Sunday, May 21, 2017

Iceland: Halldorskaffi

We spent one night in a cabin near Vik before heading toward Foss a Sidu, the last leg of our Iceland adventure.  Along the way, we stopped at Dyrhólaey, Reynisdrangar, and Fjaðrárgljúfur for some fabulous photo ops. 

It was misty and wet, but that just added to the mystique of the island.  Here's a shot from Fjaðrárgljúfur:


















I might have been humming the Lord of the Rings theme song as we hiked along the gorge. 

In-between sights, we stopped for lunch at Halldorskaffi in Vik:
















The restaurant was quite spacious inside:
















CV and CL both ordered the local Arctic char (3890 ISK or around $38.90): 






















The grilled char came with potatoes and a side salad, both of which were more precious than the fish itself.

T got the Halldorsburger (2490 ISK):
















The house special burger came with cheese, bacon, mushrooms, onions, and garlic sauce.

As big lamb lovers, DK and I went with the lamb sandwich (2490 ISK):
















Check out this cross section:
















The sandwich was stacked with lamb, lettuce, red pepper, mushrooms, and onions.

There aren't many restaurant options in Vik, but if you overlook the typical Icelandic prices and lukewarm service, Halldorskaffi is a good choice for a casual meal.  The portions are generous and the food is decent.  What more can you ask for in Iceland?


Halldorskaffi
Vikurbraut 28, Vík í Mýrdal, Vik 870, Iceland
+354 487 1202
http://halldorskaffi.is/

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Iceland: Saegreifinn

Before leaving Reykjavik for Southern Iceland, we had one last meal in the city.  The lunch crowd at Saegreifinn ("The Seabaron") was much less intimidating than the dinner crush we saw the previous night.  There was still a bit of a line though:
















In lieu of a printed menu, there's a giant refrigerated display shelf right by the counter where you place your order:






















You'll have plenty of time to stand next to it and debate what you want while you wait in line.

The interior looks tiny at first glance, but if you step behind the counter, you'll find a whole other side to the restaurant.  There's even more tables upstairs:
















Just beware the man sitting under the staircase.  When my friends first whispered for me to turn my head that direction, spotting the life-size wax (?) figure of an old man nearly seized the air out of my lungs.  But it didn't end there.  My friends then directed my attention to a framed photograph...of that same old man.

Cripes.

Apparently both the photo and the figurine are of the original owner of Saegreifinn.  The OG Sea Baron?  I guess that's one...um, two ways to honor your roots.

Saegreifinn is lauded for having the world's best lobster soup.  The soup and bread combo goes for 1350 ISK (around $13.50):






















The soup is tomato-based and has large chunks of lobster in it:
















Not a lot of chunks, mind you, but certainly a few.  Was it the world's best?  I can't really answer that, but I can say it was pretty darn good.

The special of the day consisted of a lobster soup and a skewer of tusk for 2500 ISK.  This was perfect for us because we wanted two lobster soups to split between the five of us and we had no clue what tusk was. 

Actually, I'm still not really sure what kind of fish tusk is.  All I know is that it's white:






















And tasted like a mild fish.

What we were most excited about was the opportunity to try minke whale steak (1850 ISK):






















It had a surprisingly liver-y taste to it:






















While I enjoyed the experience, I don't think I'll be craving it any time soon.

Unsure whether that would be enough food, we threw in a cod skewer (1850 ISK) and to balance out the meal with some veggies, we got a potato skewer (250 ISK) as well:






















Given the cost of vegetables in Iceland, we joked that the bell pepper and red onion pieces on the skewers were the most expensive things on the plates.  We made sure to eat every single one.

For a relatively (emphasis on the "relatively" part) affordable place to get your seafood fix in Reykjavik, check out Saegreifinn.  The seafood is fresh, the atmosphere is relaxed, and the interior décor has...character. 

Just don't make eye contact with the Sea Baron.  You won't be able to sleep at night.

Do, however, take time to explore Southern Iceland.  The views will leave you breathless for a whole other reason:

 














Here's an Iceland tip for you: invest in waterproof gear!


Saegreifinn
Geirsgata 8, Reykjavik 101, Iceland 
+354 553 1500
http://www.saegreifinn.is/en/

Monday, May 15, 2017

Iceland: Valdis

We were supposed to be looking for a place to have dinner, but when I mentioned that we were heading in the direction of an ice cream shop, we stopped looking for a restaurant altogether.

Priorities. 

T was especially excited.  She saw a sign in the distance that she swore was an ice cream cone.  I knew it was in the wrong direction and I tried to tell T that.  The more I tried to tell her she was wrong, the more annoyed she got until finally I let her scamper off to see for herself.

The highlight of my day was watching T skulk back toward us with that contrite look on her face.  What she thought was an ice cream cone turned out to be...a cartoon of a bearded man wearing a hat.

BWAHAHAHA!!

Anyway, little detour aside, we finally made it to Valdis:
















Despite it being winter in Iceland, there were quite a few people waiting for their cones:
















We each grabbed a number and waited for our turn to taste test our way through the entire gelato selection.  Okay, maybe not quite.  I can never bring myself to ask for more than two samples.  Luckily, I have friends who take tiny bites in order to let me try some of theirs.

