Saturday, October 3, 2015

Graffiti in Reykjavik

One of the things I loved while exploring Reykjavik was seeing the artwork and murals on the buildings, being bombarded with colors, and finding graffiti in every nook and cranny. Almost no alley or building facade was untouched. Here is what we saw while we walked around town.
Cafe menu with Hallgrimskirkja in the background.
Mountain poetry
How to tie a tie
Mexican food this way

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Food and Snacks in Iceland

Here is a sampling of the food and snacks we came across in Iceland.

1. Baejarins Beztu Pylsur

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur is the #1 hot dog stand in Iceland. It is located across the street from Harpa. This makes the hot dog a popular quick dinner or pre/post concert snack. It's a great way to sober up and in general an affordable anytime meal.
Typical night at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur
A sweet tasting hot dog
The hot dogs are lamb with a mixture of pork and beef. They are commonly served with ketchup, sweet mustard, and fried onions called cronions.

2. Hlollabatar
The best sandwich shop located next to our hotel.
We usually shared a sandwich because each sandwich cost about $13 USD.
We ate at Hlollabatar twice due to time constraints between our day tours and night Northern Lights tours. It's fast food and located in Ingólfstorg, the main square of Reykjavik. We call these sandwiches submarines in the States. Icelanders call them boats.

3. Noodle Station
When you see this sign, you've come to the right place.
The Noodle Station
Chicken with extra noodles and topped with peanuts and chili pepper flakes.
Noodle Station may be the most popular noodle soup restaurant in Reykjavik. It's popular amongst the locals, the tourists, and those who stay nearby in the hostels. During peak hours, the restaurant can get very crowded. The soup is Thai style and offers a choice of beef or chicken with the option of an extra serving of noodles. We ate here twice on our trip because it was so good.

4. Nudluskalin

Nudluskalin is the other noodle shop in town. I wouldn't call it a competitor of Noodle Station, rather an alternative if Noodle Station is too busy. It is located down the street from Noodle Station. Nudluskalin offers more varieties of noodle soup. The hours are limited compared to Noodle Station. They close early.

Nudluskalin Menu
Gwiddíáw Domm Kha
Coconut Noodles with Turkey Meatballs
5. Drinks
Koko Mjolk
I'm sure this was for kids. It was rich chocolate milk.
These were our berry smoothies made with Icelandic yogurt Skyr at The Blue Lagoon. They were more tart than sweet.

6. Hakarl
Fermented Shark
Fermented shark is a national dish of Iceland. I was too wimpy and squeamish to try it.

7. Horse
Popular meat in Iceland
Horse in sausage form.

8. Eldur & Is

Eldur & Is is an ice cream and dessert shop. Their ice cream is delicious and they sell cakes made out of candy bars.
Single Scoop
Daim Cake
9. Candy

This candy shop at the Kolaportid Flea Market was very popular with the children. They sold chocolates, gummy candy, and lots of licorice.
Candy shop
Gummy and licorice
Kokosbollur (Chocolate Truffles)
10. Sandwiches
Ham and Cheese Sandwich
This is a typical sandwich I bought from a convenience store or bus stop. We were on the go so much we had to have emergency food in our backpacks just to get us through the day. These sandwiches were also a lot cheaper than the food at the cafes in the tourist spots.

Photography Credits: Desmond Chow, Roxwriting

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur
Tryggvagata 101
Hafnarstræti, Reykjavík, Iceland

Hlöllabátar Ingólfstorgi
101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Noodle Station
Laugavegur 86
Reykjavík, Iceland

Skólavörðustígur 8
Reykjavík, Iceland

Blue Lagoon
240 Grindavik 420-8800

Kolarportid Flea Market
Tryggvagötu 19 , Old Harbour, Grófin
Reykjavík, Iceland

Eldur & Is
Skólavörðustígur 2
Reykjavík, Iceland

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day 3 Iceland- Volcano, Glacier Hike, Waterfalls

On Day 3 of our Iceland adventure, we fell victim to jet lag. We woke up late (at the time we were supposed to be downstairs for our shuttle pickup) and got ready in a record 5 minutes. The travel Gods seemed to be on our side. Our shuttle was running behind schedule and we found it down the street at the next hotel.

One word to the wise. If your bus stops for a restroom break, take advantage! Many of these bus tours are a whole day and there may be limited access to a restroom. There is no bathroom on the bus. On the pit stop, I also took advantage by buying a sandwich to put in my backpack. Pack snacks, energy bars, and food and water if you can. Sometimes there will be no option for a food break or rest break during these tours.

Our first stop on the way to our glacier hike was the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. This volcano erupted in 2010. We caught a glimpse of the farm that withstood the eruption. We were also able to touch the ash remnants of Eyjafjallajokull.

Eyjafjallajokull Volcano
Volcanic Ash
Once we got to the Solheimajokull glacier, we put on our safety gear and got a quick lesson on how to walk on a glacier and follow your crew. We were given crampons and an ice axe for better grip on the glacier. We had our snowboots on (Timberland and Sorel). I recommend a good hiking boot or snowboot when you go on the glacier hike. If you only have sneakers or other improper footwear, the tour company is well equipped to lend you a pair of hiking boots.

