John Eats Iceland

My friend John already has an adoring fan base here at The Amateur Gourmet. Now you get to read an exclusive account of his food adventures in Iceland. Yes, ICELAND. John went to Iceland for his Spring Break! Read all about it below… And thanks, John, for sharing this with us!

Ah Spring Break. While MTV is in Cancun, I decided to go somewhere a bit more my speed: Reykjavik, Iceland.

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Now, I’ve always heard that Iceland was green and Greenland was ice. True…but Iceland is still freaking cold. Especially in winter. Regardless, my best friend Jayna and I braved the weather and blissfully ignored the raised eyebrows of our friends and family and headed north for 4 days.

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Luckily the fierce wind that whipped across the Icelandic highlands seriously chapped my

face and so now that I am back everyone looks at my red, peeling face and says, “Looks like you had a fun spring break!” Yeah. Something like that. Ignore the frostbite on my nose.

In Iceland I enjoyed some of the most expensive food on the face of the earth…and since we were paying in Icelandic kronur, it was like playing with Monopoly money. Most of my days were filled with

conversations like this: “600Ikr for a beer? Sure! I think I have a thousand dollar bill! Here is it! Oh look at the fish on the bill! How cute! Only 600? What a bargain!” When I got home and saw my credit card

bill I fell out of my chair. That bargain-priced beer was $10 US dollars. But I live in New York and so I was unfazed. Well…that’s what I tell people now anyway.

What did I eat? Well true to its European roots, Iceland’s main shopping street (Laugarvegur) has a range of quaint little cafes where you can sip coffee all day long, or have a quick sandwich at lunch. My

favorite spot was Te + Kaffi (I can translate that…Tea and Coffee) where I had a delicious cappucinno. Probably some of the most delicious foam I have every tasted on a cappuccino: somehow light and creamy, but also curiously rich. We actually went there on our last day and my friend Jayna got us to try this cake we had seen at a lot of places throughout our time in Iceland.

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We asked what it was and was told it was two layers of meringue mixed with caramel and rice krispies (but it tasted more like Rice Krispie TREATS in it) with whipped cream in the middle. It was absolutely delcious – each bite filled with the crunchy rice krispie/caramel/meringue layer and the smooth, rich whipped cream. Yum. I wish I had found it sooner.

On Friday and Saturday nights almost all of Iceland’s 300,000 person population (75% of which lives in the capital) is in Reykjavik getting drunk. Every weekend is a pub crawl called “runtur” and SHOULDN’T be missed! A staple during this drunken revelery is the Icelandic hotdog and the best place to get one is a little shack called BAJARINS BESTU.

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The hot dogs are made with high-quality Icelandic lamb and were delicious. People said to get one with

everything (mustard, raw onions, fried onions, remoulade and something else I think), but I mistakenly ordered a “Clinton Special” at the suggestion of some drunk 17-year old ordering ahead of me. I asked, “Bill Clinton has a HOT DOG named after him here?” “Yes,” my new friend cooly replied. Somehow he missed the irony.

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Apparently, our former president came to this very shack in a parking lot and ordered a hot dog with

just mustard — now Icelanders call this exotic creation the “Clinton” and think that’s the only thing Americans eat. So we had them. They looked like your traditional hot dog, but were really delicious and

almost sweet. Maybe not best in the world as promised, but very good. Worth $3.50? Probably not. (Luckily this shack…like almost every other place on the island, takes credit cards!)

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We also ate a couple of times at this cool cafe called the Reykjavik Bagel Company.

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I had a hummus and chicken wrap with roasted peppers that would have been delcious but for the watery mayo it was drenched in.

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I also had a bagel with cream cheese one morning there as well. It was OK. The cream cheese was really soft — almost wet — and didn’t taste like one I would get here. I’ll take one in Manhattan any day. I know…I know. You can take the boy out of New York….

Our last night we decided to go out and spend some big money on an authentic Icelandic meal. The front desk at our hotel made reservations for us at L├Žkjarbrekka. I’m sure that’s pronounced just

how it looks.

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Our entrees were delicious, and our appetizers were…ummm…unique. For an entree my friend ordered salted cod (an Icelandic specialty) and I ordered “Mountain and Bay” which I guess is Icelandic Surf and Turf.

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It was a plate of Icelandic lobster tails and lamb served with a tomato/zucchini salsa, roasted potatoes and some brown sauce. My friend’s cod was good, but as promised, salty. My meal was really

delicious. The lobster was very fresh and delcious — although the tails were really small. The lamb was also the best I have ever had. Tender and delicious and it couldn’t have been paired better with the

salsa-like mixture. Was it worth its almost $85 price tag? Moreso then tickets to GOOD VIBRATIONS on Broadway.

These entrees were a great way to end a meal that started off a little bit questionably. Question: What do a puffin and a minke whale have in common?

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Answer: I ate them. Jayna and I ordered two appetizers: a salad with puffin and duck and some sort of whale dish. My salad was mixed greens and had pickled and smoked puffin, smoked duck, and goose confit. The salad was OK, but the taste of the meat was really lost. I only tasted a picked

flavor and a smoked flavor in everything. Not the best. The whale appetizer was out of this world. About 12 tiny strips of whale with crunchy chili-flakes on them were served like sushi with soy sauce,

wasabi, and ginger. I expected the whale to taste like fish…but it actually tasted a lot like steak and was really REALLY good, especially with the soy sauce. Next time you have the choice between puffin and whale at a restaurant, I say go with the whale! :) My friend asked what kind of whale it was and that is how we were told it was minke. I did some research and found that since 1986 the whales are on the endangered species list as “threatened” because there are only 800,000 left in the world. Well, 799,999 now. Does that mean I ate a whale that was killed around the same time my brother was born? God I hope not.

If you have the chance, visit Reykjavik. The food is great and the chefs are wacky

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in Europe’s most unpolluted city. Just learn from me and bring a hat. And gloves. And a scarf would be nice, too. Oh…and a winter jacket. A heavy winter jacket.

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