CV got pineapple and coffee.  Two scoops in a cup cost 600 ISK (around $6): 






















T was originally going to split with CV, but when she saw milk soft serve on the menu, she couldn't help herself.  She got a small cone (400 ISK):






















I skirted around the many licorice flavors and eventually found my winner, the lu-kex, which apparently is some kind of cinnamon biscuit.  I got one scoop on Valdis' famous waffle cone (450 ISK):






















There weren't any tables inside, so we had to nibble on our gelato/ice cream outside.  It was freezing, but oh-so worth it. 

I didn't expect to find good ice cream in Iceland, but that's exactly what we did.  If you're in Reykjavik and want a break from all the lamb and herring, skip on over to Valdis for an icy sweet treat.

In the end, we never got around to getting dinner.  Instead, we went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of random items to try at home.  (More on that later.)


Valdis
Grandagardur 21, Reykjavik 101, Iceland 
+354 586 8088
http://www.valdis.is/index.php/en/

Friday, May 12, 2017

Iceland: Pylsuhusid Hot Dog House

After our morning jaunt to Braud & Co, CV, CL, T, and I took a mini roadtrip to Holmasel, about 75 minutes outside of Reykjavik.  Why?  So that we could sit on a hot pink "sled" with wheels and be pulled by a team of dogs:






















Yup.  That happened.  While we were disappointed that there wasn't enough snow to actually go sledding (who knew it would be the hottest winter Iceland has seen in over 100 years?), we still got a kick out of watching the dogs run...and poop while running (according to our guide, some dogs are better at it than others).

DK didn't join us because he wasn't interested.  Well, he missed out.  After our hour-long sled ride, we got to love on 60 doggies in their kennels:
















We met up with DK back in Reykjavik, where he'd spent all day trying out different coffee shops and hanging out with locals at the Lebowski Bar.  We girls tried to take bets on how many coffees and how many drinks he had while we were gone. 

None of us were even close.  He drank 5 coffees and 5 alcoholic beverages.  That man is a beast.

DK had already eaten, but the rest of us hadn't.  We weren't sure what we were in the mood for.  While everyone was figuring it out, I didn't want to leave Reykjavik without having another hot dog.  Instead of going back to the famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, we decided to try somewhere new.

Pylsuhusid Hot Dog House is literally a box in the middle of a square: 
















We could have opted for a chili dog or a bacon dog, but T, DK, and I really just wanted a straight Icelandic dog (470 ISK or around $4.70):






















All the ingredients were the same, so how did it compare?  I only noticed two differences: 1) The bun was toasted at Pylsuhusid and 2) the dog at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur was...lamb-ier (I know that's not a word, but it really should be). 

As for my final verdict...drumroll, please!

Badumbadumbadumbadumbadumbadumbadumbadum....Baejarins Beztu Pylsur! 

I care less about buns and more about sausages.  Lambiness will always win in my book.

Just to be clear, this only reflects my opinion about the plain, old Icelandic hot dog.  Nothing else. 

If you like options, Pylsuhusid is the place for you.  The menu at Pylsuhusid is more extensive than that of Baejarins Beztu Pylsur.  While Baejarins Beztu Pylsur only offers one type of hot dog, there are more dog options at Pylsuhusid.  You can also get ice cream if you are so inclined.

However, if you're only looking for the basic Icelandic dog, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur is my pick.


Pylsuhusid Hot Dog House
Ingolfstorg Square, Reykjavik 101, Iceland
+354 842 2800

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Iceland: Braud & Co

We spent a whole day exploring the Golden Circle in Iceland.  We managed not to eat out at all that day by packing a lunch and preparing our own dinner at home.  More on that later when I do a miscellaneous blog post/dump on Icelandic snacks and groceries.

The morning of our last day in Reykjavik started with a trip to Braud & Co:
















CV, T, and I had tried to go previously the morning CL and DK slept in, but we went too late and most of the bread was gone.

This time, we went during peak hours:
















There were no signs in the bakery, so we had to rely entirely on our eyes...and the recommendation of the staff.

We got a pain au chocolat:
















Two plain croissants:
















And some kind of custard pastry:
















It had a layer of sweet paste inside.  I think it was almond:
















There was another custard pastry that looked interesting, but according to the guy who took our order, it wasn't ready yet.  Apparently it was missing some kind of garnish.  When we asked when it would be ready, he said when he got around to doing it.

Alright then.

He wasn't rude in any way, just...Icelandic.

We took our pastries and enjoyed them outside.  They were certainly good, but I wouldn't say they were amazing.  Compared to the awesome bakeries we have in the Bay Area, pastries in Iceland just didn't really impress us.


Braud & Co
Frakkastigur 16, Reykjavik 101, Iceland
+354 776 0553
http://www.braudogco.is/

Monday, May 8, 2017

Iceland: Durum

Due to our late start, we only managed to hit up Thingvellir National Park along the Golden Circle before having to turn back to Reykjavik.  We didn't really have a place in mind when we set out to find dinner.  After walking up and down the streets, we finally settled on Durum:






















Durum was more café than restaurant:

The menu selection was a real mix of flavors.  There was Thai, Indian, Italian, Greek...a bit of everything.