Safety Lesson
While hiking Solheimajokull is for "beginners" I would say it is a little intense and can be difficult at times. Walking in bulky winter gear up a hill with the sun in your eyes can be challenging. Definitely get in shape before doing this. With that said, the hike can really be done by a beginner but it is not a cake walk.
Layers of ice upon ice
Going up!
The glacier hike tour was very educational. We learned about ice tunnels, the effects of global warming, the history of the glacier, and how to maneuver on a glacier. Did I mention on top of it all, the glacier is beautiful? It's massive and the ice crystals have the most amazing colors.

Learning how glaciers change and evolve.
One with the glacier.
After the glacier hike, our bus stopped at two waterfalls: Skogafoss and Seljalandfoss. Skogafoss was my favorite waterfall of all the waterfalls we saw on our trip. You could walk up close to it and it was massive. The water gave way to rainbows and to the side on the hill you could see some Icelandic horses. Seljalandfoss was a smaller waterfall that you could walk behind to catch a view of the running water. At the time we went it was winter and the water on the ground had turned to ice. We had to hold on to the chained path to avoid slipping. I was looking from a different vantage point and slipped by the bridge. Be careful out there.

One of my favorite moments in Iceland
Photography Credits: Desmond Chow and Roxwriting

Icelandic Mountain Guides

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rijsttafel in Amsterdam

Sama Sebo Restaurant
When in Amsterdam, it is essential to try Indonesian food. I found Sama Sebo restaurant through the Fodor's guidebook. 

Reservations are highly recommended for rijsttafel (an Indonesian banquet) dinners. A traditional rijsttafel meal consists of a plate of rice with a variety of side dishes to accompany it. These dishes can be noodles, stew, various meats, vegetables, and egg rolls. Basically anything that has different flavors, sauces, and textures to create a meal out of the rice plate.

We did not have reservations for dinner and were lucky to secure the last two seats in the house (at the bar) at Sama Sebo. We were seated around 9:30 PM. The couple next to us in line were told that the kitchen had closed. I couldn't believe we arrived at the restaurant just in time. We were this close to drinking beer and eating peanuts for dinner. It was a rainy night, late, and all the decent restaurants were packed.

Bar scene at Same Sebo
The rijsttafel we had originally come for was 31.50 euro per person. After going over the menu and realizing we wouldn't care for half of the options, I went a la carte and ordered a few dishes to build our own custom rijsttafel. My menu reading skills served us wisely and what we ordered turned out to be the perfect amount and the right combination of food for us. We had a little bit of everything from beef and pork to goat and tofu. We ate everything with noodles and had the obligatory vegetable dish (which turned out to be really good). All of the flavors and sauces were fantastic. We had crunchy textures, savory meat, sweet sides and a topping that just went well on everything! Coconut! Our meal turned out to be half the price of the tasting menu since each dish ranged in price from as low as 3 euro to as high as 8 euro. 
Our rijsttafel spread
Custom Rijsttafel at Sama Sebo:

Serundeng (fried coconut)
Bami (Noodles)
Pisang goring (fried bananas)
babi sateh (pork skewers)
Kambing sateh (goat skewers)
Gado-Gado  (vegetables)
Daging Madura (meat in madura sauce)
Tahu Goreng (fried tofu)

Sama Sebo
P.C. Hooftstraat 27
1071 BL Amsterdam

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tapas Barinn- Icelandic Tapas and Exotic Meats

Dinner at Tapas Barinn was a truly unique Icelandic experience. Tapas Barinn is the one restaurant I recommend if you had to eat out somewhere in Reykjavik.

What I love about tapas are that the portions are small enough just for a taste but large enough to share with one or two other people. Sure, you only get a bite or two, but the point is to sample your way through a variety of tastes and textures until you are full.

At Tapas Barinn, we specifically went to try the Icelandic Gourmet Feast Tasting Menu. Instead of getting two portions for ourselves, we opted for one only and added a dish of kangaroo. There was so much to choose from on the menu. We wanted to try something we have never tried before. Hence, the kangaroo to round out our dinner.

Our meal started with shots of Brennivin, the Icelandic liquor nicknamed "Black Death".

We were served bread with two spreads, one of which was an olive tapenade.

Complimentary Bread
Our first dish was smoked puffin with blueberry Brennivin sauce. Yes, those cute and cuddly tiny birds are served for dinner. The texture was like raw fish and the taste was definitely enhanced with the blueberry sauce.

Icelandic sea trout with a pepper sauce was a more familiar taste. No complaints or anything exotic here.

Lobster tails baked in garlic sauce was outstanding. The lobster was on the small side. Perhaps it is due to the temperature and location of where it came from.

Lobster Tails
Pan fried blue ling with lobster sauce was another delicious fish dish. We had no idea what a blue ling looked like so we googled it. Not the prettiest of fish.

Blue Ling
The grilled lamb Samfaina was so juicy and flavorful. Not gamey at all.

Minke whale with cranberry sauce is not a dish I would like to have again. I just couldn't stomach the whale and enjoy it. The flavor was just not for me.

The kangaroo was like steak.

For dessert, the white chocolate skyr mousse was phenomenal. Skyr is Icelandic yogurt and they whipped it into the mousse until it was airy. It was served with a side of sorbet and passion coulis. Absolutely amazing.

Sykr Mousse
Photography Credit: Desmond Chow and Roxwriting

Tapas Barinn
Vesturgata 3B
101 Reykavik, Iceland