Every year, an oft forgotten country sends out its feelers to the rest of the world, pleading “I’m here! I’m here! Look at all my awesome things!”
And that tiny, awesome country is Iceland. It also happens to be my favorite place, but I really do think you should try to find that out for yourself by going for a visit. If you can’t make it there to meet Iceland in person, there is always The Taste of Iceland to tide you over.
This annual event, which tours to a few cities in North America, seeks to spread the word of all the wonders Iceland has to offer, and took place this past 12-15th of November. There are many components to this event from film screenings to concerts. But we both know we are all here for the food, so I will get right to it.
This year we were blessed with the talents of Chef Ylfa Helgadóttir of Kopar restaurant in Reykjavik’s harbour. Hosted at Oliver and Bonacini’s Luma restaurant, Chef Ylfa served a four course Icelandic menu, with many of the ingredients being flown in from the little island country just that day.
The meal started off with signature cocktails, including a mini Icelandic volcano just for you in the form of a violet mojito, complete with smoking dry ice. The first dish served was Icelandic salt cod with dill oil, seaweed, and fish roe. It was cooked the best way the fish can be cooked: hardly at all.
Next came a risotto with fennel and langoustines. It was also doused in some kind of fishy fennel-y broth that totally stole the show away from the rice. The fennel salad served as a nice variance in texture from the tender langoustines.
The main course was, naturally, a crispy fillet of Icelandic lamb. It was incredibly juicy, and this is coming from a non-lamb-lover. So maybe I just need to eat more Icelandic lamb. It was served alongside a few potatoes, a mushroom and a dramatic roasted carrot. Sauce-wise we had hollandaise and a mushroom, port and garlic sauce, both of which were delicious and added a level of creaminess to the dish.
Our desert, which seems to be one of Chef Ylfa’s specialties, was slightly sweet Skyr (special Icelandic yogurt) and caramelized white chocolate sorbets. It was so good that we had to ask Chef for the recipe, and she actually gave it to us! Turns out it’s super easy to make. Just roast the white chocolate until it turns brown. Duh. It also featured raspberries and some chocolate crunchies.
Chef Ylfa was also wonderful enough to come around to all the diners that evening and personally ask them how they enjoyed their meal (quite a lot, thanks). We also got a chance to ask her some questions about what it’s like to be a female chef in Iceland, and from hos she told it, it seems much easier than the old boys club that is still somewhat intact in Canada. Although she had one instance of a prospective employer laughing away her resume due to her gender (I have experienced the same thing, and it really sucks) she was able to find a female chef to act as her mentor and help her to get a foothold in the industry. Iceland is famous for it’s feminism and equal society, so it really should not surprise that it would be much more open to the idea of a women commanding a kitchen.
Unfortunately the Taste of Iceland event has ended this year, finishing up with a concert at Adelaide Hall in which Icelandic bands Samaris and DJ Flugvel og Geimskip (Icelandic for Airplane and Spaceship). I guess that means that if you are too impatient to wait a whole year you’ll just have to go to Iceland!
Tags: Chef Ylfa Helgadottir, fennel, geo peck, icelance, icelandic lamb, kopar, lamb, langoustines, luma, Reykjavik, risotto, Taste of Iceland, wanderlust, where to eat in toronto, Yuli Scheidt