Sunday, April 3, 2016

Iceland - Food

A number of people have asked me about the food in Iceland. Rather than keep typing the same message, I thought it would be easier if I put all of my thoughts into one big blog post.

Icelanders eat mostly fish and lamb. Fish because it is plentiful and being a coastal country (hardly anyone lives in the center of Iceland), fish is super fresh and easy. Lamb because sheep are easy to raise in the mountains.

Veggies seemed hard to come by. On our Golden Circle Tour we had lunch at Fridheimar greenhouse that grows many of the tomatoes consumed in Iceland (or so it seemed based on the numbers they cited). We had tomato soup and cucumber salsa. They also served Bloody Marys and Virgin Marys, and sold tomato sauces. They also have a lot of root veggies (carrots, potatoes, etc.) but what we think of as veggies are scant.

Milk products are very prevalent. Skyr (sold as Siggis in the states) is a really thick yogurt or a really loose cheese, or just something in-between. Also on the Golden Circle Tour we stopped off at a farm and had ice cream made by these cows.

Our Golden Circle Tour also included either a lamb or a fish dinner at a Farm to Table restaurant. Note just how potatoes and the swoop of beats are the veggies. 

Dessert was a chocolate mousse that was out of this world. The top layer is white chocolate. The middle layer is watermelon (which surprisingly worked), the bottom layer is also chocolate.

The other days we were on our own for meals. There are tons of restaurants in Reykjavik, just not ones we Americans are used to seeing. The economic downturn of 2008 really, really, really hurt the Icelandic economy. That's when Hard Rock Cafe and McDonald's pulled out, and have not yet returned. Starbucks is also not in Iceland. We did see Dunkin Donuts, Dominos, KFC, and several Subways. I saw a sign for Ruby Tuesdays on the outskirts of town, near the Toys R Us. In this way, it reminded me of Havana, Cuba.

Our hotel had a wonderful spread each morning for breakfast. There were 5 different types of sliced bread, ham, cheese, turkey, three types of yogurts, several cereals, hard boiled eggs, teas, coffee, juices, and Icelandic water. We saw a number of people making sandwiches for later.

We had a great lunch at a Thai restaurant. The options were scant (I think there were six), but we each found something we liked. There were a number of really good, and not too overpriced, lunch places near hotel. There were also a number of really expensive dinner restaurants. 

Dinner would have been more comical if we had not been so hungry. We went to an English pub next door because they seemed to have the most reasonably priced Icelandic food. Well we should have put a coin next to our portions for comparison sake. Really we should have gone out to eat at a different restaurant for dinner #2.

Don's lamb inside of a donut ($13)

Ashlye's $12 burger slider with fries

My $14 lamb lollipops. Trust me they look bigger in this picture.

Fortunately there are always the world's best hot dogs. I kid you not. At $3.50 the best deal in town.

Don and I had a terrific lamb stew on the road for about $15. It was at a dive rest stop in Vik. Ashley had a ham sandwich that was not nearly as good.

My most expensive meal was the Catch of the Day at our hotel. We had been wandering the city for at least an hour looking for food that each of us would like. Don found a vegetable lasagna, but I was in the mood for fish. We found a place with a Catch of the Day special that only went until 5 PM. It was a mess. My dinner cost $28. It was worth every penny.

My best airport meal came at the Reykjavik Airport (KEF). I had Teriyaki Salmon with a salad, veggies, and potatoes for $12. It looked so delicious I ate it before taking a picture of it.

Something I failed to remember while in Iceland, and if you go hopefully you will keep in mind is that the price is the final price. Tax was built into the price. There was no expectation of tipping (though I suppose tips are appreciated everywhere). Icelandic water is available in pitchers at every restaurant, hence there is no need to also buy a drink. One night I bought a cup of tea. It was $3.50 and only had a couple of sips in it.

Everyone told us the food was expensive (one friend said expect to pay $50 for breakfast), and certainly you could do the puffin and whale dinner for 6500 ISK ($53), but we did find dinners for under $20 each. It is a matter of what you want to eat, and what you want to drink. Just like in any city.

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