Flavourtown Roadtrips

ICE ICELAND BABY: Feast fit for a Viking in Vik

Now, Iceland ain’t all about Reykjavik, bro! Sure, it might be to Iceland what Toronto would be to Canada — if Toronto had 20 million people and no other city was over 250K — but to see the sights, like the Black Beach or Skogafoss… you gotta head to Vik, this tiny town of 300 deep in the south of Iceland. And Hotel Katla, just a couple minutes outside of Vik, is ready to welcome you with a real-deal Icelandic dinner buffet, bro!!!

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Now, on this plate you’ve got classics like leg of lamb and dill & garlic cod, along with tater tots and carrots. Sure, there were some other veggies to choose from…but I’ll stick with tater tots.

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On the side plate, we’ve got funky hors d’oeuvres like bacon rolls — dude, this is body by bacon rolls! — pulled lamb blinis (no such thing as too much lamb, bro), smoked salmon, beetroot carpaccio and a few green things, for research purposes.

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Of course, you KNOW we’ve still got room for dessert bro…but this chocolate mousse, red berry cake, white chocolate brownie, tiramisu square AND chocolate cake oughtta do’er.

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And we’re washing it all down with an Icelandic Winter Ale from Einstok. They brew this bad boy with smoked Icelandic barely and whiskey-soaked spruce tree tips — sounds like a balanced Icelandic breakfast to me!!!!!

ICE ICELAND BABY: I hope they serve THIS beer in Hell…

Hell may be for children, Pat Bro-natar, but this Hel Winter Porter is just for me. We’re hanging out at the Hotel Skogafoss Bistro Bar, within stumbling distance of the giant waterfall, where I’m crushing this bad boy from Olvishot Brewery. Or should I say bad girl — Hel was the daughter of Loki, after all. Anyways, this beer is pretty rich, and packs a decent punch at 7%, although it’s not quite as heavy as I thought it would be.
Then again, this hearty bowl of kjötsúpa probably took some of the edge off. This traditional Icelandic soup is made with braised lamb — you can never have too much lamb in Iceland!!! — and root vegetables like carrots and turnips, along with some rice. I’m not saying this soup gives you magic powers, but I did climb to the top of the stairs above Skogafoss after eating it…and I weigh like 300 pounds, so it’s kind of a Christmas miracle???
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ICE ICELAND BABY: 4-way Icelandic Christmas beer battle

In case you haven’t guessed by now, Iceland is my kinda place. Sure, it might be mighty cold and windy in the winter…but Icelandic Christmas beers help to make the season bright. It seems that every brewery in the country, from the big players like Gull and Viking to craft breweries such as Smidjan Brugghus, bring out some new festive brewskis every year for the holidays — I might hafta come back next year, bro!
 
In the meantime, here’s my take on four of Iceland’s finest Christmas beers from 2021:
 
 

JOLA GULL

Gull beer is kinda like Iceland’s answer to Molson Canadian — you see it absolutely everywhere — and it seems like people actually drink it; not just at Icelandic Men’s Hockey League games, either. I had one of these at the Blue Lagoon (where it was the only beer on tap), and can confirm that it’s pretty much the same as Canadian.
 
However, Jola Gull, their Christmas beer, actually ain’t bad. I first had one on my Icelandair flight over here, so I grabbed another one to wash down my awesome Icelandic lamb lunch at Geysir; later, it was the only beer offered to me at my last dinner in Reykjavik. It’s a pretty decent amber lager with a nice hit of caramel and a slightly sugary aftertaste. Hey, I liked it enough to drink it three times…
 
 

HALTA JOLA KETTI

The Yule Cat (or Christmas Cat) plays a big part in Icelandic Christmas folklore. Legend has it that this Kitty Gone Wild eats any kids who don’t get any new clothes for Christmas. So next time you think getting someone socks is a bad idea…think again, bro!!!
 
This festive beverage from Smidjan Brugghus is described (in English) as a “Double Dry Hop Kveik Milkshake IPA,” although it clocks in at a suspiciously low 5.5%. But the hazy colour is on point, and you can smell the hops as soon as you crack open the can. And I quite like this beer — it definitely tastes like a good, hoppy IPA…so I guess that low ABV just means you can crush more, bro?
 
 

CHOC HO HO 2021

Another entry from Smidjan. You can probably figure out what kind of beer this is from its name — a peanut butter chocolate milk stout. I mean, does it get much more Christmasey than that???
 
I really got a good whiff of peanut butter when I lifted this glass to my lips, but the taste is a lot closer to a Guinness… and there’s nothing wrong with that. If I was Santa, I’d skip the milk and cookies and grab a couple of these boys outta the fridge — although I might be slightly worried about incurring the wrath of the Christmas Cat in the process.
 
