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  • Writer's pictureVicky Lopez

Touching all the senses - Sight, Touch, Taste, Smell, Sound.....Culinary Iceland

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

As I was getting ready for my adventure in Iceland, I couldn't help but think about the delicious cuisine that awaited me. Like any seasoned traveler, I dove headfirst into researching the local restaurants around our hotel. And let me tell you, there were plenty of options to choose from, including the local bakery. From tempting pizzas to mouthwatering fish and chips, the choices were a food lover's paradise.

I had heard so many rave reviews about the lamb in Iceland, even though I wasn't the biggest fan of lamb. But, I decided to keep an open mind and prepared myself for both the worst and the best culinary experiences.

On our first night in Iceland, we arrived too late for dinner, so we settled for a local beer to quench our thirst. Being a wine person myself, I wasn't expecting anything extraordinary in terms of Icelandic wines. So I opted for a Boli beer, an American Adjunct Lager with a unique history brewed by Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson (say that 10 times fast). It was surprisingly tasty, and I would definitely choose it again.

The following day, as the rest of our group arrived, we gathered and ventured across the street for lunch. It was somewhat like a food court, offering a variety of options. We settled for loaded fries, which tasted just as delicious as they would back home in the States.

Later that afternoon we ventured out in the town of Hveragerdi, a small cute town. We not only found a waterfall (our first of many) but we also discovered the thermal park. We were pretty excited to learn that we could boil an egg in one of the thermal pools. That, coupled with the rye (rather sweet) bread they steam on one of the thermal pools, made a pretty good little snack.

For dinner that night, we enjoyed an organized meal with our tour group. They played it safe and went for a pre-set menu of the classic combination of beef, potatoes, and a heavenly lava cake for dessert.

The next morning, after a typical breakfast buffet, we embarked on the Golden Circle Tour. It was a beautifully chilly and windy day, and our first stop was a tomato farm. Yes, you read that right - a tomato farm in Iceland. We were fascinated by their hydroponic vegetable-growing techniques and got to sample some unique creations like tomato beer and chai tomato lattes. Surprisingly, they were quite interesting, and the tomatoes themselves were unbelievably flavorful. (Bumble bees are used to help pollinate the plants to ensure full weight, flavor, and volume of the fruit.)

From there, we visited a horse farm, where the beauty of Icelandic horses left us captivated. These incredible creatures deserve a blog post of their own. Remarkably, Iceland has protected this unique genetic group, allowing no horses to enter the country, and if one leaves the country they are not allowed to return.

For lunch that day, we found ourselves in a bustling market area with an abundance of food options. My husband and I couldn't resist trying the fish and chips, and they did not disappoint. We also indulged in some mouthwatering lamb meatballs. It was a delightful feast of flavors.

As the week progressed, we continued to explore an array of new tastes. Have you ever tried chocolate-covered black licorice? Now, I've never been a fan of black licorice, but for some reason, the combination in Iceland was surprisingly delightful. Just a hint of licorice at the end, much like a good wine with a subtle twist of flavor.

We also savored lamb soup, more fish and chips, succulent beef tenderloin, creamy sweet potato soup, and the famous Reykjavik hot dogs (another one that deserves its own blog). We even tried steamed rye bread, cooked in thermal pots, and smørrebrød, a type of rye bread with a hint of sweetness. But let me tell you about the smørrebrød experience.

Our best culinary decision in Iceland was dining at Matkrain restaurant in Hveragerdi. Despite some initial confusion and embarrassing attempts at translation, we finally understood that smørrebrød referred to a type of bread, not a smorgasbord. The menu allowed us to choose two types of toppings for our smørrebrød. Each topping came with perfectly paired ingredients. We decided on Eggs and Shrimp with lemony herbs for one, and roast beef with potato salad, onion confiture (a lost-in-translation word that means jam), and dijon for the other. Both smørrebrød creations were incredible, offering a unique and unforgettable dining experience. Matkrain is a place I would wholeheartedly recommend, as the experience is worth every penny spent on Icelandic cuisine.

Oh, how could I forget about dessert? Unanimously, we opted for the French chocolate cake after our waitress assured us that it was made with "real" chocolate, unlike the chocolate layer cake. And boy was her advice spot on. The French chocolate cake was an absolute treat - deep, rich, and full of chocolaty goodness.

TRAVEL TIP: When in Iceland, should they ask if you'd like some schnapps, be prepared. It isn't what you'd expect as an American. I don't know, but I think they forgot to put the sweet flavoring in it. Well, maybe they didn't forget, I just wasn't expecting it. (Kind of like the first time I ordered a cream-filled pastry in England - what? No sugar in the cream? After a week I was all-in and loved them)

My trip to Iceland was not just about breathtaking landscapes and thrilling adventures. It was a journey through the vibrant and diverse flavors of Icelandic cuisine. Each bite was an invitation to explore new tastes, challenge my palate, and savor the unique culinary wonders of this enchanting country.

P.S. - The sounds of the geysers exploding and the smell of the bubbling pots added to the entire Senses Experience.

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