Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Icelandic dessert adventure.

The week before last, I took my parents around Iceland - I've been there probably 15+ times over the last 4-5 years, largely because I found it saved $ on airfare when I was flying home from Europe for work. Actually, the real reason I first wanted to go there was because of the band Sigur Rós - I remember reading an interview where they mentioned that their music was heavily influenced by the landscape of the country, and I always wondered what that meant...(if you want a soundtrack to this post, click here to listen to "popplagið", if you've got 12 minutes to spare).

Anyhow, the non-dessert photos from the trip (waterfalls, geysir, whale watching, puffins, Icelandic hot dogs, indie rock, my dj friends) will be up somewhere else when I have time. in the meantime, here are some things I thought y'all might be interested in:

The Skyr Cake at my favorite restaurant in Reykjavík, Þrír Frakkar, a seafood restaurant that's a ways off the main drag in the center of town. Used to be the only place in town that served whale - now that Iceland has started whaling again (for "research purposes" - ahem), it's now available at several places. Anyhow. This is about desserts.

Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt-like product, I believe made by slightly different bacteria from "traditional" yogurt. It's thicker and a little tangier than your average Yoplait or Dannon - and as of a couple months ago, you can get MS brand Icelandic skyr at Whole Foods in NYC. I recommend either the vanilla or blueberry. At $2.79 a cup, it ain't cheap, but it's worth it. If you want to support the little guy, buy some of my friend Siggi's skyr at Murray's Cheese - he's making it in small batches, and has great flavors like pear/mint and orange/ginger (my favorite). I've got the recipe for Chef Úlfar's skyr cake from a now out-of-print Icelandic cookbook - once I have a chance to test it out, I'll post the results and recipe.

The Apple Cake (Eplakaka) from Bláa Kannan Café in Akureyri up on the north coast of Iceland (the second largest city in Iceland - about 18,000 people). Sorry the photo is crummy - bad lighting. The last time I was in northern Iceland a couple years ago, my friends and I did an eplakaka tasting tour of the region and decided that this place had by far the best - moist, intensely appley, perfectly browned thick lattice on top. I asked nicely for the recipe, but was denied! So sad. Hopefully that means they're thinking about opening one in NYC and didn't want me to compete with them. Somehow I doubt it.

This is the big one. Bakarí Sandholt in Reykjavík is one of the places that I make a beeline for when I first get downtown. It's been around since 1920 (just stating the obivous for those who missed it in the photo above). If you click on "Myndir" on the top of their webpage, there's a whole section of photos of their creations. Very cool stuff. Dessert porn.

This is what you see when you walk in around lunchtime - the front counter with a couple small sandwiches, sweets, and cakes.

Walking to the back you'll find another counter with their truffles and ganache-filled chocolates - a lot of flavors I couldn't quite figure out because they were in Icelandic (not an easy language, by the way). I would have brought some back for everyone, but I had only enough room for a box for my girlfriend...sorry! One of the big things in Iceland is chocolate and licorice - there are actually more than 6 different Icelandic candy bars which are based on that concept. Guess I better report on that on a future trip, huh? Two years ago, I brought back a pile of every Icelandic candy bar I could find for my food-obsessed friend Dylan in LA to analyze - sadly his report was "Wow - they're all really good, but I forgot to write down which ones I liked more...could you bring more next time?" Despite not liking licorice so much, I think Sandholt's chocolate with licorice ganache is delightful.

Walking back toward the front is my favorite thing there - the little braided puff pastry pecan guys in the center of this case. That and a perfectly prepared cappuccino (with a leaf drawn in the foam) served as breakfast 3 mornings on the trip.

I finally had a chance to meet Asgeir Sandholt, the current owner, this trip - really nice guy. Here's a photo of the kitchen in the far back - the guy on the right works there.

OK - I couldn't help it...indulge me with one non-dessert photo, taken on my walk home from a club where a friend of mine was DJ'ing. This is what 3am looks like in the summertime at the viking ship sculpture down by the harbor, looking across to the mountains which are capped with glaciers (couldn't get it all in the frame).

Alright, I've got to get some sleep. Hope you enjoyed my little dessert travelogue!

Sjáumst og heyrumst,

- Richard


  1. Richard you continue to amaze me with your enthusiasm and thoughtful nature!! Thanks so much for these great pics. Can't wait for your contribution!!!!

  2. This is one of my favorite posts ever!