 

TVEIR VINIR & ANNAR I JOLUM

This might be the most interesting beer on the docket. This Christmas beer from Viking Brugghus, which roughly translates as “Two Friends & Another This Christmas” (according to Google) does not have any English on the can, so when I saw this “appelsinulager” I assumed it was apple flavoured. But, as it turns out, “appelsinu” is the Icelandic word for orange, so that really threw me for a loop…
 
Sure enough, there is a strong, zesty orange flavour to this beer. It’s like a good, summery wheat beer (wrong season, bro?) but with a bit more of a hoppy aftertaste. While it is nice and easy to drink, the flavour profile has got me asking, “Do they know it’s Christmastime at all,” Bro-d Aid???

ICE ICELAND BABY: This bar fuckin’ hates The Eagles, man…

I dunno guy, but I don’t remember the part in The Big Lebowski where The Dude goes to Iceland… but they still named a bar after him in Reykjavik, bro! And as you might expect, Lebowski Bar specializes in White Russians, with 24 different takes to choose from:
This here’s a Cocoapuff Casian, where they take your standard Caucasian (vodka, Kahlua and cream) and then stick some Cocoapuffs on top. You’ve got the creaminess from the Kahlua and cream, mixed with the chocolatey cereal… Dude, it’s magically delicious!
The other thing they do here is burgers named after characters from the movie. I ordered The Walter, a bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onion on a grilled bun. Beef was nice and tender, and you get a few nice bites of bacon… Shomer Fucking Shabbos bro!!!

ICE ICELAND BABY: Racking up a (boneless) rack of lamb

So, we’re hanging out at Kopar, this funky little joint right along the Reykjavik harbour, next to all the whale watching boats. I’m sure this place has got some great seafood, but I’m here for the ultimate in Icelandic eating — we’re talking local, free-range lamb, fam!

But first, I figured I should probably have at least some seafood…

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This rock crab soup is fab, son! It’s sorta like a cross between crab bisque and a Thai coconut curry — and they don’t shortchange you on the crab, either!

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But now it’s time for the main event. They didn’t ask how you wanted your lamb cooked — it came out pretty well-done, but still pretty tender. And I like the super-high meat to veggies ratio on this plate, bro!

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Of course, we’ve still got room for dessert, and they’re funking it up a notch with this pina colada chocolate tart with green apple sorbet. Shut the front, back and side doors, bro! The chocolate and pineapple play together nicely, while the sorbet gives it a major sour kick that’s probably best enjoyed separately. I gotta give em props for coming up with green apple sorbet though, bro!!!

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Washed it all down with an Ulfrun Session IPA from Borg Brugghus — nice, hoppy flavour profile but just 4.5% alcohol. I could assimilate six or seven of these, son!!!!

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Now, speaking of lamb, this hand-carved roast lamb, a $36 lunch at the Geysir Visitor Centre food court, was hands-down better than 90% of the lamb I’ve ever had. It comes with potatoes, veggies and gravy… but you could serve it with a flip-flop, and it would still taste good!!!

ICE ICELAND BABY: Stairway to Heaven and Icelandic skyr @ Lemmy

With bars across Iceland having to close by 10 pm due to COVID, the bar scene in Reykjavik is less about the night life and more about the morning life these days. That’s why we headed out to Lemmy, this funky joint in the heart of downtown for a hearty breakfast of Icelandic yogurt and a milkshake.

Now, while there is a statue of God himself inside the bar, the music here isn’t all Motörhead all the time — it’s less heavy metal, more classic rock. The heaviest is gets would be Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin or Lynyrd Skynyrd… but these are a few of my favourite things, bro!!!!

Stairway to Heaven was playing when they brought out this bowl of Verdandi Skyr, which was pretty much perfect. They pack a whole lotta flavour into this yogurt, with blackberries and maple syrup at the bottom, and apples (NOT appelsinu), strawberries, chocolate shavings and bananas on top. Dude that’s bananas — and bananas are good!!!!

But that’s not all, folks. We’re pairing that great big bowl of yogurt with a Hangover Shake. What’s a hangover shake? Well, you’ve got ice cream, blended with whiskey, coffee and caramel with a buncha whipped cream on top. Don’t you touch me baby cuz I’m shaking so much!!!!

ICE ICELAND BABY: Rotten shark, do do do do do do

Iceland’s most notorious food is hákarl, a cured, fermented Greenland shark that’s hung out to dry for 4-5 months. It’s often considered as rotten, because they used to bury it in a hole in the ground, back in the day. Well me, I’ll try anything twice, so rotten shark? Sign me up, son!!!

