Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
I didn’t realize that Iceland was such a great place for food lovers! It’s got amazing seafood, world class chefs and lots of crazy traditional food. I will try to eat as much of it as I can while I’m here! The only traditional food here that I have no desire to eat is their foal fillets. I just can’t do horse after having them as beloved pets!
So I tried a shot of fish oil this morning with breakfast - (Gag #1 of the day). Apparently fish oil is frequently consumed in Iceland for its health benefits and parents feed a spoonful to their children every morning!
We then hiked to the top of the hill to the Perlan otherwise known as the Pearl. The Pearl is built on top of the City’s water tanks and includes a viewing deck with incredible views of Reykjavik, a restaurant and the Saga Museum. The Saga Museum is pretty cool and depicts the gory history of Iceland. You’re given a mp3 player to listen to and travel back to the Viking age through the museum’s realistic sets and lifelike models.
We then headed to the stunning Hallgrímskirkja (Hallgrim's Church), which is the tallest structure in Iceland at 244 feet. We took an elevator to the top of its bell tower for incredible views of the City and also checked out the churches massive organ boasting a 50-foot-tall case and 5,275 pipes.
In the evening we went out for dinner and I ordered a traditional Icelandic feast! Most of the food was delicious, but the puffin was hard to stomach and tasted like oily, fishy, gamey liver. The whale was pretty good and was very similar to beef. I was a little torn about eating the whale, but I always try to eat the local food when travelling, so I gave it a shot. After a 20 year ban, Iceland resumed limited hunting of minke whales in 2006. Despite international protests and controversy, Iceland continues to hunt whales today.
My Icelandic feast tonight included:
- a shot of Brennivin (Icelandic schnapps, considered Iceland's signature alcoholic beverage made from fermented potato pulp, and flavoured with caraway seeds. AKA Black Death (Gag #2 of the day)
- Smoked puffin with blueberry Brennivin sauce (Gag #3 of the day)
- Icelandic sea trout with pepper salsa
- Lobster tails baked in garlic
- Pan-fried monk fish with lobster sauce
- Grilled Icelandic lamb Samfaina
- Minke whale with cranberry sauce (actually yummy and quite like beef)
- Chocolate cake with berry compote and whipped cream
Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010
We start our day back at Hallgrímskirkja Church for a free organ concert. After that, we head to the Kolaportid Flea Market - Pretty much the same as flea markets back home - full of other folk's junk! However, all the locals wearing Icelandic sweaters, the horse meat and the fishy treats are telling signs that things are just a little different here. First, we sampled some Icelandic pastries including the kleina or a fried pastry similar to a doughnut. Yum! Then we moved onto the food market where I sampled Hákarl or putrefied shark meat.
Hákarl consists of the Greenland or basking shark which has been cured with a fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months. It is poisonous when fresh due to its high content of uric acid. It is an acquired taste (similar to strong cheese) and has a very pungent ammonia-rich smell and fishy after taste. It actually smells worse than it tastes though and I have to say I found it more palatable than the puffin!
Afterwards we do a little more shopping and I spend way too much money on cute Icelandic wool sweaters! Now I’ll really fit in with the locals! I already do with my blonde hair and find that most locals try speaking to me in Icelandic. The streets and shops are decorated for Christmas and there are many impromptu fun moments on the street; a random children’s puppet show, the salvation army giving away free hot chocolate and a walking brass band.