Monday, July 30, 2012

Iceland: Return of the FISKUR! Pt: 1

I have often wondered if I would ever make it to this little steamy rock in the Atlantic (well, it's actually the 16th largest island in the world - thanks for the trivia Iceland Express quiz). Anyone who visits this place, comes home with so many words like "amazing, indescribable, unbelievable" spewing from their mouth, like a geysir of hyperbole. This would wear thin, if it wasn't for the fact that it's completely justified.

It must be said that so far I've only seen a glimpse of what's actually quite an enormous chunk of land, and in a way, I feel very homesick here. It's bizarre how much this place feels like New Zealand - an island in the middle of fucking nowhere, with a backbone of natural tourism, and a low density population. These wide open landscapes, and raw nature all seem strangely familiar, yet different. I'm currently staying in an apartment in downtown Reykjavik, and on these small undulating streets that roll down to the waterfront, I could almost mistake it for Queenstown, were it not for this bizarre Elvish language on everything. With a national population not even tipping 300,000, it's really special that this language is so well preserved and supported - but being an island always helps quell the influence of the white oppressors. (note to self: people here are very white; must ask mother if I am actually an Icelandic orphan who was abandoned in New Zealand?).

The night of my arrival, I was already wildly salivating for some FISKUR. We wasted no time  in deciding that our first stop would be one of Reykjavik's newest and most successful restaurants, SNAPS (not to be confused with the early 90's hip-house crew SNAP; although they later made a guest stereo appearance during the Saturday night party warm up). I GOT THE POWWWWA!! Um, anyway. 

According to local experience, Snaps Bistro has really changed the face of the dining out crowd in Reykjavik, by shifting the perception of eating out as a rich person's/tourist hobby, to an accessible & affordable experience. It was a simple business model: deflate the usual exorbitant restaurant prices, and offer a simple but excellent quality menu, then build it, and they will come. The atmosphere here is a perfect balance between smart and casual - it's somehow the right place for a dinner with your parents, or just a nice night out with your friends. For example: the waiters are smartly dressed and attentive (usually the sort of thing that the elders will cream their pants for) but without humourless pretension of many other chic restaurants (the kind of thing which makes me want to smash the waitstaff's fingers repeatedly with my pepper grinder).

These amplifier-valve-like lightbulbs were all over the restaurant. #designboner

I had the catch of the day, a delicious panfried cusk that was so very delicious and only lightly seasoned, as it should be.
Birta had the mussels and friends with Aoli. I was pretty happy to see the generous helping of coriander #corianderfiend

Transparency to the kitchen is something I always appreciate in a restaurant, just so I can be SURE nobody is wanking into my caesar salad #irrationalkitchenfear

Later in the day we went out to Birta's home place, Mosfellsdalur. It's not even an exaggeration to say her family basically run this place. I met 6 aunts and uncles in one hour at their local Saturday farmer's market. It's a beautiful and peaceful place, and after taste testing all of their local produce more than was polite to, we bought some trout & home made pesto & trekked up a small mountain.

Left to right: Cream cheese with birch, Icelandic moss, & with angelica.
Chilli jam that was actually this vibrant, no Photoshop, honest!

Tasty, tasty tomato pesto.

Clint Eastwood sells vegetables here in the Summer time.

Heaven, with the flat peaks of Esja on the horizon. Feeling homesick, but feeling at home, all in the same weird little package.
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