Apparently even Icelanders have a love-hate relationship with this dish. But to me, I didn’t think it was that bad. It was kinda like some smoked fish I mighta had at Karelia Kitchen back in the day. I didn’t even think it was that flavourful…so I went back for seconds, dipped in Brennivin, Iceland’s national liquor.

Now this time, it had a bit more of a kick, with the alcohol enhancing the flavour. And as an added bonus, I got to wash it down with the rest of the Brennivin, so I got a pretty decent shark buzz going right about now…

ICE ICELAND BABY: I’m gonna go all Glenn Danzig on these Icelandic hot dogs!!!

With Ontario on the verge of another lockdown, we’re heading out to a land of ice and snow, where the COVID cases are relatively low… Vanilla Ice, Ice, Iceland, baby!!! Check out these eats over the next couple weeks!!!!!!

Now, for a country that’s not really known for food, Iceland’s most famous dish is probably the pylsa, or Icelandic hot dog. But these ain’t just any old dogs, bro! For one thing, they ain’t made of pork or beef, but lamb, which is definitely the most common meat around these parts.

And Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, this funky little stand that’s been serving em up for over 80 years, is literally the best in town — their name actually means Best Hot Dogs in Town in Icelandic!!!

Now, not only is the meat different over here, but the toppings are not what you’re used to, either. A fully loaded hot dog comes with raw AND fried onions, sweet mustard, an Icelandic remoulade and a sweet ketchup that’s made with apples. Dude, that’s apples…and apples is good???

While the price is about the same as downtown TO (550 kroners is about $5.50 Canadian), these are definitely smaller than your typical Toronto street meat…which is why I ordered two, as a snack, before a three-course dinner. But hey, as far as snacks go, I’d much rather munch on these bad boys than rotten shark, bro!!!!

EATING LAS VEGAS: Taking out some Memphis-style trash ribs…

Now, I might never have wandered into Virgil’s Real BBQ if the In-n-Out Burger across the way wasn’t closed for U.S. Thanksgiving, but I’m sure glad I did… You KNOW I’m always down for some southern BBQ, and the BBQ Combo is the way to go, bro! You get your choice of two meats and two sides, and they even throw in a mini little cornbread nugget for free! Now, I had to go with the sliced Texas beef brisket — dude, this is body by Texas beef brisket — but when I saw the trash ribs, I figured I would try those, too…

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Now, according to Virgil, “Real BBQ” is smothered in sauce. But for these chewy little spare ribs, the BBQ sauce adds a nice little kick, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

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Now, for me Texas brisket only needs salt ‘n pepper — and the fattier the better. So I’m a little disappointed at how saucy this brisket was. Still nice ‘n tender, but I’d say this brisket is about as Texas as Sam Hunt…

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Virgil’s side game is pretty solid. You can’t go wrong with Mac ‘n cheese, and the collard greens come with bacon — everything’s better with bacon, bro!!!

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Of course, you KNOW I still had room for dessert… We’re talking banana pudding, with big chunks of bananas, creamy pudding, crunchy cookie crumbs, and a handful of shortbread cookies, thrown in whole. Dude, this dessert is soooo bananas…and bananas is good!!!!

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Washed it all down with a few Moose Drool Brown Ales, coming straight outta Montana from Big Sky Brewing. Nice, rich flavour, sorta like Newcastle Brown Ale, but not too heavy at 5%. Then again, I guess 5% is pretty strong for American beer!!!

EATING LAS VEGAS: Hell’s Kitchen ain’t a bad place to beef…

Now, I’m not big on celebrity chef restaurants — unless that chef’s name is Guy Fieri. But Gordon Ramsay pretty much owns the Vegas Strip, what with Gordon Ramsay Burger, Gordon Ramsay Steak, Gordon Ramsay’s British Pub, Gordon Ramsay’s Fish n Chips — and his OG joint, Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen. This place is so hot, I could only get a table at 11 am on a Sunday… So I guess I can pull myself away from football for an hour or two and eat here?

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Gordon’s signature dish is the Beef Wellington, which is served medium rare on a bed of mashed potatoes with brown gravy. It’s no Beef Short Rib Wellington at BlueBlood, but it was still probably the best lunch I had in Vegas.

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When it comes to dessert, the sticky toffee pudding is almost as famous as the Beef Wellington. Warm, soft and not too rich, it goes great with a scoop of ice cream on top.

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Washed it all down with a North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner from California. This old-school, Euro-style pils was equal parts hoppy and refreshing. Oh, and I was in and out of there in less than 40 minutes, so I barely missed a quarter of the NFL action!!!

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