Icelandic chefs and restaurateurs are capitalising on something great: instant access to mighty fine and fresh produce from both land and sea.
Last week’s 12th annual Food and Fun Festival showcased the country’s produce, while visiting chefs were able to demonstrate their culinary flair.
The festival saw 16 chefs from around the world collaborate with local restaurants, each chef working with the culinary team at their assigned restaurant to prepare a special menu made using only Icelandic ingredients.
The last day of the festival saw visiting chefs compete, creating a three-course menu, once again using only Icelandic ingredients, to be crowned the Food & Fun Chef of the Year. The winning chef, Fredrik Berselius, flew over from his Williamsburg restaurant, Aska, to pair with chef Gunnar of Dill. Fredrik created a unique menu at Dill with a visible nod towards New Nordic Cuisine, with a menu of salted cod, beetroot, lamb and arrack sorbet.
Other chefs and restaurants to take part in the festival included VOX, paired with Esben Holmboe Bang of Maaemo, Oslo; Tapashúsið, paired with Seamus Mullen, of Tertulia, New York; Grillið, paired with Paul Cunningham of Henne Kirkeby Kro, Denmark and Fiskmarkaðurinn, paired with Jonah Kim of Pabu, Baltimore.
An abundance of fresh natural ingredients and thriving fish stocks around the island arguably add to Iceland’s attraction, but it’s the diversity of the land that is the real beauty of this place. From the geothermal hot springs at Geysir to the Blue Lagoon; the plunging valleys, volcanoes and waterfalls – there is something deeply enchanting about Iceland.
Here’s our list of tips on delicacies and dishes to try and avoid when in Iceland
Low-fat and high-protein curd, Skyr is practically a national treasure. Similar in taste, appearance and consistency to yoghurt, Skyr is a diary product loved by Icelanders of all generations.
Icelandic sheep have an idyllic life. Spending their summers grazing in the wild Icelandic highlands, living off mountain herbs, which undoubtedly contribute to the lean and tender quality of the lamb.
I’m told that langoustine is like a good drug in Iceland. If you’re privy to a decent dealer, he or she will visit your home and bring you a cut of the good stuff. Small and full of flavour, Icelandic langoustine will always leave you wanting more.
Microbreweries have sprung up across the country in recent years. Try Einstök Brewery’s selection of four ales: Toasted Porter (6%), with notes of toffee and dark chocolate; White Ale (5.6%), with flavours of orange peel and coriander; Pale Ale (5.6%), with its malty undertone and the seasonal Doppelbock (6.7%), a limited edition winter brew.
Einstök Brewery is located just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle, where water flows down from glaciers to the mountain, through lava fields and to the brewery.
It’d be a crime to leave Iceland without paying a visit to Burid – The Icelandic Pantry in Reykjavik. Offering far more than a good selection of cheeses, crackers, cured meats, dried fruits and chutneys, the owner, Eirny Sigurdardottir is a wise woman with an unrivaled knowledge and enthusiasm for Icelandic cheese. Founding the shop two days before the ‘Big Crash’ – as she and many other Icelanders refer the economic downturn of 2008, many thought Eirny wouldn’t succeed. In spite of the downturn, she’s carved a niche in the market, feeding the cheese-loving population of Iceland who enjoy a bit of luxury at home. Burid is one of only two cheese shops in Iceland and when the owner is as passionate about the produce as Eirny, it makes this a very special place, indeed. Book in for a cheese tasting to really get to know the history of and local varieties of cheese on offer.
The horsemeat sausage producers of Iceland do not get a point for at least declaring that their sausage meat is horsemeat. The meat is incredibly rich, this, coupled with its smoky flavour and greasy texture is not a good combination.
Fermented shark, are you mad? This is one local delicacy we can do without, thank you very much. Described by a fellow journalist as pungent, cheese-like smelling and arriving in a tightly sealed container, this is not our idea of a foodie treat.