On the second night of our Iceland adventure, we had dinner in the small town of Selfloss about an hour from Reykjavik. The charming Tryggvaskali Restaurant is housed in a historic building that was built in 1880 and since 1900 has been in continually in operation; either as a store, inn or restaurant.
The building even has it’s own ghost. According to local lore: “On September 30, 1929, there was a loud knock on the west door of Tryggvaskála, and when Óli J. Ísfeld, a restaurateur, opened the door, he saw a tall and thin woman with an 8-10 year old child with her. This vision disappeared from the restaurateur as quickly as it appeared. Testified later that it was a maid who was supposed to start at Tryggvaskála that day, but had died during the summer, without it being reported in Selfoss. She had been paid in advance for the work, and throughout the years the staff of Tryggvaskála have felt that they have been helped at times of stress.”
From our table by the window we looked out at lupines hugging the shore of the pristine Olfusa river.
The fish in Iceland was incredibly fresh with many meals featuring either cod or salmon. At the Tryggvaskali restaurant I noticed an unusual appetizer on the menu; whale tataki with garlic soy wasabi and sesame seed. I had to try this, I wasn’t sure when I would have the opportunity to sample whale again! The fish was lightly grilled and similar to sashimi. The texture was a tiny bit rubbery but the flavor was delicate and briny.
For entrees we enjoyed beautiful presentations of pan fried ling cod served with garlic potato salad, grilled corn and honey glazed carrots and salmon with pesto and charred broccoli over barley.
We had many excellent meals, but one simple lunch stands out. We found the Geirabakari Kaffihus totally by accident. Once we left Reykjavik, the landscape changed dramatically, stark and atmospheric with waterfalls cascading down mountains that at one time were covered with trees.
On a cloudy overcast day, we drove down a desolate road and approached the small town of Borgarnes. We were looking for a place to have lunch, not setting our sights too high.
Geirabakari Kaffihus stands next to a few nondescript small businesses, slightly run down around the heel. But when we entered the bakery, we were met by the yeasty aroma of freshly baked goods and the cafe was filled with local people queued up to the counter. Keeping with the plan of the trip to indulge in whatever we wanted to eat, we chose flaky buttery croissant sandwiches filled to the brim with ham, cheese, cucumbers, lettuce and tomato; all covered with a creamy dill sauce. This was accompanied with mugs of rich steamy hot chocolate- simply delicious!
Way too soon, our Iceland adventure was coming to an end. On our last day of the trip, we returned to Reykjavik. For dinner that evening we had made a reservation at the Public House, a trendy gastro pub with Asian influences. The best way to describe the eclectic menu would be Asian Tapas. We ordered probably too much food: vegetable dumplings; crispy tacos with roasted beets, goat cheese, fig jam and truffle mayo and grilled lamb kebabs with miso, ginger and pickled cucumbers with sesame seeds. I am not a great fan of lamb, but this was the most tender and full of flavor lamb that I have ever tasted. The spicy and assertive flavor combinations from the various dishes were perfect with mugs of frosty Icelandic beer!
We left a tiny bit of room for two desserts: skyr panna cotta with coconut and salted caramel and strawberries with oat crumble and strawberry sorbet; then it really was time to travel back home!
Many of the restaurants and cafes that we visited offered excellent fish chowders; all unique and equally delicious. What they all had in common is that they were not thick and gluey like some New England fish chowders.
This past week I found myself with a surplus of sweet fresh corn and fish chowder came to mind. I channeled all of the Icelandic chowders that I had tasted and came up with up with a chowder filled with corn, cod, leeks, potatoes, celery and onion; garnished with crisp bits of prosciutto, scallion and parsley. This would also work with shrimp or chunks of salmon. You can also add a few pieces of fresh kale; I was lucky to be given the most tender kale from a friend’s garden. We ate this with hunks of rosemary sourdough bread from the Hungry Ghost Bakery and a salad of fresh greens and local tomatoes with balsamic dressing. A glass of chilled rose would also be lovely with this! Enjoy!
Summer Fish Chowder
1 /2 pound cod cut into chunks
3 medium red potatoes cut into small pieces
1 onion finely chopped
1 medium leek, rinsed well finely chopped
4 ears fresh corn
2 stalks celery finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
few pieces fresh kale torn into small pieces (optional)
a few tablespoons of finely chopped parley
2 scallions finely chopped
1/8 pound prosciutto
2 tablespoons flour
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add corn. Cook briefly for one minute and remove corn from pot.
With a sharp knife, scrape corn kernels from cobs and place in a small bowl. Put corn cobs back in pot and simmer for about 1/2 hour. Strain liquid and reserve stock.
In a clean soup pot, heat olive oil over and add onions.
Saute until onions soften slightly.
Add leeks and celery- cook for about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and combine well.
Add potatoes, thyme, bay leaf.
Add stock- it should come to about 1/2 way up the pot.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Cover pot and simmer until potatoes are soft and then add corn and pieces of fish. Cook only a few minutes, just until fish flakes easily.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
In a small pan heat 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Drain on paper towel and break into small pieces.
Add garnishes of scallions, parsley and prosciutto if desired.
AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!
HAPPY END OF SUMMER! STAY SAFE!