Scallops at Foodcellar
me a sample of “sea truffle” (bangskegg), Norwegian Kelp. They’re handpicked sustainably along Iceland’s coast, smell and taste similar to truffle mushrooms, and when dried are excellent as a seasoning. Foodcellar has a varied menu of local specialties and an impressive beverage menu with award-winning cocktails featuring modernist techniques. Dinner consisted of a rich seafood soup with smoked haddock, scallop and shrimp followed by grilled lamb tenderloin and then tusk (a North Atlantic cod-like fish) and salmon cooked sous vide at 40°C. I gave Valdimarsson a sample of edible helium balloon mix and we made a few balloons. He seemed quite excited about the prospect of serving the balloons at a future event. Hilmar Jonsson is most certainly a household name in Iceland. In 1981 chef Jonsson, with his wife Elin, founded Gestgjafinn, the only gourmet magazine in Iceland. In 1987 they sold Gestgjafinn and started their cooking school, Matreidsluskolinn OKKAR, which they ran for three years. Jonsson was kind enough to invite us to stay with him on our last night in the country, Iceland’s National Day, and was very proud to be flying the Icelandic flag outside his home. We dined on freshly grilled langoustines and we sampled Börkur, a bitter made from Icelandic birch bark. Jonsson really knows his seafood, having been corporate chef for Icelandic Seafood for 22 years, 12 of them in the U.S. Having earned his Master Chef Certification in 1969, Hilmar went on to prepare most banquets given by the former Icelandic president Vigdis Finnbogadottir, both abroad and at Bessastadir, Iceland during the 1980s and 1990s. We talked about his life growing up on a farm, as well as the unique Icelandic preserving method that uses soured whey left over from making skyr for storing meat over the winter months (the key was to cook the meat very well before placing it into to the fermented whey so it wouldn’t spoil). Jonsson received the Honorary Service Order from the Icelandic president, the president of Finland, King of Spain, and the Queen of England, and was president of the Icelandic Chefs Association for six years and vice-president of the World Association of Chefs’ Societies from 2008 to 2014.
(L-R): Hilmar Jonsson and John
Jonsson had recommended we dine at Vox, so I met up with Fannar Vernharðsson at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. Vox is proud to introduce the manifesto of New Nordic Cuisine, placing emphasis on fresh Icelandic and Scandinavian sources for their modern menus. The seven-course tasting menu consisted of langoustine, salmon tartar, beef tataki, smoked haddock, scallops from Breiðafjörður, fillet of lamb and Icelandic berries from Kvistar. The bread, with freshly churned butter, was dusted with angelica powder, which has a similar taste to juniper berries. I hadn’t tasted angelica since my days at culinary school, when we used the candied root
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