CK ordered the doner kebab sandwich (1590 ISK or around $15.90):
















While CV and T split a tikka chicken pizza (2650 ISK):
















We chose Durum because the prices didn't seem like they would break the bank.  I figured a smoked salmon panini (1250 ISK) would give me the most bang for my buck, er, krona:
















The bread didn't look very appetizing, but it was surprisingly not bad.  There was a bit of a chew to it that I didn't see coming.  And you can't really go wrong with smoked salmon, spinach, and cream cheese:
















The sweet chili sauce added an interesting flavor punch.

My expectations were very low when I walked into Durum.  I left pleasantly surprised.  If you're looking for a quick and cheap(er) meal in Reykjavik, look no further. 

Just keep your expectations low too.

On our way to and from Thingvellir National Park, we scoped out places along the way that looked like good northern lights viewing spots.  Our criteria were simple: 1) far from civilization and 2) large parking lot. 

We thought we found the perfect place by a frozen lake.  As we drove through the dark near the midnight hour, our excitement kept building as the northern lights spread across the sky.  It was so bright that we could even see some of the green without the aid of camera settings.

Turns out plenty of other people thought our spot would be perfect too.  Even though all the passing cars interfered with our photos, I think the end result turned out pretty damn cool:














So.  Freakin'.  Cool.

SO COOL!!


Durum
Laugavegur 42, Reykjavik 101, Iceland 
+354 445 7000
http://durum.is/english/

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Iceland: Bergsson Mathus

As we were walking back to our Airbnb from dinner, we noticed a bunch of people with their tripods and cameras facing the sky over the waterfront.  We figured they were searching for the northern lights, but since we didn't notice anything in the sky, we went on our way.

We were almost home when CL noticed that she'd lost one of her gloves.  Sad.  In no hurry to get back, we decided to retrace our steps.  Miraculously, we found CL's glove on a street corner.  We really didn't expect to, so we were all giddy and laughing as we once again made our way home along the waterfront.

When we passed by the tripod people this time, however, T stopped by one couple to ask what they were looking at.  The couple were from France and though they didn't speak much English, we understood clearly what they were trying to say when they showed us the photos they took.

Northern lights.  Holy shit.

I'm sure seeing the northern lights is on just about everyone's bucket list.  It certainly was on mine.  I'd read that it was possible to see it from Reykjavik, but it didn't even occur to me that we would see it our first night there.

I'd always thought that the northern lights would be super intense and clearly visible to the naked eye.  Apparently not always.  The lights we saw that night looked like a faint smudge in the sky.  It was only after painstakingly tweaking the settings on our cameras that the bright green became visible.

Needless to say, once we saw the images on the French couple's camera, we immediately dropped all our stuff, squatted on the ground, and dug out all our camera equipment.  I was the least prepared.  My tiny Daiso tripod was crap and despite playing with all the settings, my camera just wasn't able to capture the lights the way CL's camera and even CV's cell phone could.

I still gave it my best shot though.  (Heh.  Unintentional pun there.)

Eventually, the lights kind of faded away and we returned to our Airbnb.  T was super hyped though.  She kept checking the northern lights forecast website and announced that the viewing conditions were going to be fantastic at 6 in the morning.

Still high off of our northern lights encounter, we all agreed to catch some sleep and then wake up early to try our luck again.  Well, all of us except DK, CL's boyfriend, who clearly valued sleep over photo opportunities. 

Around 5:30 am, we bundled ourselves up and trudged our way back to the waterfront...only to discover that it was already too light out to see anything.  We probably should have known.  I'm sure the lights were there, just no longer visible because of the impending sunrise. 

More than a little disappointed, we went back home and back to bed.  CL and DK must have conked out because there was no movement from their room when CV, T, and I woke up a couple hours later.  We finally figured we should just let them sleep and the three of us went out scouting for brunch...or more accurately, lunch.

Our search led us to Bergsson Mathus:
















(I know, we're finally getting to the food part of this post.  Which is what this blog is supposed to be about.  Sorry for the long detour.)

Bergsson Mathus had a cute, kinda-hipster café feel to it:
















When we walked up to the counter to place our order, we noticed a platter of croissants.  We couldn't resist the call:
















It was surprisingly very buttery and soft.  We thought about buying a couple extra to bring back to CL and DK...but then nixed that idea.  You snooze, you lose, right?

The three of us decided to split two entrees.  We got the cod with cape butter sauce (2390 ISK or around $23.90):
















And the Moroccan chicken (2390 ISK):
















The chicken had an interesting almost cinnamon-like seasoning and  the cod was pan fried to buttery perfection.

The portion sizes were generous.  There was more than enough for the three of us.  Prices were typical of Iceland and so was the service (do Icelanders not like smiling?), but the food was good, as was the ambiance. 

It was certainly a good place to kill time while half of our travel group regained consciousness.


Bergsson Mathus
Templarasund 3, Reykjavik 101, Iceland 
+354 571 1822
http://www.bergsson.net/
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