Try Viking superfood
SOME locals say skyr, Iceland’s yoghurt-like dairy product that’s found fame as a ‘Viking superfood’, is becoming more famous than Björk. You can learn about it at the Skyrgerðin guesthouse, in the charming town of Hveragerði, 45km east of Reykjavik, which is reverting to its original use by introducing a skyr factory.
‘Older generations like a dry skyr with a texture more like goat’s cheese but the young prefer it to be more like Greek yoghurt,’ says skyr head-maker Erlendur Eiríksson, adding that both textures will soon be produced at the renovated skyr factory. You heard it here first.
Nordic culinary revival is smoking hot
HOT new Reykjavik restaurant Skál! opened recently, marking Gísli Matthías Auðunsson’s return to the capital after a stint at his Slippurinn restaurant on the Westman Islands off Iceland’s south coast. The chef is a pioneer of northern Europe’s New Nordic food movement, which has seen the revival of traditional techniques like smoking, fermenting and curing, using native ingredients.
At Skál! you can try dishes that feature fillets of trout smoked over sheep dung — a traditional process known as ‘dirt smoking’, which adds a robust, farmyard taste — as well as ingredients foraged from nearby lava fields and black beaches.
Skál! launched in the new Hlemmur Mathöll food hall, which opened in August in the city’s old bus terminal, and is a sign that New Nordic is going mainstream. Eke out the evening with one of their lovage-laced gin cocktails or pop round the corner for a liquorice, chocolate and sea-salt nitro-ice cream, as Iceland’s native ingredients, bitter herbs and roots are reinvented for the modern palate.
Baker’s popularity on the rise
IT’S no surprise that flat-capped baker Ágúst Einþórsson’s central Reykjavik bakery Brauð & Co, close to Hallgrímskirkja church, has become such a big hit in the 18 months since it opened. As a result, he has opened two more sites in the capital — one in the newly opened Hlemmur Mathöll food hall and another on the main route out of town in Fákafen.
His still-hot-from-the-oven cinnamon buns, photographed against the graffiti-covered bakery wall, have cult Instagram status across the small island nation, as do his flaky puffed croissants, which are considered works of art.
Beer scene erupts
LAVA Smoked Imperial Stout is about as Icelandic as a pint could sound. This pitch-black beer (9.4 per cent) offers smoky chocolate roasted malt notes and is quite a surprise considering beer was prohibited in Iceland until 1989.
Ölvisholt Brewery is leading the country’s sophisticated craft beer movement and this lava pint is inspired by Hekla, the volcano visible from the brewery door. It is launching a new Tap Room, where visitors can try samples, and a limited-run 24 Barley Wine in the lead-up to Christmas.
Have a vine time
THOUGH daylight hours are shortening and there’s an autumn chill, walls of tomatoes are ripening in the Friðheimar geothermal-heated greenhouse, an hour’s drive east of Reykjavik. Traditionally, Mediterranean vegetables couldn’t be cultivated in Iceland’s harsh climate but geothermal technology makes it possible, and has created a local market for this once-exotic produce.
Visitors can enjoy the greenhouse’s subtropical climate, thanks to hot spring waters pumped through pipes, and a bowl of its signature tomato soup in a café that offers the ultimate farm-to-table experience. Sip soup at wicker tables dotted between the vines and finish with a tomato ice cream topped with a green tomato and vanilla sauce.