For dinner we met up with my New York City-based friend Melkorka (food blog readers may be familiar with her sister, Ulla of Goldilocks Finds Manhattan) and her boyfriend Jeff who just happened to be in Iceland at the same time as we were. Sweeeet! She had a more important reason to be there than "vacation" though: Her parents are Icelandic and she had some errands to do for them. But there was plenty of time for them to do fun stuff, like eat lobster soup and fish on sticks.
We ate dinner at Saegreifinn, aka Sea Baron, a famous seafood "shack" by the water known for their fresh seafood skewers and lobster soup.
If you eat there with Greg, it might look like this. (It looks oddly Photoshopped, but nope—that's the real Greg.)
You order by looking at the display of meat sticks and saying, "Yeah, I want that one." (Other combinations of words conveying similar meaning would probably work.) There's lobster, scallop, shrimp, cod, redfish, halibut, vegetable, mink whale, blue ling, salmon, and potato, although if you get there late they'll probably have already run out of some of their choices. Makes sense to get there earlier than later anyway since it's a small place and you'll want to secure enough seats for your party. In addition to choosing some skewers of seafood, you'll also want to order their lobster soup. We each got a cup of soup and shared six skewers between the five of us (or rather, five meaty skewers and one vegetable).
The lobster soup was ...lovely. I mean, it was loved by all. I don't know what was in it; I just know it was creamy (although not in a heavy way), well seasoned, and contained a decent amount of tender Icelandic lobster chunks (Icelandic lobster is different from the American sort; much smaller and, I would assume as I rarely eat lobster, tastes different). Mark Bittman wrote a better description for the New York Times so you may as well just read that.
Our soup came with a basket of soft, slightly chewy bread that was perfect for soaking up liquids. Such as the soup.
By this point—which is over a month since I've returned from Iceland—I don't remember much about the different types of fish we tried. Like the one above? I'm not sure what that is. "White." But I do remember that I liked everything. Simple, fresh, flaky, meaty, flesh-o-fishies. The vegetable skewer isn't really anything special, but we had eaten so little vegetable matter over our trip that just eating a chunk of zucchini gave me some sort of psychological solace among those nagging thoughts of, "DUDE, HAVE I EATEN ANY VEGETABLES DURING THIS TRIP?" (Answer: "not really.")
Here's more fish and shrimpies.
And more fish.
And the steak of the sea: WHALE!
...Okay, before you admonish me for eating whale...um...well, I guess can't stop you. I already heard it from the Serious Eaters though. Not to say people didn't bring up valid points, but I wasn't writing an investigative report on whether or not it's ethical to eat whale; I just said, "Hey, here's something I ate that you may not have had before, and this is what it tastes like." If they wanted a full report on whaling, I wouldn't have written about it at all. I am in no way qualified to write about that subject.
And that's why I like having a blog separate from Serious Eats. Dear much smaller pool of TGWAE readers: I am not a passionate follower of whaling ethics. Do you mind if I write about something like whale-chunks-on-a-stick without having to do hours of research about whether or not whaling in iceland should be allowed? You don't really have to do any research to know that most people are against whaling. But I'm not writing a thesis here; I just want to get this blog post done with in less than five hours. Thanks.
So what does whale taste like? Fishy beef. Like beef with finer muscle fibers. This version was especially tender and soft. It's pretty good, although not something I'd dream about eating again.
We visited the nearby 10-11 just for fun and to potentially find after dinner sweets. Æðibitar—a chocolate and coconut biscuit snack—and Florida Bitar—a chocolate, coconut, and puffed rice biscuit snack—are everywhere and their package designs don't seem to have had a upgrade in decades. For whatever unknown reason, I didn't try either of them. If I missed out on something awesome, feel free to lay on the guilt.
The snacks pictured above (I'm not sure what the Icelandic name is; feel free to chime in) were also everywhere, sometimes in variety packs. They're chunks of a marshmallow-esque substance covered with chocolate and sometimes shredded coconut. Not bad, not "OMG YES GIVE ME MORE" awesome either. If they had a nostalgic value to me, I'd probably like them more.
I was amused by these directions on the back of a bag of marshmallows instructing how to roast a marshmallow. Next, the company will be getting complaints from customers who don't know how to start a fire.
We walked up Laugavegur to get to Boston, a popular bar with an accompanying restaurant called Segurmo. Our party is a rather nice looking bunch from the back, eh? (And the front. But I lagged behind, as I tend to do.)
During the walk we passed a neat shimmering "waterfall" on the side of a building, just one example of many cool pieces of street art in the center of Reykjavik.
We took residents in a dark nook of the second floor of Boston equipped with comfy sofas and chairs. Everyone else drank beers while I sipped on a small bottle of Coca-Cola. We spent the next two hours hanging out and talking about I'm-not-sure-what, except for a memorable story from Jeff about getting his bag stolen on a New York City subway en route to the airport and miraculously getting it back after alerting the police and managing to just barely catch his flight. But he told it much better than how I summed it up in one sentence. It's things like that that make me realize that I'm very much lacking in the "interesting stories" department, but then again, I never want to be in a situation where I'm robbed on the way to an airport.
As we were getting ready to leave, a man came by and asked if we were American. "Can I sit with you guys and practice my English?" Sure, why not?
Of course, we would soon find out that Uunthor's English was already good (just about everyone in Iceland speaks English) and he probably knew five languages already. He said he was going to have to learn Spanish since his job (marine engineer) would take him to Chile in a few months. "Yeah, I need to learn Spanish in a few months..." What? Jaysus. He could probably do it; I'd still be stuck knowing as much as a stray dog in Santiago.
He joked around with us a bit, with a few things possibly lost in translation. It was a unique way to end the night and certainly the longest conversation we had with someone who was actually from Iceland. We wish you well, Uunthor!
The night wasn't over yet. Melkorka invited us to swing by her family's apartment, a homey place filled with her mother's art supplies and some furniture designed by her grandfather. I've never known a family of artists before (Melkorka is a graphic designer); it's pretty neat. We drank Coke and ate a few too many paprika-flavored corn puffs and cheese-flavored tortilla chips—since Melkorka and Jeff were leaving for New York the next day we had a sort of "clean out the kitchen" session. They also gave us a few bags of extra groceries to keep, my favorite item being a lovely container of mayonnaise that I didn't get to use, but cleaned it out and took home. You shall see it...later.