Tuesday, March 20, 2012
It’s always so hard to fit in all the foods I want to try on any given trip. My visit to Iceland seemed even more challenging than most. First of all because it was just so different from anywhere else I’d ever been, therefore there was so much to try that I’d never had. And secondly, I was there for such a short time - only four days - that it was almost impossible to fit it all in (literally).
But I tried. I really did. Between scheduled meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner, I managed to fit in stops after breakfast, post lunch and even an early pre-dinner.
Cafe Loki was in that grey area I’ll just call ‘tea time.’
We had just finished a late afternoon visit to the Cathedral (pix on that coming tomorrow) and were about to take a walk into the center of Reykjavik. Even though I can’t say we were hungry, we were definitely curious to try out some of the indigenous specialties like plokkfiskur and skyr.
Cafe Loki opened a few years ago with a very specific goal: to serve up traditional Icelandic cuisine, with no frills. We’d already had Gunnar’s stupendous Nordic spin on Iceland’s bounty over at Dill , and Solveig's home cooking. Later that evening we would be seeing what one of the visiting foreign chefs was going to do with Icelandic ingredients as part of the Food & Fun festival. But for the moment, we were ready to try plain old, traditional Icelandic fare. You know, chunks of fermented shark meat.
Ok, we balked at the rotted shark meat. But we did manage to try some truly delicious - and cool - Icelandic treats.
Dried fish with butter. I didn’t really understand it until it arrived at our table. A small dish of dried cod (stock fish), ripped into small pieces, eaten with a schmeer of butter. The fish - which is not re-hydrated, but served dried and chewy - was used for centuries as a bread substitute for a country that doesn’t grow wheat. Of course, it’s not like bread at all, but - unsurprisingly - like eating chewy, dried fish spread with butter. In other words, great.
Cafe Loki is very well known for their homemade rye bread, which we had topped with smoked trout and cottage cheese, as well as plokkfiskur (mashed fish).
Our favorite dish was the simplest: skyr with heavy cream. Skyr is the fresh cheese - the only cheese really - made in Iceland. Made from sheep’s milk, the heavy, creamy cheese is slightly tangy and used as an ingredient in all sorts of dishes. And the resulting whey that is left over is put to use preserving things like shark meat and head cheese.
But we had it simply plopped in a bowl, floating in heavy cream, and sprinkled with sugar. “It’s kind of like getting to eat an entire container of sour cream,” said Evan. But with sugar and cream. Nothing wrong with that.
I guess we could have been more adventurous, and ordered one of the Loki’s mixed plates, which come with things like sheep-head jelly and fermented shark. Or at least a bowl of steaming meat soup, one of the countries national dishes.
But remember, this was a meal between meals. So I think we did pretty well. All in the name of research, of course.
Lokastig 28, in front of Hallgrimskirkja (the Cathedral)
I was in Iceland as a guest of the Fun & Food festival, and my airfare was courtesy of Iceland Air.