What to eat and drink in Iceland

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Iceland is famous for many things: blue lagoons, gushing geysers, volcanic landscapes and the Northern Lights. But food? Not so much. 

You might have heard of Iceland’s creamy yogurt, skyr (it’s sold internationally these days). You might also know that Icelanders have a legendary appetite for lamb and seafood. And you may well have heard about the country’s more notorious dish – hákarl (fermented shark), a delicacy which the late, great chef Antony Bourdain called “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible-tasting thing” he ever tasted.

But while many Icelandic staples are certainly an acquired taste (singed sheep’s head, foal or smoked puffin, anyone?), there’s a smorgasbord of delicious Icelandic foods to try – not to mention a generation of young chefs who are pushing culinary boundaries as part of the broader ‘New Nordic’ movement. From farm-fresh veg to bountiful seafood, flavorful cheeses and rustic lava bread, Iceland has a lot to offer the gourmet traveler – although it is definitely not a cheap place to eat (or drink, for that matter).

Iceland’s unusual cuisine is, in many ways, a product of its environment. Sparse soil, little foliage and harsh winters mean that growing food has always been a challenge here (although ironically, the island’s plentiful geothermal energy has made it into something of a pioneer in greenhouse growing – tomatoes, bananas and even pineapples are all grown in Iceland these days). Historically, Icelanders relied heavily on sheep, fish and seabirds to keep them from starving. Every part of every creature was eaten – fresh or dried, salted, smoked, pickled or even buried underground, with fermenting and preserving used to ensure food lasted through lean times.

Today, Icelandic chefs and food producers are rediscovering many of these old recipes and techniques and reinventing them for a modern palate. The…

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