I wouldn’t say I’m adventurous with the foods I will eat. We’ve traveled all over the world, tried some local specialties, but stopped short of the outrageous. I wouldn’t eat Scorpions, Tarantulas or Cockroaches in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Nor barbacued rat from a street merchant in Battambang. But, in Iceland, I decided to expand my horizons.
Our first day in Iceland we decided to eat at a local pub, Icelandic Bar, that serves local ales and some local fare. We noticed Puffin on the menu. Do they really eat Puffin? You know, those incredibly cute birds. On the menu, a bar item of smoked and lightly seared puffin breast meat served with tiny berries sounded pretty good. I asked the waitress whether people really eat the cute puffin. She said that it is a local delicacy, enjoyed by the locals and tourists alike. It’s really good she assured me. We decided to give it a go. And, believe it or not, it was very good. The meat was not gamey, and the berries tasted a lot like blueberries. After our meal we decided that the food was great but the concept of eating a puffin was a bit much for us. We wouldn’t order it again.
While in a restaurant in Hofn, known for its Langoustines, which I had no trouble eating, the waitress threw down a challenge. “Why don’t you try the horse steak? It is really quite good.” The thought of eating Mr. Ed was too much for me to contemplate. “I’ll eat it tomorrow night”, I declared. Instead, I ordered the grilled Langoustines which are in the shrimp family but look and taste like tiny lobsters. Hofn is the langoustine capitol of Iceland, they say. With gusto, I ate an entire plate, melted butter all over me.
The next night we went to the same restaurant, saw the same waitress, who sidled up to our table. “Ready for horse?” “Um, no thanks.” She gave me a look, the look that said I should eat some crow. Instead of crow we got the fish mash (cod mashed together with cheese and potato, baked as a casserole), another local meal. I played it safe. Crow doesn’t taste so good and Mr. Ed lived to see another day.
After trying some local fare, we were excited to try some local drink, specifically alcohol. We asked the bartender at our hotel, just outside the town of Vik, for a drink the locals imbibe. He suggested “Black Death” with a shark fin. This is the drink of Icelanders, she proclaimed. We were eager to try the alcohol, but shark fin didn’t sound so appetizing. she was glad to get us two shots, but sorry that they were all out of shark fin. We smiled, said thank you, and quickly ordered two before she found a fin or two. Black Death wasn’t too deadly. It is a type of Icelandic schnapps flavored with carraway. Suffice it to say, it was not the last Black Death we enjoyed during the cold Icelandic evenings.
On our last evening, I stopped horsing around. We found a fancy restaurant in Reykjavik that served all sorts of things, American and Icelandic. The menu had among other things, both whale and horse. I was starving as I ate light for breakfast and for lunch. I told the waiter I was so hungry I could eat a horse. He said that I came to the right place. Perhaps this wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. But rather, “So sorry sir but we are out of horse tonight,” might have been the response I wanted.
I was ready to face my daemons and, with some hesitation, ordered whale for our appetizer and horse for the main course, of course. The whale came looking a lot like rare steak. If you are wondering, it tastes a lot like reindeer with a hint of tuna sashimi. Pretty tasty!
Then came the horse, served with mushrooms and French fries. It was a filet, looking an awful lot like filet mignon. But what would it taste like? I steadied my nerves, readied my stomach, wiped the tears from my eyes and cut off a small piece. It smelled fine, looked fine. With a shaking hand I brought the meat to my mouth. Not in the mood for crow, I popped in my mouth and had a chew. After all my trepidations, it was lean, tender, and tasty. I finished the steak and ended my culinary experiences with a big swallow of Tuscan red. That will probably be the last time I eat a horse now that Mr. Ed is gone.
Now, I am looking forward to getting home and eating a hot dog, apple pie, or a pizza at Bianco’s with my Scottsdale pizza buddy.
Remember, it’s all about culinary enlightenment!