Several months late, I'm posting my sort of report on Iceland. Sort of because our trip over New year's was brief, with non-food plans most evenings, so we weren't too focused on food and didn't hit any of the well known, high end restaurants. It was however one of the best trips of my life and I can't wait to go back. Reykjavik is beautiful and hip and interesting and clean and safe and easy to get around. Reminds me of a small Northern European city, without the stuff that's hundreds of years old. And then you can drive 30 minutes away and be in spectacular, other worldly natural scenery. But back to the food. Friend and I stayed in an Airbnb so we bought basic groceries and made breakfasts and one simple dinner "at home." (fortunately we had been warned that absolutely everything is closed on New Year's Day, including gas stations, coffee shops and convenience stores. Some restaurants and bars did open up in the evening.). Also one of my favorite things to do in another country is peruse the local grocery stores. Usually I can figure out what's what but not always. We nearly bought liquid blueberry yogurt thinking it was a small bottle of milk because there was a cow on the label (checkout clerk kindly pointed this out and got us some actual milk), and I was unpleasantly surprised when I bought a local chocolate bar and discovered the chunks inside were black licorice. Bleah.
Our first morning, we had a lovely jet lagged local breakfast at Bergsson Mathus. Cheese, ham, soft boiled egg, skyr, delicious bread (a continuing theme). Also where it hit me how incredibly disconcerting it is to walk out of a restaurant at 9:30am and it's still dark outside. Of course we knew that we were in for about 4 hours of daylight per day, roughly 11am - 3pm, but it's still crazy when you actually experience it. We also had to plan our sightseeing outside the city around the limited daylight, in order to actually be able to see the sights and not be driving a rental car on unfamiliar wintery roads in the pitch dark. That also meant no wasting the precious daylight stopping for lunch, and I as copilot discovered that I have a previously hidden talent for making sandwiches on my lap in a car going 50mph.
We did find time to visit Sandholt bakery every day. Highly recommend all the pastries, especially the tahini one, and the whole grain bread. They also have a sit down cafe where we had a nice soup and salad and bread and wine dinner one night. We had a similar early dinner in the cafe at the Harpa music hall before seeing the Bjork VR exhibit. That, by the way, is really cool regardless of whether you're a big Bjork fan, and it's currently in LA at the music center as part of their Icelandic music series. The Harpa is a stunning modern building that's worth visiting just to look at the architecture. And as we discovered, it's also a good place to stop and thaw out when you're wandering the streets of Reyjavik in the winter.
The best, fanciest and most Icelandic dinner we had was at a private home, thanks to the extremely generous hospitality of a friend of a friend. No puffin or whale, but I did eat reindeer for the first time and it was delicious. Very lean, somewhat like venison but sweeter.
My only Icelandic hotdog experience was at the airport before we flew home. Not bad at all and I wish I had tried one while we were in Reyjavik. Speaking of the airport - final piece of advice to future visitors is if you want any wine or liquor during your visit, buy it at the airport duty free shop. Literally half the price of the stores in town, which makes lugging the bottles along with your luggage totally worth it.