Recently I spent a few days in the incredible country of Iceland. I explored Reykjavik for a day- what a beautiful city! Intense wind and cold notwithstanding, my day in the city was wonderful. I tasted the local cuisine, which is obviously heavily fish based. As an island, Iceland relies upon their fishing industry in large part. With the relatively recent trade and commerce available to the country, its cuisine still reflects a dependence upon preserved foods. Arnfríður, who lives in Reykjavik but grew up on a farm to the north, was lovely enough to take me to Cafe Loki, a cafe that specializes in traditional Icelandic cuisine. I had a baked gratinated fish dish, which was creamy and delicious, paired with Icelandic rye bread – traditionally baked in empty milk cartons at a low temperature for many hours, and is often buried in the ground near hot springs and left to cook.
Yes, I did try the national dish, hákarl, fermented shark. It was very sharp, with a dense but fatty texture. Arnfríður told me that the hákarl I tried wasn’t as pungent as it usually is- apparently when a proper batch is served, everyone in the room can smell it.
I also had the exceptional opportunity to spend the weekend with a group of locals. Despite having to remind them that I can’t understand Icelandic a few times, they were all incredibly hospitable and welcoming. We shared a meal together, and the cook used a few recipes from my cookbook, A Feast of Ice and Fire. I’m always happy to see that the recipes can be followed successfully. He even had a set of US measuring cups and spoons!
The weekend was spent in an Icelandic summer house about 90 minutes outside of Reykjavik, so I was able to take in a bit of countryside. I was accosted by a couple mannerless Icelandic ponies, battered about by intense winds, ate harðfiskur (fish jerky) made by a fisherman at sea, and drank many a beer in the hot tub with good conversation and even better new friends.