon! Looks so relaxing!

Lori said...

I am so intrigued by Iceland and you just peaked my interest even more! It looks like a wonderful quick visit. And how interesting about their growing methods! The photos are just gorgeous!

Psychgrad said...

Just coming back to re-read this post. We're going to Iceland for 10 days in just over a week. Can't wait! We're going to be visiting the south half of the island. Not sure how much restaurant sampling we'll be able to do with a baby.

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